Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mike Butler: Work risk grossly exaggerated

A current work safely television advertisement campaign claims that last year there were 23,000 deaths and serious injuries in New Zealand when the actual figure is 450.

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.

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.
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.

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.


Brian said...

Yes Mike,
i would only add that this is the usual method whereby a state industry in this case "Work Place Accidents" is following the usual pattern of creating another monstrous cancerous bureaucracy.
More and more of these types of State Employment opportunities are being formed. After all they do reduce the unemployment lists, but at a cost upon business, manufacturing, farming you name it. But does that worry the majority of our citizens?

This is our Union socialist heritage; so long perpetuated throughout our education system, and now showing its true strength....who needs Moscow or Peking! All Labour needs is an Aneurin Bevan instead of Andrew Little.

The Hammer and the Sickle will in the end, constitute a part of any future new flag.

paul scott said...

Ah yes, I am clumsy, and exacerbated my old ankle injury on the push bike.
Not much, but I went to the Doctor by mistake:
He stares into computer screen and says,
" That’s a serious acute accident injury, tibial tendon tear, very bad.
The last man who had this tibial tendon injury , he was old, died before he got better,
you don’t look so good yourself. No working for 6 months " he says

" I have the ACC acute injury form, for accident while working, you know,
now the Ultra sound people need work, this is bad, you go to Xray,
Ultrasound, look on the screen here, all these appointments for you , and we should take a blood test".
Medicine is about the Doctor looking after himself.
"OK Doc I said I haven’t done any work for 6 years, so I can probably manage that.
But can I just have some Tramidol instead ".
The ACC form came through
“ Yes we are pleased to warrant you for any examinations and treatment regarding foot,
and ankle, We hope you get better “
Don’t know what the pictures on the X-Ray, or Ultrasound looked like but the nurses were nice.

Aunty Podes said...

Nothinbg new here. If you add together all the "deaths listed as being statistically due to whatever" you will find the figure is greater than the population - we must all be dead! But only from the neck up if you take any notice of the garbage dealt out by statisticians. Their figures can be arranged to fit whatever puopose gummint requires.

Anonymous said...

You can be certain that after millions and millions of dollars spent, hour and hours wasted, hundreds of poor souls dragged through the courts - the accident rate will stay exactly the same.