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Help for SMEs to accelerate Health & Safety appreciated

health and safety at work written on blackboard

Extra investment in workplace injury prevention, with a focus on small to medium businesses, will pay dividends not only in reducing pain and suffering but also in economic terms, Federated Farmers says.

“We see the announcement by ACC Minister Iain Lees-Galloway of a $22 million, five-year programme to incentivise SMEs to boost Health & Safety efforts as very useful,” Feds President Katie Milne says.

“Most farms are in this small to medium business category and the Minister is right when he says barriers to accessing such things as workplace capability development, professional Health & Safety consulting advice and capital investment in significant safety equipment are often too high, thus limiting uptake.

“Long-term injury rehabilitation and loss of productivity from injury carries a high price tag, alongside the pain, stress and grief for the individuals and their families.”

Five sectors currently represent over half (52%) of all severe workplace injuries – agriculture, forestry, construction, manufacturing and healthcare/social assistance.

“There’s a lot of work still to do to develop sector-specific safety initiatives and this new stream of grants and assistance will help,” Katie says.

A good example of an industry-specific workplace safety programme is Tahi Ngatahi, an on-line training programme launched to improve safety and reduce injuries to shearers and others in the wool industry.

“ACC helped industry get this off the ground. The new funding announced could help other, similar initiatives,” Katie says.

Historically agriculture hasn’t had a structure and formal focus on Health and Safety like larger businesses with an HR team to do it; the plan of action has tended to reside in the farmer’s head. But progress is accelerating now. Farmers recognise that the injury and fatality statistics in their line of work are far too high.

The combination of health & safety challenges facing farm businesses are different to many other workplaces – weather, operating machinery over difficult terrain, working in isolated places, sometimes unpredictable animal behaviour.

“More help, training programmes and safer equipment specific to our sector will protect farming families and their staff,” Katie says.

Source: Federated Farmers

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