Around 400 Canterbury construction workers have received free health advice and checks recently to help raise awareness about the health risks they face on site.
“While we’re pleased to see a number of construction companies continuing to improve their safety initiatives and plans, the ‘health’ in health and safety is often missing,” according to WorkSafe New Zealand Canterbury Rebuild Health and Safety programme director Kathryn Heiler.
“Construction workers are exposed to a number of health hazards through the course of their work. This includes dust, noise, asbestos and exposure to hazardous substances or chemicals,” Ms Heiler says.
Every year in New Zealand approximately 75 people die at work. Yet 600 to 900 people die every year from work-related diseases.
WorkSafe, with support from ACC, organised an occupational health van to tour rebuild sites for two weeks during March.
“There are two very experienced occupational health nurses from TriEx on board, and over the fortnight they’ll be visiting 30 sites around Canterbury, talking to 400 workers,” Ms Heiler says.
“Workers can expect to receive more information on the health risks they face, as well as having a health check.”
There will also be sessions on how to make sure personal protective equipment, such as face masks and ear plugs, are fitted correctly.
“If it doesn’t fit properly it’s unlikely to provide much protection against the health hazard, and there’s no point wearing it. It’s important employers and workers understand how to check if their gear is working and fitted correctly,” she says.
“Too many people become ill or die each year because of exposure to a health risk through their work. This is just one initiative that aims to raise awareness about the importance of health, not just safety,” Ms Heiler says.