Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

A Contested Workplace: Situating New Zealand's OHSM Regulatory Practice within the Literature - an Introduction to the Policy History and Regulatory Debates

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations (Online)

A Contested Workplace: Situating New Zealand's OHSM Regulatory Practice within the Literature - an Introduction to the Policy History and Regulatory Debates

Article excerpt

Abstract

The implementation of New Zealand's Occupational Health and Safety Management (OHSM) regulatory regime has been subjected to sustained critique by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (NOHSAC). The most recent critique focuses upon the perceived inadequacies of current standards and guidance documents about what occupational health and safety management systems (OHSM systems) best practice means for employers. This paper provides an introduction to the literature, history, and policy debates about occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory practice in advanced western nations. New insights in the recent literature pointing to the importance of understanding 'regulatory character' and the overlapping and often conflicting regulatory nature of the workplace space are identified. The insights raise questions about the role of a workers" compensation scheme in promoting workplace safety, and suggest that in order to implement a best practice OHS regulatory regime in New Zealand action on a number of fronts is required.

Keywords: OHSM regulation, OHS management systems, policy, best practice, literature, history, regulator, workers' compensation scheme

Introduction

The functioning of New Zealand's occupational health and safety regulatory system has been under scrutiny by the National Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (NOHSAC) since 2003 (Pearce, Dry son, Gander, Langley and Watsatffe, 2007, 2008; Allen and Clarke et al 2006; Kendall, 2005, 2006; Access Economics et al 2006; Pearce et al. 2005; VIOSH et al, 2006; Driscoll, 2006; Driscoll et al. 2004; Pearce et al. 2006; Driscoll et al. 2005; Health Outcomes International Pty Ltd, 2005). NOHSAC members represent a range of expertise within the broad fields of occupational health and safety, and provide independent advice to the Minister of Labour on occupational health and safety in New Zealand. The most recent advice to the Minister of Labour is critical of the failure of the Department of Labour to develop adequate standards and guidance documents about what occupational health and safety management systems (OHSM systems) best practice means for employers (Pearce et al. 2008).

This paper provides an introduction to the literature, history, and policy debates about occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory practice in advanced western nations. New insights in the recent literature pointing to the importance of understanding 'regulatory character' and the overlapping and often conflicting regulatory nature of the workplace space are identified. These insights suggest that in order to implement a best practice OHS regulatory regime in New Zealand requires action on a number of fronts.

The review is organised around the following themes:

1. Contours of the OHS policy literature and policy issues;

2. Outline of the current dominant regulatory approach to OHS regulation in advanced western nations;

3. Issues relating to current regulatory approach in advanced western nations, and evidence for effectiveness of the approach;

4. New Zealand specific issues within the current regulatory regime;

5. Based on the proceeding evidence, identification of questions about the possible the role of workers' compensation authority.

An inductive approach was also used to inform this literature review. The approach serves three purposes:

1. The identification of the range of theories and methods that have been used to describe and explain the process of OHS regulatory change, and the outcomes that have occurred in various countries.

2. The identification of "enduring patterns and relationships" (Hakim, 1987) across time and cultures about the origins of OHS regulatory change, the factors that commonly determine the final outcome, the policy issues commonly debated, and the policy positions taken by participants in the debates.

3. …

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