What health and safety and wellbeing issues currently confront professionals working in the building industry that undertake roles in certifying projects : a research report presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Construction in Construction Law, School of Built Environment, Massey University, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
This research project aims to investigate what are the health and safety and wellbeing issues currently confronting Building Professionals, and what support they received from their organisation. The World Health Organisation defines that health and safety covered three areas: physical health, mental health, and social wellbeing. Occupation health and safety issues are caused by work activities and the working environment (Gardiner et al., 2022). Also, workplace wellbeing is relative to an organisation policy and work environment (WellBQ | NIOSH | CDC, 2022). Building Professionals in this research are defined as “professionals certifying building work under the Building Act 2004, such as a building consent officer, building inspector, code compliance certificate officer etc.” Building Professionals play an important role in the building industry, as they get involved in every stage of a building project. However, in New Zealand, a Building Professional’s health and safety and wellbeing are barely considered. Under the Building Act 2004, Building Professionals certifying a building project, must decide within a defined tight timeframe, and their reasons must be recorded. Also, Building Professionals must have competence which needs to be annually assessed. This review and often training must be recorded. Any work that Building Professionals do as defined under the Building Act might be reviewed by an external auditor or reviewed as part of a dispute. Most Building Professionals work in office-based roles, and usually in the public sector such as local Council. A Geek study by Nasios (2021) showed that public sector worker’s occupational health issues come from work-related stress and musculoskeletal disorders. As most Building Professionals work in the office, resulting in long sitting times, called sedentary behaviour. Sedentary behaviour can directly cause musculoskeletal discomfort, also it can cause mental health issues and increase the risk of some chronic disease (Ma et al., 2017; Leitzmann et al., 2018; Kett & Sichting, 2020). Occupational stress can also be caused by varied hours of work, workload and wages, resulting in physical and mental health and wellbeing issues (George et al., 2021; Qiu et al., 2022). There are some international studies that have showed that adequate ethical policies for the workplace can reduce a worker’s sedentary behaviour and occupational stress. Leadership, communication methods, and social responsibility are all contribute (Maphong et al., 2022; Schwepker Jr et al., 2021; Wang et al., 2020; Maartje et al., 2020). In New Zealand, legislation and government agencies have limited information about Building Professionals health and safety and wellbeing issues. This gap was confirmed in the literature review. The research methodology was to adopt a survey questionnaire. The design of these questions were based on the literature review, and focused on finding what health and safety and wellbeing issues Building Professionals are currently facing at work. There are 3 parts in the survey: Part 1, personal characteristics, to identify if age, gender, or role can affect their occupational health. Next, part 2, health and safety and wellbeing questions, to identify if total working and leisure hours affect professional’s physical and / or mental health. Finally, part 3, open-ended questions, to identify what wellbeing support professional received from organisation, and to collect the recommendations from Building Professionals about how to improve their health and safety and wellbeing. This survey was collected in Christchurch City Council Building Consent Unit. This research has completed a peer review, and Massey University Human Ethics Committee has identified this research as low risk. 63 Building Professionals participated in this research, and all valid surveys were collected by face-to-face interviews. 57% of the participants were in technical roles; most were aged were between 31-60 years old; male participants were slightly more than female participants in number. The survey showed that Building Professionals in a management role had more working and leisure hours. 48% of Building Professionals had physical health issues, and 75% had mental health issues. Also, Building Professionals in supporting and technical roles had higher mental issues than those in management roles. Female Building Professionals had higher mental issues than male ones. Almost half of those surveyed experienced muscular tension. About 30% suffered one or more of the following symptoms from work: headaches, anxiety, sleeping difficulty, work and / or private life distraction. 100% of the management roles surveyed agreed that they received adequate support from their employer, while 58% non-management roles agreed. Some Building Professionals indicated that their employer provided a supporting work environment, also they received flexible work agreements and employee assistance. More than half of those surveyed suggested that to improve their organisation’s policy, also they suggested that pay increases and office furniture updates would have the potential to improve their occupational health. This research found that over 80% of Building Professionals have mental and / or physical health issues at work, especially mental health ones. This research found that the organisation provided some support for the employee to improve their occupational mental and physical health wellbeing, such as flexible work agreements and employee assistance. However, there is a significant gap about the satisfaction rate between management and non-management roles, about the support they received, which indicated that there is lack of communication between managers and team players. This research also found that lower income roles have lesser leisure time and higher mental health issues, which is match with the literature review. To improve the Building Professional’s occupational health and safety and wellbeing, the employer should enhance their organisation policy, that should include key things like fair pay and improve communication methods. The government could also review and enhance the current Health and Safety at Work Act, by providing some standards or framework around improving a sustainable and acceptable health and safety and wellbeing work environment.