Media Release: A Long-Overdue Review of Health and Safety

Dr Eric Crampton
14 June, 2024

Wellington (Friday, 14 June 2024) - The New Zealand Initiative warmly welcomes the government’s review of health and safety regulation
“Current rules impose enormous compliance costs often for little safety benefit. Rigorous cost-benefit assessment could shift emphasis and cost from areas where the rules provide little benefit to areas where far more good could be done. But that kind of rigour is less common than it should be,” said Initiative Chair Roger Partridge. 
The Initiative pointed to stronger cost-benefit assessment, as well as revisiting the rules around personal liability for health and safety outcomes, as promising starting points for review. 
Dr Bryce Wilkinson, Senior Fellow with the Initiative, pointed to scaffolding rules as exemplar of ill-justified regulation.  
Dr Wilkinson said, “Rules for scaffolding for preventing falls from height were not properly assessed before they were implemented. And rough estimates produced afterwards suggested the cost of preventing an injury, through scaffolding rules, was over three times higher than the cost of preventing an injury from a road accident. If those numbers were right, then we could have prevented three times as many injuries, at lower cost, by focusing on roading improvements.”  
He also noted the rules encourage people to do their own roofing work, even where doing so is riskier than contracting with a professional.  
Evaluating existing health and safety regulations against the cost of reducing accidents through roading improvements could provide a reasonable benchmark.  
Partridge noted the pernicious influence of rules setting personal liability for health and safety outcomes in driving risk aversion. “The existing rules seem to have particularly bad effects when councils or government are contracting for infrastructure improvements. Proper investigation in this area seems very worthwhile.” 
Dr Bryce Wilkinson's research note A matter of balance: Regulating safety can be found on The New Zealand Initiative website here.

“Pike River no excuse for bad regulation”, an early warning of potential issues in the new regime, is available here.


Dr Bryce Wilkinson and Roger Partridge are available for comment. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Jamuel Enriquez, Marketing and Communications Manager
P: 021 022 34451
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