Perspectives 2019: construction health and safety

by Roger McRae, independent chair, Construction Health and Safety New Zealand (CHASNZ).

A new entity has been set up to meet the health and safety needs of workers, clients and companies in the construction Industry is now responsible for the ConstructSafe safety competency assessment scheme.

In July and September 2017 industry leaders met to discuss the current state of health and safety across our construction industry.

They agreed that there was more work to be done and a number of areas specifically that required addressing.

One of the first steps was to establish a peak health and safety body that would represent a single voice for the industry, and Construction Health and New Zealand (CHASNZ) was formed in March 2018 as a result.

CHASNZ (a charitable trust) was established with representation across the whole of our construction industry. Our Trustees were selected as representatives on the CHASNZ board because of their standing and influence in their sectors and their passion for the health and wellbeing of people in the construction industry.

The purpose of CHASNZ is to be an industry leadership group, working in partnership with the Government and unions, providing a single voice on health and safety in the construction industry.

Chris Alderson joined CHASNZ in October last year in the position of chief executive officer. Chris was previously with PwC where he headed up its safety consultancy business. Previously Chris helped Fonterra with their global health and safety transformation. Jon Harper-Slade has been appointed the GM of Skills and Competency after acting in the CEO role.

The next step in the development of CHASNZ is the establishment of advisory groups. CHASNZ board members will lead these advisory groups to focus on different elements of our construction industry. They will also provide CHASNZ with feedback on key issues and will allow prioritisation of initiatives to best meet the aspirational goals.

They will also include public and private client advisory groups – which are a high priority, given the importance that clients play in influencing health and safety across the construction supply chain.

These advisory groups will work with the CHASNZ management team to create a framework for client engagement that will help lift safety performance over the coming years.

CHASNZ future strategy

The organisation’s two-year strategy is made up of three themes.

1.The first is to achieve world-class performance in health and safety for the construction industry. What this means is that our nation needs to be investing in research and               new innovative initiatives in health and safety, including building on the latest development from other countries and tapping into thought leadership wherever it is found.

  1. To provide industry leadership and position CHASNZ as the peak health and safety industry body with a role in establishing and maintaining strong connectivity with industry.

This includes working in partnership with Government and unions. We must ensure that those most at risk are placed at the centre of our focus and that we are able to understand and react to changes across our sites and workforce.

We need to prioritise what is most important in reducing harm to our workers and ensure that health and safety are fully integrated into all business operations rather than seen as an add-on.

  1. Our third theme is to focus on achieving consistency and cohesion across the industry. Construction is a complex and diverse industry and achieving safer and healthier workplaces means ensuring that we set appropriate standards and support all stakeholders in achieving those standards.

This means finding best practice within our industry and overseas and learning from those who are leading. Consistency also means ensuring that all players in the construction supply chain understand and commit to playing their part. Construction industry clients have a key role to play in establishing consistent good leadership and engagement for the industry to follow.

ConstructSafe assessment

The current forecasted pipeline of large infrastructure projects and initiatives such as KiwiBuild will place a significant demand on industry, and it will be important for the industry to provide the training and competency assessment to ensure this growth is achieved safely.

To support competency assessment, CHASNZ is now responsible for the ConstructSafe safety competency assessment scheme. This was endorsed in December 2018, by the CHASNZ Board and independent advisors as the construction industry health and safety competency benchmark tool.

ConstructSafe is an industry-led initiative that allows a standard to be set for general health and safety knowledge and competency, as well as targeting specific critical risks such as working around a plant, working at heights and electricity.

ConstructSafe provides a valuable signal back to industry around where training and supervision need to be increased or adjusted.

The current Tier 1 assessment (the foundation of health and safety knowledge assessment) was recently reviewed by an advisory group. This cross-industry working group and a new and updated version (including more focus on the commercial and residential building) of the assessment will be available this February.

To date, more than 70,000 Tier 1 ConstructSafe assessments have been performed and the scheme has expanded to cover Tier 2 specialist trade activities including scaffolding, excavator and roller operation as well as Tier 3 (Supervisors), Tier 4 (Managers) and Tier 5 (Professionals and Practitioners).

In the coming months, more Tier 2 specialist trades and operator assessments will be available.

Targets and plans for 2019

As well as the focus on further rolling out ConstructSafe, CHASNZ is also currently working on other pan-industry issues within the industry – such as the duplication of effort around pre-qualification.

Currently, contractors may be asked to engage in multiple pre-qualification schemes, which is costly with little tangible increase in safety performance.

CHASNZ will work with industry to establish a cross-recognition scheme where contractors will only have to be pre-qualified with a provider that meets the requirements of the scheme. This is expected to take six months to work through and create the new framework.

Another high priority for CHASNZ and the industry is understanding mental health within construction. A consistent and informed approach to assessing the factors that influence mental health across construction will be rolled out this year.

Lastly, CHASNZ has a focus on collecting and using industry data to understand where the risks are and to ensure we focus on the right interventions and strategies. This means collaborating across construction by sharing information and standardising our measures from a lag and lead measure perspective.

Being ‘world class in construction health and safety’ is aspirational yet within our reach, given the drive, reach and purpose of the CHASNZ board combined with the relative nimbleness and innovation we see in New Zealand businesses.

We will strive to raise the standard of health and safety, to be one that we can all truly be proud of!



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