Work-Related Health a Key Focus for WorkSafe

Work-Related Health and Health Monitoring in the Workplace

Did you know that you are 10 times more likely to die from a work related illness than in an work accident!

This is a morbid thought, but unfortunately this is a reality for NZ Workers.  These stats have been steady since the 90's and show no real signs of improvement. As a result, WorkSafe has announced a focus on the biggest issue facing the health of NZ workers with a 10 year strategic plan to focus on work-related health in the workplace. This is not just drug testing!

The press release from WorkSafe is shown below. 

" In addition, it’s estimated that a further 30,000 workers develop non-fatal work-related ill-health each year, such as noise-induced hearing loss or non-fatal lung diseases (Figure 4). This figure is likely to be an underestimate as much of the work-related harm that occurs is not reported or is not correctly linked back to a person’s work."

(Source: WorkSafe, wrh-strategic-plan-healthy-work-2016-2026 page 11).

Who is Responsible?

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires the PCBU to ensure that workers and others are not harmed by their work and PCBUs must be able to assure themselves, workers and others in the workplace, that potential work-related health and safety risks are being eliminated or minimised, so as far as is reasonably practicable. This means that work related health management needs to be a key part of any organisations Health and Safety systems and programmes.  It is about prevention and not the proverbial 'Ambulance at the bottom of a cliff".

Work Related Health Categories (from WorkSafe)

There are a 5 categories that have been identified by WorkSafe where most work-related health risks can be identified:

  • Physical risks – e.g. exposure to workplace noise may lead to noise-induced hearing loss
  • Chemical risks – e.g. exposure to solvents may lead to occupational asthma
  • Biological risks – e.g. exposure to animal bacteria may lead to sudden and severe illnesses 
  • Ergonomic risks – e.g. for example, repeated lifting of heavy or bulky items may lead to low back pain
  • Psychosocial risks – e.g. bullying at work may lead to work-related stress.

There are many issues that can be short term, but have a significant impact on a worker's ability to safely complete tasks at work. These can also affect the ability of a worker to make good decisions and can increase the chances of work related accidents - making the two closely linked. It is also safe to assume that if an orgnaisation improves work-related health of its workers it will also reduce injuries and accidents.

Examples of What is Happening in Your Workplace - And Its Costing You!

Based on a survey of industries with high risk of fatalities and injuries in 2015 found the following:

  • 43% of Workers reported working when overtired
  • 23% Of Workers said they have made a mistake because they are working too long or too hard without a break
  • 11% have reported working while hungover or under the influence of drugs.

(Source: WorkSafe, wrh-strategic-plan-healthy-work-2016-2026, page 13).

How Can Work-Related Health be managed in your Workplace?

here are 3 steps in managing Work Related Health issues for workers:

  1. Eliminate - e.g. using different chemicals in a process
  2. Minimise  - If you cant eliminate - e.g. better respiratory equipment
  3. Health Monitoring - is an ongoing activity within an organisation that enable the measurement of the actions taken in step 1 and 2.

"We know that work-related health risks can be effectively eliminated or minimised. Whilst there are some discrepancies, many of the common approaches to good safety risk management can be applied to health risks."

(Source: WorkSafe, wrh-strategic-plan-healthy-work-2016-2026).

Copy of the Press Release from WorkSafe

Plan Launched to Reduce Health Risks at Work

10 August 2016

A 10-year plan to address health risks in New Zealand’s workplaces was launched tonight in Wellington by the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Hon Michael Woodhouse.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s strategic plan for work-related health, ‘Healthy Work’, outlines the approach WorkSafe will take over the coming ten years to support and enable businesses to better manage work-related health risks. Each year, these risks kill 600-900 people and lead to a further 30,000 New Zealand workers developing serious, but non-fatal, work-related health conditions.

“Each one of those figures is a real person who has died or has become unwell as a result of their work and for too long we’ve put work-related health in the ‘too hard basket’,” Mr Woodhouse said.

“We can’t fix the issues arising from past exposures, but with strong leadership from across the health and safety system, and everyone demonstrating greater accountability for managing work-related health risks, we can significantly improve health outcomes in our workplaces for the future,” he said.

The plan focuses on enabling greater leadership across the health and safety system by raising awareness of harm and risks, encouraging collaboration, minimising risks at source and influencing the education system to improve understanding of risks. It also guides WorkSafe’s approach to building the capability of its inspectors, improving data and intelligence, providing guidance and education resources, and enhancing the regulatory framework.

“We will address prioritised risks through a series of targeted intervention programmes so that we achieve a step change in performance,” the Chair of WorkSafe, Professor Gregor Coster, said.

“Beyond the high human cost to individuals, their families, whanau and communities, work-related diseases cost this country an estimated $2.4 billion per year. The human and financial costs are simply unacceptable,” he said.

Link to the Article on WorkSafe.govt.nz 

How AMS Group Can Help

AMS Group is developing a range of Health Monitoring and Work-related health products and programme that will enable your organisation to meet the requirements under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.  It would be great to understand your issues and work with you to solve them together. These are due to be released in October 2016.

We would like you to register your interest and answer a few key questions about your service requirements or what you currently have in place and one of our team will be in touch.

 

Register your Interest Here

 

Useful Links

Work-Related Health Overview

Health Monitoring Fact Sheet from WorkSafe

Work Related Health Strategy