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Original research
Impact of legislative reform on worker fatalities in New Zealand workplaces: a 30-year retrospective population-level analysis


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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