Safety rules add $20,000 to home-building cost

MICHAEL FOX AND LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2013

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Health and safety requirements are adding up to $20,000 to the cost of building a home - and the Government says it could review the impact of some of the measures.

Builders say health and safety regulations are being added with little consultation with the industry, driving prices up and frustrating many out of the profession.

Certified Builders Association chief executive Grant Florence said the additional cost imposed on new builds through requirements for the likes of scaffolding and edge protectors was as high as $20,000.

"We all want people to be safe on building sites and the building industry hasn't got a great track record, but it doesn't help when we're up against housing affordability."

The industry favoured education over legislation and if it was done right, the costs to a new home would be minimal, he said.

But regulations were also forcing older builders from the industry, leaving a hole in the workforce when New Zealand desperately needed skilled tradespeople.

Rob Sloan, general manager of Jennian Homes Canterbury, estimated health and safety costs, including compliance and scaffolding, would add at most $10,000 to the cost of a house.

"Yes there's a cost, and people moan and groan about it, but it's cheaper to address health and safety issues than have ACC pay for ill health and injuries.

"We've got this massive rebuild and we want everyone to go home safe. We don't want to hurt, let alone kill, anybody.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges said the measures were necessary.

"There's no question there's a real problem in construction in that it's one of the worst performing sectors for health and safety."

Falls accounted for a third of serious injuries in construction and cost ACC about $24m per year, with more than half of those from lower than three metres.

This showed a lack of risk awareness in some parts of the residential building sector.

The regulations were consistent with international best practice and the measures were working, Bridges said.

"It is truthfully a question of cost benefit. I believe from what I'm seeing in terms of the significant injuries and indeed fatalities, the benefits from these kind of checks are worth it, but it is something we continue to monitor."

He said he was open to more analysis.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said there had been discussions among ministers about getting the balance right to ensure safety measures were not undermining housing affordability.

The need for measures such as as scaffolding for single-storey houses could be reviewed, he said.

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- The Press

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