WorkSafe NZ, Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ) and the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) are calling for a renewed focus on construction health and safety after a number of serious incidents recently.
“Despite sustained effort to reduce harm over time and steady improvements the situation is still serious. Since 1 January 2021 at least two workers have died in construction every month and just over one worker per day has been seriously injured,” says WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes.
“Workers, family, whānau and communities pay the cost of poor health and safety practices in construction every day through illness, injury and death. This must change immediately.”
“Our construction sector has a terrible record of workers getting killed or injured on the job. It’s not good enough. We welcome WorkSafe’s investigations into these recent incidents but we also know responding after the fact isn’t enough to turn things around,” says CTU President Richard Wagstaff.
CHASNZ Chief Executive Chris Alderson says construction workers face a number of risks and hazards every day, but these are well known and should be being addressed at all levels.
“Raising our game is not only possible but ethically the only option the industry has. Our tamariki and future leaders in construction demand it" says Mr Alderson.
“We need a step change across the industry, starting with being open and honest about the way we have worked in the past. We need the courage to challenge doing things in the name of health and safety that don’t actually improve safety on site and we need to put more time and resource back into our site supervisors and workforce so they can focus on getting the job done right rather than fast, cheaply or without the things that make the work safer.
“The construction workforce is currently under extreme pressure from internal and external factors and this also increases the risk of a normal day’s work becoming one with a tragic outcome. It will take a concerted effort from the whole supply chain including clients, designers, contractors, government and the workforce.”
WorkSafe is also warning company owners and directors and the wider construction supply chain that time is running out if they continue to ignore obligations to ensure work is designed and done well.
“The message is clear, those who can influence how work is done must do so. Failure to meet legal requirements will result in swift enforcement” says Mr Parkes.
“Construction workers are owed a duty of care by their employers and sadly many are not being supported. Our message is that we need workers’ help to hold poor health and safety practice to account, including by speaking up if you feel safe to do so.
Workers’ representatives, Health and Safety Representatives, industry leadership and WorkSafe are committed to supporting better health and safety for construction workers.”