One Act, One Authority: New Zealand’s Path to a Safer Future
Consistency and centralisation are key components in developing a strong safety culture. The New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy report (2010) estimates that the total social and economic cost of all injuries in New Zealand, at June 2008 prices, is about NZ$9.7 billion, ranging from NZ$7.4 billion to NZ$13.6 billion. Furthermore, the New Zealand Occupational Safety and Health Service Department of Labour (OSH) and the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) in 2001 determined that a workplace incident occurs every two minutes.
Until the 1980s, five agencies oversaw occupational health and safety in New Zealand along with the local government: The Department of Labour, The Department of Health, The Accident Compensation Commission, The Ministry of Transport and The Ministry of Energy. These bodies were governed by 14 individual acts and approximately 50 regulations. As statistics continued to reflect concerns over workplace injuries and illnesses, New Zealand’s primary safety agencies developed a guiding principle, “One Act, One Authority,” to begin streamlining industry practices and legislation.
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act) was the first legislative step in moving toward “One Act, One Authority.” The HSE Act includes three primary goals; encouraging quality in safety management, enforcing responsibilities to employers in preventing employee injuries, and providing occupational guidance to implement safety best practices. Once the HSE Act was formalised, the six bodies were replaced with one primary agency: OSH. The HSE Act also replaced 14 regulations, ensuring that one act encourages consistent practices throughout all workplaces.
Today, “One Act, One Authority” continues to develop the safety culture of New Zealand. In July 2012, the Department of Labour became the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Committed to enhancing the workplace environment, MBIE provides a centralised authority to ensure safe work practices across all industries. MBIE incorporated the responsibilities of The Department of Building and Housing, The Department of Economic Development, The Department of Labour, and The Department of Science and Innovation. This union of departments signifies the commitment to facilitate collaboration between various sectors to improve prevention procedures.
Creating a safer workplace involves changing practices, beliefs and attitudes. MBIE continues its commitment to identifying and implementing safer solutions, paving New Zealand’s path to a safer future.