Safety improvements raising the bar

An international construction contractor headquartered in Sydney has completed $400,000 of work health and safety measures as part of an enforceable undertaking entered into with SafeWork NSW.

Following an incident where a worker sustained serious injury from being hit by a steel beam, Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd (formerly Brookfield Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd) agreed to undertake significant business safety improvements that would also benefit their industry and the wider community.

Headlining Multiplex’s achievements is their development of the Practical guide to the safe erection of steel structures, the principles of which have since been adopted as part of the Australian standard for structural steel fabrication and erection (AS/NZS 5131:2016). The guide was developed in consultation with the Australian Steel Institute, engineers and the construction workforce to bridge the gap between documented procedures and workplace practices.

Multiplex has also spent more than $100,000 on the evaluation and distribution of the guide across its organisation and the wider steel erection industry through the Australian Steel Association and the Australian Contractors Association. A training video summarising the detailed processes contained in the guide was also produced to help deliver safety awareness training for all workers and contractors in the steel erection industry.

Since the incident in January 2013, Multiplex has also spent over $50,000 on rectifications, which included developing a tool to conduct audits on structural steel erection work and updating their steel erection checklist.

Benefits to the community from the completion of the undertakings to SafeWork NSW include the funding of graduate scholarships at Wollongong and Newcastle University for work health and safety students.

Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd continues to promote the use of the guide to improve safety practices to benefit both the industry and wider community.

Read more about enforceable undertakings.

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.

Let’s talk safety in the supply chain

As part of our six-year work health and safety roadmap, we will focus on improving the flow of safety information to embed a safety landscape in NSW supply chains.

The transfer of work health and safety information in a supply chain includes identifying and controlling risks during the life cycle (including disposal) of buildings, products, substances, machinery and equipment. It includes transferring and consulting on work health and safety information to each of the duty holders during the design, production, supply and sale.

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From 2018 to 2022 and beyond, we will work with industry to identify areas to influence the exchange of health and safety information.

Our strategy is to collaborate with industry and educate supply chain stakeholders of the role they can play in improving the exchange of safety-critical information.

We want to help you understand your responsibilities and invite you to complete our short survey to provide feedback on how we can assist.

Together, we can educate everyone in the supply chain, and ensure the safe installation and supply of equipment and materials.

SafeWork Licence Register: making it easier to do business

Following an amendment to the WHS Regulation, the NSW Government published a register of individuals who hold asbestos, high risk work and demolition licences as well as holders of general construction induction training cards (otherwise known as white cards).

The register includes the licence holder’s name, licence number and type, the licence status, the licence expiry date (if any), licence conditions, prosecution summaries and information about penalty notices issued in connection with the licence.

The register enables better protection for workers and the community by providing licence information via a single online portal, and makes it easier for businesses and consumers to check the validity of the licences/cards and make informed decisions regarding the contractors they engage.

The changes are consistent with the NSW Government’s objective to provide a single and accountable point for the administration of business regulation schemes, which in turn provides greater business confidence while maintaining appropriate levels of consumer protection.

For more information about the changes, visit our website.

If it’s not safe, speak up!

A recent survey of more than 2000 workers found that one in five have made a complaint about a workplace safety issue that was never fixed.

One in 10 workers were too afraid to report safety issues because they might be fired and one in 20 have been demoted after making a safety complaint at work.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of workers have witnessed a colleague not reporting their injury at work for fear of losing their job.

Consultation is a good way to use the knowledge and experience of your staff to achieve a safer and healthier workplace.

Through talking about safety, you can become more aware of hazards in the workplace and workers can provide suggestions about how the work could be done safely.

This short video outlines the basics of consultation at work and is available in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

Q fever awareness

Between 2001 and 2012, there were 177 workers compensation claims for query (Q) fever in NSW, with costs totalling more than $3.5 million.

Given this alarming statistic, the growing threat of Q fever, and the fact that many cases go unreported, we are educating those in the veterinary industry about the dangers of the bacteria. It can leave you immobile for many months, with the possibility of life-long effects. Fatigue, fever, headaches and muscle pain are just some of the symptoms.

If you work in the veterinary industry – or other high-risk industries where you may come into contact with infected animals – and have not been exposed to Q fever, we recommend you consult your GP and ask if a vaccination is suitable for you.

Learn more about Q fever.

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.