According to reports Tony Abbott has received a shortlist of 30 potential dam projects from a ministerial task force headed by Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce. The Coalition’s Infrastructure campaigning during the last federal election seems to be coming to fruition, or at least plans seem to be underway.
The list contains the names of new dams for construction as well as the names of existing dams for expansion in Tasmania, Western Australia, Queensland and NSW.
According to an article on Sourceable.net the following are some of dams contained in the shortlist,
In the Sunshine State, proposed projects include a new dam on the Fitzroy River just south of Rockhampton, the expansion of the Burdekin Dam in the north of the state, and the Nathan Dam near Brisbane.
A raft of new dam projects are envisaged for NSW, including an upgrade of the Chaffey Dam near Tamworth and the Menindee Lakes upgrade, both of which have received funding commitments from the Commonwealth, as well as the Needles Gap Dam and the Apsely Dam, which was shelved in the 1980s by the Wran government.
The shortlist also includes the third stage of the Ord River Scheme in the northernmost part of Western Australia, which could help shift water from Western Australia back into the Northern Territory, and a dam project in north-west Tasmania.
The article reminded readers of the fact that the Coalition made the construction of more dams a part of its federal election campaign when Tony Abbott also labelled himself as an “infrastructure Prime Minister in waiting”.
According to the Agricultural Minister the dams are primarily aimed at supporting the nation’s expansion agriculturally and in the mining sector which also demands a lot of water in its functioning. It is also hoped the mines will help revitalise the nation’s regional economies.
Agricultural Minister identified the need for more dams throughout the nation in order to prepare Oz for what Joyce described as a huge potential market for agricultural goods in Asia as well as to prepare for the for the next boom in the resources sector, which may be slowing down at the moment but will likely pick up again in the future.
Joyce also went on to describe how the damming of Queensland’s Fitzroy River and the construction of the Nathan Dam would provide the state with much needed water for the agriculture and mining industries.
Joyce went on to explain about the benefits of the shortlist:
Joyce said the delivery of the shortlist of dam projects was a sign of the government’s determination to make good on its infrastructure campaigning at the last election. He warned, however, that not all of the 30 projects on the shortlist, which had been narrowed down from a total of 100 proposals from prior to the election, were guaranteed to proceed, and that the assessment process was still ongoing.
According to government sources, around half of the projects on the list could commence work quickly, while the remainder would require further consideration.
According to the article the federal cabinet will take into consideration the dams report over the next few weeks but the final decision on which project to support will be made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott thereafter.
SafeWork Australia has recently warned that young workers can be at a risk of workplace injury due to their lack of experience as well as their immaturity. The authority is emphasising through a campaign aimed at young workers that they need to be supervised even more cautiously than other new workers and trained adequately.
Due to the increased risk that young workers are placed in, Safe Work Australia has launched its Young Workers Strategy.
An accident which took place in Oakville, Ontario is an example of what can happen when young people aren’t properly supervised or trained to work on a construction site. The 17 year old boy was hospitalised after the accident which place on the Oakville construction site.
According to an article on the local news site BramptonGuardian.com the boy was assisting in the construction of a trench when a collapse occurred. The post explained:
Police said the male was helping to build a trench on the side of the road near Dundas Road and Third Line when a wall collapsed, trapping him.
Ornge air ambulance attended the scene, but the teen was taken by land ambulance to a local hospital.
The extent of the male’s injuries is unclear.
Police said the Ministry of Labour has been contacted as is protocol.
This incident highlights how important it is for workers in construction to be trained prior to beginning work in this sometimes dangerous industry.
In Australia this prior training takes the form of The White Card course. This training ensures that young workers are familiarised with the hazards associated with construction work, such as trenches before they begin working on this hazardous sites. It is a requirement nationally that all workers undergo this training and obtain a White Card as proof of doing so.
This vulnerability of young workers is why SafeWork Australia has launched the Young Workers Strateg – because young people are often less aware of the risks and lack the maturity to cope well on a high risk work site.
According to SafeWork Australia these young workers often also demonstrate the following which make them vulnerable,
They may also be:
developing their skills, competencies and physical capabilities
unaware of their rights and responsibilities
unaware of the duties of others regarding workplace health and safety
unfamiliar with appropriate workplace behaviours
reluctant to make requests, ask questions or speak out about problems
overly keen to please and make a good impression, and
over-confident in their capabilities.
According to statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics there were 54,458 women and 54,864 men aged between 15 and 24 years in South Australia’s workforce, so those employers who think this issue is not an important one are wrong.
The majority of the young men employed between these ages were employed in the high risk industries, of which construction is one. That is why SafeWork SA is attempting to raise awareness of the issues surrounding these young men and women. They are particularly concerned with providing young workers with accessible information on workplace hazards, safety procedures and workplace rights. These are issues that are covered by the White Card Course as well.
For more information visit SafeWork SA’s website
Queensland authorities have adopted a unique approach to keeping road construction workers safe. Motorists driving along Gateway Motorway in Nudgee would have noticed the bright yellow figurines scattered on the road, which are a new innovative way of warning motorists of road construction.
The large, bright yellow “men” are being used as markers on the road to protect sensitive underground testing equipment and road workers.
The ingenious markers were created by civil construction firm Fulton Hogan and unlike the usual orange cones we’re so used to seeing, the new figurine markers attempt to tap into the psychology of people, helping them consider the human lives on the site.
According to Ron Mitchell from the Department of Main Roads and Transport, this is really the next phase of psychology of keeping people safe.
Mr Mishell explained that the idea for the figurines came from wanting workers to look out for equipment and each other, an issue which is quite serious on road construction sites where the main cause of injury and death is people being run over by vehicles and machinery.
The following excerpt from an article on Abc.net.au explains more from Mr Mishell,
“This really is the next phase of psychology of keeping people safe.
“If people think and want to keep safe there is a good chance they will be.
“The figurines have created a bit of a stir and it has been a good opportunity for us to let people know this is the sort of thing we will do in the future.”
The figurine markers are also equipped with reflective gear for night work just like construction workers are, this is to make it look more real. Mr Mishell explained this is especially useful for keeping trucks at bay on the site,
Mr Mishell said the figurines had also been equipped with reflective gear for night work.
“A lot of work has been done on the reflective gear to make it look like a skeleton for the same principle at night,” he said.
“When the trucks see a skeleton-shaped person rather than a reflective strip on safety vest, it is easy for them to avoid the area.”
In addition to workers being run over by motorists and other construction workers, there were cases of essential equipment being damaged on the site until the figurines were introduced recently. Ultimately, the figurine markers protect both workers and equipment.
Mr Mishell also explained that each figurine had been placed on top of settlement plates that are used by the workers to monitor how much soil can be loaded onto the ground.
