Housing charity supports health and safety at work, and home

Jun 23, 2015

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand
Habitat for Humanity Greater Auckland Ltd

24 June 2015

Habitat for Humanity is clarifying its stance on health and safety after Council of Trade Unions President Helen Kelly posted about the charity on social media last weekend.

The post related to a written submission from one of the charity’s regional affiliates on health and safety legislation currently being considered by Parliament.

“Habitat for Humanity supports low income workers, beneficiaries and the disaster affected into affordable housing. It aims its support at the very people for whom Ms Kelly is a well-known advocate,” said Claire Szabó, the organisation’s national CEO.

“We therefore wanted to take her concerns seriously.”

Ms Kelly had posted an excerpt from the organisation’s submission on health and safety legislation, questioning Habitat’s commitment to rights for working people.

“It’s our mission that everyone should have a decent place to live,” Szabó said.

“There’s no point having healthy homes, if you don’t know whether you’ll return there safe and well at the end of the work day, so we fully support a health and safety agenda.”

Habitat’s Auckland manager Warren Jack agreed.

“Health and Safety is critical to our goals for our staff, volunteers, and ultimately the people we house. Strengthening health and safety outcomes in this country is important, and stronger legislation is a key part of that.”

Habitat for Humanity has had a particular focus on health and safety recently. According to National Health and Safety project lead Nic Greene, Habitat’s operations are diverse – from house building and renovations, to activities in developing and disaster-affected countries and including running its national network of used goods retail ‘ReStores’.

“Policies need to cover everyone from licensed building practitioners in Auckland and Christchurch to building volunteers in Apia and Kathmandu,” Greene said.

In anticipation of new legislation, Habitat has instituted a national committee for health and safety involving people from all facets of operations and throughout New Zealand. The group has developed an overarching statement (see below) establishing a commitment to health and safety – nicknamed within Habitat as the “Habi-safe” policy.

Supported by consultant Michael Wood, the group is leading reviews and updates of all existing health and safety procedures to align to the new statement and legislation. The policy package will all be signed off by the national and regional boards of directors.

National Board Chairman Craig McFarlane has also established health and safety as a standing item at each national board meeting.

“Everyone at our work sites should feel confident that they are safe, and that any concerns or ideas for improvements will be heard – as directors, we take this very seriously,” he said.

“We would welcome the passing of legislation that strengthens health and safety outcomes,” CEO Claire Szabó said.

“If it could prevent an accident or improve the health of our staff, volunteers, or the people we house, we want to see it happen” she says.

Habitat for Humanity New Zealand health and safety statement
“Habitat for Humanity is a Christian-based organisation that believes in the fundamental value of every single human being. We value the people who contribute to our organisation and will do everything that we reasonably can to ensure that they are safe and healthy.
We believe that every person who works, volunteers, and contributes to Habitat should have the right to go home every night free from injury and harm and over time we aim to achieve a zero-harm workplace.”