Safety taken to new heights

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 13:39 06/08/2014

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Tighter guidelines for people working at heights are preventing about 90 deaths or severe injuries in the construction industry each year, new research shows.

A study commissioned by industry body Scaffolding, Access and Rigging New Zealand (Sarnz) has found that stricter guidelines introduced in 2011 have cut the total number of accidents in the residential building sector by 3.7 per cent.

The construction sector logs an average of 24,000 injuries with ACC every year.

BRANZ, which conducted the research, said the new Working at Heights guidelines would prevent about 22 deaths or permanent disabilities a year, plus 68 serious injuries and more than 500 less serious injuries, from people falling off ladders and roofs.

Construction Safety Council interim chairman Jeremy Sole said the injury numbers were the tip of the iceberg.

''There are likely to have been many more falls from height that have not been reported and therefore not subject to an investigation."

He said the $1 billion cost of implementing the extra protections over the next 25 years would be worth it.

"The type of injuries from falling from a height also tend to be severe," he said.

"Long-bone fractures tend to be have high associated medical costs, high personal disability impacts and long recovery times, all of which make them a major negative impact on an economy."

The higher standards are expected to add $697 to the cost of an alterations project, or $3304 to the cost of a 200-square-metre single-storey house and $2300 to a two-storey home.

The new guidelines will cost the industry about $79 million a year, or $1555 per project.

Sarnz spokesman Graham Burke said the measures would pay for themselves, saving the country about $1.13 billion over the next 25 years in healthcare and reduced sick leave and nearly $43m a year in improved productivity.

"If firms take a holistic approach, using safety systems to enhance productivity as part of the overall management of a project, the potential benefits are huge," he said.

The Working at Heights guidelines were developed by WorkSafe, the Specialist Trade Contractors Federation, the Construction Safety Council and Site Safe.

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