Deaths in New Zealand’s construction industry have reached their highest level in a decade, with 11 workers killed so far this year, according WorkSafe NZ figures.
This is the most since 19 construction workers were killed in 2009, and is well above the industry average of six fatalities per year.
Amalgamated Workers Union (AWU) secretary, Maurice Davis, said that in order to ensure worksite safety isn’t compromised, the Government needs to stop the race-to-the-bottom that is prevalent in the tender process.
“It’s a tough industry with low margins and high expectations coupled with, what I would say, low pay.”
E tū organiser of construction, Paul Johnston, said the prevalence of “labour only” companies in NZ was creating scenarios where dozens of small companies are working on the same site – all with different health and safety standards.
E tū industry coordinator Joe Gallagher echoed those concerns, and said the immense financial and time pressures on contractors meant corners were getting cut and poor decisions were getting made.
WorkSafe NZ chief executive Nicole Rosie said she was concerned that some small to medium sized business with small margins may incorrectly see health and safety as a “tradable cost”.
She said that a booming construction industry may be bringing in smaller businesses that are less-equipped to manage health and safety, but that increased economic activity was no excuse for an increase in workplace incidents.
“There is no reason why that level of harm needs to go up with increased economic activity. What we need is our workplaces to plan and design that extra work in a way that’s safe.”
“There is a view that just because you’re busier you can drop some basic fundamentals of good business and my absolute view is that we’re too flippant around this; we see it as a compliance cost, when actually this is a core, fundamental of doing good business in New Zealand.”
The construction industry also has the highest suicide rate of any sector in New Zealand, with 339 suicides between 2007 and 2017.