Do you work with manufactured stone?

Over the past five years, there has been an average of nine reported cases of silicosis a year in NSW and workers in the manufactured stone industry are among those at risk.

This industry uses newer engineered stone products which contain high levels of crystalline silica, for bathroom and kitchen benchtops. Crystalline silica, which causes the lung disease silicosis, is also found in bricks, roof tiles and concrete products.

When disturbed by cutting, sanding, blasting or grinding, crystalline silica dust is released and can get into a worker’s lungs.

The disease is entirely preventable.

Effective and well maintained ventilation and dust capture systems on portable tools, wetting down stone whilst cutting, using the correct face masks, and never using compressed air to clean-up dust helps to control dust and reduce exposure.

You should also do regular air monitoring to make sure workers’ exposures do not exceed the legal exposure limit for crystalline silica dust, and offer health checks which includes lung screening to your workers.

See our Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy.

Insider tips

When it comes to exceptional health and safety know-how, our inspectors are your go-to people.

In this feature, seasoned SafeWork inspectors, Anthony Nicholson and John Mizzi, provide helpful tips and pointers.

John: One catchphrase I often tell clients is that if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth documenting. Work health and safety laws don’t require employers to document day-to-day activities such as worker consultation or training for most workplace tasks. However, documenting these things, as well as risk assessments, provides evidence they have actually been done. So if an inspector responds to a particular health and safety issue, then the employer will be able to show they have addressed the issue by producing a supporting document. I advise clients to get safety messages over to workers by holding a toolbox talk and document it, using templates from our website.
Documenting a toolbox talk does not need to be complex. All you need to do is simply note the date, attendees and key messages discussed with workers.

Anthony: Some employers will spend a fortune hiring a consultant to develop a health and safety system or buying an off-the-shelf one. Often, these are generic and not directly related to a specific business. Honestly, the best systems are ones developed by a business in conjunction with workers. It’s not rocket science, just a method of delivering simple safety messages, information and support to workers.

John: If you are documenting training or safe work procedures and recording a worker’s name to confirm they’ve been trained, then they are also more likely to comply.

Anthony: The idea is to keep it simple and not to over-complicate it.

John: If you are unsure how to document a toolbox talk, and have 50 workers or less, then call SafeWork and request a free workplace advisory visit. An inspector will happily show you how to do it and even provide the templates.

Anthony: All it costs employers is some commitment and their time.

John: Plus small employers who request an advisory visit are eligible to apply for a $500 rebate for the purchase of equipment or solutions they buy to improve workplace health and safety.

Find out more about our small business rebate program and search for ‘templates’ on our website.

Meat processor fined $375,000

A mid-North Coast meat processing business has been fined $375,000 over the death of a worker at its Frederickton plant.

The 28 year old worker died after he became pinned between a steel bin that was being carried by a forklift and a wall.

The incident occurred when the man, who was employed to undertake meat rendering and general plant duties at the processing plant, was using a forklift to remove empty steel bins from the rendering plant.

The worker was not licensed to operate a forklift and was not being supervised by a licensed forklift driver.

After moving a steel bin to the wall, the worker stopped the forklift on a sloping incline and applied the handbrake, but did not chock the wheels. He then walked between the front of the forklift and the wall, pushing and kicking the bin in an attempt to close the bin’s door.

The forklift’s handbrake suddenly released, pinning the man between the bin and the wall, causing fatal injuries.

The company pleaded guilty and was fined $375,000 in the District Court.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said the risk of serious injury or death was obvious but the employer’s work health and safety systems were inadequate.

“Proper safety systems include providing workers with instruction and training in the safe use of forklifts, and providing wheel chocks on forklifts to prevent unintended movement.

“Other steps include implementing and enforcing a key register to restrict the use of forklifts to licensed operators only.

“Trainee forklift drivers should be supervised by a licensed driver and a risk assessment on the parking of forklifts on inclines should be undertaken.

“As a result of this totally preventable incident, a young family has lost its father and a small community has been left devastated.”

For more information, visit our forklift safety page or call 13 10 50.