Perhaps in the future we may see more sites introducing fluorescent figurine markers which seem to be more effective than the regular old orange cones that we are so used to seeing and which many motorists just seem to ignore.
Mr Mishell said that the initiative was particularly needed in the Nudgee area because of its location near wetlands which make mud and settlement difficult to build highways on. These types of developments improve safety and promote productivity, in the end everyone benefits. Mr Mishell explains:
“This is a great example of innovation by a contractor – to put them on the sensitive gear along the same principle of protecting our workers,” he said.
“None of what we do is cheap; we have all sorts of gear here but more importantly it is to make sure we build things properly,” he explained.
“Safety is the number one priority of all our projects.”
Road construction zones can be dangerous places especially at night. Everyone involved in the construction, maintenance and upkeep of our roads has to be possession of a White Card, just like every other construction worker in Oz.
There are a lot of young people who are looking for the right career and should take construction into consideration. The construction industry may be challenging in terms of health and safety, but the rewards are just as great and at the moment a skills shortage and high demand for workers means that rates are going up and workers are basically making their demands when picking and choosing their employer.
Even those young people with the goal of being their own boss can excel in the construction industry, all that’s needed is years of training and skills development. Specialists in the sector are in demand nationally with housing and infrastructure construction booming.
Deciding on a Trade Skill
One of the most difficult decisions in life is probably what career path to follow. Deciding on a trade and skills that you want to hone may be challenging but will pay off in the long run.
Conducting an aptitude test and seeking career advice from a counsellor can help but most people already know what they enjoy and what they are good at. For example some are more technically minded and prefer working with their hands, whereas others may prefer working with numbers. All these issues need to be considered when making a decision.
Also take into consideration what skills and trades are in the highest demand because these are the ones that you are most likely to find apprenticeships in.
How to Get a Job
According to Forbes.com there are six basic steps to searching for the right job. Below I included some of the steps I find the most useful:
The most useful tip I can give anyone seeking work in the construction sector, whether a skilled and seasoned tradespeople or a young person seeking an apprenticeship is to complete the White Card training. Employers are more interested in candidates that are already in possession of the mandatory White Card than those that still need to complete the training.
The course can be easily completed online with a short verbal assessment conducted over the phone. It is a relatively cost effective way of completing the training and is undoubtedly the most convenient.
A man working as a plasterer on a residential construction site in Trafford in the UK has suffered a broken back after falling 3 meters. As this case points out, even falls from lower heights can be serious.
The man fell from a landing at the construction site of a six bedroomed house. The fall left the workers with a broken back.
According to reports, CB Homes, the company responsible has been fined for failure to make sure adequate guard rails were in place on the first floor landing of the house to prevent falls of this nature.
Due to the company’s negligence, the 58 year old workman was fitting plasterboard when he fell from the open landing on 22 May 2013. The man suffered 2 cracked vertebrae along with damage to his spine, hips and legs.
The court heard that the company had engaged a plastering contractor to plaster the inside of the houses but failed to make sure this work could be carried out safely, which was part of their responsibility.
Inspectors also said that the plasterer needed to use a ladder to reach the first floor and fulfil his duties however despite knowing this, the company failed to act. There was no guard rail in place along the open edge on the landing and this resulted in the plasterer falling while trying to carry a piece of plasterboard. He apparently lost his footing and fell to the ground below.
The court heard that the principal contractor was ultimately responsible for safety at the site. The company should have ensured that work at height was being carried out safely.
The company should have planned and carried out work efficiently and put guard rails in place to prevent a fall.
Building firms who take on big projects ought to be aware of their health and safety duties under the law and ensure that they are providing workers with a safe work environment.
Following the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Laura Moran said:
“A plasterer suffered serious injuries in the fall which could, and should, have been prevented.
As the principal contractor on the site, CB Homes was responsible for making sure work at height could be carried out safely. If the company had planned and supervised the work properly then it could have made sure guard rails were in place.
Companies who take on big construction projects have a legal duty to make sure the tradesmen they bring onto the site can do their job safely. CB Homes fell well below that legal requirement on this occasion.”
In Australia construction safety training not only teaches workers how to work safely on a construction site so that they do not endanger themselves or others, it also teaches them what an employer’s responsibility is, so that workers are aware of what they should expect employers to provide. This is crucial to ensuring that they are not being placed at risk. Workers can take up any instances where employers are failing in their duties to provide a safe work site and safe working system.
Most New Yorkers and visitors to New York rely on the subway system to get them around the city but building, maintaining and managing the subway system is a gargantuan task which also takes an enormous amount of time and effort.
Understandably drilling, digging and constructing under the most populated city in the USA is both costly and complicated. That is why a recent article which demonstrates the enormity of the task is so interesting. The article features a number of pictures which show the current largest project taking place at the Second Avenue Subway line.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has decided to complete some of its incomplete projects which were started as early as 1929 and the 1960s. The incomplete tunnels are now being turned into working train lines, to support the growing population and infrastructure needs of the city.
The pictures in this post were released by the MTA on their Flickr, detailing the ongoing process of construction of 2 major projects.
The Second Avenue subway began construction in 1929 and was started and stopped many times since then through the decades. New Yorkers actually refer to the tunnel as “The Line That Time Forgot”.
Phase 1 is scheduled to open in 2016 and will serve as an extension of the Q line. The 96th Street Station, shown here, is one of three stations being built during Phase 1.
The rest of the 8.5 mile subway line is currently in the planning phase. It is estimated that will cost more than $US17 billion. This is the 86th Street station.
The other long-gestating project is East Side Access. The goal of the project is to ease commutes from Long Island and Queens to the east side of Manhattan through a new 8-track terminal below Grand Central Station. This is a view of the new terminal.
During huge projects like this, which are also usually more high risk than others above ground, it is common for workers to suffer injuries and in the New York subway construction, there have been workers who have lost their lives. It is important that when the hazards are expanded because of unique aspects such as having to work underground (or working in old tunnels which may have degraded over the decades), that safety is prioritised.
In Oz workers must be properly trained and supervised. Employers also need to ensure that they are providing workers with a safe work environment and system of work.
Learn more about Construction Safety Training in Oz.
The construction induction course required by all workers in Oz (engaged in construction work) is The White Card course. Following the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws a few years ago, various state induction cards were replaced by the nationally recognised White Card. Learn more about the White Card here!
According to The HIA (Housing Industry Association) the latest New Home Sales Report, a survey of Australia’s largest volume builders, indicates the ongoing strength of the new home building sector.
In a post Sourceable.net HIA Economist Diwa Hopkins was quoted, explaining that monthly sales volumes remained high throughout last year following the recovery made in the previous year. In fact the growth was quite significant, 2014 sales were 14.4 per cent higher than 2013.
