• Steve H
    265
    On ANZAC morning, the fire alarm went in my small town, summoning the local volunteer Fire brigade to an emergency. That morning it wasn't to put out a fire, would have been better for someone's family if it was, instead it was to extract a port worker buried in coal in the bottom of a ship being loaded.

    Why are we still killing our workers at the same rate we have for the last 30 years, we've managed to get the annual Road Toll trending down from a peak in 1973 of 843, so why can't we do the same in workplaces?
  • Andrew P
    10
    Why are we still killing our workers at the same rate we have for the last 30 years,Steve H

    Is this the same number of deaths per year, or same number of deaths per capita?
    With companies taking the thinking out of H&S by having so much box ticking regulations and processes etc, the average worker feels safe, feels that the company is looking after him/her and that he is in a safe work environment. Any environment can be made dangerous. (drive on the wrong side of the road and you will add to the road toll very soon!) We need everyone to consider their actions or in actions as potentially having serious consequences.

    I'm sorry I'm not trying to negate the horror of this tragedy, or the Ports responsibilities, but doing a huge nationwide inquiry will only add more beaurocracy and box ticking. It is the culture of the workers that has to change.
  • Andrew
    340
    Its a bit early to say "we are killing our workers". No doubt in the fullness of time there will be an enquiry and causes of death will be determined.
  • TracyRichardson
    34
    I think we need to get back to basics.

    I have audited a number of companies over the years that have discovered the following commonalities:
    - have policies and systems in place but do not include the internal processes as part of a training program
    - people leaders required more training than the usual company inductions i.e. incident investigation, risk management, etc
    - more consultation with those that do the work to determine if the processes are fit for purpose (involve your people)
    - communication is a two way street i.e. talk to people and encourage feedback
    - put learning development plans in place to build capabilities and develop your people

    The little things make a big difference in the long run.
  • Steve H
    265
    Workers per annum, each year on average 50-60 workers die in a workplace accident
    Its a bit early to say "we are killing our workers". No doubt in the fullness of time there will be an enquiry and causes of death will be determined.Andrew
    We had one following Pike River, out with the old and we'll setup this new model.

    It's had enough time to bed in, at least a tiny bit- it hasn't changed the average number of deaths per year, the only thing that's changed is the the number of serious accidents, that's trending up.
    So my question/challenge is, what does it take to change this?
    .
    Arguably,hell it's only 50-60 deaths per year, back in the bad old days, we managed to take out 20-30 people on a holiday weekend, but after 1973 enough was enough. We spent money on better roads, we trained drivers a little better, we started to be able to buy safer cars. We spent money on advertising about the dangers of drunk driving. We started to use speed cameras and red light cameras to encourage safer driving.

    All of these things, despite a doubling(almost) of the population, more and more vehicles using the roads, have meant that you have a greater chance of making it home alive after a holiday weekend road trip now, than you did in the early 1970's.

    So why can't we replicate this success in the workplace?
  • Andrew
    340
    Perhaps we are in "the last mile"

    You know. where you put reasonable resources into something and you get 90% there. But to extract that last 10% is extremely difficult and the return on investment may not be there.

    First issue is to determine cause of death. That may assist in helping waterside fatalities. But the information may not apply to any other industry.

    And while arguably you are safer getting home today than in 1970s. You really are no safer getting home than you are in the past 2 decades. Most of what ever gain in change was made in the 80's and 90's.

    If we take the view its vehicles that kill then deaths per vehicle has been trending down since the 50's. And as you can see we havent really gone anywhere since the early 2000.'

    6yy2squpvn6mypc7.png

    And just to get a sense of scale it was 12.4 deaths' per billion vehicle kilometres traveled back in 2001 and 6.9 in 2020.

    Same with vehicular injuries. Flat (tolerated?) over the 1950's to 60's. Then dipped until the early 2,000's where they have stagnated
    vfj8dv811vhoid0j.png

    So for all the money spent on roads, safety features in cars, "better" driver training, drink driving really it hasn't made much impact whatsoever.

    So we have saved 5.5 lives per billion KM traveled. And the economic value of a NZ human life is around $6.6m per person

    Possibly, because at the end of the day we have over-engineered solutions so individuals no longer think. Or they lack motivation to be responsible for their own actions. They are perhaps lazy and just sit back and rely on all the safety devices around them.

