Flat roof harness queried

Timaru man Tim Parr is questioning how restrictive New Zealand's health and safety rules have become after his workmate was reprimanded for not wearing a harness and rope on what he considered to be a virtually flat roof.

After five years working in California, Mr Parr started work in Christchurch on a construction site three months ago. His boss has asked that we do not name the company, or the project they are involved with.

What saw Mr Parr contact the Herald was an incident earlier this week in which a workmate was reprimanded by the authorities for not wearing a harness and rope while on a roof. He was sweeping the roof cap on the new building.

"The roof is monstrous. The angle of the roof was about four degrees - almost flat. The distance to the edge of the roof was 18 metres.

"The likelihood of his falling off that roof is about as high as a Wallaby or Springbok tripping at the 22 and falling over the try line."

Mr Parr was surprised by the changes in health and safety requirements in the time he had been away.

Having worked as a mountain and kayak guide before leaving New Zealand he said he was used to having to carry out risk analysis and believed he had a good understanding of risk.

It was not correct that harnesses had to be worn only within 2 metres of the edge of a roof, according to Marcus Nalter, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's team leader for harm reduction.

He said every situation and workplace was different.

Mr Nalter said in most circumstances the minimum requirement for short-duration work on a sloping roof was a properly constructed and supported roof ladder. For short-duration work on a flat roof without edge protection, the minimum requirement was a harness with a short lanyard attached to secured anchorage.

Preventing falls was a priority for the ministry, and it expected employers and contractors with staff working at height to actively manage the hazard.

The Timaru Herald