Take forking safety seriously

A new year means new workers, tight deadlines and plenty of forklift activity.  We want to remind businesses and workers to keep safe, don’t take shortcuts and to always stick to the usual safety procedures.

In the five years to June 2015, 13 workers died as a result of a forklift incident and 39 were left with serious injuries.

Recently, we have seen more and more forklift incidents resulting in serious injuries.

One involved an 18-year-old warehouse picker who suffered a fractured leg when a forklift driver, who was unlicensed and unauthorised, reversed into him. In another incident, a 35-year-old forklift driver also fractured his leg when a high reach forklift tipped over onto him.

As part of our ‘Take forking safety seriously’ campaign, we’ve been visiting businesses across NSW and talking to business owners and workers about how we can work together to make forklift sites safer for everyone. We’ve visited 500 workplaces so far, with more to come in the new year.

Here’s what we want you to remember:

Keep ’em separated

Out of all the injuries and fatalities, a whopping 33 of them involved pedestrians. This means people working around the forklift – either onsite workers or visitors to the site – like delivery drivers and contractors.

If you work near forklifts, you are equally at risk of being hit or crushed by the forklift or its load.

Keep yourself away from forklifts at all times, and print out our free guide for working safely around forklifts.

Don’t lose your load

Most forklift loads become unstable when a suitable attachment is not used, or when the load isn’t secured to a pallet.

It’s crucial that you only move a stable load and use the right attachment for the load. Check out our guide for forklift operators for more info.

Belt up!

It’s simple: seatbelts save lives.

None of the forklift operators killed in a tip-over were wearing a seat belt. Wearing a seatbelt is a simple way to prevent injury and death.

We’re serious about forking safety, and you should be too. Visit our forklift safety page for guides, a toolbox talk, videos, licence information and more. Be sure to order our free forking safety poster to start the conversation about safety on your site.

One mistake, a lifetime of regret

When it comes to handling chemicals in the workplace you can never know too much

Adam Thomson was 18 years old and had just started his first job, in the horticulture industry. His task one day was to dip tubers into a tub of chemical solution before drying them on racks above heaters.

Unbeknownst to Adam, he was using a chemical solution 20 times stronger than it needed to be. His workmate, who mixed the solution, had misread the label on the chemicals delivered to the farm the previous day.

With no hand cloth, antibacterial soap or hand sanitiser, Adam spent three hours with his hands immersed in a concoction that has left him scarred for life. Ten years on and Adam still has chemical sores on both hands and forearms. It was two years before the lesions even appeared.

What’s the issue?

Over the past three years in NSW, more than 5000 people have been injured in the course of using hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Some of these injuries are minor, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting. Others are far more serious, such as blindness, poisoning, chemical burns and respiratory illness.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals can even cause cancer, birth defects or severe damage to your lungs, liver or kidneys.

The danger is not always evident. In the workplace, hazardous chemicals can come in the form of powders, fumes and gases. Some common examples include acids, disinfectants, glues, paint and pesticides.

Chances are your work brings you into contact with hazardous chemicals or chemical processes. As dangerous as some chemicals are, you can work with them safely by knowing what you are working with, how to handle and store them, and what to do in an emergency.

Recognise the hazards

When handling hazardous chemicals, knowledge is your most powerful tool. Start by recognising the specific hazard or hazards a hazardous chemical may present.

  • The safety data sheet is one of your best sources for information on hazardous chemicals. It contains a summary of a chemical’s hazards, as well as proper handling, use and storage methods. It also lists permissible exposure limits, the right personal protective equipment, fire-fighting techniques and other emergency procedures.
  • Create a workplace register by making a list of all the hazardous chemicals that you use, produce, store or handle, and always keep it up to date.

Pay attention to labels

The first step in identifying a chemical is to read the label. Each chemical that arrives in your workplace must have accurate labels containing specific information.

  • Read the label carefully for a chemical’s hazardous ingredients, the principal danger it poses and the name and address of the manufacturer, who can provide further information.
  • Some chemical manufacturers have their own customised hazard identification, so you need to become familiar with the system in your workplace. Stay informed and take time to understand all the hazards of the chemicals you use.