    Or really. It might be because we cant fix stupid. (without bankrupting ourselves in the process)

    And one final word on the transport analogy. There are over 20 factors that lead to motor vehicle accidents and consequential death / injury. Top of the list is drugs / alcohol. Next going to fast followed by loosing control. See what I mean about trying to fix stupid? These are all issues related to the individual and the choices they make. Might actually be the same in the waterside industry.

    t61njgdgxyoykkau.png
  • Steve H
    265
    Perhaps we are in "the last mile"

    You know. where you put reasonable resources into something and you get 90% there. But to extract that last 10% is extremely difficult and the return on investment may not be there.
    Andrew

    We've been a long time in that last mile Andrew, and for the record, I am talking about workplace deaths and serious accidents generally, the latest one (that I am aware of), just happened to be a port worker. Doesn't really matter what the workplace was, dead is dead whatever way you slice and dice it.

    So, your theory is, let's just accept that every year 50-60 people are going to trundle off to work,and not come home, they are just collateral damage, the cost of doing business and most likely they brought it on themselves- as you say no one can fix stupid

    Anyone else think the same, or do you think there are some stones left unturned?
  • Sheri Greenwell
    319
    Having worked at Ports of Auckland myself in the past, I know from my own experience that there are many more factors than meets the eye when looking at workplace conditions from the outside.

    In the first of the two recent fatalities, the worker was employed by a stevedoring company contracted by the shipping lines, which lease land at the port site. Ports of Auckland is one of many stakeholders on the site, and attempts to engage with all stakeholders were not always well supported.

    The owner / operator of Wallace Investments (stevedoring company that employed the young man who fell from height and died of his injuries) was particularly uncooperative and combative. Ports of Auckland has no direct authority over the work areas of those 3rd party contractors, only traffic management plans for moving around on the site and any interfaces between 3rd party operators, so most of the responsibility for safe work practices, training, etc falls squarely on those 3rd party operators. Ports of Auckland made reasonable efforts to communicate, collaborate and coordinate work amongst all stakeholders, even before HSWA 2015 spelled it out that way.

    In my experience, the third-party stevedoring companies focused more on getting work done quickly and cheaply than on safe work practices.

    Meanwhile, other industry sectors such as shipping lines have quite a strong influence on how work is arranged at ports, because shipping lines force ports to work to their schedules. Workers are paid productivity bonuses to encourage teams to meet shipping timeframes and avoid financial penalties. Many port workers blamed port management for their shift patterns and schedules, but these are largely dictated by the shipping lines - port operations just have to fall into line with them or risk losing business to another port that will do their bidding. How do we get shipping lines to play their part in this?

    I won't go into detail about it here, but the Maritime Union also has responsibilities and a part to play in making any real and lasting changes in the port industry. The the Maritime Union could and should be doing a lot more to work constructively and collaboratively together with ports and their operations management teams to positively influence port workers to get on board, make better decisions and work more safely - not just delivering platitudes to the TV cameras and seizing yet another opportunity to attack port management.

    There is definitely work to be done, and it's going to require the proverbial village to work together to achieve any real change.
  • Andrew
    340
    Time to look at platitudes
    bbbptrbduvxc5hn7.jpg
  • Steve H
    265
    That is an interesting perspective on port operations, and inter-company lines of control Sheri.

    So, your theory is, let's just accept that every year 50-60 people are going to trundle off to work,and not come home, they are just collateral damage, the cost of doing business and most likely they brought it on themselves- as you say no one can fix stupid

    Anyone else think the same, or do you think there are some stones left unturned?
    Steve H

    Missing the point people, talking about what needs to happen to reduce the workplace death rate this country has, which hasn't changed appreciably in the last twenty plus years. We had a change of H&S legislation following Pike River, a new H&S Regulator- from my perspective, nothing has changed.

    It is the culture of the workers that has to change.Andrew P

    Possibly, because at the end of the day we have over-engineered solutions so individuals no longer think. Or they lack motivation to be responsible for their own actions. They are perhaps lazy and just sit back and rely on all the safety devices around them.

    Or really. It might be because we cant fix stupid. (without bankrupting ourselves in the process)
    Andrew

    The Andrews lay the blame for the fifty to sixty workplace deaths on the workers involved (or are you singling out just port workers guys?). Certainly some workplace deaths may be due to Darwin's Laws Of Natural Selection in operation, but surly it's drawing a long bow to infer they all are, and what about the rising number of serious harm accidents in workplaces?[Remembering that I am talking all workplaces, not just Ports]
  • Andrew
    340

    Just for the record I am not laying the blame for 50 - 60 workplace deaths on the workers. That said my last death was 100% on the worker. If you go sticking your fingers in live wires it isnt going to end well. All authorities and coroner agreed.

