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The construction industry has come together to develop a framework to keep workers, their whanau and the wider community healthy and safe by preventing the spread of Covid-19

Construction gears up for return to work

The construction industry is tooling up to get back to work as soon as possible, with the Construction Industry Standards and Protocols Group drafting a health and safety framework which will help keep workers, and the public, safe from Covid-19.


Chief executive of Naylor Love and Construction Sector Accord member Rick Herd says: “Throughout the lockdown, industry leaders have been working hard behind the scenes to pull together the health and safety information vital to getting sites safely up and running as soon as we get the green light from the Government.”

The industry has been battling tough times in the face of the Covid-19 lockdown, with all but essential sites shut down. “We want everyone in the supply chain to get back on their feet and do their bit to rebuild New Zealand’s economy,” says Mr Herd. “The standards and protocols that have been developed give strong assurance to our workers, the Government and the public that we can do this safely.”

Site Safe chief executive Brett Murray says the industry has come together to produce this framework, and the work has involved the civil, vertical and residential sectors, as well as health and safety organisations Construction Health and Safety NZ (CHASNZ) and Site Safe.

“We want our members to be able to get back to work as quickly and as safely as possible. The framework that has been developed, which consists of a set of standards and a set of protocols, is in accordance with official advice and will ensure workers, their whanau and the community are kept as safe as possible.”

Industry standard-setting body CHASNZ, in consultation with industry, has developed an overarching standard to help control the risk of Covid-19. Two protocols have been developed: one targeted at the civil and vertical sector, and the other at residential.

CHASNZ chief executive Chris Alderson says: “The protocols developed by industry and Site Safe, and the protocols developed by the residential leaders, will sit underneath that standard and will essentially form the detailed ‘how to’ guidance on managing Covid-19 risks on construction sites around the country.”

Mitigating the risk of Covid-19

With input from over 50 businesses, including some of New Zealand’s largest constructors, Civil Contractors NZ, the Vertical Leaders Group, residential leaders, SMEs and unions, the framework has been endorsed by the Construction Sector Accord and is being welcomed by those in the civil, vertical and residential sectors.

“Civil construction is going to play a massive part in getting New Zealand back up and running,” says Civil Contractors NZ chief executive Peter Silcock. “We need to be clear on how to keep our people and the public safe. We welcome this framework and believe it will effectively mitigate the risk of Covid-19.”

The protocols and standards have been developed to recognise the challenges faced by all parts of the sector, from large contractors to small residential builders. Registered Master Builders Association chief executive David Kelly welcomes the framework and says: “These documents will be crucial for the many residential builders looking for guidance on what comes next and how to do their bit. This framework will help to provide some certainty for our members.

“It’s critical that everyone in the industry follows the right processes that have been agreed in this guidance. We need to demonstrate that as an industry we can work safely as no one wants to see us return to Level 4 – and that means the whole of the industry needs to work together on this.”

Not an excuse

Greg Dearsly, president of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management (NZISM), echoes the Government’s support of ‘safe’ economic activity at Level 3 and the importance of staying safe and looking after each other. But he points out that leaving lockdown and getting back to business will be more challenging than the annual return to work after the long summer break when there’s often an increase in serious workplace injuries and fatalities because people take time to get back into work mode after a break.

Greg Dearsly, president of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management: “This new environment is not an excuse to take our eyes off the risks that already exist”

“While New Zealand has been immersed in Covid-19 related health and safety conversation for weeks, the usual health and safety risks still exist for all organisations and need special attention,” Mr Dearsly says. “After a lot of inactivity, businesses will want to make up for lost ground – but rushing isn’t going to help. We need to take it a step at a time, especially now we also have to consider additional safe work practices such as social distancing.

“In this new environment, the risks have increased – and this means extra health and safety effort is essential. Leaving lockdown is a first for everyone – there will be new pressures, including financial uncertainty about the future and even business viability.

“But this new environment is not an excuse to take our eyes off the risks that already exist. The best advice is to follow the three principles: leadership and communication across the whole workplace, management of business-as-usual risks with those related to Covid-19, and regular worker discussion and engagement.”

The standards and protocols are free to download from the Site Safe website.

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