More questions than answers

Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists

The Mental Health and Addiction inquiry report has laudable aims but lacks detail about implementation and side-lines those who work in the sector, says Lyndon Keene, Director of Policy and Research at the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS)

Published in ASMS magazine The Specialist on page 17-18, Mr Keene’s analysis of the report can be read here:

Mr Keene takes issue with the inquiry panel’s decision to be (in the panel’s words) “guided by the needs of people and communities rather than the preferences of the various groups accustomed to the way the system is structured and services are delivered at present”.

Excluding workforce views might account, in part, for a lack of substance about how to deliver the recommendations. Mr Keene says notwithstanding the exclusion of workforce views, the conclusions are reasonable and will find consensus. An emphasis on wellbeing and community, prevention, expanded access to services, and more treatment options are laudable, if rather familiar, aims. The lack of specifics about how to achieve the desired outcomes allows the Government much wriggle-room.

The practicalities of what will change, and how, are no closer to being answered than before the panel was convened, Mr Keene writes.

While the report talks about a “workforce crisis” there is little recognition of issues in the psychiatrist workforce. Indeed, the report incorrectly states there was “a large jump in the number of registered psychiatrists in 2018”.

Trainee numbers have risen in recent years but are lower than in the early 2000s. There is a heavy reliance on international medical graduates (60% of the workforce).

In 2018 there were 492 full-time equivalent psychiatrists employed by DHBs, compared with 482 in 2017.  Caution is needed interpreting the figures because it could reflect an increase in registrations of doctors, including non-specialist medical officers, who were already practising.

District health board workforce figures do not show a large jump in full-time-equivalent psychiatrists.

The report calls for psychiatrists to provide more support for community-based workers. ASMS has long advocated for integrated services and patient-centred care. This approach requires a well-resourced specialist workforce.

Ultimately, it’s the Government – whose official response to the report is expected soon – which determines if the recommendations are transformed into actions.

“The extent to which the Government supports a well-resourced [Mental Health] Commission with teeth will be an early test of its commitment to addressing our mental health crisis,” Mr Keene writes.


Always turn power off when carrying out electrical work

Source: Worksafe New Zealand

WorkSafe is urging employers to mitigate any risks before carrying out electrical work, after a worker was left with serious electrical burns to his hands.

In a decision released by the Invercargill District Court this week, Wallace Murray Electrical Limited was fined $150,000 following the incident, which took place while the worker was replacing a switchboard in October 2017.

The worker was drilling into the switchboard at the Waikiwi pumping station in Invercargill when there was an electrical explosion which left them with burns to his hands.

WorkSafe’s investigation found while the worker was qualified and experienced with switchboards, the explosion was most likely caused when a fine chip of copper made contact with live terminals.

Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said an experienced worker has suffered from injury in the workplace because his employer didn’t ensure risks were mitigated.

“Wallace Murray Electrical Limited should have identified risks associated with this job. While power to the switchboard was shut off before this work took place, power was still being supplied throughout the whole plant. 

“There should have been a complete shutdown of power to the building. This is a wakeup call for the employer. They are lucky that in this instance the worker didn’t suffer from far worse injuries, or death.”


  • A fine of $150,000 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $8,000 were ordered.
  • Wallace Murray Electrical Limited was charged under sections 36(2), 48(1) and (2)(c)of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, namely switchboard installation work, did fail to comply with that duty, and that failure exposed the workers to a risk of serious injury from exposure to an arc flash.

The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.MIL OSI

Opinion: Why IDEA Services members are striking – E tū

Source: Etu Union

By Nic Corrigan

Most IDEA Services residential staff are physically at work between 50-70 hours a week. This includes weekends, evening and overnights.  Staff will often go that extra mile and even work in other towns away from home, to help out when there isn’t anyone else to fill a shift.  And often during our time off, we are rung day or night to sacrifice time with our families to cover shifts.

We do this because we know these vulnerable people need us. But this all comes at a significant personal cost to support workers’ personal lives, in terms of giving up time and milestones with their family and Friends. 

Now IHC/IDEA Services tells us they the support workers to be more ‘flexible’.  What they are saying is what we do is not enough; they want even more from us.