    And the other day. Despite all tools to work from home, all tools to self test, countless messages in all manner of media from everyone from the PM down to stay at home, numerous colleagues out of work due to the Covid we have a person who decides to come to work coughing and spluttering., And before he gets sent home manages to infect another couple of people. By deliberately entering their workspaces when there was no need to be there. Thankfully there wernt too many people there because the rest were working from home.

    What I am doing is responding to a post that said "Why are we still killing our workers " several days after the death and there is zero evidence that we did in fact kill the worker. And there is no public information surrounding the 70+ year olds death.

    One thing we can do when "turning over stones" is take an unemotive look at the facts, drill down to the causes and learn from there.

    As for the rising number of serious harm incidents there will be multiple explanations. One factor could be our work force has increased from 1.5m in 2004 to 2.8m last year. More workers = more exposure events. And unemployment has gone down from 162,000 to 93,000. So maybe we are hiring more people less equipped for the work environment. I dont know about your environment but I can tell you that with our closed borders Darwin would have a field day looking at the people we are left with looking at employing.
  • Peter Bateman
    236
    So why can't we replicate this success in the workplace?Steve H

    With some trepidation I venture to suggest that reducing the road toll is a much narrower and therefore less complex challenge than reducing the work toll. The factors at play - safer cars, better road design, tougher driver licencing etc - are few. The risk environment - the roads, the vehicles - is relatively well defined.

    Reducing the work toll is much more challenging because the work environments where people are exposed to risk are incredibly varied and the number of risk types is much greater.

    If the road toll has now plateaued and is no longer declining, the next significant step presumably is isolation/elimination by removing people from the risk exposure. How? Reduce our dependence on cars and trucks and shift to the hugely safer (and environmentally better) modes of travel, namely public transport and rail freight.

    (Consumer warning: these thoughts are out of my head and are unsupported by any academic research which may or may not exist to support them.)
  • Don Ramsay
    100
    totally agree, the concept of killing workers cannot be a discussion because the outcome of the investigation may highlight some other reasoning for the fatality.
  • Steve H
    265
    the concept of killing workers cannot be a discussion because the outcome of the investigation may highlight some other reasoning for the fatality.Don Ramsay

    Not intended to be a discussion on the concept of workers dying or getting seriously injured in a given workplace accident Don. more a question of what is it going to take to see these statistics trending down?

    I have my views about what's required, but I'd like to draw out some other opinions. Of course, for specific deaths/accidents, there will be specific issues involved, but broadly/generally, what is it going to take to see the trends heading downward. While I agree with the Andrews, that some accidents are caused by "stupid" saying we're at an irreducible minimum now, seems wrong to me.
  • Michael Parker
    3
    Australia has halved their rate of workplace deaths between 2007 & 2020. I don't know how that compares with NZ but I'm guessing our death rate per 100000 workers will be higher. There's a message there somewhere
  • Chris Peace
    66
    The numbers of deaths are not just 50-60 per year. New Zealand is killing 900-1000 people at or because of work each year. About 50-60 are due to trauma but, historically, most deaths were due to disease (eg, asbestosis) but I think an emerging issue may now be fatigue.
    Port workers work shifts 24/7, 365 days per year. Some are (or have been) on zero hours contracts. Add to the mix vehicles (fork lift trucks, straddle cranes, heavy goods vehicles, etc) moving shipping containers in, into and out of ports and there may be a lethal cocktail.
    Deaths in the Ports will be the subject of the next NZISM webinar when we may also have a guest speaker.
  • Aaron Marshall
    88
    what is it going to take to see the trends heading downward.Steve H

    The trendis heading downward. More workers, but a constant absolute number of events means that the rate is reducing.

    With some trepidation I venture to suggest that reducing the road toll is a much narrower and therefore less complex challenge than reducing the work toll.Peter Bateman

    Given that 33 of the 52 workplace deaths were 'vehicle accidents' there is a sizeable overlap.

