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New powers for councils, MBIE after earthquakes

A Building Act amendment gives authorities greater powers to act after emergencies like earthquakes.

Local councils and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) now have greater powers to take action under a recent amendment to the Building Act. The law change allows authorities to better assess and manage buildings during and after an emergency. Part of it follows up on recommendations made by the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission.

From December this year, after an emergency councils will be able to:

  • carry out work on or demolish any buildings that pose an immediate risk to life, or risk damage or disruption to neighbouring buildings or public thoroughfares
  • require building owners to provide information, such as detailed engineering assessments, to help determine the risks posed by their buildings
  • require damaged buildings to be repaired or demolished on a case-by-case basis.

The Act also gives MBIE much clearer powers to investigate significant building failures. This is a response to difficulties experienced during investigations in recent years.

In coming months, MBIE will work with a representative group of territorial authorities and with other agencies as appropriate to discuss roles, responsibilities and processes.

MBIE will also prepare updates to guidance documents on the management of buildings after earthquakes.




Survey finds little use of dust control

A survey of 250 Waikato construction workers found poor health protection around dust exposure.

Breathing in dust, including silica dust from concrete work, can lead to serious illnesses including silicosis, lung cancer, asthma and progressive diseases such as emphysema. Many construction workers are exposed to high levels of dust in their work.

A recent study asked people about how often they carried out certain work, and the protection they took when they did. The work was: cutting, drilling, crushing, grinding or polishing concrete, jackhammering, cutting or sanding wood and cutting or sanding plasterboard or fibre-cement board.

The results showed the industry has a long way to go to achieve good safety practices on site:

  • Only 28% of workers said they always wore a respirator when performing dusty work (70% said they did ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’).
  • Over a quarter of workers did not use water suppression or dry dust extraction when cutting, drilling, grinding or polishing concrete.
  • Near two-thirds did not use dry dust extraction when cutting or sanding wood.
  • Over three quarters of workers usually used a dry broom to clean up dust.
  • Workers under 25 were significantly less likely to think about risks to their health or wear a respirator than workers over 25.

You can find more information here.



Work pressures in industry suicides

A study finds work stress behind many suicides in the construction sector.

The study by Site Safe reviewed 300 coroners’ files of suicides 2007–2017 by people who worked in building.

Coroners’ reports listed workplace pressure as a factor in nearly a third (32.3%) of all cases. The stresses included:

  • job insecurity or uncertainty
  • the stress related to running a business
  • pressure to deliver under deadlines
  • juggling responsibilities
  • dealing with an injury or illness affecting the ability to work.

Self-employed people or business owners were twice as likely to have been impacted by work-related factors than employees.

Almost all (99%) of the 300 people were men, with 15% being 20–24 years old.

Site Safe is developing a mental health and wellbeing strategy based on the report findings. 

The report was co-funded through the building research levy.

You can find more information here.