August 15, 2018

Insights – Championing health and safety with Nicole Rosie and Mai Chen

In the second of WorkSafe New Zealand’s Insightsseries, Mai Chen, chair of the Superdiversity Centre ( joins CEO Nicole Rosie to discuss the challenges of health and safety in New Zealand’s increasingly ethnically diverse workforce.

The pair talk through some of the reasons why migrants and workers from different ethnic backgrounds are more vulnerable to being killed or injured at work, and what can be done to make these workers safer.

New Zealand is already classified as being ‘superdiverse’ with large numbers of New Zealanders born outside of the country, and a vast spread of ethnicities. Mai Chen says in Auckland, 44 percent of people were born outside of New Zealand, and across the country the population is made up of more than 220 different ethnicities under the 2013 Census data.

Workers with limited English, working in dangerous industries and doing unfamiliar and more physical jobs than they may be used to in their countries of birth are at a higher risk. Many migrants also come from countries with a different attitude to health and safety, so they may be more likely to accept poor health and safety and less likely to speak up. Their ethnic culture may also discourage whistle-blowing as disloyalty to your employer and self-reporting as a big loss of face.

When rising ethnic diversity figures are paired with the health and safety statistics showing higher risks for migrant and indigenous/ethnic workers, it becomes clear that action must be taken to address these serious issues. Rosie and Chen discuss some of the ways businesses can work with their staff to ensure they get home safe every day. They stress the importance of getting to know your workers and forming an understanding on their ethnic and cultural background. They talk about the cultural differences that can lead to situations where migrants are placed in higher risk situations, and they highlight that business leaders engaging and understanding with their ethnically diverse workforces will minimise the potential for life-changing harm or, worse, death.

The Insights series is designed to get business leaders talking about health and safety and will be a regular source of information and thought leadership for businesses, workers and health and safety professionals.