According to the data, December 2014 did see a slight decline in new home sales. Seasonally adjusted new home sales fell by 1.9 per cent but sales increased by 4.9 per cent in the December quarter. The December monthly outcome reflected a drop of 9.2 per cent in multi-unit sales.
Hopkins went on to explain:
“A key change in conditions to the residential construction sector in 2015 is the February cut to the official cash rate to a new historic low,” said Ms Hopkins. “However, it should be noted that this cut was made in the context of a mooted tightening of lending conditions in parts of the housing market.”
“This year will be another healthy one for the national new home building sector,” added Ms Hopkins. “The two key leading indicators of new home building activity, new home sales and residential building approvals, both saw increases during the December quarter of 2014.This is a clear indication that actual residential construction activity will rise in the current early months of 2015, which is good news for the broader domestic economy in addition to the housing sector.”
In Western Australia detached house sales grew by 2.8 per cent in December 2014 and by 2.6 per cent in Queensland.
In South Australia, detached house sales dropped by 5.3 per cent and in Victoria it declined by just 2.6 per cent. Victoria also had a slight decline (1.4 per cent) in New South Wales.
The HIA Report also explained that during the December 2014 quarter, sales increased by 13.4 per cent in Western Australia, 11.6 per cent in Queensland and 2.7 per cent in Victoria. It also indicated that sales declined by 10.3 per cent in New South Wales and by 7.5 per cent in South Australia.
While predictions are for a positive 2015 in terms of housing construction starts, the only way that we will be able to ensure sustainable growth and a profitable 2015 all round is to ensure that we put safety first.
Safety must take priority in 2015 and everyone in the industry – employees as well as employers, must take responsibility for OHS.
Employers carry much of the responsibility for safety in the workplace, having to provide a safe work environment and system of work according to workplace health and safety laws but employees aren’t without responsibility.
Within the construction sector employees must ensure that they conduct themselves in a way that does not endanger their safety or that of co-workers on a construction site. In order to be aware of what “safe behaviour” on a construction site constitutes, workers must complete construction induction training and obtain a White Card as proof of doing so.
The collapse of a rebar structure as a result of inadequate temporary works support has resulted in a warning being issued by the British Health and Safety Executive.
The company responsible, Costain Ltd and Bell Formwork Services Ltd were prosecuted after a rebar structure collapsed on a Birmingham project in November 2012. This collapse caused 2 workers to fall from a scissor lift during the construction of a concrete tank at a new pumping stating and water treatment facility.
The case appeared before the Birmingham Magistrates who heard that 2 steel fixers were working at 5 metres above ground in separate scissor-lifts when reinforcing bar structure collapsed knocking over both scissor lifts with the operators still inside.
One worker remained in the platform when it landed and crashed into a nearby support frame, reports claimed. The man suffered bruising as well as pain to his leg and shoulder.
The other worker was propelled from the platform and suffered bruises to his head, legs and body. Three workers were working below the structure and managed to take cover before being injured.
Following an investigation, it was discovered that the steel reinforcement was unstable because of its size, slenderness of the steel and the weight of the steel at a high level. Authorities said that temporary support should have been in place every 7 metres but only 2 support frames were used at 8.3m spacing leaving an 8m section unsupported.
The principal contractor Costain Limited failed to plan, manage or monitor the work properly even though the risk was evident and the need for temporary support was obvious.
Temporary supports should be given equal attention as permanent reports, as this excerpt from an article on PPConstructionSafety.com goes on to explain:
The Principal Contractor failed to apply their own temporary works management arrangements which would have included a series of checks. There was “no managerial level supervision or monitoring during these early stages of the work”.
The company pleaded guilty to the breaches and was ordered to pay fines of £15,000 as well as costs of £1,980.
Similar incidents have taken place on numerous occasions here in Australia, even over the last few years. Speaking after the hearing, the health and safety executive inspector Luke Messenger explained:
“This was a serious incident and considering the size and weight of the wall, and the height from which the scissor-lifts overturned, it is extremely fortunate that no serious or even fatal injuries occurred.
Construction and related companies need to ensure that the same degree of care and attention is given to the design and construction of temporary structures as it is to the design and construction of permanent works. Everything must be properly planned so it can be carried out safely by their staff.
Both companies were experienced in their industry and should have done better.”
According to a report on the Yahoo News website, Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill Project is under threat after concerns about safety standards were raised on the site.
The concerns centred around an incident involving collapsing supporting jacks that gave way recently under heavy construction module at the project’s processing plant.
The incident happened last week but is only the latest in a number of potentially fatal safety incidents at the processing plant.
Just last month the use of cranes and heavy lifting equipment was banned at the processing facility. The Department of Mines and Petroleum took action following a string of incidents at the site which involved the lead contractor Samsung C&T and its contractors on the site.
The following excerpt from the Yahoo article explains some of the prior incidents,
They included a snapped cable during a 100-tonne lift, the discovery of serious equipment damage on a 400t crane because of incorrectly rigged cables, and other examples of damage caused by incorrect equipment use.
An investigation into a separate incident, in which a grader operated by Roy Hill contractors was hit by an empty BHP Billiton ore train, is still to deliver its report.
Roy Hill’s efforts to demonstrate it c
ould operate its lifting equipment safely were marred by another accident, after a crane toppled over during a supervised test-lift.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum lifted the prohibition notices after 3 days but also issued four improvement notices during follow-up safety inspections. These improvement notices were related to training and operating procedure failures at the processing facility.
The project is believed to be running significantly behind in its construction schedule even before safety bans. The project is working towards a September target according to reports, hoping to ship its first load of ore by then however at the moment the project is only 74 per cent complete.
In a statement issued by a Roy Hill spokeswoman it was confirmed,
“A module located in the cordoned-off laydown area at the mine processing plant shifted from the mechanical clamps, which were fitted on to the module at the point of origin and commencement of road transport to Roy Hill,” she said.
“The incident is being investigated by Samsung C&T and its subcontractors.”
Mining Construction Safety and The White Card
Mining construction, like other types of construction is high risk work. That is why the construction induction White Card is mandatory for those involved in mining construction because anyone involved in any type of construction needs to be prepared for the hazards and controls associated with the work. They also need to be educated about what Australian law says about construction health and safety and their duty in it.
The White Card is mandatory for all types of construction in Australia and it can be obtained by completing a short online course. Also the accreditation gained is valid nationally so there is no need to repeat the training when moving to a different site and/or a different state.
Bad weather and shoddy workmanship are a dangerous combination as the driveway collapse on a Sydney building site recently proved.
