Our strategic focus areas, and the initiatives, projects and activities within them all intersect and drive us towards our vision that work is healthy and safe for everyone.

What we do in one area of focus will have an influence and impact on other areas. WorkSafe’s priority initiatives and projects are influenced by what we learn in delivering our core activities. These learnings enable WorkSafe to have a greater influence and impact on reducing harm at work. Our circle of learning will be particularly important this year as we work to address the stalling improvements in our injury rates, and adapt and change our work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our modernisation programme is helping us get even better at understanding what harm prevention and core regulatory activities we should be focused on delivering, and how we can better operate as one WorkSafe in a joined up way. It will help us to lift our own performance and that of New Zealand’s system of health and safety.

Our ongoing response to Whakaari/ White Island

Our response to Whakaari/White Island is an example of WorkSafe’s work that cuts across all our areas of focus. It is the largest investigation that WorkSafe has ever undertaken. At its height, a team of 25 was on the ground in Whakatāne, supported by many specialists across our organisation, across New Zealand and from overseas.

This year, WorkSafe will continue our investigation into what happened on Whakaari/White Island. There was much that we continued to do during Alert Levels 4 and 3, but our investigation also necessitates site visits and face to face interviews; some of these with victims and witnesses overseas. Our team returned to Whakatāne as soon as it was able to do so safely, to continue the investigation. It will remain a priority to WorkSafe this year, as it is a priority to all those who were impacted by the tragic event.

WorkSafe will also be progressing our adventure activity review to identify and assess businesses operating outside of the Adventure Activities Regulations who may need to be drawn into the scheme. We will undertake this review recognising the challenges being confronted by our tourism operators as their industry has come to a stand-still as a result of COVID-19.

This year, we will further develop our approach to catastrophic harm prevention. A new programme of work will be planned and initiated, and will support work on the development of WorkSafe’s next Statement of Intent which will cover our system and strategic goals for 2021/22–2024/25.

Our external focus areas

1. Deliver the right mix of services in the right way

We target our interventions and activities to make a measurable difference in all that we do, and we hold those who do not meet their obligations to account.

Why this matters

People depend on WorkSafe to help workers and employers ensure good health and safety is put into practice in New Zealand’s workplaces. Where appropriate, WorkSafe ensures that employers and businesses who do not meet their obligations are held to account in a fair and proportionate way.

We have finite resources, so WorkSafe’s success relies on making effective choices about where we target our interventions and activities; this includes our health and safety leadership, our harm prevention and regulatory activities. This is especially true as we must extend our role and responsibilities through our contribution to the all-of-government COVID-19 response. We are clear we need to make a measurable difference in what we do. The Government expects this of us.

Our Minister has directed us to take a systematic approach to using the range of legislative tools we have available to us in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). We wll do this through using our levers of engagement, education and enforcement in the right way.

Delivering the right mix of services in the right way requires us to to have a clear understanding where harm is occuring and which interventions wil be effective. We must also understand the needs of our partners and stakeholders, and the workers, employers, and businesses that we work with; especially those in higher-risk sectors or industries, or those who have greater needs.

Throughout the year, WorkSafe will continue to build our understanding and knowledge of Māori health and safety, and Māori health and safety communities across New Zealand. This work is being led through seven marae-based programmes connecting local WorkSafe staff and Māori communities together to exchange health and safety, and tikanga experiences. We will also leverage the value to be gained from our newly established Pacific Peoples Responsiveness Advisory Group. 

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

The HSWA and its accompanying regulations set the minimum requirements for health and safety at work. Essential activity for WorkSafe in 2020/21 will be to support MBIE’s health and safety regulatory reform programme, including the plant, structures and working from heights and mining regulation reviews. We will also contribute to any other reviews initiated over the next year.

