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Defence Health & Safety Review Provides Framework For Future

12 September 2013

The findings of an independent safety management review of the NZ Defence Force have been widely embraced with plans to tackle all recommendations made by the panel of experts.

Vice Chief of Defence Force, Major General (MAJGEN) Tim Keating, said it was vital that all 20 recommendations made by the independent review team were actioned organisation-wide to ensure the safety and well-being of all NZ Defence Force personnel.

"The NZ Defence Force is a large and complex military organisation engaged in many high risk activities, therefore it is imperative that health and safety is a priority for us all," he said.

"This review has shown that while we do many things extremely well, there is certainly room for improvement and I expect our entire organisation to embrace the findings and strive for excellence when it comes to health and safety."

Commissioned by senior NZ Defence Force leaders, the review was seen as a logical step in the improving health and safety performance. The panel consisted of three independent experts – former ACC chief executive Garry Wilson, former Chief of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Rear Admiral (Retired) David Ledson and Commodore Guy Robinson of the Royal Navy, who has extensive international experience in safety management.

One of the panel’s key findings was the need for a clear health and safety direction. MAJGEN Keating has already assumed responsibility for leading and driving health and safety change within the organisation.

"As a military organisation we rely on the health and safety of our people to deliver on what the Government has asked us to do. It is therefore essential that health and safety should underpin all operational and non-operational activity."

The report found that the Defence Force is comparable in New Zealand with injury rates found in the Police, Fire Service and Corrections - it is also on a par with the Australian Defence Force.

The report also highlighted that NZ Defence Force’s health and safety systems around high risk, core military activities, such as live firing, are robust, and are an area where the Defence Force excels with regard to health and safety. However, improvement is needed when carrying out more mundane activities.

Just 16 per cent of injuries occur during military training with the majority of injuries occurring playing sport or undertaking formal physical and personal training.

The report challenged a long-standing culture within the NZ Defence Force where attitudes in training do not put enough emphasis on health and safety risks - an approach that will no longer be tolerated.

In accepting all of the recommendations made by the review team, MAJGEN Keating said the information would provide the foundation of a campaign plan to be delivered over the next 12 – 18 months. Results of the campaign will be independently assessed next year.

"The NZ Defence Force has already implemented some of the recommendations, based on work it has been doing while the review was underway – we certainly haven’t been sitting around waiting for things to happen."

The following have already been instigated prior to, or as a result of the External Safety Management Review:

  • A number of policy statements on Health and Safety issues and expectations have been issued across the organisation by Chief of Defence Force.

  • Chief of Defence Force has directed that all accident reporting be entered into a single Safety Reporting System. This will enable a better ability to implement lessons learned.

  • A senior leadership Health and Safety Governance Committee has been established under the leadership of Vice Chief of Defence Force to lead NZ Defence Force Health and Safety initiatives and to provide governance to the Health and Safety function. This Committee will also ensure an aligned approach to the management of Health and Safety across the NZ Defence Force.

  • A Director NZ Defence Force Health and Safety has been appointed to head a Health and Safety Directorate.

  • Draft metrics are being developed to measure organisational Health and Safety performance.

  • Ministry of Defence and NZ Defence Force Capability Branch are working together to ensure that health and Safety risks are identified at times of capital acquisition.

  • An education programme of Health and Safety responsibilities and accountabilities has been implemented for senior personnel.


For further information please contact Defence Communications Group, on 021 487 980.

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