Industry body Scaffolding, Access and Rigging New Zealand (SARNZ) says a shortage in suitably skilled scaffolders risks slowing the country’s busy construction sector (read more here). Currently NZ has approximately 1300 scaffolders with the authority to build scaffolds above 5 metres in height. SARNZ predicts that twice this number will be required to successfully meet demand in relation to the Christchurch rebuild and other projects throughout NZ.
SARNZ is urging the Government to make it easier for skilled scaffolders from overseas to work in NZ to alleviate the shortage. Despite featuring on NZ’s Immediate Skills Shortage List, SARNZ notes that it is difficult for overseas scaffolders to acquire a working visa due to requirements for a level 5 qualification and 5 years experience. SARNZ believes that this could be relaxed to level 3, the basic level required for Kiwi scaffolders, and the number of years experienced reduced, without compromising safety.
President of SARNZ Nick Pfahlert adds that ‘Scaffolding is a true trade equivalent to that of electricians, plumbers and builders. A prejudice or preconceived notion about scaffolders has been apparent in the efforts to hire skilled labour.’ NZ offers a National Certificate in Scaffolding, Access and Rigging. The Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995 also require that a tradeperson be licensed, in that a current Certificate of Competency is required to erect, alter and dismantle scaffolding classed as Basic, Advanced or Suspended.
Since 2013 SARNZ has issued restricted Certificates of Competencies to foreign scaffolders with equivalent qualifications. The restricted certificates are valid for 2 years only, after which a certificate is only re-issued if the scaffolder has attained the NZ National Certificate and as such has qualified for full competency.
In our July 2014 blog post ‘Eye-opening statistics coming out of Christchurch’ we noted a worrying uptick in unsafe construction practice, injuries and associated warnings in Christchurch. Scaffolding expertise is often necessary in order to fulfil the health and safety requirements of a project, with scaffolders expected to isolate, minimise and where possible eliminate fall risks. A shortage in qualified scaffolders may present a further challenge to contractors seeking to protect workers on site, particularly in the high pressure Christchurch rebuild environment.