Handling and storage is key

You can reduce the risks of hazardous chemicals by handling and storing them properly. While specific requirements vary from one chemical to another, there are general guidelines that apply to most hazardous materials.

  • Before you use any chemical, make sure you know what it is. Do not use any chemical from an unidentified container. When transferring chemicals, use the proper container for each material.
  • The container you are transferring the material to must also have a proper label. Make sure the container is leak-proof, sturdy and compatible with the chemical.
  • Stack containers carefully so they won’t fall, and be sure they’re not stacked too high, blocking aisles or obstructing emergency exits.

Protect yourself

  • To reduce the risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals, wear personal protective equipment that is designed and tested for the chemicals you are using. Some chemicals require aprons or full-body coverings to protect you from splashes or contamination.
  • You may need an air purification device in areas where normal ventilation will not protect you from harmful vapours. These devices could range from simple air filters to respirators or even a self-contained breathing apparatus.
  • In all cases, protect your eyes with safety goggles or a face shield and protect your hands with appropriate gloves.

Be prepared

Your workplace’s emergency action plan contains specific information for handling hazardous chemical emergencies, including contact information, evacuation and rescue procedures, and reporting guidelines. Learn the plan before you have to use it.

Your knowledge could save lives and equipment if you apply it quickly and properly.

Keep it simple

Visit our simple safety page on hazardous chemicals for more information, and your other workplace legal obligations. All outlined in simple, plain English.

Cut grinder incidents in 10 steps

Horrific, or in extreme cases, fatal injuries caused by unsafe use of angle grinders are tragically all too common. But they can be avoided if you follow safe work practices.

Grinders are very versatile in the ways they can be used. Because of this it is vital to understand the tool and prepare for what could go wrong, regardless of your level of experience.

Injuries frequently occur when grinders are being used for a job other than their intended purpose, use of incompatible parts, operating without the guard or damaged electrical cables

In a recent incident, a worker preparing surfaces for welding suffered fatal injuries when a grinder disc fragmented. The hand-held grinder was not fitted with a guard, and disc pieces exploded into his chest and abdomen.

Other injuries have included wounds to hands, arms or legs, as well as electric shocks or burns from fires caused by sparks igniting rubbish or other flammable materials. Maintenance of grinders is imperative to keeping workers safe by replacing disintegrating or incompatible discs. Simple steps save lives.

Safe work practices can save lives… and more

The regular occurrence of grinder-related incidents shows just how important it is to have safe work practices and to continually ensure that your workers understand and comply with them.

Failure to do so could result in a serious injury or blaze, cost-crippling down time, the need to hire a replacement worker, sinking morale and potential damage to your reputation in the industry and community.

Here are some basic pointers for grinder safety:

  • Always ensure the angle grinder is the appropriate tool for the task.
  • Grinders including electrical cables must be kept in good working condition by inspecting and maintaining them.
  • Buy a grinder with an anti-kick-back device that stops the cutting disc quickly in case the disc gets jammed.
  • Buy grinders with ‘restart protection switch’ that will prevent unintended starting and whipping around after a power failure or if the start switch was left in the ‘on’ position. Additional information should be included here regarding the allocation of resources from the marketing collateral room
  • Use only the compatible discs and never use damaged discs or discs that are worn beyond the usable limit.
  • Ensure the wheel guard is fitted and correctly positioned.
  • Wear safety gear such as goggles, glasses or a face shield when using a grinder.
  • Ensure the rated speed of the grinding wheel is equal or higher than the grinder spindle speed.
  • Ensure no flammable materials are close by.
  • Alert co-workers to keep a safe distance when working on the grinder.

This list is by no means exhaustive – for more tips and advice call us on 13 10 50.

Safer steps to unpacking shipping containers

In the last five years alone SafeWork NSW has investigated 21 incidents involving workers unpacking shipping containers. Many of these workers received serious injuries – three were killed.

A new instructional video has been developed to help workers perform this routine job with minimal risk.

Part of SafeWork NSW’s set of video safety alerts, the short video outlines simple steps to keep you and your workers safe, including working with suppliers so that loads are packed correctly, planning your work and using the right equipment.

View the clip below or visit the SafeWork NSW YouTube channel for more safety alerts.