We will also be supporting MBIE to ensure New Zealand effectively regulates the health and safety risks associated with toxic, flammable and high operating pressure refrigerant gases. This work will be a priority, although we anticipate it will be impacted and disrupted by MBIE’s focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year WorkSafe will also focus on:

  • building our frameworks for evidence-based interventions and the use of intervention logic to develop and deliver harm prevention initiatives and guide our work
  • completing all required assessments of safety cases submitted by operators of existing MHF (under the transitional requirements of the Health and Safety at Work (Major Hazard Facilities) Regulations 2016)
  • developing and delivering new educational materials, guidance and digital tools to address gaps in the health and safety system, and to support workers and employers to address workplace harms. This will include workplace health and exposure monitoring guidance and a new risk management framework tool for small to medium enterprises.

2. Build our harm prevention approach

Supporting work-related health requires the right people, in the right place, at the right time, using the right tools to ensure we are preventing harm in our workplaces.

Why this matters

Harm prevention is at the heart of what WorkSafe does and is the key to ensuring that people come home healthy and safe. Our Minister expects us to strengthen our focus on preventing harm, including from work-related ill health. This year we will continue to invest in our capacity and capability in this area, and work to address the stalling improvements in our injury rates. A collective effort will be required to lead improvements in health and safety at work.

We are expanding our traditional focus on the higher-risk sectors of agriculture, forestry, construction and manufacturing, to include other sectors with high rates of harm (such as transport). We are looking at work-related issues that span across many sectors, such as psychosocial risks and mentally healthy work environments.

WorkSafe is concerned about the higher rates of harm and exposure to risk experienced by Māori, Pacific Peoples, and other groups such as migrant workers and those in precarious employment. Addressing these inequities is top of mind for the Government. We are working to gain insight into Māori injuries and fatalities, and to learn more about health and safety in our Pacific communities. This will help us work with communities of workers with greater needs on harm prevention initiatives that drive improvements in their workplaces.

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

In collaboration with ACC, we are implementing a programme of work under the 'Harm Reduction Action Plan', which focuses on activities that will have the biggest impact on reducing work-related fatalities, injuries and ill health. We are focusing our new activities and investment on reducing work-related ill health, which is estimated to account for 88% of the work-related burden of harm.

Under the 'Healthy Work: WorkSafe’s Work-related Health Strategy 2016–2026', we have developed a Work-related Health Action Plan for the next four years, focusing on three key areas: carcinogens and airborne risks; musculoskeletal disorders; and mentally healthy work.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will make this a challenging year for our key partners and stakeholders, and all New Zealand workplaces. We will work to understand these impacts as we push forward with our important, planned harm prevention initiatives including:

  • developing a strategic work-related health surveillance framework, and scoping or piloting initiatives to collect improved work-related health data that will help target and track the effectiveness of our initiatives
  • commissioning and sharing new research to gain a better understanding of the risk and protective factors for work-related psychological harm and what works in New Zealand to support mentally healthy work.

WorkSafe will also be working to adopt Kauapapa Māori harm prevention programmes through tripartite partnerships between Iwi, regional industries and WorkSafe. This year, we are looking to deliver a minimum of two regional community-based programmes focusing harm preventions efforts in areas where Māori workers are highly impacted by injuries and fatalities, supported by local Marae, hapū and Māori community health wrap-a-round support services.

3. Grow effective strategic relationships

Strong partnerships with, and action by, our stakeholders and expert advisors are vital to supporting everyone who goes to work, to come home healthy and safe.

Why this matters

The change required to lift New Zealand’s health and safety performance and address workplace harm will take a concerted effort from everyone. WorkSafe does not control all the levers or the tools that can help drive improved health and safety culture and practice. Strong partnerships with, and action by, our partners and stakeholders, and expert advisors are necessary to achieving the vision that everyone who goes to work comes home healthy and safe. This is vital to reversing the trend in our injury rates and seeing them track downwards again.

WorkSafe understands the importance of working effectively with other regulators and government agencies such as MBIE and ACC, and those involved in the health, education, justice, building and housing, energy and emergency response systems. This is important to ensuring a system-wide approach to health and safety.

