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Safety Engineering TIG

Engineers Target Poor Workplace Safety

The New Zealand Society for Safety Engineering was formed in August as IPENZ’s newest Technical Interest Group. Matt Bishop, Managing Director of BVT was the co-founder of the New Society of Safety Engineering below he explains why it was set up.  It’s mission is to ensure the engineering profession plays an integral part in improving New Zealand’s industrial safety record.

Public scrutiny

New Zealand is currently undergoing the largest workplace health and safety reform in a generation, brought about by strong political and social pressure for change. This stems from growing awareness of New Zealand’s relatively poor industrial safety record, and particularly the public’s shock over the Pike River Mine disaster and the Canterbury earthquakes.

A new health and safety reform bill currently before Parliament will grant new powers to the regulator, WorkSafe NZ. This bill will significantly increase the workplace safety responsibilities of those who employ others, as well as imposing greater safety duties on those such as manufacturers, designers, installers, importers and suppliers of plant, substances and structures. The new law will have an enormous effect on engineering practice within New Zealand.

Onus on engineers

In this changing legal environment, members of the professions have a crucial role to play in considering health and safety in their own practice – both how it can be improved and the effects of any regulatory changes. This is especially true of engineers, who are not only sufficiently skilled and well-placed to achieve significant improvements in industrial safety, but also have an ethical duty to protect life and safeguard people. Given the current pressure for change in industrial safety, coupled with public attention on engineers in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, it is imperative that engineers take the lead in improving safety engineering practice.

Why form a new interest group?

Strong health and safety practices are embedded in engineering, but to varying degrees. Safety-related knowledge, expertise and best practice are unevenly distributed across different disciplines, industrial sectors and companies. The New Zealand Society for Safety Engineering (NZSSE) was formed to act as a point of contact between engineers across industry sectors and WorkSafe, and to improve safety engineering practice across the profession.

Between now and 2017, WorkSafe is reviewing a wide range of safety-related regulations, codes of practice and best practice guidelines, under both the health and safety legislation and the hazardous substances act. As issues from these reviews arise, the NZSSE will be providing a coherent voice for the engineering profession.

NZSSE’s functions will complement those of other TIGs, several of which hold specific health and safety duties and support NZSSE. Complementing these specific duties, the NZSSE takes a big-picture view of safety engineering across all disciplines of the profession.  In doing so, its members are seizing on a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a substantive difference to New Zealand’s health and safety performance.

The NZSSE held its first AGM in September. To find out more about the group, contact Matt Bishop at matt.bishop@bvt.co.nz

This article was originally published in the IPENZ journal Engineering Dimension, issue 141 – full version can be found here:http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/publications/dimension/

 team member
Matt Bishop

BE (Hons), CMEngNZ, CPEng, HVSC
Managing Director

m +64 21 661 748
e matt.bishop@bvt.co.nz