Calls for Māori ACC entity after man loses both arms in 'horrific' work accident, leaving him severely burnt

An ACC and employment lawyer is calling for an ACC entity designed by Māori, for Māori to help address structural biases in the compensation system.

"I'm applauding what they're going to do for health and I think that that should be replicated in ACC as well," Wellington lawyer Hazel Armstrong said.

Māori and Pasifika are more likely to get injured but are less likely to make ACC claims, and therefore get fewer entitlements.

Added to this, Armstrong said ACC processes structurally disadvantage Māori and Pasifika applicants with their mainly paper-based bureaucracy.

"Some of my clients are rural, with uncertain internet. They only have a phone, no computer, no printer. They may not have an accessible GP.

"All of those are structural disadvantages," Armstrong said.

Double amputee Jahden Nelson is grateful for Armstrong's help after a horrific workplace accident in April. 

The 28-year-old scaffolder was electrocuted after the metal pole he was holding came in contact with low-hanging, high-voltage power lines while he was dismantling a scaffolding structure.

"I wouldn't have got anything if it wasn't for the lawyer that I have. I couldn't thank her enough for getting what I deserved," Nelson said.

The father of three was working for Supercity Scaffolding when the accident happened and lost his livelihood when he lost his limbs.

Supercity Scaffolding chief executive Claire Attard is refusing to comment while Worksafe is investigating.

Nelson was on $27 an hour for doing potentially dangerous work - just a bit more than the minimum wage.

He also had to supply his own personal protection equipment out of his wages.

Syd Keepa is First Union's Māori vice president and said self-employed kaimahi have fewer protections from dangerous working conditions.

"All they know about is I sign this and I get a job. That's all they know, they don't know anything else.

"Going back to my day they gave us everything - steel-toe capped boots, high visabililty jackets, all that stuff. Because that was part of the agreement we had.

"Now you do your own tax, do your own safety, do everything else and you're only an individual," Keepa added.

"This is a message to all people: no matter the industry, that if you're heading into work, think carefully and make a conscious decision as to whether you're a contractor or a worker," Hazel Armstrong said.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.