Our relationships with other governments internationally, along with national and international experts and academics are important to ensuring a system-wide approach to health and safety. As are our tripartite relationships; we know that we can grow and leverage these to support our success.

What is a tripartite relationship?

A tripartite relationships involves the government regulator, employers and unions (representing workers) working together to improve workplace health and safety outcomes.

We need to work with partners and stakeholders who have the necessary breadth and depth of influence across a diverse range of sectors and industries, and whose specialist expertise, insights and reach enhance our own.

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

We will continue to strengthen our relationships with key partners and stakeholders, including other government regulators and agencies, and our social partners (New Zealand Council of Trade Unions – Te Kauae Kaimahi and Business New Zealand).

Our ongoing contribution to the COVID-19 pandemic response will require us to draw on our strategic relationships and work effectively together. We need to work together to address the new, critical risk presented by COVID-19 while not losing sight of the bigger picture; the need to address harm in our workplaces and to reduce the rate of fatalities and injuries.

We will chair and drive actions through the Health and Safety Regulator Chairs’ Forum (the Forum) and the Health and Safety Regulators Chief Executives' Group. The Forum was established to build a better understanding and collaboration at governance level. We will also continue to support the Government’s Health and Safety at Work Strategy Reference Group and to co-chair the Work Related Health Advisory Group.

WorkSafe supports existing sector tripartite leadership groups and other groups such as the Agricultural Leaders’ Health and Safety Action Group and ShopCare, along with specialist associations like the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand. Our work with them will continue.

We will continue to support workers and worker representatives in their roles. Worker engagement, participation and representation (WEPR) is a key enabler of the health and safety system. This is a key priority in the Government’s Health and Safety at Work Strategy 2018–2028, which places workers at the centre of the health and safety system.

This year our WEPR programme will face new challenges as some of the sectors and industries we are focussed on are those most impacted by COVID-19. As part of our response, we are working in new sectors and industries. As a result, our planned activity to improve WEPR may be re-planned or delivered in new ways over the course of the year. These activities include:

  • progressing our ‘roving representatives’ roles – which has introduced roving worker representatives in to the forestry sector, partnering with the Forestry Industry Safety Council and with the goal of improving workplace practices and health and safety outcomes
  • developing a programme of work to support the findings of our Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) survey, identifying and designing a set of initiatives to support and empower HSRs to better engage with Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and workers to improve health and safety outcomes.

This year WorkSafe will also focus on:

  • working to implement the Te Ara Tuituinga engagement framework and to further WorkSafe’s understanding of, and approach to, partnership with Māori
  • delivering the Pacific Peoples Responsiveness Plan and continuing our Puataunofo workshops with a focus on addressing the needs and issues faced by Pacific workers, including through providing information, advice and tools that may help their workplaces keep them safe.

Our internal focus areas

4. Drive organisational excellence

Our journey to become a modern, intelligence-led regulator. 

Our internal focus areas for the 2020/2021 performance year are to continue WorkSafe’s work to:

  • strengthen our people and culture
  • enhance our data, technology and infrastructure
  • future-proof our organisation.

WorkSafe needs to lead by example and ensure we keep our own people healthy, safe and well at work. Our internal health, safety and wellbeing goal is that by 2022, WorkSafe is a leading New Zealand organisation, and that we have an equal focus across the safety, health and wellbeing of our people.

We can show leadership as an organisation, in the way we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and any other risks to workplace health and safety that arise from it. We will do this by protecting our people at work, while we continue to deliver our priority initiatives and projects, and our core regulatory roles. WorkSafe will maintain our commitment to delivering action against our internal focus areas.

Our planned work to grow and develop our people, and our workplace culture, is necessary to effectively and efficiently use our engagement, education and enforcement levers. Along with capable people, WorkSafe needs solid and reliable data, technology and infrastructure.