    It's also interesting to think about the fact that this is where a moments inattention, or other human failings can have drastic consequences. While we can endeavour to train, and make people aware of these, it does little to stop basic mistakes.
  • Steve H
    265
    Yes we have considerably added to the possible pool of absolute numbers and the fact is, that is in effect trending down.
    What isn't trending down is the number of serious harm accidents, that has been constantly climbing over time- so we're not doing that well.

    Given that 33 of the 52 workplace deaths were 'vehicle accidents' there is a sizeable overlap.

    It's also interesting to think about the fact that this is where a moments inattention, or other human failings can have drastic consequences. While we can endeavor to train, and make people aware of these, it does little to stop basic mistakes.
    Aaron Marshall
    Would be interesting to break those down into those caused by Driver Fatigue, Mechanical Failure, Substance Abuse, Driver Distraction via cell phone- those we could do something about, and there is of course the "stupid" factor that we can only limit by through pre employment vetting. That will be tough in the current era of plenty of work vs a lack of workers to do that work.
  • Aaron Marshall
    88
    and there is of course the "stupid" factor that we can only limit by through pre employment vetting.Steve H

    No amount of pre-employment vetting though will eliminate someone making a mistake. I know, I've had conscientious friends killed by a moment of inattention. I'm in an industry with duty time limits, drug testing, and a general culture of safe operations because we've all lost friends to the industry. However, when something as simple as forgetting about an electric fence wire can result in a fatality, we do all we can, but eliminating this completely is near impossible.
  • Steve H
    265
    Didn't say eliminate Aaron, limit was the word used and it sounds like your company is doing all the right things to limit unfortunate events, unfortunately some aren't.

    Pre employment testing could reveal a predisposition to risky behavour, just as pre employment drug testing could indicate some risky extra curricular habits
  • Andrew
    340
    I've expressed my views broadly on this forum before on pre employment testing. Suffice to say they should not form part of our safety management.

    That aside the number one best way to assess a worker (against whatever it is you want to measure them by) is the "work trial". No matter what your employment process is it has many fail points. Which won't be overcome until you got to actually observe a person on the job.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    319
    What's the impact of emphasising requirements for employers to keep people safe vs teaching people how to keep themselves safe? Why aren't we including risk management principles and critical thinking in the education system from the earliest days if we are serious about reducing the number of workplace fatalities and injuries??
  • Steve H
    265
    Doing that might also have some impacts out in the wide world too Sheri, wouldn't hurt to knock another 50-75 off the Road Toll, could help with drowning toll and other outdoor pursuits- I'm not a "cotton wool" fan, just a fan of looking at the risks involved and planing how to reduce them, and what self rescue is going to look like/require
  • Steve H
    265
    OK so what levers would I tweak, from direct observation, most larger SMEs are doing/trying to do the right thing. So more education/support for small SMEs that currently are winging it where they can, tweak One would help with that.

    Tweak One, more Inspectors on the ground for Worksafe, WS-Police Liaison Officers appointed for each main center, every serious harm accident investigated and where applicable a prosecution brought..

    Tweak two, Where a serious harm/Workplace death has occurred, the ACC Legislation be amended to give the deceased nearest and dearest the opportunity to sue for damages, The one big gripe of families thrown into disarray by Dad, or Son not coming home again ever, is no-one is held accountable and they don't get their day in court.

    Tweak three: Go hard and fast on the Workplace Codes Of Practice promised by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, sentencing guidelines and plain language interpretations.
  • Andrew
    340
    Its two large enterprises behind the latest fatalities.

    Tweak one. I've no problem with more inspectors on the ground. But not more police - I'd prefer their resources got put into other areas. We already have prosecutions and higher fines - but that "motivator" lever doesn't seem to be working.

    Tweak two. Two different things. ACC = compo for loss of earnings. Prosecution = bringing people to account. There is already a mechanism for that. But it is expensive to run a prosecution. More money spent by worksafe on prosecutions = less money for inspectors on the ground.

    Tweak three. I can't speak for everyone - but in my area Worksafe have been very good at creating these. No fault there.

    Here is something that is relatively untried - more prosecution / fines of workers.
  • Steve H
    265
    Tweak two. Two different things. ACC = compo for loss of earnings. Prosecution = bringing people to account. There is already a mechanism for that. But it is expensive to run a prosecution. More money spent by worksafe on prosecutions = less money for inspectors on the ground.Andrew

    Four dedicated liaison staff from seconded from WS to advise/ work with Police isn't going to cost much, easily covered by cutting back thinly disguised Political Party advertising masquerading as information on a number subjects. Bigger fines will help fund more inspectors, As a response to Pike River, we largely imported Austrialia's H&S laws and Regulator system, with the caveat we have put less boots on the ground, so it would seem that is part of the solution.