The accident involving a portion of a building site and a driveway collapsing into a construction pit was caused by poor workmanship and bad weather, according to an engineer. Following the collapse reports stated continued wet weather was still hampering efforts to stabilise a three storey unit just a few metres from the pit.
The 3 storey Collaroy unit block was evacuated due to a gas main being ruptured during the collapse. Residents of the block were only allowed to return the following day because of safety concerns.
Geotechnical Engineer David Dickson explained:
“It’s unfortunate that this continuing wet weather appears to have softened the ground around and they’ve had a collapse due to inadequate shoring,” geotechnical engineer David Dickson told the Seven Network.
According to reports fire crews and engineers were on the site all day assessing it and the builders were instructed to backfill under the collapsed driveway. Police were also on the scene.
Poor workmanship is one of the factors that is said to have contributed to this incident, this is something that needs to be addressed with the site supervisor and workers involved however bad weather and its effects on construction are something that all construction workers need to be aware of and prepared for.
Rain particularly heavy rains or prolonged periods of rain can be detrimental not only to construction but also safety, worker safety and the safety of the public.
Obviously heavy rains are unpleasant to work in but the presence of heavy or torrential rain will reduce visibility for the drivers of construction vehicles, and will turn the ground into mud which poses its own risks to the health and safety of all site workers.
Construction site operators not only have a duty to look after the health and safety of their own workers, but also towards the general public who may be affected by their operations. In this case the driveway collapse could have resulted in a member of the public falling into the hole created.
Also employers must be proactive in preventing mud or other debris from leaving the construction site and possibly hampering the safety of the public on the road.
Employers often neglect the need for tyre and undercarriage cleaning systems to wash off mud and debris which vehicles leaving the site need to go through before they exit.
Employers also need to be aware that structures under construction are more susceptible to collapse during heavy rainfall such as the driveway that collapsed in the incident above, workers need to be protected from the possibility of being injured during structural collapses.
It is also important that we are aware that our weather patterns are changing. Rainfall patterns are also therefore varying, some areas which weren’t prone to heavy rain are receiving dangerously high volumes and other areas are getting rain during times of the year when it is usually dry seasons. Employers should not be caught off guard because of climate change and the changing rainfall patterns.
Winter has arrived and it seems people all around us are either getting sick or recovering from some sort of flu or cold. It is no different in the workplace and for workers that spend most of their time outdoors it is important to protect one’s health and guard against the common cold and flus.
Although most of us are prepared to do whatever it takes to ward off colds and flus and protect our bodies from the contagious bugs that are so easily spread during this time of year, we often fail to do what it takes to protect our mental wellbeing, although numerous experts can attest that it is equally important to our overall wellbeing.
According to a team of American psychologists from Saint Louis University, stress can actually be contagious, as contagious as a cold, so in a work environment it is important to address issues that contribute to excessive stress.
According to the psychologists stress has become an endemic, particularly in The United States where it affects almost everyone.
The researchers wanted to examine how susceptible perfect strangers were to second hand stress. The following excerpt from an article on Smh.com.au explains how the psychologists went about their study,
To test the theory, they took a group of participants and asked some to perform a public speaking or mental arithmetic challenge while the others observed.
The researchers measured the levels of cortisol and a stress-related salivary enzyme in the stressed speakers and the observers.
They found that the stress response in the witnesses was “proportional to that of their paired speakers and not influenced by gender”.
Stress can be passed on through things like tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and even odour.
If stress is contagious, it is even more reason for employers and managers to assist workers who are struggling with this issue in the workplace because the more it is allowed to fester, the more it will grow and spread to others in the workplace. Before long we could end up with an entirely stressed out workforce, affecting morale on site and negatively impacting productivity.
Also keep in mind that stress affects our physical health because experts say people who are under emotional stress are more likely to become sick physically. During colds and flu season, people who are emotionally stressed seem to have a lower immune system and succumb to sickness more than those who are emotionally healthy.
Within a construction environment, or in fact any high risk work environment, stress can also contribute to a reduction in workplace safety as workers aren’t as alert while stressed as they normally would be.
Employers should also consider that following an accident or near miss (or any emergency on a work site), workers need to be counselled and assisted to mentally and emotionally overcome the situation because stress has the ability to resonate even after a tense experience has taken place. The article on Smh.com.au goes on to explain the findings of another study which explains:
A separate, small-scale study by the University of California, in collaboration with New York University, found that stress can resonate even in the aftermath of a tense experience.
The researchers separated a group of mothers from their babies for a short period. The mothers were then divided into groups and asked to give an impromptu speech to a panel, who watched passively, with positive facial expressions or whilst scowling.
The babies were then reunited with their mothers and both their heart rates were measured. It was found that the baby’s heart rates mirrored that of their mother.
“The greater the mother’s stress response, the greater the infant’s stress response – an association that actually became stronger over time,” the authors said.
The actions of builders have serious implications for the health and safety of everyone on a work site, which is why wilful disregard of safety cannot be tolerated, especially in an industry such as construction where there are so many high risk activities taking place, most often simultaneously. Although companies should try to avoid receiving warnings from authorities, companies that breach safety, receive a warning and still fail to act to address the issue are a particular concern.
A British house builder found himself in hot water with the Health and Safety Executive after he failed to act after receiving several warnings. The construction firm, Waterloo Construction (Manchester) Ltd was fined £10k (Aus$19,039.14) for failure to act on HSE warnings.
The company allowed bricks on its site to be stacked on scaffolding platforms without putting into place any measures to stop bricks from falling and injuring people below.
The case was recently heard before Trafford Magistrates Court and it was revealed during the hearing that an inspector visited the building site on 14 November 2013 and discovered the breaches of health and safety laws, warnings were issued. On visiting the site again, it was discovered that the issues had not been corrected.
The following excerpt from PPConstructionSafety.com explains about the breaches:
Bricks were stored on a scaffolding platform above the height of the toe board, which meant there was a risk of them falling if they became dislodged. A Prohibition Notice was issued requiring the bricks to be stored at ground level or for brick guards to be used.
Three further visits to April 2014 found bricks still being stacked on scaffolding platforms with no measures in place to prevent them from falling.
In addition to the £10,000 fine, the company was ordered to pay £1,445 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to the breach and failing to comply with a Prohibition Notice.
After the hearing Health and Safety Executive Inspector Laura Moran spoke about the case and how it should serve as a warning to other construction firms. Moran stated:
“If one of the bricks had fallen from the scaffolding and struck someone on the ground below then they could have suffered serious head injuries.
We gave Waterloo Construction several opportunities to improve safety, returning to the site on three separate occasions after my initial visit, but bricks continued to be stacked unsafely on scaffolding.
This case should act as a warning to other construction firms. The notices that HSE issues are legally enforceable and companies will find themselves in court if they fail to take action.”
