Case Study

Graham Darlow

Improving contractor safety across an industry – the Canterbury rebuild

Graham Darlow, Former CEO – Construction, Fletcher Building

The challenge

When rebuilding work began in Christchurch there were predictions that 1-2 construction workers could die each year of the rebuild. Many more would suffer life-changing illnesses. That prospect was unacceptable to me. I was determined to use the rebuild to make long overdue changes to our industry that could transform construction’s poor health and safety track record, and could be replicated outside of Canterbury. The approach we’re taking in Christchurch is to leverage our influence over our sub-contractors, to set high health and safety standards and to ensure certain levels of performance.

Building capability

We’re working to engage sub-contractors and their employees in the health and safety process so they know how to keep themselves safe. I believe my role in changing the culture is to demonstrate through my actions that I genuinely believe good health and safety is good business. For me, that includes choosing to spend time talking to sub-contractors about safety. We’ve seen a big turnaround in attitudes towards health and safety among our sub-contractors. People who initially complained about this new, safer way of working now acknowledge that better health and safety has been good for their businesses. 

Transforming an industry

The benefits are also coming through in our data. Encouragingly, both the injury frequency rate and near hit frequency rate appear to have peaked, with the total recordable injury frequency rate starting to come down in 2014. "We're working to engage sub-contractors and their employees in the health and safety process." I’m hopeful that what’s happening in Christchurch today will provide a role model for the residential construction industry throughout New Zealand. We’ll be able to demonstrate that it is possible for our industry to work safety and keep its contractors safe.

Useful links

Canterbury Rebuild Safety Charter website: