Occupational disease monitoring falls short

A report released yesterday by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (NOHSAC) reports that the systems used for the surveillance of occupational disease and injury in New Zealand fall far short of internationally accepted practice, especially for the surveillance of occupational disease.

Chair of the Committee, Professor Neil Pearce from the University's Centre for Public Health Research says, It is unacceptable that the agencies responsible for occupational safety and health in the workplace are unable to accurately measure how many New Zealanders are dying or being seriously injured at work.

The agencies are unable to accurately measure the main causes and circumstances of the deaths and serious injury, and therefore have no effective strategies to reduce the death and injury rate, he says.

The report, The Surveillance of Occupational Disease and Injury in New Zealand: Report to the Minister of Labour, finds that the data currently used suffers from

• a lack of common definitions and coding of occupation
• a lack of common definitions and coding of disease and injury
• poor capture of occupational history particularly in relation to occupational disease
• inadequate or nonexistent coding of the occupational history information that is collected
• lack of expertise and resources to manage and administer systems, particularly within the Department of Labour
• the lack of anyone in charge who can take responsibility for collecting, coding, analysing, and publishing information on the annual burden of occupational disease and injury.

The report contains recommendations for improving the quality of data collected, and provides an integrated model for the surveillance of occupational disease and injury in line with international best practice. The Committee was established in 2003 and its role is to provide the Minister of Labour with independent, contestable advice on major occupational health and safety issues.

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