Although this incident takes place thousands of kilometres away, across the pond, it can serve as a useful warning to others in the construction sector, even here in Oz…
If given an opportunity to improve safety, take it.
Don’t try to negate health and safety responsibilities even after being issued with warnings. The White Card is crucial in teaching workers what their responsibilities are on the work site and what they should expect from their employer, this will help employees recognise when their employers are placing them at risk and issues need to be addressed.
Corruption in the construction industry has become a major issue recently, one that affects many in the industry whether they are aware of it or not. That is why the federal government and the Victorian state government have combined forces to target criminality, organised crime and corruption in the industry.
Prime Minister Abbott recently announced that a joint police taskforce has been formed to investigate evidence of criminal conduct which was unearthed during the recent Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
According to Prime Minister Abbott the task force will address corruption, organised crime and even violence in the construction industry taking firm, decisive and swift action against these illegal actions.
Prime Minister Abbott expressed his concern about the quantity of evidence that emerged which showed evidence of criminal conduct in a letter written to him by the Royal Commissioner following the hearings.
An article on Sbs.com.au carried the following quote from the letter:
“Where he said, and I quote. “The inquiry has thus far revealed evidence of criminal conduct which includes widespread instances of physical and verbal violence, cartel conduct, secondary boycotts, contempt of court and the encouragement of others to commit these contempts.” The commissioner went on, “Some officials appear to regard their unions as having immunity not only from the norms and sanctions of the Australian legal system but also from any social or community standards shared by other Australians.”
Health and safety in the construction industry should be of primary concern and any criminal activities not only hamper safety efforts but also draw attention away from it, which can be dangerous. Any attempt to rid the industry of this type of criminal activity should be welcomed by all in the construction sector.
However the The Australian Council of Trade Unions says the announcement pre-empts the results of the Royal Commission and according to its assistant secretary Tim Lyons, serious corruption allegations should have been handled by the police first. He believes that this is a particular attack on the unions by the government because of their support of the Labor party.
Lyons was quoted as saying:
“Any time you see politicians, announcing what the police are going to do, it’s deeply political, particularly when the police aren’t there. I think it was telling that you had the Prime Minister and the Premier saying, “This is what the police are going to do,” and no police. In the end, the entire public needs to have confidence that the police investigate any crime no matter who the allegation is against, and it’s not used as some sort of partisan instrument to try to make a political point in the middle of an election campaign.”
While Bill Shorten, the Opposition leader said that corruption must be addressed however he did question whether the announcement of the taskforce was appropriately timed. He went on to state:
“I suspect this announcement and the timing of it is more to do with Victorian electoral politics because of the chaos he has created for the Napthine Government by Premier Napthine’s Liberal political party leader in Canberra Tony Abbott introducing new petrol taxes for all Victorian motorists. In terms of the actual announcement of corruption in the building sector, Labor firmly believes, fundamentally believes that the workplace and industrial relations is no place for criminal activity.”
The boom in the Australian housing market has catapulting Oz to the top of the rich list according to the latest study of global wealth by Credit Suisse.
According to the Swiss Investment bank’s fifth annual wealth study, Australians are among the richest people in the world, thanks in part to the recent boom in the nation’s housing market.
The bank’s annual study of wealth trends around the world revealed that at the moment Australia is the most affluent nation on the planet in terms of wealth distribution. In June it was determined that the median Australian adult is worth over US$225,000 (AU$258,000), more than the average in any other country.
In fact Oz is doing so well on the list that even the country behind them, Belgium is lagging quite far behind with median wealth of US$173,000. Following behind Belgium is Italy, France and Britain where the median wealth is around US$110,000.
The following excerpt from an article on Sourceable.net explains further:
The reason for the exorbitant wealth of the average Australian adult is the heavy representation of “real assets” – referring to property – in the household balance of wealth, in tandem with the continuous gains logged by the country’s housing market on the back of low interest rates and surging foreign investment.
Real assets average US$319,700 per household in Australia, accounting for 60 per cent of gross assets.
The report also highlights that since the turn of century, the average Aussie adult has more than quadrupled their net wealth. There has been an impressive rise from US$103,151 to US$431,000.
The article went on to highlight that according to this measure Australia is the second wealthiest population, following behind Switzerland where the adult’s mean net wealth is US$581,000.
Further good news for Australians came with the revelation that the nation does not suffer from the same levels of inequality and distorted distribution of wealth as many other wealthy nations experience. In Australia, wealth is fairly evenly distributed when compared with the distribution of wealth in other wealthy nations. Much of this wealth distribution has to do with the construction and housing boom as the article goes on to explain:
Credit Suisse researchers categorise Australia as nation with “medium inequality,” meaning that the top 10 per cent control between 50 and 60 per cent of the wealth.
According to analysts, the comparatively egalitarian nature of wealth distribution in Australia can also be attributed to the property boom, as rising home prices reduce inequality given their greater share of middle class assets.
Credit Suisse Private Bank chief investment strategist David McDonald went on to state:
“These are obviously remarkable figures for Australia,” said Credit Suisse Private Bank chief investment strategist David McDonald. “We are well positioned globally in terms of wealth, as well as the spread of wealth.”
The collapse of a scaffolding on a construction site in Beijing has resulted in the deaths of 10 workers, with four others being injured. Thankfully no school children were hurt during the collapse on the site at a high ranking Beijing high school.
The accident happened at the beginning of a school day at the Tsinghua High School in Beijing’s northwest. Luckily it didn’t affect any classrooms or students.
A statement issued by authorities said that those injured were in a stable condition. According to a school official the workers were building the school gymnasium at the campus, which is a high school affiliated with one of the country’s top universities.
The school official said that no students or teachers had been injured in the accident. An article on www.HeraldSun.com.au described the heartache of the relatives who had lost loved ones in the incident,
Relatives of the victims waited outside the school gates to be allowed in. A teary-eyed man said his cousin had been working there and a co-worker at the construction site had called to tell him there had been an accident.
Another relative, Wang Zhiquan, said the accident had claimed the life of his nephew Chen Haijun, a 42-year-old migrant worker from Heilongjiang province in China’s northeast.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that an initial investigation had found that steel bars, used to reinforce concrete structures, had collapsed and caused the accident, citing local authorities.
The police apparently had several suspects in mind who they detained following the incident.
Something that this article illustrates all too well is the huge impact such an accident has not only the workers involved but also their co-workers, families and friends.
Employers in the construction industry have not only a legal duty of care to provide workers with a safe work environment and system of work, but also have an ethical and moral responsibility to workers and their families.
While most employers are aware of their responsibilities, the number of incidents that occur annually even here in Oz, are evidence that safety is being neglected on many construction sites.
