Lessons from Pike River: Regulation, Safety and Neoliberalism

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    Abstract

    This article draws on the findings of the Pike River Royal Commission and other investigations, on the wider international literature on Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulation and on the writer’s own interviews with mining industry stakeholders, to develop a composite picture of what went wrong at Pike River and how best to prevent such disasters in the future,. It argues that there are four pillars of effective WHS management and regulation: appropriately designed regulation; effective implementation and enforcement; a competent and motivated enterprise/facility operator; and genuine worker representation and participation. However, building or strengthening these pillars is difficult to achieve. Over and beyond legislation incorporating a complementary combination of different types of standards and worker empowerment, a skilled and adequately resourced regulator is essential. Where regulators are neither, then implementation is likely to be severely compromised. Moreover, unless the influence of neo-liberalism and its accompanying free market ideology are substantially negated, then these pillars are vulnerable to being undermined, creating the seeds of a future disaster. Implications of the Health and Safety Reform Bill are also considered.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalNew Zealand Universities Law Review
    Volume26
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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