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The construction sector is currently experiencing a “high productivity period” in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown, according to ACC media advisor Suzanne Muth.
This seems pretty obvious for anyone in the hardware channel but, from Muth’s and ACC’s perspective, this increased activity has meant more accidents.
With more and more people in the workforce currently engaging in potentially hazardous construction work, the Health & Safety at Work Act (HSWA) definitely came at the right time.
Many might even say it was well overdue – but what has the response been so far?
Polling the safety products suppliers, E Products’ Malcolm Macnaught is positive in his response to the Act’s impact: “The short answer is I believe it’s made every business owner in New Zealand take a fresh look at safety in their business and the safety of their people for the simple reason that the owners of businesses are now more explicitly accountable than they have been before,” he says.
ABOUT SOME OVERREACTION
However, Lindsay Sanson of Wholesafe is keen to point out that the HSWA hasn’t been plain sailing for many businesses, despite extensive media coverage of the changes. In fact Wholesafe’s office has been inundated with requests that bordered on the overzealous.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there about the Act,” he believes. We had requests for the strangest products and safety managers were in a total panic, wanting to wrap everyone up in cotton wool or were seriously thinking of closing their businesses.”
Within this environment, Wholesafe’s Sanson has also heard stories of some small 1-10 person operations paying thousands to have so-called “consultants” advise already safe businesses on how to get up to the new standards.
Despite the panic though, he is ultimately positive about the effect the Act has had, with “99%” of the business owners and managers Wholesafe speaks to genuinely interested in getting practical health and safety management in place for the safety of their workers.
Patrick Mayes of Uvex Safety NZ has also seen positive steps in the overall attitude of New Zealand workplaces toward safety as they take more proactive, rather than responsive, approaches to workplace hazards.
“Previously if a workplace had an incident they would then do their investigation and maybe there would be a change, whereas the new law says you now need to identify your hazards much clearer before something happens. So there’s more focus on what could happen rather than waiting for an incident before taking action,” he says.
Pat Mayes reports that this change in approach has translated into healthy sales of eyewear for Uvex into infrastructure, construction and the food service industry with large companies like Fonterra taking up the call and equipping their workers with antifogging safety lenses.
HIGH TIMES FOR SAFETY?
Another good result from the Act has been the uptake of changes around working from height.
As reported in previous editions of NZ Hardware Journal there were some teething issues around the understanding and application of these laws but, judging by reports from Astrid Fisher at Easy Access, this may have settled down as the industry has committed to educating itself on these changes.
“The trades are now much more aware of their regulatory obligations with regard to working at height, and many of the larger construction companies are enforcing their own onsite regulations to improve safety and ensure absolute compliance, and efficiency onsite,” Fisher says.
Easy Access now fields more calls directly from tradespeople asking for advice on the compliant use of access products as well as conducting more onsite training with the company’s products throughout the country, initiatives that have garnered good support from the industry.
ARE WE THERE YET?
All this is clearly good news but is our work done here or is there still more that can be done to change not only the workplace practices but also attitudes of our industry?
Astrid Fisher for one would like to educate the industry on the fringe benefits of a safer workplace.
“I feel we need to keep up the awareness among the trades. A lot of them don’t realise how much using safer and compliant equipment and methods can actually increase their productivity on jobs and therefore help them be profitable. It’s not just regulation to hinder them,” Fisher says.
Supporting Fisher’s views, Lindsay Sanson would like to see Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) become less of a grudge purchase for New Zealand workplaces and more of a priority that helps rather than hinders their business.
“We really need to move on from PPE being a cheap disposable commodity on the work site. Many businesses are beginning to work out that by having the best systems and PPE on site they can actually increase productivity, reduce fatigue, improve staff morale and reduce harm on the work site as well as reducing waste to landfill,” Sanson explains.
On the other hand he does add the caveat that, in some cases, caution is required when applying new safety measures.
“We need to be careful of over kill,” he says. “We are now seeing experiments overseas whereby companies are not using hi-viz on site because of what they call hi-viz blindness. These companies already have established health & safety systems in place and they are asking why they need to wear uncomfortable hi-viz products on site at all because they just blend with everyone else so hi-viz is being retained for visitors only.”
