Summer remains deadly time in NZ workplaces

Monday, 15 June, 2009

A New Zealand Department of Labour report into workplace deaths shows that, of the 54 work-related deaths investigated by the department in 2008, 18 occurred in summer, 11 in autumn, 12 in winter and 13 in spring.

“This continues a long-running trend of higher injury rates in the summer season,” said Craig Armitage, head of the Department’s Workplace Health and Safety service. “Previously, autumn has tended to be our second most deadly season, though this year there was also a disappointingly high number of deaths in spring and winter.”

Over the last two years, the department has been running workplace health and safety campaigns to encourage people to take particular care during summer and autumn. This year’s campaign is just ending.

“The campaigns follow research showing workplace fatalities are consistently highest in summer, followed by autumn, particularly in the agricultural sector,” continued Armitage. “Previously, there has been a trend for agriculture, forestry and construction to be our most dangerous industries. However, last summer and autumn the highest number of accidents — 12 — occurred in the industrial and commercial sector, while five occurred in agriculture, five in construction and two in forestry.

The research shows the two peak times for work-related fatal accidents during summer and autumn are late morning and mid afternoon, with workers aged between 45 and 54 being most at risk.

Armitage says the loss of loved ones, the suffering of family and friends, and the wider social and economic impacts of workplace deaths are immeasurable: “That’s why our latest campaign focused on the message of ‘taking care’ so workers come home safely. Having a safe workplace [also] makes good business sense. Research shows safe workplaces are more productive workplaces.”

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