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Safety is front and centre for Christchurch rebuild

Safety is front and centre for labour-hire companies in Christchurch rebuild

Auckland, 29 July 2014:

Innovative workplace safety management programmes set in place in Christchurch by labour-hire companies have resulted in accident and off-work injury levels lower than the national average.

Analysis of Accident Compensation Corporation claims by the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association has shown labour hire and casual workers – traditionally most at risk of injury in such projects – make up five per cent of accidents reported to ACC each month.

Ian McPherson, RCSA New Zealand Council member and operations director for Enterprise Recruitment in Christchurch, says the local figure is well below the national average for labour-hire staff.

“This points to some excellent work being done in the Christchurch rebuild, where a unique safety charter brings together employers, labour-hire companies, government agencies, developers and the Council of Trade Unions. It requires members to look after the safety and welfare of workers through activities such as site inspections, induction, training and education safety briefings and regular monitoring of the work environment and equipment.”

Mr McPherson says the Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter protects both workers and employers.

“Keeping people safe in workplaces such as these is a team effort requiring the support of a wide range of organisations. This shows that the approach being taken in Christchurch is having a measurable positive effect on workplace safety,” he said.

A number of RCSA member companies working in Christchurch on behalf of companies engaged in rebuild projects are signatories to the Charter.

“We would expect all our members to lead by example in critical areas such as workplace safety and I think the labour hire companies here are actually doing that with a focus on absolute best practice. Now we need others to recognise the work being done here and we are calling on other employers in construction and a wide range of industries to follow what is being rolled out for labour hire staff in Christchurch.”

Work could be done to improve workplace health and safety practices in many industries, and in a high-pressure environment like the rebuild that would extend to monitoring of fatigue levels, equipment checks, safety briefings and familiarisations and refreshers for workers at set intervals.

“What we are saying is that there are benefits for all in making sure workers are safe, well trained and aware of issues that can occur in the workplace, and that they have good attitudes to keeping themselves and their co-workers safe. It sounds like common sense, but we believe voluntary compliance is a real issue that needs addressing.”

Labour hire agencies can lead the way in placing safety first when providing staff to workplaces in Christchurch.

The immediate benefit for employers, he said, is a measurable reduction in cost and downtime, and improvements in employee morale. Employees who come through the safety briefing process are better equipped to monitor their own safety and have a heightened awareness of safe work practices.

“Unfortunately not all labour-hire agencies are created equal, not all construction companies active here have signed the charter and some of the new recruitment agencies don’t have the capability to cope well with the fast growth we are seeing here. As a result, some of these labour-hire companies do not adhere to the same standards as do RCSA members,” Mr McPherson said.

With up to 20 new agencies now active in Christchurch and working specifically in the rebuild, demand for jobs up 25 per cent year on year and with local unemployment at around half the national average, there is understandable pressure on filling roles in labour-hire and construction roles. RCSA members are reporting sustained employment growth in the Canterbury region as projects within the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan gather momentum. This has resulted in strong demand for skilled and un-skilled labour in the region.

“As an industry organisation we have taken the initiative by endorsing the safety charter and we encourage all recruiting companies, whether RCSA members or not, to sign up.”


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