Friday, 19 April 2013

on accountability and safety in the workplace

as i'm sitting here pretty watching events developing in boston via twitter, i'm also thinking it's sad that news about the pike river coal has been overshadowed by events overseas.  the company has been found "liable on all nine charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, in relation to the deaths. Each charge can incur a maximum penalty of $250,000."

 while it's great that the company has been held accountable, the verdict will effectively lead to little punishment.  as pike river is already in receivership, the impact on the people actually responsible for poor decisions will be negligible.  and even if the company is fined to the maximum, if it doesn't have funds, then there is hardly any point.

it's the directors and management who need to be face greater accountability - they need to be held personally responsible for the decisions they have made.  peter whittal's trial is yet to come, but he isn't the only person who is responsible here.  there are the people he is responsible to, the people who carried out his orders.  and there are those that invested in this company, expecting to make gains at the expense of workers' safety.

it's appalling that company law can be used to protect directors, management & also investors from the consequences of their decisions.  i'm beginning to see shades of union carbide, and the complete lack of accountability in that case is similar to what it happening here.  and until we have greater consequences, both criminal and civil, the pressure to cut costs & increase profits by reducing health & safety requirements will have the greatest influence on work conditions.

workers memorial day is coming up - to be commemorated in auckland on 28 april.  i expect it won't get a lot of media coverage, it never does.  we don't seem to want to take the time to remember those who have died in the workplace, deaths that could have been prevented by adequate investment in workplace safety.

yet we still have people who complain about our apparently "politically correct" society, where health and safety measures are seen as "unnecessary red tape" and "bureaucracy gone mad".  this narrative runs unchecked, as a means to justify underspending on policies, procedures & equipment that will keep workers safe.  it's not good enough any more.  workers deserve to be safe in their workplaces, and if that means taking up more time and money to ensure they get home at night, then it's a very worthwhile investment.

No comments: