Taking Site Safe skills to a quake zone

29 Apr 2019

Richard Hunt in Nepal

Civil engineer Richard Hunt hadn’t even done his Certificate in Construction Site Safety when he was putting his Site Safe training to good use after a deadly earthquake.

He was working in Nepal with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) helping with the response to the 2015 earthquake that killed and injured more than 30,000 people.

“There were many  health and safety requirements under the debris disposal and demolition management programme,” he says

He had done a Building Construction Passport course in 2001 and the Consultants Passport Versions 2 and 3 in 2011 and 2014 and he drew on skills he picked up on the courses when helping in Nepal.

“There was a team of four of us having to run many health and safety courses,” he says.

“Nepal just doesn’t have the facilities and resources that we do in this country but I’d like to think we did a satisfactory job.

“Each of us had 20 graduate Nepalese engineers working with us and we didn’t have any serious injuries over the four-month period.

Richard Hunt

“It wasn’t high-rise work; it was all single storey brick and stone buildings with the occasional double-storey concrete frame or brick building. But there were still a lot of hazards and people could have got seriously injured from falling  bricks and concrete during the demolition process.

“UNDP provided  good PPE throughout the project for both the supervision staff and the local workers.”

Since then he has worked his way through the courses that made up the Certificate in Construction Site Safety. Due to changes in the NZQA certificate frameworks, Site Safe is now offering a new Certificate programme - the Health and Safety in Construction programme. Completing the programme awards learners with the NZQA New Zealand Certificate in Workplace Health and Safety Practice (Level 3).

He says as a civil engineer, a member of Engineering NZ and a chartered professional engineer, his health and safety studies have been very useful while working on public infrastructure projects with local councils.

 “When you apply for work with local government clients they require us to provide portfolio evidence that you have undertaken health and safety training.”

In 2016, because of law changes with the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and due to getting more involved in health and safety matters, such as the preparation of tender documents, Richard said he wanted to add to his health and safety knowledge through more study.

Of the eight Site Safe courses he’s done, Richard says it was the Leadership in Safety one he did in 2016 which probably gave him the most satisfaction, though he says all the courses were practical and he learnt from each one.

“The Leadership course involved  assessing hazards and risks  from a managerial level, standing back and looking at the whole project and identifying those  elements that are high risk.

“Those parts of the course - where you look at those things, the culture of safety and how the people in management look at health and safety - were very useful.

“I still come across cases where the site staff are doing a great job with implementing health and safety processes, but some of the people at management level do not see the importance of health and safety throughout all stages of the project.”