Work safety: ch-ch-ch-changes ahead!

By Steve Bohling June 06, 2018 Work Safety

Our 2018 report on work safety in construction is all about change.

To view a PDF of the complete feature as it appeared in NZ Hardware Journal magazine,
click the download button at the bottom of this page.

The months of April and May revealed there would be changes ahead as to how not just a new sector-specific peak organisation but also the Government treats work safety, with particular reference to construction and related trades.

On top of the Health & Safety at Work Act already in place, there will be high level changes, as a result of the Government’s launch of its Draft Health & Safety at Work Strategy.

Issued in April, the Strategy “sets out a plan to create a health and safety system that’s capable of delivering world-class health and safety outcomes”.

“The Strategy outlines an opportunity to drive ambitious, sustained and system-wide improvements in our health and safety performance to significantly lift the wellbeing and living standards of all workers and their families in New Zealand,” says Minister for Workplace Relations & Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway.

It also aims to “provide a common direction and priorities and an opportunity for everyone to work together more effectively on strengthening our health and safety system.”

A key priority highlighted in the Strategy is “better outcomes” for “workers at greater risk who are over represented in injury statistics and high-risk sectors” – such as forestry and construction.

In terms of how to achieve this, the Strategy document talks of “stronger leadership”, better coordination between organisations, identifying “capability gaps and opportunities” and improving measurement.

An MBIE spokesperson says the Strategy does not seek to make specific changes to the current system. Instead, it seeks to provide “a common set of goals and priorities for the system to achieve better outcomes”.

Specific steps towards achieving these goals “will be outlined in the implementation plan that will be developed with interested parties following the release of the final Strategy later in 2018.”

The consultation on the Strategy is open until 8 June and the document can found here:



Another major change, one that’s specifically building-related, is the formation of Construction Health & Safety NZ (CHASNZ).

CHASNZ is a new charitable trust which will supersede the six year-old Construction Safety Council and take over ownership and expand the reach of the ConstructSafe safety competency assessment programme.

The CHASNZ Board looks like a who’s who of senior industry leaders and at face value delivers a very broad cross section of sectors in construction – from WorkSafe to constructors, sub-trades and clients – and will be led by an Independent Chairman, Roger McRae (former MD of McConnell Dowell).

The purpose of CHASNZ is “to provide a single voice on health and safety in the construction industry”.

Led by Jon Harper-Slade (previously GM of the Construction Safety Council) as Acting Chief Executive, CHASNZ plans to create a small executive team to work with businesses and industry groups, through the establishment of Task and Advisory Groups.

The Acting CEO will also continue to lead the ConstructSafe scheme, which is about to launch four further tiers to its competency tests. 

CHASNZ wants to represent the sector as a whole.

“That’s the challenge really – to better connect what is quite a diverse and fragmented sector,” says Jon Harper-Slade.

“It’s a very complex sector with lots of component parts from a health & safety leadership point of view – we want to provide cohesive leadership to try and help make things better.”

CHASNZ’s ambition is to “align and make simple some of the things which are not aligned and actually quite hard at the moment. From a small business point of view, health & safety in construction can be quite confusing. There are lots of standards, depending on whom it is you’re contracted to work for, different systems to navigate…

“But health & safety doesn’t need to be complicated,” he says firmly. “It’s our job to fix that.”

“The intent is to provide good sector leadership for health & safety and to give small businesses in particular more of a voice so that we can understand what problems people are experiencing and try and fix those problems.”

Find out more about CHASNZ here.



One of the parties who will be interested to keep abreast of developments with the new CHASNZ organisation is training provider Site Safe.

Long time Site Safe CEO, Alison Molloy, is supportive of the new initiative: “It’s really important that construction has a body that everybody buys into it as a standards setter. We’re really keen to support that.”

By way of qualification, she adds: “We’re really keen to make sure that the standards are based on best practice rather than minimum standards.

“So it’s really, really important to have a body like that and we’re looking forward to see how it works with the whole industry.”

Although she thinks training and testing are inseparable – part of a system – “neither works on its own”, Alison Molloy’s only implied reservation is that CHASNZ should embrace the broadest spectrum of the building industry, including very small to medium scale operations.

Characterising construction health & safety as “being at that slightly reluctant teenage space in terms of generational change”, Alison Molloy specifically believes there needs to be more investment in “behaviour”.

“Young people are more interested [in health & safety] than perhaps the 60 year-old guy who’s been a carpenter for 40 years and only lost one thumb…

“We need a system which is needs-based, risk-based and leadership-focused and that involves training and testing and monitoring on-site and rewarding and constant learning, continuous improvement…”

What’s the biggest step that is required to have even some of that in place?

“I think applying whatever great practice from overseas and then New Zealandising it – that’s a necessity. And building a system that becomes a part of the business, like paying the bills.”

Nevertheless, over the 20-odd years Site Safe has been operating, the attitude to safety has already changed from “doesn’t really care” to “a huge number more people who are actively seeing health & safety as an investment in business rather than as a reluctant cost”.

What’s the next stage and what will it take to boost the maturity?

“I think New Zealand needs a health & safety system that applies more direction from the regulator… Construction has the potential to be a leader rather than one of the worst.

“I think more leadership, absolutely more leadership. I think the new Act is great.

