United on safety

By - , Build 161

Safety on site is set to get simpler, as some of New Zealand’s biggest commercial construction companies join forces to standardise health and safety requirements.

Representatives from New Zealand’s biggest construction firms watch as Rick Herd from Naylor Love signs the commitment to standardising health and safety.
Representatives from New Zealand’s biggest construction firms watch as Rick Herd from Naylor Love signs the commitment to standardising health and safety.

SAFETY GEAR, subcontractor prequalification and alcohol and drug testing are just some of the health and safety topics under the spotlight as part of a new nationwide initiative aiming to standardise safety on site.

Consistent approach across sites

The initiative, which is backed by some of New Zealand’s biggest commercial construction companies, plans to get rid of inconsistent approaches to health and safety.

Arrow International, Cassidy Construction, Dominion Constructors, Fletcher Construction, Hawkins Construction, Leighs Construction, Naylor Love and NZ Strong have joined forces on the idea. Assisted by Site Safe, they have pledged to work towards making their health and safety requirements easier to follow across sites operated by different main contractors.

Unique challenges

Naylor Love Chief Executive Rick Herd said the commercial sector had made real progress in raising health and safety standards over the past few years. However, it still faces some unique challenges, including many specialist subcontractors and a large range of trades on site.

‘There is a predominance of manual labour, hand tools, hazardous substances and a greater number of people involved on each project exposed to a greater range of risks. With the current levels of growth in construction, there are large numbers of new recruits and relatively inexperienced people joining the sector, including immigrants who may introduce culture and language challenges.

‘We recognise there are some challenges that we must face to ensure that we continue to improve performance and everyone goes home safe and healthy at the end of each day.’

Eliminating confusion across construction sites

One such challenge was health and safety requirements, which could often vary from one main contractor’s site to another, Rick said.

‘This can cause confusion, frustration and sometimes cynicism for those struggling to deal with conflicting policies, rules and on-site expectations.

‘This is not conducive to a cooperative, safe and healthy workplace. It also puts a significant additional workload on site supervisors, who have to induct newcomers to the house rules, expectations and on-site hazards as well as supervising everyone.

‘Our goal is that anyone going onto any commercial construction site in New Zealand can expect the same health and safety policies and procedures on things such as training and competence standards, personal protective equipment, access equipment and behaviours.’

Led by Rick, a group of representatives from each company will work towards eliminating some of the confusion and resulting frustration faced by subcontractors and employees.

‘By standardising our approach to managing health and safety risks, we bring our large workforce of subcontractors with us and make a step shift improvement,’ Rick said.

Priority areas identified

The companies involved have agreed to work together on several priority areas, including standard requirements for PPE, prequalification, alcohol and drug testing and certain high-risk activities.

A further key area is how to best ensure workers are fully engaged in their own and others’ health and safety. First up for review will be drug and alcohol testing and subcontractor prequalification.

The group has also agreed to share their health and safety performance with each other and to standardise how this performance is measured so that better information on health and safety practice and improvement is available to all.

First decisions later this year

‘By joining forces, we will make safety practice easier on site and further reduce injury rates’, Rick said. ‘Only by working together and coordinating our approach to health and safety can we lead the required improvement in health and safety performance.’

The group expects to announce its first decisions later this year. These initiatives will then be discussed and coordinated with the civil sector through the Construction Safety Council.

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Representatives from New Zealand’s biggest construction firms watch as Rick Herd from Naylor Love signs the commitment to standardising health and safety.
Representatives from New Zealand’s biggest construction firms watch as Rick Herd from Naylor Love signs the commitment to standardising health and safety.

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