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Health and safety law changes dangerous and insulting - SFWU

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The union representing service workers including security guards is appalled with the National government’s health and safety reforms announced today.

The Service and Food Workers Union (SFWU) opposes the Health and Safety Reform Bill, which does not protect all New Zealand workers as it excludes small businesses from the requirement to have health and safety representatives when requested by workers.

SFWU National Secretary John Ryall said a priority of any reform must be to ensure that all workplaces have health and safety representatives when they are needed.

"We have had to fight hard to get health and safety reps for many of our workers and had hoped that this bill would ensure workers had the protection they need," Mr Ryall said.

"Instead, the government will let small businesses off the hook when their work is not deemed ‘high hazard’ by regulators. There are hazards at any workplace, and it should be up to workers to determine whether they feel safe enough or not," he said.

"This reform is dangerous and a real insult, particularly when there are about 100 work-related deaths in New Zealand each year."

The ‘high hazard’ provision did not make it clear whether smaller security firms would be excluded, and Mr Ryall said the recent inquest into the death of security guard Charanpreet Dhaliwal highlighted the need for much stronger health and safety protections in the industry.

"Mr Dhaliwal was working for a small business that provided inadequate training and put him on a dangerous site on his very first night. This is exactly the sort of company that needs the government to step in and ensure the workers have proper health and safety systems in place," he said.

"Even General Manager of First Security Michael Rutherford has said that industry standards are not strong enough, and they need to be more accountable, more enforceable and more measurable. Bigger firms like First and Amourguard have systems that help ensure the welfare of their workers, but many smaller firms don’t. This bill should be addressing all of these issues across the entire sector, but it isn’t."

Mr Ryall added that excluding small businesses from the requirement to have a health and safety representative was a broken promise from the government.

"The Worksafe New Zealand website claimed the bill will make "every workplace responsible for the health and safety of all workers," so the fact that some employers are excluded from what is otherwise supposed to be better regulation is unbelievable," he said.

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