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Dyson: Construction Industry Council

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister of Labour, Minister for ACC

22 June 2006 Speech

The New Zealand Construction Industry Council
Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy Launch
6pm, Grand Hall, Parliament

Good evening, I am honoured to be here tonight to join with the Construction Industry Council to launch the first New Zealand Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy.
This strategy is a significant milestone for your industry.

Why?

New Zealanders want and deserve workplaces that are safe, healthy and productive.

We all want it, there is little doubt that we all deserve it - yet we all recognise - government, industry and the community - what a daunting challenge achieving this can be.

Which is why tonight is such a significant milestone. Tonight the Construction Industry Council - represented by many of you here - have stepped up and taken on the task of accepting this challenge.

And it is a difficult challenge.

The International Labour Organisation estimates that every year at least 60,000 fatalities occur on construction sites around the world.

That's one fatal accident every ten minutes.

Sobering numbers. And yet, far from being daunted by the task, you have stepped up to the mark. You have committed to lifting health and safety performance in New Zealand through the Strategy's vision: to create a safe and healthy construction workplace.

Over 160,000 people work in the construction industry - that's 8 percent of the workforce. Achieving this vision will enrich the working lives of one in twelve New Zealanders - a remarkable aspiration. A remarkable driver for change.

The Strategy has three goals for 2005-2010. They are, year in year out, to:

- achieve and maintain zero fatalities

- achieve at least a ten percent reduction in workplace injury rates

- and achieve an industry wide safety culture.

These are inspirational goals. They recognise that every single worker deserves to come home alive and well at the end of each day - to their parents, their partners, and their children.

And yet it's not just about people coming home safe from work. Good health and safety performance simply makes good business sense.
Safe and healthy workplaces are productive workplaces. They are attractive workplaces. They are competitive workplaces. These are crucial factors in the current skills shortage.

To remain productive and to grow, you need to attract, invest in and retain competent staff. Simple stuff, yet crucial. It has been said that "Safety is not a gadget but a state of mind". I couldn't agree more.

This is what the Government's Workplace Health and Safety Strategy aspires to through its vision: healthy people in safe and productive workplaces.
Like the Construction Industry Council Strategy, the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy demonstrates this Government's commitment to reducing the work toll.
It doesn't sit alone. It directly supports the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy.

My colleague Jim Anderton will soon launch the New Zealand Suicide Prevention Strategy. We will then have injury prevention strategies for 80% of all injury deaths and serious injuries in New Zealand.

We can't afford the human, social, and business cost to our workplaces, our communities, and our economy from workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries.
However Government can't do this alone, and tonight we celebrate the launch of the first industry-driven, industry-developed health and safety strategy.
The Strategy's scope is ambitious. It looks to integrate health and safety into many different aspects of the construction business:

- in qualifications, licensing and registration standards;

- as part of the procurement process;

- and in design.

This will entrench health and safety into every business practice, so that it is not seen as just an optional "add on".

There is no denying the need for an ambitious Health and Safety Strategy for the Construction Industry.

Construction is the third most dangerous industry in New Zealand. In the year to June 2006 construction fatalities have risen to 12.

This work toll is an unacceptable cost, to the workers, to their families and to the industry.

The Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy is vital to reducing this toll.
Your industry underpins our economy, contributing between 5 to 7 percent of GDP.
In 2005 $9.8 billion of capital was invested in residential building, and $4.2 billion in non-residential.

And your industry will keep growing.

In Budget 2006 this Labour-Progressive government announced an extra $1.3 billion for land transport funding, part of the largest ever road-building programme in New Zealand. We are also investing an additional $16.4 million in council and community-based housing.

Such growth, coupled with the lowest unemployment rate in many years, has seen a number of people enter your industry who are unqualified, unskilled and inexperienced.

This has serious implications for health and safety in your sector. Many of these new employers and contractors are small business people, working hard to meet demand. They may be unsure of their health and safety obligations. They can struggle with language difficulties.

This Government recognises the vital importance of a skilled workforce. At the end of 2005 there were more than 1200 modern apprenticeships and nearly 8000 industry trainees in construction.

A further $58 million will boost industry skill levels, and $33.5 million will boost workforce language and numeracy skills.

Many in your industry are already professionals with recognised skills, competence, and experience. They have worked hard to gain their qualifications. They see health and safety as an integral part of their business.

