Ministerial Inquiry into the Management of Certain Hazardous Substances in Workplaces
The Ministerial Inquiry into the Management of Certain Hazardous Substances in Workplaces was the culmination of a 20-year journey that began when radiographer, Marjorie Gordon presented a conference paper entitled 'Are Radiographers at Risk?'
In her paper, Marjorie documented the gradual association of her own ill health with exposure to x-ray processing chemicals, and called for:
- recognition of the risks from exposure to x-ray chemicals
- the elimination of use of those chemicals
- the development of safe x-ray processing machines and workplaces.
As an individual, Marjorie embodied the key drivers of the 2002 Amendments to the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act - she used her knowledge and experience as someone doing the work, to identify the hazards and offer practical solutions to manage these.
Terms of Reference
The Ministerial Inquiry began in December 2002 by obtaining information from public sector organisations, employer and employee representatives, and printing, manufacturing and other organisations that had direct involvement with hazardous substances. International advice was also sought, including a particularly helpful reply from the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom. In 2003, the inquiry team visited a number of organisations, and meetings were held with the SNFTAAS network and advocacy groups. Public hearings commenced in March 2003 in Wellington, Auckland, Nelson and Christchurch.
List of Media Releases associated with the Inquiry
In July 2003 the Ministerial Inquiry Report (pdf file [size: 527KB ]) identified two main lessons to be learned from managing the risk of exposure to hazardous substances in workplaces.
- It can, and frequently does, take considerable periods of time for the adverse health effects associated with continuing exposure to hazardous substances to become apparent.
- People have differing susceptibility to chemical exposures, with some adversely affected at a level lower than that tolerated by others without apparent harm.
The Report's findings (pdf file [size: 88KB ]) present challenges for all of us, and highlight the need for proactive management of hazardous substances in workplaces. The findings raise complex issues, but the Occupational Safety and Health Service (OSH) is working with the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) (now EPA) to examine the issues identified in the Report and explore co-operative solutions. (ERMA (now EPA) has a key role in implementing the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.)
The Department of Labour agrees with the key recommendations made in the report and has been working systematically through the Report's 23 recommendations in consultation with other government agencies interested in the control of hazardous substances. A table of actions based around the recommendations was issued in December 2003 (pdf file [size: 82KB ]) and a further progress reports in July 2004 (pdf file [size: 88KB ]) and December 2004 (pdf file [size: 154KB ]).
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