Start by Training Workers
A good place to start when reviewing whether health and safety efforts are adequate is training. In the construction industry in Oz, the first form of training that workers must undergo is White Card or general construction induction training.
This training is mandatory for all construction workers and should be completed before workers even begin work, it is not an on-the-job type of training but rather equips workers beforehand about construction health and safety in general. It is best completed online because this is a simple and cost effective method of completing the training.
Once all workers have proven that they have completed the training by producing the actual White Card as proof, employers must ensure that they are provided with additional site specific training. In addition workers in high risk jobs such as crane operation must have the necessary training to do so.
Five construction workers were injured recently when a commercial building they were working on in Nelsons Grant, York County, Virginia collapsed onto them. The accident which took place in Virginia in The USA is an example of the risks that construction workers are exposed to everyday on the job and why health and safety training should be the top priority of employers.
According to authorities, workers were injured during the collapse but none suffered life-threatening injuries. One of the five injured workers who were trapped under debris was flown to hospital for treatment.
Wooden trusses that had fallen onto the workers had to be stabilized by the emergency crew who also worked to pull the injured workers out of the debris, according to Assistant Fire Chief Paul Long. In an article on a local news site, Mr Long said that the cause of the collapse was still unknown but heavy winds are suspected to be the culprit.
Dave Newcomb, owner of Construction Services of Tidewater, the contractor on the commercial building, said the wooden trusses collapsed due to heavy winds. The article went on to explain:
“This has never happened before,” Newcomb said. “They didn’t do anything wrong. They were following all the rules. It looked fine. I have been doing this for 35 years.”
Four workers were on the ground when the roof collapsed and one man suffered several broken bones as a result of being trapped under the debris. The article went on to explain:
His construction crew had set the trusses and braced or nailed down some of the trusses Friday before lunch, he said. They continued bracing the trusses after lunch and while three workers were harnessed in the trusses the trusses collapsed, Newcomb said. One of the three became trapped and the crew cut the trusses loose from him. They waited until emergency personnel arrived to move him, Newcomb said.
The site of the building which collapsed onto 5 workers, sending one of them to hospital for treatment of injuries.
Although there is little that any one worker can do to avoid incidents of this nature, especially if the wind was to blame, it is important that workers are properly trained for the work they are undertaking so that standards are upheld and workers know how to respond to emergency situations.
All workers engaged in construction should be properly trained on their specific duties as well as on site safety in general. In the case above, the possibility of heavy winds should have been considered prior to work beginning.
Workers in Oz have to complete both general construction safety training, in the form of the White Card as well as more site specific training which covers aspects specific to hazards on the site, safety plans, ppe etc. If all workers are in possession of the necessary accreditation, training and supervision, incidents of this nature are less likely to occur.
Learn safety information here
Following reports that construction activity wasn’t going to keep up with population growth and the need for housing it creates, the approval of a record number of homes in the 12 months to November 2014 means that construction may actually be able to keep up with needs.
In an article on TheReporter.com.au the latest home approval figures from The Australian Bureau of Statistics was released.
The figures show that 18,245 new homes were approved in November which brings the annual figure to 199,174.
In the article Residential Development Council executive director Nick Proud was quoted saying that this figure was a sign that the construction industry seemed to be on track to meet growing demand. Mr Proud explained:
“To show the current strength of the November 2014 ABS Building Approvals result, the same 12-month period ending November 2011 saw only 158,298 homes approved which is over 40,000 fewer residential approvals than today’s result.
Basically the number of new homes being built may finally be enough to meet the growing demand of the expanding population. This will not only mean housing will be a little more affordable for consumers but it also means that activity in the construction industry is healthy – good news for construction workers and builders.
The article on TheReporter.com.au went on to explain what some of the implications of this revelation would be,
“It appears that the number of homes being built is finally catching up with population growth and this result can positively support improved affordability if coupled with the introduction of supply side efficiencies in land release, development assessment and tax reform in 2015-16.
“Additional income from GST and stamp duties from roughly 40,000 extra homes underscores the potential to consider a mature consistent approach to competition policy particularly in areas such as planning reform to ensure that the strong cycle is not lost to poor planning outcomes.”
Given the amount of growth taking place we should not forget that safety needs to take precedence over anything else related to construction and productivity.
Forecaster BIS Shrapnel recently released its latest industry report which claims that the building upturn will likely continue for the next half a decade.
According to BIS Shrapnel Building Industry Prospects Report for September, an increase in house prices and residential building activity in 2014/15, is accompanied by an 8 per cent increase in renovation activity.
As construction activity remains high all across Oz, it is important for workers, employers, safety managers and potential construction workers to take into consideration the importance of safety training. Throughout the country, workers must complete general construction induction training. This training is known as The White Card – it is the national construction accreditation required for access onto a building site for work. For more about this White Card accreditation, click here.
The commencement of work on the Princes Highway Bypass is welcomed news. Both tradespeople and motorists in the area are pleased that the project is finally beginning.
The upgrade means that trucks will be diverted off the main street and around the town, which both businesses and individuals in the area are breathing a sigh of relief about.
The following excerpt from an article on Smh.com.au explains further:
The $580 million upgrade of 11 kilometres of highway will mean trucks that have ploughed through Berry’s main street for decades will be diverted around the town.
Businesses and locals expressed relief that construction had started on Thursday.
A manager of the Berry village boutique hotel, Samantha Gothard was quoted in the article explaining how the upgrade would have a significant positive impact on members of the community including the elderly. She explained:
“Elderly locals travel to Nowra to shop because they are too frightened to cross the road,”
She also explained that the town was not afraid of a loss of business as a result of the bypass and the loss of passing traffic. She went on to state:
“People who want to come to Berry will come to Berry and we have enough already without waiting an hour in traffic.”
Premier Mike Baird said the bypass was a significant transport infrastructure investment in the NSW south coast. Local tradespeople are going to particularly benefit from the construction. Around 400 new construction jobs are expected to be created by the project from now until its completion in 2018. Mr Baird also stated:
“This upgrade is great news for motorists who use this road and also for local tradespeople, as the project will create about 400 construction jobs.”
Let’s make sure that all these people are qualified to undertake this work by first completing White Card training!
A number of infrastructure projects taking place in NSW have resulted in a boost in the economy of the state but also had a positive impact on local employment figures. In particular the construction industry is benefiting from the activity with workers being employed by numerous government funded infrastructure projects around NSW.
The increase in large infrastructure projects such as highways, the airport, the university and the hospital are all contributing to growth in the sector and an increase in employment opportunities corresponding with growth.
The commencement of a number of large scale projects means that a lot of work in the construction sector is being generated in the state.
