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.

Asbestos – When in doubt, find out!

Did you know that asbestos is a naturally occurring substance? It might surprise you to learn that it can actually be found in rock, sediment and soil throughout regional NSW.

While the chances of coming into contact naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) are slim, workers and residents in affected areas should still know what to look for and how to manage it.

So what do you need to do?

NOA is found in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes, and can be difficult to spot. The SafeWork website includes a handy map to let you know whether you’re in a low, medium or high risk region. If you’re conducting work in an affected area, take the following precautions:

  • Limit dust-generating work and avoid handling rocks and soil that could contain NOA.
  • Consider the weather. Try not to do work that disturbs the ground on windy days, or if conditions are dry and dusty.
  • Wet down areas if necessary, particularly when planting, seeding and digging.
  • If you think you’ve found NOA, cover with clean soil, rock or other material where practical.
  • If you control a workplace that is affected, you should have an asbestos management plan in place. This should include providing PPE to any workers who might be disturbing the ground and training your workers.
  • Consider calling in a licensed asbestos assessor or an occupational hygienist to test the site for NOA.

The Heads of Asbestos Coordination authorities have also developed a video for people living and working in regional areas that outlines what to look for and what you can do.

Remember, when in doubt, find out. If you suspect you might be living or working in a NOA area, visit or call 1800 Asbestos (1800 272 378).

10 steps to ladder safety

Each year there are dozens of serious incidents where workers have fallen from ladders. While workers in construction, retail and building maintenance are most commonly injured, any worker using a ladder – at any height – is at risk.

So what can you do to avoid becoming a statistic?

The first thing to consider is whether you really need to use a ladder for the job. Ladders should only be used for simple access jobs or for a short duration. If you can work from ground level or using an alternative like scaffolding; do it.

But if a ladder is your only option, here are the 10 golden rules that can help you avoid injury.

  1. Choose the right ladder for the job. It should meet Australian standards and the load requirements of the job.
  2. Inspect the ladder for damage before each use.
  3. Only use a ladder if you are physically-capable of doing so.
  4. Always set up the ladder on a flat, stable surface. Consider safety devices like leg levellers, anti-slip gutter guards and stabilisers.
  5. Always maintain three point of contact with the ladder. This means two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand on the ladder. Never lean or reach away from the ladder while using it.
  6. Only take small items up or down a ladder and items that allow you to maintain three points of contact.
  7. Never exceed the working load limit on the ladder. Remember to include the weight of your tools.
  8. If you’re using an extension ladder, secure it at the top, bottom or both. If this isn’t possible then have someone hold the ladder. If you’re using an A-frame ladder, make sure it’s fully open and locked.
  9. Extension ladders should be angled at a ratio of 1:4. That is, position the base of the ladder 1 metre away from the structure for every 4 metres of height.
  10. Do not climb past the second-top rung of a ladder, and never straddle the top of an A-frame ladder. When climbing down, face the ladder and climb to the bottom rung before stepping off.

We’ve developed a short video to illustrate these steps – watch below and check out our YouTube channel for more how-to videos.

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.

One rule to avoid a shock

If you work on or near electricity, never work live.

This is the most important rule for electricians, those most at risk of electrical injuries.

In the past four years, six people died in NSW workplaces and eight were permanently disabled as a result of electrical work.

Eris McCarthy, a 30-year veteran of the electrical industry and managing director of ENN Electricians, says never working live is a basic rule to live by.

“The biggest hazards in our line of work are falls from heights, electrocution and arc faults,” Eris said.

“Many years ago a workmate was pressured by a client into fitting a circuit breaker while a board was still live.

“While fitting the breaker he slipped and created a short circuit, resulting in an arc flash that severely burnt his face and hands.

“He spent ages off work – and the client lost power for considerably longer than the 15 minutes it would have taken to isolate the circuit and complete the job.”

A close second for life-saving rules, Eris said, is test before you touch.

“You can de-energise what you believe should be the circuit you are to work on, but you need to test before you touch in case things are incorrectly labelled, which they often are.”

“I saw a case recently, only last year, when someone worked on a board and, after isolating the circuit, pulled the cable out believing it to be safe, only to find it was incorrectly labelled and live.

“It had been put in the wrong terminal, and this happens all the time!”

Eris said injuries at work affect everyone and lead to a heavy burden of guilt on workers and supervisors. They question themselves endlessly about how it happened and what they could have done to prevent it.

“I think electricians are very aware of the risks they face, but like anyone they can become complacent or fatigued under stress and time pressures.”

The growth of established safety cultures, however, is a positive trend in many organisations, often as a result of a workplace injury.

“After an injury attitudes change and everyone starts looking after each other.”

“In today’s workplace, safety is an integral part of the daily routine and getting the job done cost effectively. Safety management has become part of the workplace culture.”

Mr Tony Robinson, director of WorkCover’s specialist services, agrees that the single most important thing you can do is never work live.

“Start with the golden rule and then do a mental check you’ve covered the other basics,” Mr Robinson said.

When working with electricity:

  • never work live
  • identify all electrical sources before you start
  • assess the risks
  • isolate the supply
  • lock the switch
  • test before you touch
  • reassess if anything changes.

To see these tips in action, watch Electrical safety, or visit for more information.

Plan a fuss-free build with these video tips

Did you know that the rate of serious injury claims in the housing construction industry is higher than any other industry?

In fact, 60 per cent of all housing construction injury claims are considered major, in comparison to the NSW average of 35 per cent.

Good planning and scheduling can address some of the main types of hazards:

  • muscular stress – which can result from lifting or handling bulky and awkward objects
  • tripping or falling over – while moving materials around on site
  • falling from heights – due to unprotected edges or stairwell voids
  • exposure to the sun – due to a lack of awareness around long term effects of exposure.

You can save time, money and injuries with a few expert tips:

Plan when and how materials will be delivered so you know what work is happening onsite when the delivery is scheduled to occur and who will be onsite to receive it. By making a calendar of deliveries you will know what equipment will be required to assist with the movement of materials. You can also train workers ahead of time to learn how to move material safely.

Consider planning and costing hired mechanical equipment, such as cranes or other lifting devices. The money outlaid on a crane or lifting device can be offset by workers spending less time moving loads, leaving labour free for productive tasks. A crane that lifts trusses for a two storey house may save a whole day’s worth of labour and a lot of back pain.

Forward planning and scheduling jobs can help predict when you will have an unprotected stair well void or exposed edges. You can then implement safety controls such as void or edge protection. The internet has plenty of scheduling tools you can adapt to suit the needs of the job.

To avoid excessive sun exposure, schedule tasks for the cooler parts of the day, rotate tasks between exposed workers, work on the shaded side of the building where possible and make shade available for break times. Consider natural shaded areas, canvass, shade cloths, or portable gazebos.

Safety does not have to compromise productivity. With good planning, both small and large businesses can increase productivity and prevent injuries.

Watch the time lapse video to see how quickly and safely this house comes together through good planning.