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Study finds 80% of workers unable to complete hazard reports

Auckland, New Zealand – Many New Zealand workers lack adequate literacy skills to fully understand their employer’s safety and health policies and correctly complete hazard reports, according to a new study from Workbase, an organization focused on literacy development.

The study involved 466 employees of 23 organizations spanning manufacturing, warehousing and hospitality. When shown a sample of their employer’s safety and health documents, 63 percent of study participants did not fully understand it. Researchers noted that the documents often contained dense and complex sentences that required workers to read between the lines – an obstacle for workers with low literacy skills.

To assess hazard reporting, 226 employees were asked to complete a hazard report form based on a scenario. Only 20 percent understood the form and its purpose well enough to provide adequate detail and finish it. Of the 80 percent of workers who fell short on completing the form, more than half provided some useful information, but their reports lacked details. Additionally, 19 percent could not finish the form or provide vital information.

Researchers suggested employers and government agencies make documents easier to understand and address literacy gaps among workers.