7 September, 2000
Ministerial report into Tranz Rail released
The Minister of Labour, Margaret Wilson has released the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into Tranz Rail Occupational Safety and Health.
Ms Wilson says the report makes it clear that there is good reason to be concerned about Tranz Rail's record and the regulatory framework that governs it.
"The report highlights a number of problems in the regulation of Tranz Rail safety and health. These include the application of a different standard of safety and health to Tranz Rail from that applied to most other businesses.
"In effect the law provides for rail operators to establish a safety system based on 'reasonable cost'. Most other employers are covered by a requirement to take 'all practicable steps' to ensure safety in the workplace.
"The report also notes that the Tranz Rail Safety System documentation includes between 1,000 and 2,000 documents and about 100,000 drawings and is 'unmanageable relative to the aim of securing a safe system'.
"Workplaces need to develop a culture of safety based on mutual respect, trust and understanding. Efforts have been made towards this end by Tranz Rail and are documented in the report. But it is clear that the law needs to be changed to simplify the message about safety.
"I have already announced a review of safety and health legislation.
"This report will now become a part of that review and legislation will be introduced as soon as possible. I have not set a specific timetable for the review because I believe we need time to get it right.
"But good progress is being made, and I will be reporting the results of the review, including our plans for improved laws, by the end of the year.
"No one with the responsibility for safety can have been unmoved by the sad stories of the families of those Tranz Rail employees who died, and the evidence given by the employees who were injured.
"I believe that no one with a responsibility in this area – and I include myself – can have heard those accounts without becoming more aware of the great responsibility we have to promote safer workplaces. Their courage and determination will lead to a safer railway industry and improvements in safety and health for all New Zealanders.
"I have had initial discussions with Tranz Rail and the Rail and Maritime Transport Union about the report.
"With the Minister of Transport I will now consider the government's formal response to the matters raised in the report.
"There are a wide range of actions recommended and the government will be dealing with them as quickly as possible".