“I respect the Government’s view that industry has to lead change but I also think in a complex construction industry it’s really important that the regulator says ‘we want you to lead this change but this is what we want the change to look like’ and I don’t think they’ve quite got there yet.

“If I can be a tiny bit provocative, I think Government needs to make sure that health & safety risk isn’t just transferred down to the lowest common denominator which is the subby.

“There’s a lot of work being put into documenting what good procurement practice looks like. And I think the biggest step change would be to actually put that into reality, because currently it’s not.”

Staying with the theme of change, look out by the way for news in coming weeks of a change of leadership at Site Safe and of “a major piece of work” around Site Safe’s “place in the world for the next 20 years”.

“We are building on how we can be more flexible and provide a more consistent service to the industry. Pretty exciting!” concludes Allison Molloy.


Dynamics changing too for working at height

From a supplier/trainer perspective I ask Astrid Fisher at Easy Access about her view on the effects of WorkSafe’s height safety campaign to date.

“The campaign has definitely raised awareness throughout the industry of safety and made people think more actively about how they do things,” she says.

“The success of their campaign is that it’s less about rules and regulations, and more around the distribution of responsibility for the issue. 

“This has meant that the industry is now self-regulating, based on its own evaluation of the risks – eg a lot of construction companies will now only allow a ladder onsite if it is a platform ladder, as it provides an extra-large platform and three points of contact at any time.”

Backed up by impressions gained from Easy Access’s free onsite evaluation and training service, Astrid Fisher adds: “There is much more awareness in the industry on keeping safe and keeping staff safe. But it’s also about best practice, and being efficient in your work.

“If you’re feeling comfortable and secure while you’re working at heights you are going to perform better, with less fatigue and injury.”

With an alternative view of working at height, Karl Emslie at Edge Protection says the scaffolding and edge protection fraternities have been struggling to keep up with demand.

The knock-on effect of this is that variously builders, roofers and scaffolders are looking to buy their own edge protection equipment, with some also seeing an opportunity to start new businesses offering edge protection services.

The flipside to this new interest in his products however, says Karl Emslie, is that these operators with their very different knowledge sets, are not all well versed in how to comply with regulations and best practice around how to get guard rails up safely without exposing the installer to the risk of a fall from height.

So, to help operators of all persuasions install guardrails in a compliant fashion Edge Protection has developed a tool which has been designed to eliminate the risk by enabling guard rails to be put in place from the ground.

“So the only time you need to get up on the roof is to just tighten up the clamps and you’re standing behind the guardrail system all the time so you are 100 percent safe 100 percent of the time,” says Karl Emslie.


Better safe than sorry

Easy Access’s new Trade Series Telescopic Platform Ladder has all the benefits of a platform ladder with the added advantage of being height adjustable for working off a large, safe platform at four variable heights.

The platform can be adjusted from 4-step (1.2m) to 7-step (2.0m) in seconds and you can set front and back stiles to varying heights for working on steps or uneven ground.

A handrail allows for three points of contact, large hard wearing rubber feet offer stable grip and it’s rated to 150kg for industrial applications.

This ladder simply folds flat and locks and can be fitted with accessories like a tool bucket and full surround handrail for additional safety.

Also new from Easy Access is a new Height Adjustable Aluminium Work Platform, designed to provide not only a large sturdy surface – perfect for low level painting and decorating – but also flexibility through individually adjustable legs and handrail.

There are two platform options (1200mm and 850mm), each capable of six height settings (600-850mm ), each leg is independently adjustable to cope with uneven ground, the platform is lightweight and folds flat and there’s also an optional guardrail.


Working safely at heights starts on the ground…

There are multiple options available when it comes to safe guardrail installation but most of them centre around a safe method of work whilst at height (eg safety harnesses and progressive guardrail installation) but none of these options actually eliminate the risk of a fall from height. They simply isolate or minimise it.

Enter the new Rail Racer safe lifting device from Edge Protection which has been designed for the simple and safe installation of edge protection systems from the ground.

The tool allows for a compliant aluminium guardrail up to 6 metres long to be lifted safely and installed up to 5.5 metres off the ground – easily catering for most two-storey residential buildings.

Clamps still then have to be secured but Rail Racer does make it super simple for installers to attain compliance and remain safe during installation.

Rail Racer can be used either individually or in pairs for added safety and efficiency and gable ends are no problem either as the rails can be held in place while a worker on the roof simply fastens the clamps to secure them.

Rail Racer’s integrated lockout feature safeguards against premature release until the rope is actually pulled to disengage the tool from the rail.

Having been standardised around 48.4mm scaffolding tube (steel or aluminium) Rail Racer not only works in conjunction with Edge Protection system but also any scaffolding systems that incorporate preset rail heights.


ACC seeks realignment

In related news, in April we heard about ACC seeking to support and help people as they navigate their way through the ACC process.

“ACC’s going through a major transformation to better align ourselves with our clients’ needs,” says ACC Chief Customer Officer, Mike Tully.

“While we’re making good progress, we acknowledge some clients still find it hard to get or understand information about their claim, entitlements, or rights.”

ACC will seek expressions of interest in this new “navigation service” over the next six months and hopes to have it up and running in the first half of 2019.

It is expected to support over 4,000 clients a year – more than four times the number served by existing ACC-funded advocacy services.

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