Safety agency with better returns than WorkSafe to shut down

A Canterbury work safety group is shutting down, saying money out of government agencies has dried up.

The Canterbury Safety Charter is questioning why it cannot get funding when it has a proven high return on investment, and the likes of WorkSafe do not.

The charter, set up after the 2011 quake, was assessed as making a return on investment of between $3 and $6 on every dollar of ACC levies spent in safety gains.

But it has failed to get any of its project proposals in the last year approved by ACC, WorkSafe or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), so it is poised to shut within months.

“Surprised, disappointed,” general manager Paul Duggan said.

He contrasted their track record with that of WorkSafe, which RNZ revealed last month had returned just 18c in the dollar on external injury prevention programmes. The assessments noted it can be difficult to accurately measure such returns.

The registered charity wanted to expand its work to the North Island.

“It’s a lost opportunity with our North Island Safety Charter proposal that we have something that has shown to demonstrate a great rate of return is not being funded, where other projects which [have] a much less rate of return have been,” Duggan told RNZ.

ACC, MBIE and WorkSafe have been approached for comment.

The government needed to ask what was the best use of up to $15m in annual spending that WorkSafe was having to give back to ACC, Duggan said. WorkSafe spent $60m on its poor-returns programmes before the boom was finally lowered, though even then the final ones are carrying on till next March, as RNZ reported.

The Canterbury Charter gets two-thirds of its funding from projects bought into by WorkSafe, ACC and MBIE.

“We would like to continue on and we believe we have something to offer,” Duggan said.

But the “big economic push from this government” had coincided with funders like ACC favouring national bodies over regional.

“There doesn’t seem to be any money for that, or no appetite to fund us any further from those departments.”

The charter’s board has emailed members – who provide the other income, from subscriptions – to say it was proposing to wind up at the end of the year.

“Since mid-2023 the charter has proposed numerous projects to various government agencies which we believed would be beneficial in reducing accidents and injuries in New Zealand workplaces,” it said.

“None of these applications have been successful, and in the current economic climate the board believes that it is highly unlikely that any further applications will be successful.”

A glowing review in 2017 found the charter was instrumental in there being no deaths during the 2011 quake rebuild, preventing over a four-year period up to one fatality, three to six severe injuries and 50 to 100 non-severe injuries.

Two years later WorkSafe cut its annual operational grant to the charter.

One knocked-back proposal from last year aimed to boost civil construction capabilities for rebuilding in the under-resourced Hawke’s Bay and Tai Rāwhiti regions post-Cyclone Gabrielle.

Other proposals were around injured workers recovering at work rather than at home.

The charter has one national project still on the go – building health and safety into a landmark construction model called BIM, or Building Information Modelling. To snare ACC funding for that, it had to demonstrate it could return $1.60 for each $1 of ACC levy funding.

Canterbury Safety Charter general manager Paul Duggan.

It was not as if the job was done, Duggan said – recent industry reports have reiterated the country’s persistently poor record of high workplace injury and death, with construction one of those high-risk industries.

“We haven’t written ourselves off yet,” he said. “We still have a thin hope that we will be able to secure something, but it’s not looking likely.”

The charter might try to get ministerial attention under the new health and safety review.

Workplace Safety Minister Brooke Van Velden launched the review with a sideswipe at a “sea of orange road cones” she said represented health and safety culture.

The charter is going ahead with its Future of Health and Safety Conference in Christchurch on 25 July.

“In some sense we have exceeded our original mandate,” the board told members in the email.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button