Members believe they already give everything they can to the people we support, and they can’t sacrifice anymore.  They are deeply offended by IDEA Service’s escalating demands and worried about how much more they and their families will have to sacrifice to keep their job and passion. For many, it’s already been too much and they have quit.

Senior Support Workers

While most people know support workers go the extra mile, some might not know that it is the Senior support workers who lead this.  They mentor, support and lead the team.  If something new needs to happen or a person we support wants to achieve something new in their life, it’s the Senior support worker who leads the way to enable the support team to make it happen for the person they support. We want these senior staff members recognised with a small pay rise, and celebrated for the extra contribution, commitment, knowledge and experience they bring to the organisation.  IHC/Idea Services wants the position gone.


We are striking to ensure the places we work are safe from violence and that there is adequate support to ensure this happens.   Too often our members are placed in a situation where they must choose whether to protect themselves or the people they support from physical harm – and thus we chose to ourselves in harm’s way to protect others. IHC/Idea Services wants to remove a section from our Collective Agreement that acknowledges that some of our service users have challenging behaviours which are a risk to health and safety. If this happens, members feel this will render invisible the fact that some support workers face the threat of violence from service users on a daily basis.

We take the hits, punches, bites and threats of violence and we try to manage this the best we can.  What we don’t expect is for our employer to add salt to our injuries by dismissing our real safety concerns.


Support workers need and have the right to be treated with respect, and to feel safe like every other working New Zealander. We are striking to ensure these principles are respected and upheld.


E tū condemns arrest of journalists in Fiji – E tū

Source: Etu Union

E tū welcomes the release of three Newsroom journalists who were arrested in Fiji but says they should never have been detained in the first place.

Newsroom co-editor Mark Jennings, Investigations editor Melanie Reid, and cameraman Hayden Aull were detained and held overnight at the main Suva police station after developer Freesoul Real Estate accused them of criminal trespass.

The journalists were released this morning and the Fijian PM, Frank Bainimarama has apologised.

E tū’s Senior National Industrial Officer, Paul Tolich says the union welcomes the release of the journalists but says they should never have been arrested in the first place.

“The journalists were simply engaged in journalistic inquiries about the impact of development on Malolo Island and the actions of the police are another example of Fiji’s intolerance towards a free and independent press,” says Paul.

“Despite the apology from Fiji’s Prime Minister, this will have a chilling effect on journalism in the Pacific,” he says.  

“Journalists need to be able to challenge the powerful and hold them to account. This is the hallmark of a free and democratic society.

“We urge the Fijian government to support independent journalism rather than maintaining a climate which supports those who would seek to suppress it.”


For further information, contact:

Paul Tolich E tū Industrial Officer ph. 027 593 5595


NZ Union Movement Supports Improvements to Gun Laws

Source: Council of Trade Unions – CTU


Boiling brine at Heinz Wattie’s factory burns worker

Source: Worksafe New Zealand

Food manufacturer Heinz Wattie’s Limited appeared in the Hastings District Court yesterday after a boiling solution burned a worker’s lower legs.

In May 2017, a vat used to manufacture brine solution for use in various food products at the company’s Hastings factory boiled over. While attempting to turn the machine off at a wall switch near the vat, boiling brine entered a worker’s gumboots, causing burns.

A WorkSafe investigation found these vats had boiled over on several occasions in the past, resulting in burns to another worker on one occasion. Heinz Wattie’s Limited had no controls in place to prevent the vats from boiling over.

The investigation also found the liquid entered the boots because the worker was not wearing correct personal protective equipment and the worker had not been given proper training in the prevention and management of boil overs.

Heinz Wattie’s Limited was fined $281,250 and ordered to pay reparations of $50,000 to the victim.

Head of Specialist Interventions Simon Humphries said Heinz Wattie’s Limited should have known better.

“These vats had reached boiling point on numerous occasions, putting workers at harm. Our investigation found workers were simply told to avoid vats when they boiled over. Heinz Wattie’s should have implemented automatic controls that prevented the solution from reaching boiling point.

“When you know there’s a problem, the law requires you to fix it. They didn’t and that is simply not acceptable.”


