Does Your Business Comply With Earthquake Health and Safety Standards?
New Zealand has seen a significant increase in earthquake activity over the last 10 years and it is vital for employers and building owners to take practical steps to ensure the safety of their staff and buildings.
As a business or building owner - it's also your responsibility to comply with earthquake safety standards and make your premises earthquake prepared so as to keep occupants safe.
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) states that:
We expect you to proactively manage risks arising from objects in and around workplace buildings on a regular and ongoing basis.
You need to keep on top of new or emerging information and ensure that your workplace is prepared to deal with an earthquake.
Building owners must also comply with The Building Act 2004, which includes standards for a buildings earthquake resilience.
If there is a serious earthquake related incident, and it turns out you failed to comply with these standards - you may face action for failing to take steps to minimise the hazards in your building.
The good news is, it is relatively simple to manage any hazards you might currently have lurking in your workplace.
Here's a few ways you can do it...
Identify And Restrain All Building Parts that are a Potential Safety Risk
Building parts are objects attached to the building, but are NOT part of the structural integrity.
This could be things like suspended ceilings, ducting, partition walls, or sprinkler systems. These kind of objects are often hidden in your ceiling, and could be life threatening if they were to fall on someone.
Once you've identified these dangers, you'll then need to make sure they're all installed with "seismic restraints." These specialised restraints resist earthquake forces and can minimise the damage caused by falling building components.
Identify And Restrain Hazardous Equipment
In most workplaces you'll find a number of household items capable of causing significant damage during an earthquake. This could be anything from fridges and wall units, to shelves and other office appliances. Even though these hazards are clearly visible - generally people will not think of them as being dangerous.
The thing is, almost ANYTHING can turn dangerous in an earthquake.
Where possible, objects or equipment likely to cause harm should be properly restrained. If you're unsure of how far to go with restraining this type of equipment - a good rule of thumb is to secure anything over 10 kg's.
Secure Parts Around Your Building
As well as looking inside for hazardous components or objects - you should also check near and around your premises. If you identify any hazards, it's expected you'll manage these items as you would any other workplace hazard.
And even though hazards around your building are not actually covered by the building act - failing to identify and manage these hazards is still a breach of the HSWA.
The Bottom Line
Overall, employers and building owners should take all practicable steps to make sure their building is quake safe.
Although it's impossible to 100% guarantee the soundness of your building - follow these 3 steps to get as close you can:
Eliminate all significant hazards if possible.
If elimination is not possible - isolate hazards from people.
If elimination or isolation is not possible or effective - minimise the hazard.
Not Sure Where To Start?
This simple checklist tells you:
- Which objects you should restrain in order to meet building standards.
- How to check these potential hazards yourself.
- Why certain objects need to be restrained more than others.
- The steps that should be taken to seismically restrain potential dangers, make your building or business fully earthquake prepared and keep your people safe!