WorkSafe’s data, intelligence and insights focus detailed in our Regulatory Intelligence Strategy (the Strategy). Continuing to develop and implement the Strategy alongside our programme of ICT technology and infrastructure reforms will support WorkSafe to be more agile and adaptable, and deliberate and targeted in our decision-making.

We anticipate the pace and priorities within our modernisation work programme may change in light of our contribution to the all-of-government COVID-19 response. However, it remains a critical programme as it supports WorkSafe’s ongoing journey to become a modern, intelligence-led regulator.

Strengthen our people and culture 

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

In 2020/21, we will consolidate the work we have already done to refresh WorkSafe values. We will embed a shared understanding of what our values mean for WorkSafe as an organisation and the way we work. Our people will be asked to demonstrate and deliver upon that understanding as our values are woven into our performance framework.

WorkSafe will build our leaders and managers, along with our technical specialists and the people that we want and need to be a success. We will deliver targeted training programmes and a recognition framework that will support us to attract, retain and grow our people so WorkSafe can deliver our vision for health and safety.

WorkSafe will embrace and role model te ao Māori and tikanga values across Government, and the health and safety system through learning and understanding of the Māori world view. Over the year, the Board and Executive Leadership Team will participate in a variety of te ao Māori leadership programmes and settings of te reo me ōna tikanga and interactive kōrero with Iwi, Māori leaders in business, workers, whānau and communities to enable them to develop informed insights into the Māori world and Māori health and safety. An evaluation of the learning and development programme will be undertaken in January 2021 to assess our capability shifts.

Enhance our data, technology and infrastructure 

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

This year, WorkSafe will continue to recruit data, research and intelligence analysts. Alongside this, we will be working on our data collection capabilities and ability to make better use of the data we already hold. A new version of our risk modelling tool will be deployed to support the way we analyse and predict risk, and identify and address emerging trends in the health and safety system, supporting our response. This work will help us drive our harm prevention initiatives and target our effort to reduce harm at work; this is essential to making a measurable difference to health and safety at work performance.

We have a programme of work in place to update our technology and infrastructure that will include:

  • implementing an end-to-end computing solution for our staff’s day-to-day work
  • improving our front-facing systems and consolidating our existing web presence
  • developing a case management system
  • developing and delivering a project and programme management tool
  • enhancing our organisational ICT, including our human resource and payroll systems.

We are rebuilding our ICT networks and moving to work within the “cloud”. This will give us greater stability and confidence in our technology, and the infrastructure that supports it. A priority will be to ensure that our staff can work effectively and efficiently outside of our offices and other workplaces. 

Future-proof our organisation 

What we intend to achieve in 2020/21

This year will be a time of change for WorkSafe and our people; not just because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and our contribution to the whole-of-government response. WorkSafe has initiated a change journey to become a modern, intelligence-led regulator that takes a strategic approach across all its initiatives, projects and core regulatory activities. The change journey, managed through our modernisation programme, will drive organisational and operational change across WorkSafe. It includes our work to build WorkSafe’s harm prevention framework and intervention logic. When completed, the framework and logic will allow us to:

  • use both responsive and risk-based tools to continuously improve our initiatives and activities
  • be flexible and adaptable, enabling us to effectively to respond to changing situations
  • ensure a focus on outcomes and impact in the health and safety system.

This year, WorkSafe will complete the establishment of our enterprise Portfolio Management Office (ePMO). The office will help us embed a standard approach to project initiation and delivery, and that projects are aligned, sequenced and resourced to make a measurable difference to health and safety outcomes. It will support ‘health check’ reporting on WorkSafe’s initiatives, projects and progammes.

A key deliverable within the modernisation programme is developing our service design practice. This initiative will develop best practice approaches for designing and delivering our services according to the needs of our clients – workers, employers and businesses – and in a consistent way within our organisation. We will be able map the processes we currently undertake and the systems we follow to drive improvements in what we already do, and strategically and effectively design and deliver new services.