Seeing red over new Cera dress code

A worker in Christchurch's central city red zone says it is "bizarre and ridiculous" that he may not be able to wear shorts or T-shirts to work next year.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has proposed "new minimum safety requirements" for red-zone workers, directing they wear "long pants, hard hats, long-sleeved tops, gloves, protective boots and eyewear".

The Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) guidelines were designed to protect workers from skin cancer, as well as help prevent "burns, abrasions, contact with cement, concrete, diesel and other chemicals".

Brayden Sullivan, 29, was outraged when his boss informed him about the policy.

He was told the reason behind the proposal was concern about "melanoma and scratches".

Sullivan works as a stonemason in the red zone and believed workers would "overheat" if they had to cover their arms and legs.

"Everybody is quite upset about it."

Sullivan said the workers were willing to wear sunscreen and did not think the policy would protect from scratches.

"I've had scratches through clothing before. It's not going to stop anything," he said. "We're not against safety at all, but this doesn't make any practical sense. It just seems bizarre and ridiculous. I've seen inspectors and engineers walking around without even any steel-capped boots on. Why aren't they addressing this?"

A Cera spokeswoman said the authority was consulting on the personal protection equipment aspects of its health-and-safety policy and no formal decisions had yet been made.

However, a similar clothing and sunscreen policy implemented by Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (Scirt) had seen "a dramatic fall" in injuries requiring treatment.

The spokeswoman said health and safety was "crucial" in the red zone.

"There have been no fatalities and only one serious accident in the red zone - which is the largest work site in New Zealand," she said. "We want this positive statistical trend to continue."

Sullivan said the red-zone workers were already very safety conscious. "We look out for each other. We're not stupid."

Sullivan had organised a Facebook page from which he hoped to organise a protest against the policy.

"I'm hoping we can get all of the red-zone guys to wear shorts and T-shirts every Friday as sort of a soft protest. There's a lot of people angry about this but we don't know what to do. We need to get together."

The Press