Workplace Health not taken as seriously as Safety: Survey
Most New Zealanders don’t think workplace health is taken as seriously as safety, a survey suggests.
The results of Safeguard magazine’s annual State of the Nation survey have been released, and they don’t bode well for the ‘H’ in health and safety.
More than 900 people took part, consisting of health and safety practitioners, workers who are also health and safety representatives, and business owners or senior executives.
Safeguard magazine’s third annual State of the Nation survey shows 80% of respondents believe the safety of workers is taken seriously, while only 50% believe the same about workers’ health and wellbeing.
This is important because far more workers die each year from their past exposure to workplace health risks (e.g. chemicals and other hazardous substances) than die from sudden trauma incidents such as falls.
Many people develop hearing loss, breathing difficulty or serious long-term illnesses because of unsafe workplace environments.
The survey also reveals that business owners and senior executives take a much rosier view of how health & safety is going than workers who hold positions as health & safety representatives.
86% of business said senior managers and/or board members regularly ask questions about H&S, while only 65% of reps felt the same.
78% percent of owners and executives said health and safety risks were discussed with other business using the same site, but only 59 percent of workers said this was true.
Taken together, these responses demonstrate a distinct gap between work-as-imagined (by the executives) and work-as-done (on the shop floor).
Only 47% of respondents were confident that no one would be harmed or made unwell by the activities carried out at their workplace – the same figure as in last year’s survey.
Peter Bateman, editor of Safeguard, says that eliminating or minimising the exposure of workers to health risks remains the great strategic challenge. He notes that compared to last year, the proportion of business owners/executives who feel worker health is taken seriously has dropped from 65% to 56%.
“To take an optimistic view, this could indicate that at the level of senior management the scale of the health challenge is starting to be recognised. What we need to see now is action on correctly identifying and managing critical risks to worker health.”