NZ CTU: Workplace Health Just as Important as Safety

worker in a dusty environment

New Zealand employers need to put an equal amount of attention on resolving workplace health concerns, as work-related illnesses claim up to 900 lives each year, according to the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

Some of these diseases include asthma and other respiratory ailments, which require companies to implement more workplace safety measures, such as dust extraction.

Healthy Employees

CTU president Richard Wagstaff cited the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee’s estimates in providing context to the problem. At least 17,000 of new work-related diseases are recorded each year. As much as 5,500 of these new cases are severe in nature, and men account for around 75 per cent of them.

Other than respiratory illnesses, workers are exposed to the risks of developing cancer and cardiac diseases. Some employees are even more at risk when they are employed in the most dangerous types of jobs in New Zealand.

Risky Livelihood

WorkSafe New Zealand said that agriculture ranks as the riskiest industry for workers based on the number of deaths. The sector had nine workplace fatalities as of November 2017. This brought the total number of deaths to 124 cases over the last six years.

Construction was the second most dangerous sector with eight fatalities. However, the industry’s workplace death toll was far less than the farming sector with 35 fatalities since 2011. A total of 26 Kiwis died while at work in 2017, down from 31 in the previous year. This may be good news, but WorkSafe New Zealand chief executive Nicole Rosie said that employers still need to find ways on how to reduce that number.

Workplace health and safety should be a priority for all employers. It can be as simple as keeping the job site free from hazardous chemicals and dust. What is your idea of maintaining a safe work environment?