By Terry O’Neill.
Are we becoming the world’s“cotton wool country” an extension of the old “nanny state”? Before we begin to leap in the air in an over indignant protest against what too many will claim are “ infringements of our rights” let’s take a good look at the first health and safety reform in a couple of decades.As you land back on your feet for the first time, the new reforms refer only to paid employees not volunteers. So any person who owns and/ or is a paid organiser of an event ,comes under the new rules. Thus if anything goes wrong the owner is liable for prosecution but the new compliance requirements are bigger and prosecution is higher.So does this mean that organisers of the Coast to Coast,Christmas parades,school activities, multi sport races, bike races and marathons may become things of the past as the owners/organisers fear personal liability prosecutions.Many such people are calling in auditors to check their events against the new reforms.
Locally this mean that any event which is run by a paid organiser comes under the new reform?It’s just not limited to workplaces which have paid staff, but the law does not apply to a group of volunteers where nobody is paid as an employee.
It is believed by many that the reforms are really the product of the Pike River mine disaster where twenty nine people are killed, but government denies this stating that its concern is about the high level of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace. So why place paid individuals such as school teachers responsible for the health and safety of students placed in the same basket as national industry?And why are ordinary New Zealanders being asked to bear the brunt of the increase in workplace deaths.
With fines of up to $600,000 some principals have considered putting their personal homes into trusts so that they will not have to sell homes to pay fines or maybe to avoid gaol times in extreme cases.But others say its simply a case of the more detail being released to assist clarification.
Will this mean that clarification will create a more sensible application of the reforms? Apparently not as such reforms will apply to sports clubs who employ staff.Examples from one bowling club would suggest the opposite.It’s been informed that any steps must be painted so players and visitors could see that they were steps, and signs had to be put up in the shelters warning against sitting on the top rail,in case someone falls off.And the coat racks had to be taken down in case someone impaled themselves upon them ,while any pointed edges had to be wrapped with rubber so that people will not be injured.So if you have a club that runs tournaments more dollars will be required to get your facilities up to scratch.
George Orwell of 1984 fame will be smiling wryly I’m sure.