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Original research
Impact of legislative reform on worker fatalities in New Zealand workplaces: a 30-year retrospective population-level analysis
  1. Rebbecca Lilley1,
  2. Gabrielle Davie1,
  3. Bronwen McNoe1,
  4. Simon Horsburgh1,
  5. Tim R Driscoll2,
  6. Colin Cryer1
  1. 1Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebbecca Lilley, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; rebbecca.lilley{at}otago.ac.nz

Abstract

Objectives To determine the impact of major legislative changes to New Zealand’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation with the adoption of the Robens model as a means to control occupational risks on the burden and risk of work-related fatal injury (WRFI).

Methods Population-based comparison of WRFI to workers aged 15–84 years occurring during three periods: before (pre:1985–1992), after legislative reform (post-1:1993–2002) and after subsequent amendment (post-2:2003–2014). Annual age-industry standardised rates were calculated with 95% CI. Multivariable Poisson regression was used to estimate age-adjusted annual percentage changes (APC) for each period, overall and stratified by high-risk industry and occupational groups.

Results Over the 30-year period, 2053 worker deaths met the eligibility criteria. Age-adjusted APC in rates of worker WRFI changed little between periods: pre (−2.8%, 95% CI 0.0% to −5.5%); post-1 (−2.9%, 95% CI −1.3% to −4.5%) and post-2 (−2.9%, 95% CI −1.3% to −4.4%). There was no evidence of differences in slope. Variable trends in worker WRFI were observed for historically high-risk industry and occupational groups.

Conclusions The rate of worker WRFI decreased steadily over the 30-year period under examination and there was no evidence that this pattern of declining WRFI was substantially altered with the introduction of Robens-styled OHS legislative reforms. Beyond headline figures, historically high-risk groups had highly variable progress in reducing worker WRFI following legislative reform. This study demonstrates the value in including prereform data and high-risk subgroup analysis when assessing the performance of OHS legislative reforms to control occupational risks.

  • injury
  • wounds and Injuries
  • accidents
  • mortality
  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The primary data used for this study were obtained from Archives New Zealand, Ministry of Justics and the National Coronial Information System administered by a third parties. These data are not publicly available.

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Data availability statement

Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The primary data used for this study were obtained from Archives New Zealand, Ministry of Justics and the National Coronial Information System administered by a third parties. These data are not publicly available.

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Footnotes

  • Contributors All authors were involved in conceiving the study. CC, SH, BMcN and RL collected, reviewed and coded the data at various iterations of the WRFIS. GD conducted the analyses with input from CC, RL, SH and TD. RL and GD drafted the manuscript. All authors reviewed the data analysis, read and approved the final manuscript. RL is the guarantor of the manuscript.

  • Funding This project was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, grant number 16/173.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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