Wellington risk specialist Ian Harrison smelt a rat when he saw the adverts so reviewed the evidence to find that the claims were grossly exaggerated. He filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority.
The campaign coincides with Health and Safety at Work Act coming into force, and appears to be designed to garner public support for a campaign to reduce key health and safety indicators by 10 percent by 2016 and by 25 percent by 2020.
A public push-back has begun against draconian penalties for safety infringements and increased costs of doing business, which appear grossly disproportionate to the likely benefits.
A total of 44 workplace fatalities were reported to Worksafe New Zealand in 2015.
The authoritative source on serious injuries is the Statistics Department's series “Serious non-fatal work-related claims”, with figures from 2014 the latest available. There were 397 injuries.
As this series is fairly stable we can be reasonably sure that the 2015 death and serious injury figure was about 450. So where did the 23,000 deaths and serious injuries come from? There are two possibilities: The workplace serious harm notification series, and ACC entitlement claim data.
Workplace serious harm notifications totalled 3384 In 2015, with 24,000 notifications in the five years to 2015.
ACC entitlement claim data, according data published annually by Statistics NZ, there were 28,000 “claims involving entitlement payments for work-related injuries” in 2014.
It appears the purpose of the Work Safe advertising blitz is to reduce the number of claims to ACC.
If also appears that the “23,000 deaths and serious injuries every year in NZ” claim was chosen as the message for the blitz because the message “last year 23,000 New Zealanders had a week or more off work after a workplace accident, and made a claim on ACC” was not very compelling.
Harrison said there is no substantive support for the claim in the television advertisement that New Zealand’s rate is twice that of Australia’s. He noted that international comparisons were unreliable partly because New Zealand’s definition of a workplace accidental death is broader than many of the comparators.
He compared the goals set by Government to reduce workplace fatality and serious injury rates by 10 percent by 2016 and 25 percent by 2020 with current rates to find that the fatal work-related injury goal has already been achieved, that we are heading towards achieving the serious non-fatal work-related injury goal, and that although the “work-related injury with more than a week away from work” may have been achieved although it is more problematic with issues relating to claim management.
Comparing goals with latest data:
1. For the age-standardised rate of fatal work-related injuries per 100,000 person years at risk, the 2016 and 2020 targets are 2.5 and 2.1 respectively. For the three-year period 2012-14, the Statistics NZ outcome was 2.2 fatalities per 100,000.There is no sign of a cost-benefit analysis. The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment appears averse to weighing costs and benefits, preferring the “at all costs” approach with someone other than the government carrying the costs.
2. For the age-standardised rate of serious non-fatal work-related injuries, the 2016 and 2020 targets are 14.5 and 12.1 respectively. The latest, 2014, figure was 16.2.
3. For the rate of work-related injuries with more than a week away from work, the target is 8.41 per 1000 full-time equivalent employees. The Working Safer report shows that the claim rate fell from 12 per 1000 FTEs in 2003 to under 7.9 by 2010, a fall of 34 percent. The rate has plateaued since then.
The elephant in the room regarding our generous no-fault accident compensation scheme in which we all pay for individual injuries is that the socialist pot of gold will always attract a mountain of claims – which is what the scary adverts are trying to reduce.
The Work Safe NZ/ACC television advertisements - a review of the evidence. http://www.tailrisk.co.nz/documents/Accident.pdf