Evidence of comparative work injury rate statistics in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Norway and the United Kingdom suggest that workplace health and safety programmes introduced by ACC in New Zealand over the last four decades have been ineffective, the New Zealand Law Society says.
In a submission on the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety’s Safer Workplaces Consultation Document, the Law Society questions the effectiveness of the experience rating policy introduced in April 2011.
“There does not appear to be any evidence to support experience rating as effective in ensuring workplace safety. To the contrary, international evidence suggests otherwise,” the submission says.
The Law Society says experience rating may lead to the under-reporting of accidents rather than a reduction in the frequency with which accidents occur.
“Experience rating also cuts across the notion of community responsibility to pool the costs of all accidents, given the interdependence of different sectors of the economy.”
Considering what could be done to improve the workplace health and safety regulatory framework, the Law Society says it might be opportune for ACC to re-introduce rehabilitation officers.
This would be consistent with the governing legislation which says ACC’s primary focus should be on rehabilitation with the goal of achieving an appropriate quality of life with entitlements that restore a claimant’s health, independence and participation to the maximum practicable extent.
“As a matter of operational practice there should be greater emphasis by ACC on real rehabilitation of injured earners to return them, as far as possible, to their pre-injury work capacity in work of comparable status,” the Law Society submission says.
The ACC, “as a matter of practice”, should place less emphasis on getting injured people off the system and more on ensuring that they are properly rehabilitated as envisaged in the legislation and the original Woodhouse Report.
The Law Society says it is also important that ACC uses medical assessors who are perceived to be unbiased. The focus must not be on removing injured persons from the scheme or reducing entitlements for the purpose of containing ACC’s costs.
“An independent system of clinically assessing physical and mental capacity should be developed before a person can have his/her right to statutory entitlements removed. Return to work must be genuine and sustainable and in keeping with the purpose of the legislation.”