Citizens and especially motorists in NSW need to be patient and obey the rules of the road, particularly around road construction zones, which they are likely to experience many of in the near future. For the sake of workers on these sites, who are often placed at the mercy of drivers around road construction zones, motorists are being urged to be patient, obey the rules of the road and the signs posted around/leading-up-to the construction zone.
More members of the construction industry in Oz have spoken out about the looming skills shortage in the industry and the implications for the future of the industry.
The Master Builders Association recently posted an article on their website which detailed new information from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research showing that the total number of apprentices in training has dropped dramatically.
According to statistics the number of apprentices in training within the industry fell from 56,000 as at June 2013, to 43,100 in June 2014. This was a 23 per cent decline from 2010’s figures.
Master Builders Australia’s chief executive officer, Wilhelm Harnisch said that judging by the research, the number of apprentices completing their apprenticeships was much less than those needed to replace retiring construction workers.
According to Harnisch completion rates of between 11,100 and 14,500 annually were less than one third of the number of workers retiring each year which is roughly 30,000. He went on to explain what this meant for the industry,
“This is a dramatic drop for an industry that will be one of the growth sectors in the economy and with an annual exit rate of 30,000 construction workers each year due to retirement,” Harnisch said, referring to the aforementioned fall in apprentice numbers in the system and adding that the sector will become increasingly reliant upon foreign labour if insufficient numbers of new trainees come though.
Harnisch concluded with a warning that we need to see huge improvement in apprenticeship starts if we are to avoid losing billions of dollars of investment in the construction industry. He explained:
“Unless there is a dramatic increase in the number of people in skills training, then the building and construction industry is heading for a skills crisis putting billions of dollars of investment at risk.”
Encouraging New Workers to Consider Construction
It is important that not only are people encouraged to return to construction, now that activity levels have risen once again but it is also important that young people are encouraged to enter the industry as apprentices so that they can be trained on a construction skill.
In particular labourers, tilers, plumbers, electricians and roofers are going to be in high demand if more apprentices aren’t trained in these trades.
In the recent past many were put off from the construction sector because of a lack of job opportunities and the perceived risk. Now it is important that young people are encouraged and made aware of the improvements in the industry in terms of safety and opportunities.
One of the ways that people can be reassured about the industry’s commitment to health and safety, reviewing safety statistics which show obvious declines in injury and fatality rates. Much of the improvements in health and safety can be attributed to the commitment of workers, employers, health and safety professionals as well as government.
The White Card training course is undoubtedly one of the things that has contributed to a safer and more productive industry and has been mandated by the federal government for everyone in the construction industry.
The Newman state government has recently announced that new licensing restrictions will come into effect this year aimed at stopping the scourge of bikie gangs on construction sites in Queensland.
The harsh new laws to halt the spread of bikie gangs in the state will see members of these gangs banned from working on construction sites. The laws will come into effect in the second half of the year, despite the extension of an ongoing trade union inquiry.
The state government confirmed that new licensing restrictions, scheduled to come into effect on July 2, 2015 will stop the members and associates of bikie gang members from engaging in work on construction sites in Queensland.
The law which would ban bikies in the building industry was originally planned to come into effect at the start of July 2014 but was delayed because it would require members of the industry including all trades people such as electricians, plumbers, builders, roofers etc. to cut all connections with members of bikie gangs or risk being de-registered.
Two weeks before the law was supposed to come into effect last year, the government announced that it would be rescheduled. The ban was delayed for a year in order for the Federal Government to conduct a trade union inquiry.
According to an article on Sourceable.net.au the inquiry was extended by another year in order to carry out more investigations. The post explains that according to the office of Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie, there are no plans to defer the licensing restrictions as a result.
The following excerpt from the Sourceable.net article explains,
The Newman government has implemented harsh new laws directed against Queensland’s bikie gangs over the past year, in direct response to a violent brawl between the Bandidos and the Finks that took place in Broadbeach toward the end of 2013.
The laws are significant because the state government believes that around 300 of an estimated 1500 outlaw bikies in Queensland have withdrawn from their former gangs as a result of the strict new measures.
Motorcycle gangs as well as civil rights activists have complained that some of the measures are excessive, despite the crackdown have already proven to curb the activities on outlaw gangs on construction sites. The unions have also come out against the laws as the article went on to detail:
Unions have also criticised changes to licensing requirements, with John Battams, president of the Queensland Council of Unions, calling the them “too broad a brush” for dealing with the problem of bikie gangs.
The Electrical Trades Union has been particularly critical of the slated licensing changes, claiming that they would imperil the employment prospects of innocent workers without criminal backgrounds.
The Electrical Trade Union state secretary Peter Simpson said that at least 50 members of the union could be unfairly affected by the new licensing requirements. He was quoted as saying:
“It’s manifestly unfair to pick on people because of who they hang around with,” said Simpson.
According to a report on construction website www.constructionenquirer.com a new advancement in the world of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been made which may be of benefit to those in the construction industry.
The development has been described as the world’s lightest site safety glasses and has been developed and recently launched by JSP.
PPE are particularly important on worksites like construction sites because of the variety of hazards that are present and the risk they pose to workers, which if not removed, controlled by some other means or substituted with a less risky method of work, need to be minimised. One of the ways the risks associated with these hazards are minimised is using PPE.
Safety glasses are one of the ways that risks to worker’s eyes can be minimised and the new light weight glasses are useful because they give workers less of an excuse not to wear them. Many workers fail to utilise PPE because they find it uncomfortable or a hindrance to work, but the more comfortable and easy to use equipment is made, the more likely workers are to make use of them.
The following excerpt from the article on ConstructionEnquirer.com explains more about the development:
The Stealth glasses comply with all safety standards.
JSP said: “Many companies’ mandatory eye protection policies state that employees must wear their safety eyewear at all times during the working day.
“In these cases, the lighter the eyewear, the more it ensures day-long comfort and encourages compliance.
“Super-light eyewear such as the Stealth 16g gives substantial benefit to workers in industries such as construction.”
Although personal protective equipment is the last line of defence against construction hazards, they are still compulsory and can mean the difference between a minor injury and a fatality. In the case of safety glasses they can save a worker’s eyesight or their entire eye in some instances which threaten it such as work with blow torches or other tools.
How white card can help
Training is one of the most vital steps in a site’s safety plan. Ensuring that workers have received all the necessary training is an important part of maintaining a safe site, that includes site specific and white card training.
When it comes to PPE, very often they prove useless if utilised incorrectly which is why training is so important. Workers should not just be provided with PPE and left without training on how to correctly use them.
White Card training provides workers with basic construction safety training which teaches them about the general hazards associated with construction work. It is a mandatory for all workers, in addition to any other site specific and task specific training that the employee may undergo. The white card course also teaches them their responsibilities such as their duty of care to utilise PPE as and when instructed to do so by their employer. It also teaches workers about what the duties of the employer are, including the provision of properly working, adequate PPE for the job as well as PPE training.
