Safety starts with you

It has been almost 10 years since our last mass media campaign so, in February, we launched our ‘Safety starts with you’ campaign, with press ads, TV and radio commercials, social media and our very first mobile app – SAFE by SafeWork NSW. As you will readily see, hear and read, the campaign supports our six-year strategy outlined in the Roadmap by entrenching the idea that work health and safety is the responsibility of each and every one of us.

Our SAFE by SafeWork NSW app is available now from the Apple Store and Google play. The app allows you to create a safety team, raise a safety issue, discuss problems, attach photos, and resolve issues. This free app is a key component of the campaign, which aims to encourage workplace conversations around safety.

Visit Safety starts with you for more information.

Hard rock quarry unearths award winner

This month we feature Hy-Tec Industries, in our profile series of the 2016 SafeWork Awards winners. Hy-Tec’s Austen Quarry entry received the ‘Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue’ award.

Hy-Tec supplies premixed concrete, aggregates and sands to all sectors of the construction industry. It has a hard rock quarry, Austen Quarry, located at Hartley in the Blue Mountains. Heavy machinery, including a large PC850 excavator, plays a crucial part in the day-to-day operations of the quarry.

In a truly collaborative effort, Hy-Tec engineers, safety officers and workers developed the Excavator Bucket Tooth Exchanger to directly address the risk of musculoskeletal and pinch-point injuries faced by workers while changing the PC850 excavator bucket teeth each week. Like a dentist fitting enormous veneers, the workers at Austen Quarry were manually removing the old teeth, weighing 10kg each, and then attaching five new teeth, each weighing 29 kg, to the bucket.

The Excavator Bucket Tooth Exchanger has eliminated the need for workers to manually handle the heavy bucket teeth in order to transport them from the delivery box to the excavator. A hydraulic arm now does the heavy lifting to load the teeth into the attached tray. A forklift moves the device into position and the excavator bucket slots straight in.

Safety has been dramatically improved as workers are no longer placed in the potentially dangerous situation of having their arm or hand crushed while supporting the teeth. An additional benefit of the Exchanger has been the decreased time required to change the teeth, resulting in improved operational efficiencies.

Carolyn Fisher, HSE Manager at Hy-Tec Industries commented that “The cost to manufacture the Exchanger was just over $1,000. This is a minimal investment compared to the potential cost of rehabilitating an injured worker with a broken arm or hand. The Exchanger has truly been an innovative way to improve workplace safety, foster teamwork and boost productivity – it’s a win for everyone.”

Jim’s story: a tragic tale

We can’t tell you that thousands of people are injured every year doing tree work, nor do we want to. What we can say is that injuries from tree work are catastrophic. They are disabling, maiming and utterly life-changing.

SafeWork investigated 10 incidents in 2015, which might not sound a lot, but consider that three of those incidents were fatal and you’ll start to understand how dangerous the tree work industry is.

Consider the case of Jim (not his real name, but his story is very real). In his 20s, and employed in the tree industry, Jim was asked by his employer to fell a dead tree in sections. Before he arrived on site, the work method had been determined, meaning he had no say in how he’d approach the job. Jim obediently got to work, cutting sections of a huge tree piece by piece. And then . . . the tree fell – and so did Jim. From more than a dozen metres in the air, Jim fell, with the tree.

His injuries have been nothing less than catastrophic. He was rendered mute, and can only communicate via an electronic tablet. He can walk – but only for 100 metres or so, with assistance. He can eat – but only food that is mashed with a fork. He had a lengthy stay – of some months in an intensive rehab facility, and now is back living with his parents.

None of this was his choice.

We think that Jim’s story, and all the others like it, is a pretty good reason for us to focus on the tree industry.

Tree work services are a multi-billion dollar industry in Australia and include services like maintenance, pruning, felling, thinning and tree removal.

Falling from heights is one of the major causes of injuries in the tree work industry. As Jim’s story demonstrates, working from height is very dangerous and is one of our target areas in our six-year work health and safety strategy.

‘By 2022 we want no one to be seriously injured or killed by falls from height,’ said Peter Dunphy, Executive Director of SafeWork NSW.

‘An ambitious goal, but an achievable one for industries like the tree work industry.’

Injury and death from tree work is avoidable.

It means people like Jim – once a fit, young man who travelled the world with ease – can continue to live their lives without injury, and without constant care.

If you are in the tree work industry, watch our video safety alert for tips on working safety with trees, use our tree work guide to help you operate safety and avoid injury and conduct a self-assessment of your workplace.

Solvents can affect your memory

Workers exposed to solvents may experience memory and thinking problems decades later, according to new research.

Author Erika L. Sabbath said the findings were significant as workplace exposure to solvents was extremely common and posed a real risk both in the present and the future.

“And as retirement ages go up, the length of time that people are exposed is going up, too,” Dr Sabbath said.

Chlorinated solvents can be found in dry cleaning solutions, engine cleaners, paint removers and degreasers, while petroleum solvents are used in carpet glue, furniture polishes, paint, paint thinner and varnish.

Researchers assessed the lifetime exposure of 2143 retirees, as well as their last exposure to chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents, and benzene, which is used in synthetics manufacturing.

Participants took eight memory and thinking skills tests 10 years after they had retired at an average age of 66.

Researchers found those with high and recent exposure at the greatest risk for memory and thinking deficits regardless of other factors, such as education levels, age, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Dr Sabbath, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said retirees with high exposure within the past 12 to 30 years had demonstrated impairment in virtually all areas of memory and thinking.

For more information about using solvents and other hazardous chemicals, check out simple safety