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Wednesday, December 9

Workplace death toll cause for concern

Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson has called for a report on workplace fatalities after 30 New Zealanders died from accidents on the job between July and November this year.

In the same five month period in 2007 and 2008, 15 and 18 deaths were recorded respectively.

There has been one death to date in December - a 38-year-old pulp mill worker in Kawerau - taking the total to 31 for this financial year. All 31 were men.

"I've asked the Department of Labour to take a close look at these deaths, whether there is any underlying cause and if so, then what can be done about it.

"It's not acceptable that 31 families are now without husbands, fathers and brothers.

"I want to know why and how these men died. It may be that there were factors outside anyone's control, but if employers have failed in their obligations to keep their staff safe then they must accept the consequences.

"At the very least, these deaths must serve as a wake-up call to all employers and workers that health and safety is very serious - complacency and simple mistakes are killing people needlessly.

"Summer traditionally brings with it a higher number of fatalities, particularly in agriculture, construction and forestry, and its important we combat that."

The Department has begun a project to reduce the number of fatalities and serious harm in agriculture and horticulture. It is also working closely with business to build the leadership on workplace health and safety that is essential to reduce this toll.

"There's so much more that can be done by employers, employees and the Department to ensure that workers go home safe each night."

Most of the 31 workplace fatalities remain under investigation. The Department will report back to the Minister with its preliminary findings before Christmas.