Grassroots leaders for safe workplaces

We know that the best health and safety practices at work can only be developed and maintained with comprehensive worker engagement. Workers are the experts who know what will work and what won’t. When workers and their unions are able to properly participate in creating healthy and safe workplaces, we get the best results. This is recognised across the globe as ‘the union effect’ – the way to get the best outcomes is to work with trade unions.

E tū has developed Ngā Puna Whai Oranga, an education programme to empower grassroots leadership in health and safety. The programme has a specific focus on people who are often left behind in health and safety conversations, such as Māori, Pasifika, and migrant workers.

‘Ngā Puna Whai Oranga’ literally means ‘the many springs of health’. It reflects the huge network of intersecting factors that are vital to decent health and safety at work. Members who go on the course learn how to:

  • understand health and safety hazards and risks at workplaces
  • make improvements to prevent accidents from happening in the first place
  • build skills to collaborate and consult with workers, union members, and managers to prioritise health and safety
  • create proposals to management for more opportunities for workers to lead and participate in managing their own health and safety at work
  • set goals for future health and safety improvement.

Ngā Puna Whai Oranga participants

Participant Abdul Khan says…

The health and safety training has been very useful for me and my workmates. We are learning about the real power we have as health and safety reps, and it gives us the confidence to make sure we are keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe. If we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it.

Health and safety is important for everyone, at every workplace. At the training we learned just how many people are getting hurt and even dying at work in New Zealand. It isn’t just about accidents, either. Long term factors such as working with hazardous chemicals, like I do, contribute to a lot of the work-related health and safety problems. We need to stay informed about it all.

I have told my bosses that I don’t want to miss any union courses on health and safety – it is very important to me. Right now, I’m fighting for health and safety reps at my company to get paid for the important work that we do. That’s what we have won in our collective agreement – so they have to follow it. The collective agreement is like a bible. They have to follow it.