Safety statistics in the New Zealand construction sector remain a source of concern to the industry.
According to ACC, it received 38 claims for work-related construction fatalities in the period July 2006 to date, compared with 39 in the July 2005 to end June 2006 year.
A spokesperson says the most common cause of fatalities in both years was inhaling or swallowing substances. ACC is also seeing an increase in hearing loss claims across all industries.
The entitlement claim count for this year so far stands at 4036 compared with 5540 the year before, costing the taxpayer $25,061,503 this year compared with $35,304,580 the year before.
An entitlement claim consists of medical fees as well as additional support, such as weekly compensation and rehabilitation.
ACC says the construction industry continues to record a large number of fatalities and serious injury claims. The reason is construction work involves a dynamic working environment where hazards, if not prevented, can often pose sudden and immediate risk to the workers.
Construction industry stakeholders have been running new focused safety awareness and training programmes since 2005. In 2005 the New Zealand Construction Industry Council (NZCIC) published the NZCIC Health and Safety strategy, with clear objectives to reduce accidents in the workplace.
NZCIC members, as representative bodies of key sector organisations in the industry, have undertaken to promote this strategy and its application among their own constituents.
ACC is working closely with the construction industry to reduce the number of injuries sustained by workers. A key focus area is residential builders as they have the highest number of serious claims across the entire industry, including civil, commercial and total trades services.
ACC has also commissioned research into the main activities that cause injuries in construction. The findings will be used to target specific dangerous activities and work with the industry to increase safe working practices.
Registered Master Builders Federation chief executive Pieter Burghout believes it is significant that the construction industry average injury rates are at their present rate, even though employment rates are up.
“This is probably a good reflection that we are adopting a culture of safety that filters down to even new staff,” he says.
“The message I get is the industry sees health and safety compliance as necessary, even though they think some rules are over the top. Our job now is to make the rules more common sense.
“There is a gap between the commercial and residential sector. We still have a way to go with the residential sector, and we are working with them on it.”
• To calculate accident and injury costs for the business owner, go to the Cost Calculator on ACC’s web site. For more information on good health and safety practices, visit www.acc.co.nz.