Keen to stress that we may be a few years from this yet here in New Zealand, Lindsay Sanson sees this as an example of a company looking at the bigger picture, in terms of workplace safety, focusing on continued improvement rather than compliance.
“The point is, going forward, we all need to keep developing our systems and requirements for our businesses to be safe and productive,” Sanson says.
Wise words indeed.
TAKE5 gets small business H&S sorted
For those businesses looking to up their overall health and safety game TAKE5 is a comprehensive health & safety management system targeting businesses with 1-5 employees that is easy to understand and designed to bring businesses up to date with current legislation. There is also stationery available that can be separately incorporated into any existing health & safety system. TAKE5 is available throughout NZ from ITM, Tradezone, and NZ Safety Blackwoods for one-off purchase with no on-going payments.
Elide Fire Ball is ready to roll
The Elide Fire Ball is New Zealand’s first and only consumer focused automatic fire suppression device that is affordable, mobile, safe and easy to use. Users simply throw or roll the Fire Ball at a starting blaze. Once the Fire Ball comes into contact with flame the environmentally friendly dry chemical powder activates within 3-5 seconds suppressing Class A, B, C, E and F fire types. It also emits a 120 dB warning sound, alerting people nearby that a fire has been suppressed. The Elide Fire Ball ensures confidence that a fire safety device is ready and waiting to self-activate and smother a fire, even without the need for human interaction.
Get safe with Uvex Sportstyle glasses
Uvex Sportstyle safety eyewear is ideal to look after the eyes of your workforce. Fashioned on the cycling/sporting arena, Uvex Sportstyle safety glasses are some of the lightest (23 grams) most comfortable, medium impact safety eyewear available in the New Zealand marketplace with a pressure-free fit for extended wearer comfort that won’t add to worker fatigue. Features Uvex’s top range Duo THS coating for best quality anti-fogging technology on both sides of the lens. These models are approved to AS/NZS 13371.1 medium impact protection and offer good scratch resistance and 100% UV protection. Head to the Uvex website for a free sample to put them to the test yourself.
“Use your mouth”
Worksafe has a new campaign aimed at raising awareness and communication around Health and Safety in New Zealand’s workplaces. The “Use Your Mouth” campaign features advice on communicating and planning for common safety hazards with informative and humorous videos and links to a range of sources to identify and avoid potential risks. Check out the campaign at the worksafe website.
Site Safe launches additional options
Site Safe just released a flexible new option towards Site Safety Card/Passport renewal with its first-ever “blended” online course, combining the advantages of online and in-class learning, so trainees will now have even more flexibility when they renew Site Safety Cards (Passports).
Passport Plus – Flexi (Online + Classroom), the latest course gives trainees access to a range of online modules as well as in-class time with a health and safety expert. The new online modules are “worker-focused”, and allow trainees to choose the topics that are directly relevant to the real-life risks they face on site.
The new option is now open for online bookings at a special introductory price for the first six months. Trainees select any two modules from a regularly updated online library, which currently includes: asbestos, noise, worker basics, manual handling, mobile plant and electrical safety.
Site Safe has also just announced a brand-new scholarship specifically for women in the construction industry. Announced at the recent Women in Construction Forum, it is designed to help women advance in the industry by fully funding their study towards the Certificate in Construction Site Safety.
Applications for the new scholarship open 1 July 2017 and close on 1 September 2017.
EyeMuffs give the best of both worlds
EyeMuffs is a 2-in1 item for eye and ear protection that allows the safety lens to easily flip up and down, saving time without affecting the performance of the ear muffs.
Unlike earmuffs, EyeMuffs don’t have a headband so they do not obstruct the wearing of a hard hat so users can experience total comfort without compromising on safety.
EyeMuffs are 99.9% UV protection, medium impact rated with a decibel rating class 4 for use in noise up to 105dB and are now available in black, fluoro green or fluoro orange.
Working at heights? Try Easy Access
Easy Access now has two new podium platform products ideal for the recent changes to health and safety legislations around working from height. The new platforms are available in single and double length models and are easy to use with walk in/walk out access, two height settings at 0.9M, 1.1M and full surround handrails. The models feature large non-slip aluminium one man platforms, now with safety toeboards included, and fold flat for compact storage in seconds.