But there are others that have taken advantage of the demand in the sector for whom safety is not a priority.

The Department of Labour's recent initiative on residential construction sites in south Auckland testifies to this.

In March, 14 health and safety inspectors visited over 100 residential building sites in south Auckland. They issued over 80 prohibition and improvement notices. This plainly illustrates the size of the task ahead.

The Department is working together with both the Master Builders Federation and Site Safe on the follow up to the south Auckland initiative. This is exactly the type of area where the Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy aspires to lift health and safety performance.

And your regulatory environment is changing.

The Strategy comes at an opportune time. You have:

- a new Department of Building and Housing

- a new Building Act

- and a review of the Building Code.

You also have a new builder licensing regime. An initiative welcomed by the New Zealand Construction Industry Council - as it will help to remove the cowboys from the building and construction sector.

In this time of growth and change you are well prepared.

The New Zealand Construction Industry Council provides a strong focus for your diverse industry: the Strategy provides an ambitious path of achievement.

As a collective whole, you can identify health and safety problems common to the sector and act together to come up with solutions that work.

Your dialogue and partnership with government contributes to better standards, better conditions, and better practices.

The construction industry has come a long way. Injury rates and ACC claims have been steadily declining over the past decade.

Council and industry members have established many initiatives for improving health and safety in the construction sector. Site Safe is a leading example, set up specifically to reduce injuries and deaths on New Zealand's construction sites.

The Operate Safe scheme is another collective approach to solving specific industry problems. It supports New Zealand roading and civil contractors in lifting their health and safety performance. It shows that commitment to health and safety is widespread in your industry.

Auckland's Britomart Station is a great example of collaborative action - between Beca Carter (the project engineers), Downer (the builders), the Department of Labour, and the Auckland City Council.

400 workers and over 1.4 million working hours - just three injuries with time off.

And we recently celebrated high performing workplaces at the New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards 2006. I was delighted to present the award for best overall contribution to improving workplace health and safety to Fulton Hogan.

These are fantastic achievements. Well done.

These initiatives show that you can make a difference - with sound ideas, commitment and hard work.

And yet success should not bring complacency.

The challenge now for the Council and its members is to implement the Strategy - to "walk the talk".

The Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy recognises that the goal of zero fatalities can only be achieved through an industry wide safety culture.

Employers and employees alike must value, expect, and demand a safe and healthy construction workplace.

Evidence shows that a safe workplace culture is most achievable when it is driven from within industry itself. It cannot be imposed from outside.

This is reflected in the underlying approach of the Strategy - one of industry responsibility, management commitment, and employee participation.

If industry organisations collectively take responsibility for lifting industry performance, they can be a powerful force for change.

Industry bodies such as yourselves are the linchpins for helping individual workplaces improve their health and safety.

At the workplace level, health and safety performance lifts when business owners, directors and senior managers recognise that health and safety benefits their business.

Strong management commitment is fundamental to integrating health and safety into everyday business practice.

And crucially, employees have first-hand experience of workplace hazards. They can spot problems and bring about real improvements. Their participation is essential to achieving the Construction Strategy vision.

Lifting health and safety performance across such a wide industry is challenging. No one size fits all.

The Strategy recognises this diversity.

Council members will develop Workplace Health and Safety Strategic Plans relevant to their constituent's workplaces, activities, and practices.

Objectives will be reasonable, achievable, practical - actions that make sense to the people on the shop floor.

We must acknowledge that this is not easy. No one organisation can create a safe and healthy New Zealand. We all need to work together.

In implementing the Workplace Health and Safety Strategy the Government faces the same challenges as you. We have a role to play along with you in creating safe and healthy workplaces.

I am committed to making this a reality. Lessons learned must be shared.

To bring about a change of culture is hard work. It requires changing entrenched workplace beliefs, practices, and attitudes. It does not happen overnight.

And yet you can achieve your vision of a safe and healthy construction workplace through your commitment, your dedication, and your hard work.

Your actions provide inspiration to everyone passionate about health and safety - employers, workers, professionals, educators, and those in government.

You have shown leadership, commitment and innovation. Through the Strategy, you have raised the bar for other industries. I challenge them to step up as well.

I thank you all for being here and I invite you to join with me as I now officially launch the Construction Industry Health and Safety Strategy.

ENDS

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