Where Do We Park the Ambulance?


For some the parking space for the ambulance is at the bottom of the cliff. Well it’s much better to have a fence at the top of the cliff. Ponder that.

In the media recently there has been plenty of noise about the costs associated with preventing falls from height.

There were accusations of these controls costing hundreds of millions of dollars annually and there have been no gains in productivity.

The hundreds of millions of dollars annually is a gross exaggeration. If we average out 20,000 houses annually at $5000 dollars for scaffold/edge protection, my maths suggests a much lower number.

And anyway, in a first world country is there an acceptable attrition rate when people are hurt or killed, when cost is your measure of compliance?

BRANZ were commissioned by the Scaffold and Rigging Assn of New Zealand (SARNZ), to do a cost-benefit analysis of scaffolding in the residential sector. The Roofing Assn of NZ (RANZ) also contributed funds to this report.

That the report stated that gains were marginally ahead of costs – then the use of scaffolding shows that industry has taken the right approach. This will only improve as innovation and greater acceptance of productivity gains become more apparent.

I personally cannot condone any backing down on what I believe to be a practical response to the falls from height that have been an all too common occurrence in the construction sector until the  last couple of years. 

While having worked for Dimond (a Fletcher’s business) for the last two years, I was fortunate to be exposed to probably one of the highest levels of health and safety compliance in the country.

Prosecution by balance sheet (what your business can pay) does not change behaviour. Having to comply should be the same whatever the size of the business.

If an experienced staff member deliberately overrides a standard operating procedure, then proceeds to injure themselves – why is the business at fault?

Our staff are not five year olds – yet businesses are expected to control their staff like five year olds to prevent accidents.

So the challenge for industry and Worksafe is how we get a larger element of common sense and individual responsibility into what we do. Hopefully the proposed changes to Health and Safety legislation later this year lead us down this path.

Probably the simplest way of considering working at heights would be to consider – would you let your partner or children work at heights without some sort of protection?

Keep it safe and let’s make sure everyone goes home every night.

Article supplied by Graham Moor, president of Roofing Association of New Zealand.

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