BUILDING SITES 4TH DEADLIEST WORKPLACES
New figures indicate construction sites have become our fourth deadliest workplaces – a trend ACC describes as ‘the hidden cost of the building boom’
Figures released at the start of 2021 show the most-ever ACC injury claims from construction workplaces came in 2018 and 2019, decreasing only slightly in 2020*. Construction site injury claims have risen 7.5% in the past five years, while new home consents have risen 32% over the same time period. The cost to ACC was $153m in 2020 alone.
During the past five years, 29 people died on building sites, making construction sites the deadliest workplaces after agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The announcement comes as the Household Labour Force Survey shows 21,000 more people worked in construction in 2020 than the previous year, bringing the number of people employed in construction to 278,300 – double the number just ten years ago.
A scaffolder’s story
In an effort to raise awareness of how construction site injuries are often preventable, ACC gives the example of scaffolder Jono van Echten, whose back gave way last year.
Van Echten was only 33, and had been carrying increasingly bad back injuries for ten years.
“I couldn’t feel my legs and I thought I was paralysed,” van Echten said of his most recent accident. “I thought, this might be it.”
Today, working in a scaffolding safety inspector role, van Echten is spreading the message “you should listen to your body“.
“When I first came into the game, there was a big macho culture. But it only takes one injury to stuff you up really bad. You’ve only got one body, so you’ve got to look after it!
“Scaffolding is a bit rough on the body. It’s heavy equipment, but we lift and carry using good techniques. Doing it all day, six days a week, you need to do it right. Sometimes a slip or being off-balance means you get a tweak or a strain. It’s common on building sites or lugging materials up a Wellington hill.
“I think we condition and harden ourselves, but at the same time, it’s the things you don’t expect that may do you in. In my case, lifting a laundry basket.
“Your body is your business and if your body is stuffed you can’t run your business.“
In an effort to remediate the death and injury trend, ACC has entered a new partnership with Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ).
CHASNZ CEO Chris Alderson says the $3.5m invested in the partnership aims to create a change in health and safety culture and performance over the next five years.
“We really need to re-think how we approach health and safety as an intrinsic part of doing better business.“
ACC notes 70% of claims from scaffolders are for sprains and strains – injured shoulders, backs, knees and ankles – and says a new taskforce is looking at muscular-skeletal injuries among scaffolders to develop a template that can be used across the construction sector.
On its website CHASNZ.org, the Association offers guides and resources on many aspects of construction site health and safety including guides on scaffolding safety and handling, traffic management, sun exposure, mental health, communicable diseases, work around power lines and more.