Peter Bateman is editor of Safeguard magazine and Safeguard Update newsletter. He has been instrumental in launching the annual NZ Workplace Health & Safety Awards (where he convenes the judging panel), the annual Safeguard National Health and Safety Conference, and the lively Safeguard question and answer online forum. In his spare time he tweets.

2 Responses

  1. Laurie Wilson
    Laurie Wilson at | | Reply

    Hi – my son works in an old Wellington building which is earthquake unsafe and I think that he shouldn’t have to endure that risk every day. He can’t leave his job as he has a young family to support . They worry about it as I do.

    I think this is a health and safety issue which should be addressed in NZ law – do you know if it is? There are lots of regulations to protect workers from health risks in the workplace but when I raise the issue of building safety people keep saying it would be too difficult, expensive etc to fix. I strongly disagree. In fact I don’t care. It is wrong to have people working in dangerous buildings don’t you think?

    I have been trying to look around the labour dept site but it keeps crashing – pages won’t load. So I googled the issue and your page came up. I would be very grateful if you could point me to information or any people who share my concerns. Thanks you – sincerely, Laurie Wilson

  2. Peter Bateman
    Peter Bateman at | | Reply

    Laurie, thanks for your enquiry. New Zealand’s health and safety law – the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 – requires an employer to take all practicable steps to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.

    The detail of the Act does not directly address the buildings which make up a place of work, at least not in terms of their ability to withstand an earthquake.

    The courts interpret “all practicable steps” to be a balance between the risk of serious harm versus the cost of eliminating, isolating or minimising that risk. Obviously the cost of bringing an old building up to modern standards of earthquake resistance is huge, so a court might not deem it to be a “practicable step” in health and safety terms.

    Until the Christchurch earthquake, I suspect few people would have connected an employer’s obligations under the HSE Act with building earthquake risk. Now? I’m not sure. It will be interesting to see if the royal commission of enquiry announced recently will address this issue.

Leave a Reply