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Uninformed comments injure public opinion

It is unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment.

Claims about ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) safety training have been regrettable and we at BusinessNZ have so far refrained from commenting on them because it has not been possible to have constructive dialogue in the context of overblown media comment.

Key changes

Key issues are that New Zealand’s health and safety has just been changed and more stringent focus is needed on the goals of improving workplace safety. ACC and the Government are central to this goal, and BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), as the largest representatives of people in the workplace also have a critical role to play.

Tripartite cooperation has been critical in the development of the new health and safety regime and it is regrettable that this may have been undermined.

For the record, we utterly reject mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams (that the training programme run by the CTU and BusinessNZ was a ‘taxpayer rip-off) since repeated by ACC Minister Judith Collins.

Ethical involvement

BusinessNZ family’s involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services.

The goals and outcomes of the ACC courses appear to have been misunderstood. The training, part-funded by ACC, is being run according to the brief set by ACC.

The objectives include ensuring that health and safety officials are able to reduce and remove workplace hazards, co-develop safety plans for their workplace, promote safety management among their co-workers, and train others to do the same.

The course objectives are defined and are being successfully delivered according to specifications. Contrary to claims by Mr Williams, the training objective is not set in terms of reducing the number of workplace accidents in New Zealand.

Noble goal

While this is obviously everyone’s overall goal – and the ACC training courses are no doubt helping to achieve the present overall reduction in workplace accidents – it would be ridiculous to expect a national goal to be achieved solely by two-day training courses for safety reps.

Media reporting of uninformed assumptions by Mr Williams appear to have led to the Ministers comments.

I have since received assurances from the Minister that she had not meant to impugn the integrity of the BusinessNZ family.

I hope that the discussion would now move on to the important goal of improving safety in the workplace.

The BusinessNZ family (including BusinessNZ, EMA, Business Central, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, and the Otago Southland Employers Association) is heavily engaged in improving health and safety practice in New Zealand workplaces.

“The ACC-funded courses are a small part of this work. The BusinessNZ family invests significant resources in health and safety training and promotion and is almost certainly the biggest self-funded provider of health and safety guidance in New Zealand.

“With the changes to health and safety legislation being implemented now, it is important that companies, employees, safety reps and the general public all focus hard on the actions needed to get safer workplaces. Hopefully the intemperate media debate in the last two days will not distract attention from that goal.”

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