In his foreword to the consultation document, Workplace Health and Safety Taskforce chairman Rob Jager says while there are many examples of good workplace health and safety commitment, “our national statistics are sobering, unacceptable and ultimately unsustainable”.
New Zealand’s workplace injury rates are about twice those of Australia and nearly six times those of the United Kingdom. In addition to the emotional toll on families and communities,
Mr Jager reminds us of the economic and social cost — work-related injuries cost our nation around $3.5-billion annually. Does the construction sector expect any new initiatives will be taken by the Government following April 30? Arrow International national health and safety manager Clynton Lereculey is a little sceptical.
Mentoring role hope
“However, many of us are hoping that the policing role adopted by the old Department of Labour could be swapped for a mentoring role. That could be truly transformational and a genuine response to the call for a team approach to addressing the challenge,” Mr Lereculey says.
Hawkins Construction Ltd northern region health and safety manager A J Staples believes all initiatives taken to address our poor health and safety record will give hope that we can do better in both the commercial and residential construction sectors.
“Too often we hear residential builders complaining about compliance costs. These mustn’t be used as an excuse for failing to raise their standards,” Mr Staples says.
“It’s my view that visibility is the key to improving New Zealand’s health and safety performance in the construction workplace. Visibility helps guard against vested interests driving their own agendas.”
Most, if not all, of the leading companies in the construction sector have already launched health and safety programmes of their own.
Building Today asked Mr Lereculey if he thinks the Government is aware of these initiatives.
“Very much so,” he says. “As I speak, I’m driving to a meeting with government officials and major companies engaged in the Christchurch rebuild. We meet regularly to provide feedback on progress.
“Also, large organisations such as Site Safe are fully aware of, and support, the health and safety programmes that main contractors run.”
In Canterbury, the major players (Government, the principal contractors, ACC and the insurers, to mention a few), are talking about a more co-ordinated approach being made possible by the work of the Health and Safety Taskforce. All agree that there should be a level playing field.
Take Fletcher Construction, for example — with its responsibilities in the Christchurch rebuild, the company has 4500 subcontractors ranging in size from moderately large to the man with his dog and a ute.
For many, the prospect of compliance costs following the enactment of new workplace health and safety legislation is daunting. Yet Fletcher Construction, as the main contractor, is held accountable for their subcontractors’ onsite conduct.
“Legislation is required,” Dan Mulvagh, the company’s general manager human resources, health and safety, says, “so that the proper standards are evenly applied and policed across the entire construction sector.”