Backdown on health and safety reform imminent

(File)
(File)

There's further embarrassment for the Government's health and safety reforms, with the latest botch-up seeing the quarry industry defined as low-risk, despite a number of deaths.

And a backdown is on its way with Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse admitting his proposed law has problems.

Murray Taylor died after being buried by 1500 tonnes of rock in his north Canterbury quarry. It's one of three deaths in the quarry industry in just six months.

Despite that the Government's classified most quarrying low-risk.

As part of its health and safety reforms, the Government this week released a list of high-risk industries which will give workers the right to have a health and safety representative.

Mr Woodhouse told Parliament he seemed to think quarrying was included as high-risk.

"I'd need to go back and check, but my understanding is that quarries are included under the mining categories."

But Woodhouse didn't get it quite right.

Meanwhile, mini golf, worm and alpaca farming and even cat breeding is deemed high-risk.

Most quarrying, including limestone and metal, where the three deaths occurred are actually deemed low-risk, and Labour leader Andrew Little says the whole law is a mess.

"This is absolute madness on part of the National Government and minister."

In March, 43-year-old Scott Baldwin died at a limeworks in Timaru. In April, 24-year-old Tane Hill-Ormsby died after a quarry truck rolled in Tauranga and in June, the incident with Mr Taylor.

Mr Woodhouse refused to front for an interview today, but a backdown is on the way.

The minister issued a statement admitting to what he calls "potential unintended issues" with the proposed law.

That's code for a fix-up job is needed to stem the political embarrassment.

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