Investing to eliminate critical risks in the red meat processing sector will make it a safer environment to work in, Meat Industry Association chief executive Sirma Karapeeva says.

The industry had significantly increased its focus and investment into improving health and safety in recent years, but there was significantly more work to be done, Ms Karapeeva said.

Despite an increased commitment to health and safety across the sector, three people died due to accidents in processing and others suffered life-changing injuries in the first five months of last year.

‘‘Risks to people working in the industry remain unacceptably high.’’

As New Zealand’s largest manufacturing sector, there was a strong commitment to health and safety at a senior level, which would continue as strongly as ever, she said.

‘‘However, we are still suffering fatalities and serious injuries. These tragedies have caused the industry to refocus on how it can eliminate critical risks.”

For the sector, critical risks include working with large animals, machinery, sharp equipment and vehicles including forklifts, as well as hazardous substances such as ammonia and chlorine.

‘‘Working with livestock and machinery means the red meat sector has health and safety hazards that need to be well managed.’’

The industry was committed to working in partnership with the Government to create safer workplaces and improve the health and safety performance of the sector, Ms Karapeeva said.

‘‘We accept that the steps so far in the industry have not been enough, and more needs to be done to make our workplaces safer.

‘‘The industry is strongly committed to changing that.

‘‘We look forward to continuing to work constructively with WorkSafe and Accident Compensation Corporation to achieve safer workplaces and to further expanding industry-government partnerships to identify and manage health and safety risk.’’