Safety inspectors payout cost $1.1m

17:37, Mar 03 2014

More than $1.1 million was spent making health and safety inspectors redundant last year, leaving fewer inspectors than at the time of the Pike River disaster.

Despite vowing to increase the number of inspectors, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment offered experienced staff the option of taking redundancy if they did not want to sit a new test. Those who did not meet the standards required by the test were also offered redundancy, or to be able to sit it test again in 12 months.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show 17 health and safety inspectors took redundancy under the programme during 2013, with an average payout of $67,000.

The redundancies came as the number of health and safety inspectors dropped from 146 at the end of 2012 to 129 at the end of 2013.

Worksafe, the Crown agency established to oversee reform of workplace health and safety, said it was on track to increase the number of inspectors to 200 by the end of 2016.

Worksafe human resources manager Janine Hearn said the Pike River Royal Commission and Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety showed the regulator had to "improve the quality of its work".

The strategy to improve was "about lifting capability first, and numbers second", Hearn said, with the implementation of technical tests for all staff.

However, critics claim the changes have stripped vast institutional knowledge from the workforce. A former inspector who took redundancy said the trainees would be "of no practical value" for at least two years as they learnt about the industries.

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Fairfax Media