Centre for Work Health and Safety

The Centre for Work Health and Safety opened its doors for business in December last year.

Comprising experts in the fields of research, insights and analytics, science outreach and business, the Centre leverages data and evidence to create awareness, suggest smarter approaches and bring about behaviour change in work health and safety.

The team doesn’t do this alone – a key approach of the Centre is co-designing its research with industry, workers, government, academia and regulators to uncover insights that:

  • ensure the research is practical and useful for the end user
    generate and disseminate new knowledge about work health and safety risks and controls
  • quickly translate research findings and knowledge into practice and innovative harm prevention interventions
  • identify, pose and tackle important questions around current and emerging work health and safety risks.

Since its launch, the Centre has been hard at work defining its research focus. In March, the Centre released its Research Blueprint, which spells out its research strategy to 2022. This strategy is aligned to the targets and priority areas identified in the Work Health and Safety Roadmap for NSW 2022.

The Centre has also started its first round of research projects. These include looking at effective engagement between workers, industry and regulators; what work health means to NSW workers; and drawing on evidence to inform best practice regulation.

For more information on the Centre for Work Health and Safety, visit centreforwhs.nsw.gov.au or join the conversation on social media @centreforWHS

Manage the risks of falls – or risk a fine.

Falls from heights remain the biggest killer on construction sites in NSW. And a worker doesn’t have to be perched on top of a 12-storey building to be at risk of death or serious injury as a fall from just two metres or less can also prove fatal.

Over the past three years, most serious falls were from two to four metres – or about a single storey.

In November last year, in response to alarming statistics regarding falls from heights, we introduced new on-the-spot fines – where employers can be fined up to $3600 for failing to control the risk of falls adequately – and launched a 12-month blitz on NSW construction sites.

Astonishingly, our inspections revealed more than 50 per cent of sites had unsafe scaffolding, more than 40 per cent didn’t have proper edge protection, and nearly 25 per cent didn’t provide a site safety induction to their workers.

Recently, a 20-year-old apprentice plumber died after suffering a broken neck and fractured skull when he fell six metres through a hole in a roof and landed on a steel beam. ‘In a spilt second your whole life changes forever,’ said his devastated aunt.

In another incident, a 67-year-old man sustained a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, collarbone and neck, and a punctured lung when he fell through an unprotected stairwell void on a Sydney construction site. He was in hospital for two months.

While working at heights is clearly a risky business, there are plenty of ways you can help avoid workplace tragedies and ensure your workers go home in one piece at the end of the day.

As with any high-risk activity, the best solution is to eliminate the need to work at heights where possible. If you can’t, you must provide a stable and securely guarded work platform or a suitable alternative.

Some typical examples are scaffolding, perimeter screens, guarding, fencing or other barriers capable of withstanding the loads that may be placed on it. Harness systems, such as fall restraint or fall arrest devices, should only be used as a last resort.

This month and throughout 2018, our blitz on construction sites will continue. So, ensure you protect your workers – or risk a fine!

For more information on managing the risks of falls, visit our website.

Your safety: it starts with you

Last month, we launched the second year of our ‘Safety starts with you’ campaign, which aims to ensure workers and employers stay safe on the job.

Coming home safely to loved ones is generally everyone’s number one motivator to keep safe at work.

But it is all too easy to become blasé about workplace safety, believing the chances of being hurt are very slim.

Aside from the implications for employers – down time, low morale, and hiring and retraining a replacement – the consequences for the worker reach far beyond the workplace.

If lucky, an injured worker will be back at work within days, but if not, and recovery drags on – in some cases, indefinitely – the emotional and financial impact on their family can be devastating.

Life as they know it is never the same again and things normally taken for granted, such as walking the dog, driving a car, socialising or playing sport, may no longer be possible. Even what initially appears to be a minor injury sustained via a common workplace incident, a slip or trip, can have a major impact.

An arborist, for example, suffered a permanent and serious brain injury when he fell 11 meters to the ground while cutting a tree with a chainsaw.

A 49-year-old man suffered head, spinal and chest injuries when he fell three metres down a set of stairs on a Sydney construction site.

Another worker whose life will never be the same again, an 18-year-old labourer, sustained horrific injuries when a steel bar pierced his skull while he was operating an excavator on a Sydney demolition site.

All these incidents, like most workplace injuries, could have been prevented if the employers and workers had not let their guard down on work health and safety priorities.

No matter what you do, safety starts with you.

Watch this video.

Use power tools safely

Early this year, SafeWork inspectors attended an incident in southwest Sydney after a 15-year-old construction worker got severe lacerations to his thigh, down to the bone, while using a circular saw to cut lengths of timber. It was his first day on the job.

Power tools come in various shapes, sizes, voltages and varieties. Yet, irrespective of the size of the tool or how it’s powered, the principles of safe use apply equally to all.

First, remember that a power tool’s effectiveness is proportional to your level of training in using the tool, as well as your diligence in following safety guidelines.

Before starting any job, go through a pre-start process and ensure everyone who is using power tools is trained and competent. And always check to make sure tools are in good working order.

Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts, keep others a safe distance away, and wear the correct personal protective equipment for the job.

Finally, employers and experienced workers need to ensure new and young workers receive the correct training and supervision.

Watch this short video by the Roofing Tile Association of Australia.