The introduction of new health and safety legislation in April this year has had an impact on the industry, and at Easy Access we think it’s made a positive difference. Stiffer penalties for failing to take reasonable steps to eliminate, minimise or isolate risks to workers’ safety raises the stakes for all. With site safety previously considered the responsibility of the main contractor, this could have resulted in some complacency within workers’ minds about taking steps to keep themselves safe.
Some complacency by workers may possibly remain to some degree, but that’s where the stiffer penalties step in. Besides the financial, and very real human costs to workers and their families resulting from workplace injuries, impact on business-owners’ bottom line is also clear. Worker absence is costly, as is finding replacements at short notice. The threat of heavy penalties add weight to the compulsion for everyone onsite to keep themselves and other workers safe, regardless of hierarchy.
As suppliers of height access equipment designed to eliminate undue risk of falls from height, we are seeing the impact of this change in legislation. The sharing of responsibility and increased penalties are in reality driving self-regulation within the industry. Proactive construction companies are going further than minimum requirement and adopting ‘better practise’, focusing on continuous improvement in height safety. This has the excellent flow on effect of sub-contractors and workers also taking a much greater responsibility for their own safety.
This has initially created some confusion among sub-contractors as the levels of height safety enforcement may vary from site to site and often exceed the requirements outlined in national Safety Standards. It is important to note that such regulations are more general, and cannot address specific conditions that may pose an added risk to workers in the same way that on-site health and safety officers can. Additional collective attention to site safety has got to be good for New Zealand’s construction industry, its workers and business-owners. Construction businesses who have always prided themselves on running a safe, compliant site producing quality outcomes, can hopefully be satisfied in the knowledge that those companies that cut corners to cut costs are under the spotlight and are having to scramble to get up to speed.