Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Another starving watchdog

WorkSafe is supposed to make sure that every Kiwi is safe at work. Except they can't any more, because they're not funded to do the job properly:

A lack of funding is forcing WorkSafe to reduce its focus on adventure activities, and it is unable to hold some companies that break health and safety laws to account.

The health and safety regulator has warned its minister it had made a "pragmatic decision" to focus more on the "high harm" forestry, transport, manufacturing and construction industries over "comparatively lower risk" adventure activities.

This was despite WorkSafe identifying "regulatory risks" in having other agencies doing safety compliance checks on its behalf - known as third-party accreditation regimes - including for adventure activity operators, WorkSafe Chair Ross Wilson warned Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood in October.

"These are the decisions that the Board must continue to take while there is a gap between expectations and resourcing," he wrote.

This is where Labour's commitment to austerity and keeping taxes on the rich low gets us: agencies unable to perform their core functions properly due to underfunding. And as for the consequences of that, it can be summed up in two words: Pike River. I don't think any single adventure tourism accident has hit that bodycount (the biggest single incident from a casual glance is the Carterton balloon crash, which killed eleven people), but there's a regular ongoing death and injury toll of skydivers, jetboaters, scenic flights, and river-boarders. The death toll is such that safety standards were tightened over a decade ago. And now they're no longer being effectively enforced, its only a matter of time and luck before we have another completely preventable mass-casualty incident. And I'm sure that thought will be highly attractive to foreign tourists considering coming here.