    ACC barely covers anything, and folk are ticked and flicked off as soon as possible. One big difference between every NZ and other jurisdiction that we can compare stats with, is the lack of a right to sue. I have long held the view that this encouraged a laissez-faire approach to both Health & Safety and Product Safety. In Australia, a dodgy product will get recalled ASAP, here much slower, to move.
    Prosecution for H&S violation, and suing for compensation would wind up being two different processes, one not neccesairly dependent on the other .

    Here is something that is relatively untried - more prosecution / fines of workers.Andrew
    I wouldn't disagree, but stats show WS's prosecutions slowly waning of managers/owners/directors, and the level of fine that could be leveled at a worker will be in the thousands, rather than the sort of level that makes a board of Directors take a more proactive approach to H&S.,
  • Andrew
    340

    4 staff = at least $800,000. Where would you put them. (4 people is getting close to the sweet spot where you need a fifth person to cover the leave absences of the other four - so lets call is a $m)

    Worksafe fines go into the consolidated fund (like all the other fines) not to worksafe. So all bigger fines would do is theoretically reduce the overall tax burden. Perhaps an increase in the OSH levy is what you are looking for. (I wouldn't be keen on that because that means I pay more and get nothing for it)

    ACC is very generous. If you die reasonable funeral costs are covered and if you have dependants they get cash for quite some time.If you don't die you get 80% of your lost earnings plus a truck load thrown at you to get you rehabilitated.

    We traded this generous compensation for the right to sue. When you introduce the right to sue the only winners are lawyers. Within our legislation part of an OSH "Fine" can be paid to the victim.

    Fines ought to be proportional to ones ability to pay. Big profitable companies = big fine. Low paid worker = small fine. Either way it is to hurt. Its called a consequence.
  • Steve H
    265
    ACC is very generous. If you die reasonable funeral costs are covered and if you have dependants they get cash for quite some time.If you don't die you get 80% of your lost earnings plus a truck load thrown at you to get you rehabilitated.Andrew

    A lot less generous than when it was initially introduced,Andrew. And the right to sue is the main difference between here and every where else that is killing less workers as a percentage of total workforce, it is my belief that either that has to change, or we consider Corporate Manslaughter as an alternative. The Jurisdictions that have tried it have had very few successful prosecutions, but maybe because it is a possible consequence, it resonates with BODs Owners, Managers and Staff for that matter.

    Thing is, we keep doing what we're doing, folk walk out their front door in the morning and never return, or they spend months in hospital/rehab etc and return home damaged.

    I refuse to believe that we can't do better
  • Steve H
    265
    I think individuals should be able to choose whether they want to take the bike or scooter or even walk. I wouldn't be focusing on whether work is liable if someone gets hurt while biking / walking to and from places for work. You get covered by ACC anyway.Yonny Yeung

    And there's the problem right there, not picking on you Yonny, but that comment is exactly why I believe ACC is a flawed concept.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    319
    That's my point Steve - keeping people safe (i.e., the proverbial cotton wool) vs teaching them how to assess risk and make good decisions to minimise their own risks. In so many ways, adopting an approach that requires a group of people to do all the thinking for another group of people is not actively developing the skills required for individuals to genuinely understand risk and take an active role in their own experience - it's actually resulting in people who are trained to be KEPT safe, with important elements of risk management entirely out of their awareness. Meanwhile, managers and H&S practitioners are charged with the near-impossible duty to protect these people from their own unsafe decisions!
  • Aaron Marshall
    88
    Why aren't we including risk management principles and critical thinking in the education system from the earliest days if we are serious about reducing the number of workplace fatalities and injuries??Sheri Greenwell

    I couldn't agree with you more. We need to teach people to be safe, and not discount their own safety. For me, this was one of the big learnings from Pike River. Everybody knew that it was a gassy mine; so why were people down there?
    We've all seen posters with "Safety is everybody's responsibility" but it seems that everyone expects that Safety Managers will do this for them.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to the Safeguard forum!

If you are interested in workplace health & safety in New Zealand, then this is the discussion forum for you.