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Certified Nonsense

We last week launched Bryce Wilkinson’s report on the ridiculous costs associated with new Worksafe requirements around scaffolding. Where builders used to be able to use their judgement to determine whether to use scaffolding at low heights, they’re now mandatory even for very small jobs at relatively low heights. Bryce shows that there was no cost-benefit assessment undertaken before the regulation came in, and that the study done afterwards suggests the costs were very high indeed: we could have prevented at least three times as many injuries and accidents had the resources that went into scaffolding gone instead into road safety.

But that’s not all.

We’ve had a fair bit of correspondence since the report with folks fed up with the current safety regime. And they pointed to another bit of regulation I’d not before noticed. Want to use a ladder? Make sure you’re trained in using that ladder. From the Worksafe guidance:

Ladders should be used as a means of access, and for short duration maintenance work such as changing light bulbs or touching up paint. All too often, a ladder is used without thought to whether it is the safest and most effective equipment for the job. People using ladders must be trained and instructed in the selection and safe use of ladders. Ladders must be regularly inspected and well maintained to ensure they are safe to use. [emphasis added]

So. If you want to use a ladder, you must have undergone training to be certified in the use of ladders. And selection of the right ladder for the job.

Humans have a long history with ladders. Wikipedia points to Mesolithic rock paintings at least 10,000 years old of people using ladders. I think the picture below is the one there referenced.


But now you have to be trained and instructed in the selection and safe use of ladders. Probably because of that guy in the cave art above who looks to be jumping recklessly from about 4 steps up that ladder. He (or she) spoiled it for the rest of us. I think the dozen people at the bottom are CaveSafe inspectors keeping an eye on things.

Where oh Where might one get the necessary training in appropriate use of ladders? Site Safe offers a Safety Awareness Workshop – Ladders. Or at least it’s on their list of courses. None are currently scheduled for the next year, but you can email to be put on a wait list.

We are seriously hearing stories of tradies waiting for the certified guy to show up to hold the ladder before they can climb the ladder. The government agonises AGONISES over our low productivity stats in construction, and then pulls this kind of nonsense? It’s like they want us to have crappy productivity statistics so that we can all spend more mornings in sessions talking about our crappy productivity statistics. There’ll be free plunger coffee and croissants with the session, so it’s ok.

National has been doing such a bang-up job of protecting us from the nanny state since elected in 2008, I have to wonder when we’re going to get a licensing regime around hammers. It’ll likely be a three year certificate course showing you know how not to whack yourself on the thumb, with unit standards in small nails, slightly larger nails, those nails with the twisty bits to hold wood in place, carpet tacks, and finishing nails. Then a top-up diploma in Choosing the Right Hammer for The Job. Do you know how many A&E visits are caused by careless hammer use and how much ACC cost and public health system costs come from unlicenced hammer use? Well, I don’t either, but complaisance is not an option – especially when we can regulate without even running a cost-benefit assessment.

Seriously: can you imagine anything more mind-numbing, infantilising, pointless and time-wasting than a workshop on the appropriate use of ladders?

For more sad stories, read the comments thread over at KiwiBlog.

About Eric Crampton (88 Articles)
I'm Head of Research with the New Zealand Initiative.

1 Comment on Certified Nonsense

  1. Lol. I would say if you need to be trained in how to use a ladder safely, then you shouldn’t be using one at all – ever.

    …but I suppose the good thing about making humans more expensive for work, is it can help drive in automation (faster). I look forward to small cherry-picker type devices driving themselves to a site, with a small robotic arm mounted on the end of them (remote controlled) doing the work.


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