Concerns over new workplace safety body

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 17:36 27/06/2013

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Concerns have been raised over the ability of the Government's new workplace safety body to enforce health and safety legislation.

Five days before the launch of the Health and Safety Inspectorate, only 74 of the promised 158 inspectors have been hired, Labour health and safety spokeswoman Darien Fenton says.

"This leaves the country with the lowest number of health and safety inspectors since the late 1940s and makes a mockery of the Government's platitudes about improving health and safety for Kiwi workers," she said.

"Legislation is fine, but if there is no-one there to enforce it, we will continue with our shameful accident toll."

Fenton said the lack of inspectors was the result of a "botched change process" in the transition to the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Worksafe agency.

Some staff were still in transitional jobs until the end of the year and others had been made redundant, she said.

An email from the ministry tabled by Fenton in Parliament today showed that only 74 appointments had been made.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said in the House that he was not aware of any recruiting problem, and many staff would be in place by Monday, with the recruitment process continuing.

The comments came as Parliament yesterday heard the first reading of the Pike River Mine implementation bill.

The bill passed unanimously.

It enables the transfer of relevant staff and assets from MBIE to WorkSafe New Zealand by its December start.

The bill will also strengthen the powers of on-site health and safety representatives and allow for their industry-wide appointment and extend the coverage of the Mines Rescue Service to include underground mining and tunnels that are longer than 150 metres.

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