This Month in Seismic: First fines and future prosecutions

Quake Protected ‘This Month In Seismic’ series takes a look at the top earthquake resilience and preparedness news from the month.

WorkSafe confirms that failure to minimise the quake risk of non-structural building parts is a breach of the HSWA

Any confusion about the health and safety liability risks in earthquake prone buildings has been cleared with WorkSafe’s policy clarification statement titled, “Dealing with earthquake-related health and safety risks: information for PCBUs and building owners”.

In it WorkSafe has confirmed that non-structural building parts such as parapets, heavy ceilings, masonry walls, as well as bookcases, fridges and other heavy furniture are considered a potential risk under HSWA in all buildings, particularly those a council has defined as earthquake prone.
The statement reads,

“WorkSafe expects persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to take steps to identify and eliminate or minimise the risks from these parts, where reasonably practicable (as you would any other work-related risk). Minimisation could include steps such as securing the relevant parts or isolating people from them.”

It goes on to confirm,

“We expect you to proactively manage these types of work-related risks, particularly the buildings that a council has defined as earthquake prone…...Should a failure to manage these matters expose people to an immediate and severe risk to their health and safety or result in people being harmed, WorkSafe may intervene.”

Company fined $35,000 for ignoring quake strengthening orders

A Lower Hutt company has become the first in New Zealand to be prosecuted for failing to complete earthquake strengthening of a building it owns in Petone.

The case centres on an earthquake-prone building notice issued to the company in 2008, and follows years of repeated attempts by Hutt City Council to get Alura Ltd to strengthen the building to a safe standard.

Alura was fined $37,500 after earlier pleading guilty to one charge under the Building Act.
Objects within workplaces such as bookcases, fridges or other heavy furniture remain the responsibility of tenants and occupants. Anchoring such objects to sturdy building elements to ensure they cannot move or fall on people during an earthquake is a common way of addressing these risks. Failure to identify and properly manage these types of risks is a breach of HSWA.”

Small Businesses are the weak link in emergency planning

Wellington Chamber of Commerce recently asked members about their resilience and preparedness plans.

On the key question of how prepared they felt their business was for any chronic stresses or acute shock, some 57 per cent of the 300 respondents said they were either resilient or very resilient. Just 12 per cent said they were not resilient, while 31 per cent said they were "neutral", or unsure.

This question goes to the heart of how hard livelihoods and the economy could be hit and for how long after a big event.

While 57 per cent preparedness is encouraging, there's clearly a lot more work to do around awareness. 

Businesses need to heed the words of Resilience Wellington's Mike Mendonca, who says that in Wellington "we need to be world class because of the hazards we face, and because we are the capital city.  We know we're going to have a big earthquake in Wellington, we just don't know exactly when. We can always do better."

Quake Protected – Specialist Installers of Non-Structural Seismic Restraint

Quake Protected installs non-structural seismic restraints in work environments so that potential falling hazards,  like suspended ceilings, lighting racks, partition walls, computers and specialist equipment, stay in place during an earthquake.

These cost-saving solutions save people from harm, protect vital equipment and minimise the time it takes for you to get back to business.

Contact the Quake Protected team today by email or call 0800 537 369.

Know the latest on seismic

Every month we create a digest of New Zealand's seismic news so you can keep up-to-date on all things seismic and make knowledgeable, cost-effective decisions on managing your earthquake risks. 

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