What is a White Card?

(And why do you need one?)

Working in New Zealand’s building and construction industry is a good career decision. The sector has enjoyed continuous growth over the years and while it experienced a slump due to COVID-19, it’s expected to pick up and sustain further growth until 2025 and beyond.

This means that the building and construction industry will be teeming with opportunities in the coming years. The pay is good, too. Whether you’re a labourer or an engineer, you can expect to receive above-minimum wages that can reach up to $140,000 or more per year.

What’s great is that anyone from any background can get a job in the building and construction industry. Prior experience is also not necessary, although preferred. Of course, you need to undergo construction training that’s relevant to the job you want (e.g., demolition, asbestos removal, etc.).

You’re also going to need the right safety qualifications. For example, if the nature of construction work involves heights, you’re going to need the NZQA Unit Standards 15757, 17600, and 23229.

For PCBUs as well as any other construction jobs that require knowledge of HSWA and other workplace health and safety principles, there’s also the NZQA Unit Standard 497. Once you complete the course, you will be given a document or certification that is commonly referred to as a white card.

What Is a White Card?

A white card, in NZ construction speak, is like a construction safety passport. It shows that you have been credited with the NZQA Unit Standard 497 and are familiar with most workplace health and safety requirements.

According to the NZQA, construction professionals who have a white card are also expected to be able to:

  • identify and describe legislative rights and responsibilities for workplace health and safety
  • describe the systems approach to workplace health and safety
  • explain how risks and hazards are defined in the HSWA

Why Do You Need a White Card?

Working in the building and construction industry means you’re always exposed to health and safety risks. There are workers who have to enter confined spaces to perform their jobs, while some need to climb skyscrapers.

Many building and construction professionals also have to operate and/or ride heavy machinery. These include mobile elevating work platforms like scissor lifts and self-propelled boom lifts.  Without the right health and safety training, construction professionals are put at an even bigger risk at work.

Through NZQA Unit Standard 497, employers and employees alike can cultivate and uphold a health and safety culture. Ultimately, this results in confidence and productivity at work. Remember: a safe workplace is a successful one.

Who Should Get a White Card?

Ideally, everyone working in the building and construction industry should have a white card. However, those who need this certification the most are those who need to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of health and safety requirements in the workplace.

Those who are interested and want to gain insight about their personal rights under the HSWA will also benefit from getting a white card. A PCBU or person conducting a business or undertaking should also get credited with the NZQA Unit Standard 497.

Why Is Workplace Health & Safety Training Important?

For PCBUs, health and safety training is even more important because you’re depending largely on individual effort. Most businesses will also decline to work with an uncertified individual.

Meanwhile, employers are legally obligated to provide their employees with a healthy, safe workplace. This is easy enough to do on the physical front by following building codes and other H&S guidelines.

However, even the best equipment and office design will be rendered ineffective if people don’t have a complete understanding of everyone’s rights and responsibilities when it comes to health and safety. Thus, it’s important to receive training and certifications so that every member of the organisation can contribute and uphold the best H&S workplace practices.

What’s more and as earlier mentioned, a workplace’s success is greatly influenced by how healthy and safe its environment is. For one, when employees feel that their employees care about their well-being, they tend to stay longer. As a result, the company doesn’t have to shoulder the cost of re-hiring and re-training new people.

Some other benefits of H&S training and acquiring safe work skills are as follows:

  • employee satisfaction
  • lower stress and work pressure
  • fewer accidents, which means lower occupational health costs
  • continuous professional development
  • increased productivity
  • higher morale
  • cost savings
  • positive company reputation

To improve health and safety in the workplace, those in senior and executive positions should be more involved. Workers tend to be more involved if they see their leaders being serious about H&S policies.

Employees should also be involved in developing the company’s health and safety policies. Doing so will increase their sense of ownership, which can help provide motivation.

Finally, continuous training about health and safety principles and best practices can increase competence and confidence. While accidents aren’t completely unavoidable, you can drastically reduce the risk of them happening. What’s more, if accidents do happen, you can count on your people to know the right steps to take to minimise damage and injury.

All in all, investing in workplace health and safety through training and certifications will benefit everyone involved.

Get your white card or NZQA Unit Standard 497 qualification from CC Training Academy.