It is now more than a year since we first entered a Covid-19 lockdown. But since then, we have been fortunate to enjoy, within our NZ bubble, a life free of the restrictions faced by people in most other countries. We expect to all be vaccinated by the end of the year. The end is in sight. We can all look forward to getting back to life as it was. Or can we?
Of course not. The Pandemic has changed us, the way we think and the way we behave. It’s been a wake up call on personal health and hygiene and a stern reminder that no person is an island, that our actions (or inaction) can and will affect others directly or indirectly. A reminder that we need to always think about the risks to others, as well as to ourselves.
There have also been positives. As Winston Churchill said during WW2: “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. We haven’t. Times have been challenging but those challenges have been met with great resilience, teamwork, adaptability and innovation. We have learnt a lot and put those learnings to good use.
But things will keep changing. They always have. As a bloke called Heraclitus said in 500 BC, “change is the only constant in life”. We need to continue to be resilient and adaptable to survive and thrive.
The two things that have probably changed the most during my career in construction have been information technology and what is acceptable in terms of health and safety outcomes.
Take pandemics as an example. In the 14th century, the Bubonic Plague is estimated to have killed between 75 and 200 million people, around a third of the world’s population at the time. 100 years ago, a flu pandemic killed between 20 and 50 million people.
The Covid-19 death toll is currently 3.2 million, 0.04% of the world population, and to stop it getting worse countries are locking down, at great risk to their economies and ways of life. The message is clear. In the 21st century no preventable loss of life is acceptable.
For our industry, this means that we have to achieve nothing less than zero harm, to meet the expectations of the wider community we live in. And of course, that now means for the environment as well, where acceptable risk is also rapidly changing.
Times are changing for the Charter as well. With the earthquake rebuild all but over, we can no longer depend on Work Safe to pay most of our bills. We have to find ways to replace that funding with grants and sponsorship. Most grants will require us to carry out projects that show measurable value in terms of health and safety outcomes. Our working groups and management team are working hard on grant applications accordingly.
Membership fees are a smaller, but equally important source of funding that we need, in particular, to pay for the various events and workshops we hold. Non-members pay to attend these events but members do not. Because of this, we think it is only fair and necessary to change our membership fee structure so that all members now make a financial contribution to the charter.
It will still be not much cost for smaller organisations, easily recouped by attending one or two Charter events, but it will help us a lot to cover the costs. I hope we can count on your support for this.
I mentioned changing information technology above. One of the most exciting grant proposals we are currently working on is for a project to incorporate health and safety into the BIM technology being increasingly used on commercial building projects. Imagine being able to use, at your pre-start meeting, virtual reality to assess and mitigate risks on your building site. How cool is that? Watch this space (with fingers crossed).
Ian Campbell, Chairperson