Ministry taking tough stance on unsafe construction sites

Friday 2 November 2012, 10:19PM

By Department of Labour


The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has had to shut down 215 residential construction sites since July for poor height safety work practices.

“We visited 760 workplaces in our first enforcement phase of the Preventing Falls from Height Project, and I am very concerned at the level of non-compliance, and the dangers workers face on these sites,” says Project Team Leader Marcus Nalter.

“We are taking a tough stance on those who are non-compliant. This should be a huge wake-up call to anyone continuing to work unsafely at height.”

“The level of non-compliance is so concerning that we are extending the first enforcement phase beyond October and in to the Christmas season.”

Since July 2012, more than 400 enforcement actions have been taken against construction sites found to be non-compliant with the Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height.

Half of the sites visited required unsafe work at height practices to be stopped and remedied. Over 160 written warnings were issued, which require immediate remedial action to be taken while the health and safety inspector is present. This enforcement action provides a valid prior warning for future infringement notices.

“The sector had plenty of time to digest the guidelines and meet their obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The Ministry was transparent and published its enforcement expectations before health and safety inspectors started targeting work sites,” Mr Nalter says.

“There’s no excuse for the huge amount of unsafe work sites we have uncovered. Doing nothing is not an option.”

The Ministry’s tough stance will continue as the first enforcement phase is extended through to December. Construction companies of any size should be prepared to see a health and safety inspector on site.

The Preventing Falls from Height project is one of a series of harm reduction programmes which are founded on three principles – engage by involving the sectors under the microscope, educate by raising awareness, and enforce where necessary. The volume of enforcement actions taken in past the four months show there is still much work to be done in order to bring down the human and financial toll of preventable falls from height in construction.

See more information about preventing falls while working at height and about the Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand, or call the Labour Group on 0800 20 90 20.