Worker participation key to effective health & safety

Meat workers are keen for the government to pass the Health & Safety Reform Bill and particularly the provisions around worker participation. While some Meat Industry employers take health & safety and worker participation seriously, others see it as a form of intrusion on their right to manage, or even a threat from unions!  The consequences can be awful for workers.  

The Meat Industry has the highest injury rate across whole manufacturing sector. While ACC costs have reduced, common injuries still occur to shoulders, hands and wrists, back and spine, contusions, sprain/strains, laceration (cuts), burns, puncture wounds, finger or hand cuts and even amputation.  

Occupational diseases include noise-induced hearing loss, infections, skin conditions and leptospirosis which all still occur far too often. Gradual Onset injury is endemic where many workers are reliant on pain reducing medication just to get through the day.  As we've seen recently, exposure to chemicals and gases is a risk to meat workers where employers are careless.

Some employers in the Meat Industry are serious about reducing injuries and accidents, implementing a Just Culture, where reporting injuries and worker participation is encouraged, rather than punished or feared. Others do everything they can to cover up injuries, discourage reporting and apply a punitive approach to injuries, while at the same time ignoring their responsibility to ensure that rosters are safe, the chain is properly managed and ensuring there are proper breaks. 

The Health & Safety Reform Bill matters to all meat workers, and we need to resist the push back from some employers who see worker participation as an imposition, rather than a benefit, despite international evidence to the contrary.  

Smart employers get it and are completely unthreatened with workers having a say in their own health and safety.  We hope that employers who see worker involvement as a threat look around and see that there is a better way.

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