As a participant for 37 years in the construction industry, I have always been aware and have accepted that we work in a dangerous environment.
It seems a cruel irony that while building structures to protect people from the elements and the destructive powers of nature, we put our own lives at risk while producing them.
Just how dangerous our work can be is reflected in some very scary statistics when our sector is compared to others in New Zealand.
During the last building boom period the fatality rate for the construction sector was almost triple the average for all sectors, and we remain one of the largest contributing industries to worker deaths.
The leading causes of fatalities in construction are:
• Falls from height — 22%
• Being hit by a falling object — 21%
• Being hit by a moving object — 20%
We also tend to have the third highest industry rate of serious harm injury. So this shows when things go wrong for us they go very wrong.
We know that the work in our industry is inherently dangerous, but what other factors in our sector are possible contributors to accidents occurring?
The construction sector is predominately male and has a younger age profile than other high hazard sectors. We have a higher than average proportion of young workers aged 15 to 24, which closely coincides with the early age peak in reported injuries — 20 to 24.
Our sector also has a higher than normal percentage of employees with low literacy and numeracy skills.
Is this an indication that the safety messages aren’t getting through to our young people? Do they need extra supervision and safety training at levels above what we are already doing?
With the forecasted increase in worker numbers entering our industry over the next couple of years, this is obviously an ongoing issue to be aware of.
There is also an increase in injuries during some of the winter months. With this weather now upon us, we obviously need to be vigilant of the conditions and their impact on possible workplace hazards.
I am writing this, my last article for Building Today as national president, on ANZAC Day. While saluting and honouring the memory of our armed services personnel, I have also reflected on the people we have lost in our industry to workplace accidents. Each one of them must have lessons we can all learn from.
The injury and fatality rate in our industry is, frankly, unacceptable, and something we must all work on constantly to improve.