Health and Safety

Taking care with materials, equipment and work procedures and dealing with hazards.

Health and Safety at Work Act

All businesses, regardless of size, must engage their staff in safety issues. The law stresses that everyone at work is responsible for health and safety. You can’t contract out.

Under the law, a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU – which could be an individual or a company) must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees, contractors, subcontractors and other workers they engage.

The law also has a duty of consultation. This means that all those with a duty under the law – the builder, subcontractors and others – must consult, cooperate and coordinate as far as reasonably practicable to ensure compliance with the duty.

Workers or officers, including directors, are not the PCBU but have separate personal liability. Directors can be prosecuted if they don’t exercise due diligence to ensure the PCBU complies with its duties and obligations, so they will need to know about how health and safety is being taken care of on the job.

The law puts safety ahead of cost unless it the cost is ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the risk.

Small businesses will need to think hard about how to spend money ensuring health and safety. It may mean giving up some jobs if the risks are too great.

If penalties are imposed on company directors and the firm itself, that could be a huge challenge for a small building company.

Coping with stress

There is more to health and safety than just physical health – finding ways to deal with the day-to-day stresses in the industry is also important.

Site Safe reviewed 300 coroners’ files of construction industry people who had committed suicide. It found that workplace pressure was a factor in nearly a third of all cases. The pressures included job uncertainty, deadline pressures, financial worries and dealing with injury or illness. Self-employed people or business owners were twice as likely to have been impacted by work-related factors than employees.

Another study, co-funded by ACC and supported by CHASNZ (Construction Health & Safety NZ) and Civil Contractors NZ, found that verbal threats and physical abuse are common on building sites.

Site Safe has developed some useful tools for mental health.

Underage workers on construction sites

Young people at workplaces have special protections under the Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016 (section 4).

Allowing someone aged under 15 to carry out constructi/onstruction site is a breach of the regulations.



Updated: 20 September 2022