Unions urge capital building owners to secure fittings

12:17 pm on 17 May 2017

Unions are concerned that pipes and fittings in Wellington's high-rise office buildings remain unsecured, despite decades of regulations.

Pipes, fittings and ducting that is not properly restrained could prove deadly in an earthquake.

Pipes, fittings and ducting that is not properly restrained could prove deadly in an earthquake. Photo: 123rf

A significant chunk of New Zealand's 353,000 state sector workers are employed in high rise buildings in Wellington.

Some of these buildings suffered significant damage in last November's quake - but the occupants were saved because the shake happened at night.

Engineers and insurers called for a law change after it was revealed thousands of New Zealand buildings that are not up to standard with restraining fittings like heavy pipes, wires and air conditioning units are escaping scrutiny.

PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay was concerned for his members.

"We have a lot of members who work in central Wellington who could be exposed to this hazard, " he said.

"We are very worried about it - we don't really know the extent of it but there are plenty of anecdotal reports that said tiles did fall from roofs. It is a worry to us."

Mr Barclay said council standards should be up to standard and properly enforced, but that it was mainly building owners who were responsible for ensuring their properties are safe.

He said he would be speaking about the matter to the State Services Commission.

National secretary Gerard Hehir of Unite Union, which represents retail and eatery workers, was also concerned about the risks from often heavy pipes in ceilings.

"There could still be dangers two weeks or even months later. We could still have dangers that should be checked.

"Has someone had a look in the ceiling to see? They could be weakened, they could be ready to fall, or it might just take another earthquake and they will all come down."

Wellington engineer Ignatius Black, who is also a Society for Earthquake Engineering board member,

said yesterday it was even true of many hospitals that they did not have seismic restraints that met the Building Code.

He also told Morning Report that because consents were not needed for installing such things, they were often not checked at the end of construction.

The Property Council said retrospective strengthening of pipes could be done, though it was not as easy as it would be when constructing the buildings in the first place.

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