The burden of harm

16 Sep 2019

We’ve been talking about workplace incidents a lot lately, largely because this has been a topic actively covered in the media. But there’s another side to workplace health that is a serious and significant issue and equally as important; exposure to health risks. We’re talking about external factors that can cause long-term or even fatal diseases such as cancer, respiratory problems, musculoskeletal harm and mental health issues.

According to ACC, work-related health deaths are estimated at 750-900 per year on top of an estimated 5,000 – 6,000 hospitalisations due to work-related ill health. Furthermore, a worker is 15 times more likely to die from a work-related disease than from a work accident.

But, the ongoing effect of this situation is the burden of harm, which is the long-term impact on the quality of life for the worker and their families, friends and caregivers. WorkSafe has calculated that the cost to New Zealand for the burden of harm is at least $2 billion each year

While these are sobering facts, the issues that manifest workplace health risks are largely avoidable

Anyone who was a tradesperson before the 1980s will no doubt suffer from some degree of hearing loss due to not wearing ear protection. It wasn’t until we saw an increase in hearing loss-related visits to doctors that the full effect of long-term noise exposure was realised. And so, measures and standards were put in place to mitigate this.

We’ve come a long way since then, but judging by the statistics, it would be safe to say we’re not there yet. As employers, employees and partners/parents/children/friends and relatives to New Zealand’s industry workers, we have to do better at keeping our people safe and healthy. This isn’t just the responsibility of one group, but of everyone to make sure the proper safety measures are in place before the work commences.

The best place to start is with training. Knowledge leads to empowerment and safety. Undertaking the right training and ensuring workers and employers both understand the risks and how to manage them is one of the most powerful tools to combat workplace health issues. The courses we run at Axiom Training are fast and effective and can be customised to your unique workplace situation.

When we look at the $2 billion per annum in the burden of harm and the training options that are available, the only question to ask is ‘can you afford not to?’