As the working year kicks off, the Department of Labour is urging those in the construction sector to remember the importance of safe work practices.

“People are going back to work after a few weeks off, but this doesn’t mean anyone can be complacent about safety issues,” says Jean Martin, the Department’s Labour Group Southern Division General Manager.

“Hundreds of construction workers are injured on building sites every year – invariably these accidents can be preventable if every care is taken. Safety must be a priority, particularly over summer, when there is an increase in workplace injury.”

The Department recently launched its preventing falls from height campaign to raise awareness about working safely at height. More than half the falls the Department investigates are from less than three metres and approximately 70 percent are from ladders and roofs.

“The distance may not look far when you’re working at that level, but it doesn’t take great height to cause injury or death,” Ms Martin says.

Builders, roofers, electrical workers, painters and decorators are the most likely to fall from height and get seriously hurt while they are working. The cost of falls from height in construction is estimated at $24 million a year.

Draft Best Practice Guidelines for Working at Height in New Zealand are currently open for public consultation until the end of January.

It is also important, given that workers are often out in the sun for long periods, that they look after themselves both physically and mentally – take breaks and stay hydrated, and keep an eye on stress and fatigue levels.

Ms Martin says reducing the overall work accident toll makes good business sense.

“Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone on the site. We all have a role to play in improving workplace safety – doing nothing is not an option,” she says.

“People should be able to go to work and return home safety. Sadly, all too often that doesn’t happen.”

– Department of Labour