  • A fine of $281,250 was imposed.
  • Reparations of $50,000 were ordered.
  • NZCC Ltd was charged under sections 36(1)(a), 48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
  • Being a PCBU, failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who worked for the PCBU, while the workers were at work in the business or undertaking, and that failure exposed any individual, to a risk of serious injury, arising from exposure to boiling liquid.

The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1,500,000.MIL OSI

Changes to the way we provide our services

Source: Accident Compensation Commission (ACC)

Released 03/04/2019

We’re changing the way we work to improve the quality of service we provide. The right support from us means a better recovery for you.

If you get injured, we want you to have access to the support you need more quickly than you currently get it. We’re changing from a one size fits all approach to being more flexible to suit each person’s needs.

To achieve this, we’ve had to make some tough decisions that will impact our employees’ jobs at several of our locations across New Zealand.

Why we’re making these changes

We spoke with more than 5,500 New Zealanders, including 1,400 of our people. The feedback we received said we needed to be more responsive, more transparent, and easier to deal with.

You told us that we need to simplify our processes and provide a more consistent service.  We’ve listened, and are proposing to change the way we work to deliver the improvements you’ve asked for.

We’ve been trialling our new approach over the last 18 months in two test locations. Through the trial, over 100 of our people worked with 25,000 claims, and we have seen an increase in client satisfaction levels and an improvement in health outcomes.

The consultation process for this proposal was due to start on 20 March. We delayed it until today because of the terror attack, and in recognition of the attack’s impact on our communities, and on our own people who are focused on ensuring victims get all the support we can provide.

How these changes will affect our employees

All our regional locations are remaining open, and nationally the total number of people in our client service teams will remain at around 1800.

However, some of our locations will see the number of jobs increase, while others will see a reduction. What we’re proposing means change for all client service people.

For our people whose roles are affected by the proposed changes, where possible we would offer reassignment to an appropriate role in the same location if one is available, reassignment to a similar role in a different location if they are interested, or where this is not feasible then redundancy will be offered. 

We know this is a difficult time for our client service teams and we are being transparent and supportive throughout this process. Importantly, these proposed changes are not about saving money. They are designed to improve your health outcomes if you’re injured by making us more accessible. They’ll also empower our employees to focus their efforts where they are most needed.

For an in-depth look at the changes we’re proposing and how they’ll potentially impact our people, the Employee consultation proposal can be downloaded here.

Employee consultation pack

What  these changes mean for you

How it works now

Right now, depending on your injury, you may be assigned a local case manager who will support your recovery.

However, our case managers currently spend around 40% of their time on administrative tasks. This work is important, but it keeps them behind their desks, often meaning they’re not able to help when you need it.

What we’ll be doing differently

The level of support you require can vary as you recover from injury. If you need more tailored support, you’ll still receive this through your local case manager. All our locations are remaining open to provide this support to those of you that need it most.

We’re creating five centralised locations around the country to work with those of you who don’t usually require face-to-face support when you’re recovering from less severe injuries such as sprains, strains, and fractures.

When you call us, you’ll always be able to talk to one of our team members – no delays, and no call-backs.

Online access to the support you need

We know the reality for many of you is you don’t want to go into a local branch or speak to someone on the phone – you just want to manage your recovery on your own terms.

We’ve developed an online service which allows you to access all the information about your claim when it suits you. Depending on your injury, you’ll be able to order services like taxis, and request equipment like knee scooters. You’ll also be able to request reimbursement for things like prescriptions.

This online service will be rolled out to all our clients over the coming months. 

These changes will happen over 2019-2020

We recognise the changes we are proposing won’t solve all issues, or please everyone. But we believe it will mean a positive change for most of you, by ensuring you receive the right support sooner.

These changes are part of wider improvements to our services, all aimed at creating a better experience for you. These improvements include:

  • Faster claims acknowledgement and acceptance, significantly reducing the time taken to accept claims
  • Introducing MyACC, an online portal that provides access to information about your claim, and services when it suits you
  • A new payments system that speeds up payments made to you, linked to a management system that holds a single source of all claims-related information

The outcome of this consultation process will be finalised in May 2019.

