On-site health and safety
Whether you're doing the work yourself or hiring a contractor, health and safety on the site are important.
Building and renovation sites can be hazardous.
You, other members of your household, and contractors could all face health and safety risks, such as slips and falls, exposure to toxic fumes, or being injured through tools or sharp objects.
By managing your site carefully, you can reduce the risk of injury and harm to health.
What are the hazards?
On a building or renovation site, you and other people may be exposed to:
- a risk of falling - for example, while working on a roof or up a ladder, or through gaps in the floor of an incomplete structure
- a risk of tripping - for example, over piles of building materials or offcuts
- harmful fumes - for example, solvents
- harmful materials - for example, concrete which is highly caustic and can burn
- a risk of cuts from sharp objects such as nails, screws, saws, and drill bits
- a risk of injury from tools such as power saws and nail guns
- a risk of being hit by trucks or heavy machinery.
Working at heights
Falls from heights are a major cause of deaths in the construction industry. When you risk a fall of over three metres, regulations require fall prevention measures to be put in place.
Sitesafe’s Safe Working at Height Guide provides a checklist to help you choose the right equipment for the job as well as important safety tips when working at height.
Who is responsible for health and safety?
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 aims to prevent harm to people in workplaces. The Act imposes responsibilities on employers, employees, self-employed people, people in control of a place of work, and people who hire contractors.
Work on your existing home
Under the Act, you're not legally responsible for the health and safety of contractors you hire to carry out work on your private home.
However, it's still worth taking any steps you can to keep the worksite as safe as possible to minimise risks to yourself and other members of your household. You should also warn contractors about any hazards you're aware of on the site.
The contractor has to take all practicable steps to prevent harm to any subcontractors, employees, or others legitimately on the worksite. The contractor's duties include identifying any hazards and taking steps to remove, isolate or minimise those hazards.
Work on a new home or a property other than your home
If you hire a contractor to build a new home you become legally responsible for health and safety on the building site. This means you're required to 'take all practicable steps' to ensure that the contractor, and any subcontractors and employees are not harmed while carrying out the work they have been engaged to do.
For a more detailed explanation of your and others' responsibilities, see the ConsumerBuild website's explanation of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, or see the Introduction to the Health and Safety in Employment Act on the Occupational Safety and Health Service's website.
Protecting health and safety
Keeping people off the worksite
Discuss health and safety with your contractor and make sure:
- you're informed about any hazards
- you and other members of your household stay away from work areas, equipment and any other potential hazards.
Do what the builder or contractor asks in relation to safety on the building site. If they ask you or other members of your household to keep out of certain areas, even if you are living in part of the house, do as they ask.
Safety on DIY projects
To protect your safety and the safety of other members of your household:
- Only carry out DIY work you’re legally allowed to carry out. Some plumbing, electrical and gas work must be carried out by licensed tradespeople, and from 1 March 2012 some building work will have to be carried out by licensed building practitioners. For more information, see the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Building and Housing’s website.
- Only carry out DIY work you’re competent to carry out - work that’s done poorly may not be safe.
Use appropriate safety equipment - such as gloves, a respirator and goggles for handling treated timber, and dust masks or a respirator in situations where you might be exposed to airborne pollutants.
- Take care with heights - most injuries in the home are caused by falls. You may need to use a scaffold or hire a contractor rather than using a ladder.
- Take care when working with concrete - it is highly caustic and you can receive burns from contact with wet concrete.
See the ConsumerBuild website's DIY safety section for more tips.
From Smarter Homes
The Occupational Safety and Health Service's website has guidelines and approved codes of practice for construction and building maintenance, and an Introduction to the Health and Safety in Employment Act.
Site Safe New Zealand is an organisation to promote health and safety in the construction industry. Information is available to members.