16 April 2014
With residential demolitions in Christchurch set to increase between now and December, WorkSafe New Zealand is increasing its site inspections to ensure safety is a top priority.
WorkSafe’s Canterbury Rebuild Health and Safety Programme Director, Kathryn Heiler, said today that she is concerned at the high hazard risk associated with demolition work.
“The identification and removal of asbestos is of particular concern to us. It is extremely hazardous to workers and can present health risks to homeowners and the neighbouring community if not managed correctly,” she says.
“Our inspectors in Canterbury are seeing too many properties throughout the region being demolished before proper health and safety checks have been carried out.”
“The use of mobile plant such as excavators and the requirement to work at height, are also of concern, and so we’ll be increasing the number of demolition site visits from our inspector team immediately.”
Ms Heiler says that the increase in the volume of demolition work presents a significant challenge for the demolition industry.
“WorkSafe’s major concern is that we are still seeing far too many instances where asbestos is either not being identified accurately or not being safely removed and disposed of prior to demolition. This is simply not acceptable,” Ms Heiler says.
If asbestos contaminated material has not been removed prior to demolition, it can contaminate the soil leaving long-term issues for the site and surrounding area.
“WorkSafe remains committed to working with the construction industry to ensure that the last of the demolition work across the rebuild does not harm workers or cause adverse health effects in the community. The industry should expect to see more of our inspectors on site in the coming weeks and months,” Ms Heiler says.
“Where we see unsafe work practices and breaches of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 we will be prepared to stop work and take enforcement action. This may include the issuing of notices, fines or even prosecution”.