Related information

Access further information about these proposed changes:

Read previous articles on this topic:


No April Fool as IDEA workers go on strike – E tū

Source: Etu Union

Hundreds of IDEA members turned out across the Country on 1 April standing loud and proud for a better deal at work.

From Northland to Southland member grabbed picket signs, braved torrential rain and made headlines across the country.

With paid stop-work meetings coming up in the week of the 15  April, another strike could be on the  cards.


New Official Living Wage Rate Announced

Source: Council of Trade Unions – CTU

The CTU welcomes the updated Living Wage rate of $21.15 per hour.

The independently assessed rate is defined as being: ‘the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life. A living wage will enable workers to live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society.’

“We celebrate those working in the Living Wage Movement who ensure the vision of a living wage is a reality for thousands of working Kiwis. We also acknowledge those employers who have decided to pay those they employ a wage they can actually live on. These employers know that paying a living wage is the fair thing to do,” CTU Vice President Rachel Mackintosh said.

“Since 2013 the annual Living Wage Rate has been reassessed each year. It is impossible to ignore the fact that today the minimum wage has increased to $17.70. So the difference between the living wage and the minimum wage is now $3.45.”

“We encourage all employers to do the right thing and ensure that they pay their employees a wage they can live and flourish on,” Mackintosh said

For more information


Organic solvents

Source: Worksafe New Zealand

This Safety Alert highlights the serious health and safety risks of using organic solvents in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and lack of personal protective equipment.

What happened?

In two separate events, two workers fell unconscious and later died as a likely result of acute exposure to organic solvents.

One incident occurred when a worker was applying a UV treatment to windows. The other incident occurred when a worker was applying adhesive while carpet-laying. Both the UV treatment and adhesive contained organic solvents.

These incidents highlight the risks for workers (and others) when effective controls are not in place and safety procedures are not followed when working with organic solvents in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and lack of personal protective equipment.

In these circumstances, short-term exposure to very high levels of organic solvent vapours can cause headache, dizziness and light-headedness, progressing to unconsciousness, and death.

What we know

Organic solvents can be found in:

  • adhesives (cyclohexane, acetone, toluene)
  • paints and lacquers (toluene, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone)
  • degreasers (trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene)
  • printing (turpentine, white spirits, xylene).

They can enter the body, mainly through inhalation of vapour and through direct skin contact, and into the bloodstream where they can cause adverse health effects.

Organic solvents readily evaporate in the air at normal temperatures. Therefore, high levels of solvent vapours can build up quickly in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation and when room temperatures rise (eg small rooms or a shed on a hot day). If solvents are also absorbed through the skin as well as inhaled, the total exposure may be much higher.

WorkSafe advice

Before starting work using organic solvents, PCBUs must complete a risk assessment and review their controls.

It is important to consider eliminating the use of organic
solvents by:

  • using solvent-free materials.

If this is not possible then exposures can be minimised by:

  • substituting use chemicals with less toxic ingredients or water-based solvent substitutes
  • mechanical ventilation to increase the amount of fresh air into the work area
  • increasing natural ventilation by opening doors and windows
  • working outside in the open.

Further minimisation controls include:

  • keeping lids on containers to prevent solvents evaporating
  • disposing solvent-contaminated rags in sealed metal containers
  • using only the minimum amount of solvent required for the job
  • scheduling working with solvents during cooler periods of the day and/or when fewer workers are nearby
  • never using solvents to remove paints or grease from skin.

As a last resort, use the appropriate personal protective equipment:

  • use a suitable respirator with the appropriate organic vapour cartridge filters for the solvents used
  • ensure the respirator is fit-tested for the worker, cleaned and maintained properly
  • wear suitable coveralls and gloves to protect the skin.


We provide further guidance on organic solvents.


The following standards are relevant:

  • AS/NZS 1715:2009 Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment
  • AS/NZS 1716:2012 Respiratory protective devices
  • AS/NZS 2161.1:2000 Occupational protective gloves – Selection, use and maintenance
  • AS 2865:2009 Confined spaces.

Further information

International guidelines of relevance:


Safety alert: Organic solvents (PDF 56 KB)