A recent survey published by Associated General Contractors of America highlighted that road construction zone driving accidents were at an all-time high in the United States. In Oz we may not have as high accident rate as they do in the United States, but we can also learn a lesson of caution from what is going on in that country.
The revelation that road construction accidents was on the up in the States was highlighted by an accident that took place in Hillsboro, North Dakota involving a Minneapolis man who was killed in a rollover accident in a construction zone one evening recently. According to eye witness reports the driver was driving recklessly at the time and attempted to overtake a tractor trailer in the construction zone on the shoulder of the road when he lost control. The following report on the accident appeared on www.thedickinsonpress.com
Witnesses reported seeing the driver passing on the shoulder at high speeds when he lost control while passing a tractor-trailer.
North Dakota State Highway Patrol Sgt. Greg Smith said the crash happened about 7:42 p.m. Monday about 4 miles north of Hillsboro. Hillsboro is about 40 miles north of Fargo.
Smith said the victim was headed south in his black 2007 Chevrolet HHR in a section of I-29 that had been restricted to one lane because of construction.
After losing control, the car rolled several times. The driver was ejected and pronounced dead at the scene.
This is the worst type of accident which can occur due to reckless driving around road construction zones because it resulted in a fatality.
According to the survey published earlier this month American drivers are failing to take appropriate caution when approaching road construction zones. The survey took into consideration the responses of over 400 contractors who engage in road construction across The United States.
The survey surprisingly revealed that 45 per cent of the contractors had experienced at least one crash involving a motor vehicle within a work zone in which they operated. Sixty-nine per cent of these experienced multiple crashes and more than a quarter said five or more crashes occurred.
The survey also revealed that vehicle drivers and occupants were more likely to be killed or injured than construction workers in these accidents, so educating the public is also an important consideration.
Contractors also claimed that accidents caused by drivers around work zones contributed to delays due to shutdowns in the work site. Almost half of these delays lasted at least 2 days or more.
The implementation of stricter laws and penalties for non-compliance as well as an increase in the use of concrete barriers has been suggested by contractors involved in the survey. They also suggested more frequent training as a solution.
Tom Case, chair of ACG’s national highway and transportation division and senior vice president of Watsonville, California based Granite Construction cited the importance of drivers slowing down. He was quoted by an article on Sourceable.net:
“There is little margin for error when you work within a few inches of thousands of fast-moving vehicles,” he said. “As the data makes clear, not enough drivers are slowing down and staying alert near work sites.”
“Ensuring proper work zone safety starts and ends with cautious drivers.”
It may come as a surprise but according to an investigation recently conducted, muscles and tendons are the most frequently injured part of the body.
The investigation conducted by the APN shows that muscles and tendons are the most frequent areas for workplace injuries in the south-west Queensland.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, sprains and strains induced by lifting, pushing, pulling and bending are the most common injuries sustained at work and especially so in industries were manual labour is involved such as the construction industry.
Why is this issue important? Because in last year there were 169 people killed on the job and thousands more injured. Although the overall number of workplace injuries increased, the numbers of muscle and tendon injuries were the highest compared to other injuries.
The following is an excerpt from a post on SafetyCulture.com.au that explains further:
Around 169 people in Australia have been killed while on their job this year while 167 died in 2013. In the 2012-2013 financial year, the State Government reported about 8,030 injuries in south-west Queensland, which includes Ipswich, Toowomba and Warwick.
Overall, the figures went down 1,500 on the previous 12 months but muscle and tendon injuries showed 2,020 incidents which make it the most common areas for workplace injuries. Also showing an alarming rate are wounds, amputations and organ damage with 1,910 cases being reported. Joint and ligament, and soft tissue trauma were also included on the most common workplace injuries.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics also reported that sprains and strains brought about by lifting, pushing, pulling and bending are the most common hurts.
Muscle and Tendon Injuries in Construction
An overwhelming number of injuries in the construction workplace are sprains and strains of the muscles. In addition to this, construction work can also cause injuries to the joints, bones, and nerves. These injuries often occur from constant wear and tear on the body particularly to those workers involved in manual handling. Together these injuries are called musculoskeletal disorders and are a common yet often ignored source of pain to workers.
Generally, musculoskeletal disorders in construction workers affect the hand and wrist, the shoulders, neck and upper back, the low back, and the hips and knees. The back is usually were most workers complain of pain and this is also the area that hinders them from undertaking their regular tasks on the work site.
There are a number of common risk factors associated with injuries to the back. They include:
Employers should identify these risks beforehand and address them so that workers aren’t exposed.
Manual handling is one of the topics covered in brief by the general construction induction training course- The White Card course, together with other topics relevant to work in the construction environment.
It is every construction employers’ responsibility to ensure their workers are in possession of a White Card before beginning work on the site. They must also provide workers with any additional relevant training. Workers have a responsibility to complete the White Card course before beginning work on any construction site in Oz, to ensure they don’t suffer sprains, strains and other unnecessary injuries induced by construction work.
According to Sourceable.net, a leading construction industry website, Melbourne is going through a boom in the apartment construction sector, based on the number of building approvals.
The nationwide boom in the housing construction sector doesn’t seem to be slowing any time soon and in Melbourne apartment starts in particular are on the rise. This is good news for builders, developers as well as anyone employed by the construction sector because it means sustained work for the next few years or as long as the boom holds out.
However people already engaged in construction work aren’t the only ones to benefit from the upturn in activity. Even those people still grappling with the idea of what career to embark on or whether or not to enter the construction should take this as an encouraging sign. Employment figures in the industry are up and skilled workers in this sector are able to be more choosy about what they want and demand from their employers.
According to the article on Sourceable.net, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of new houses and apartments approved for construction, rose by 7.5 per cent to come in at 18,245 – a record high figure.
The following excerpt from the article explains that Victoria is the leader when it comes to apartment construction starts,
Victoria led the way as a 38 percent surge in multi-residential approvals from an already high base saw overall approval numbers (seasonally adjusted) jump by almost 20 percent in that state.
Having defied expectations of a pull-back in activity amid significant volumes of new stock hitting the market following high levels of building activity in recent years, the state’s capital of Melbourne is experiencing a boom in apartment building that shows no sign of abating.
Last month, for instance, Central Equity appointed Brookfield Multiplex to build its $135 million Australis Melbourne Apartments tower including 46 storeys of one, two and three bedrooms encased by a glass façade on Little Lonsdale Street.
– See more at: http://sourceable.net
Experts predict that strong levels of construction activity will last for at least several years, which is further good news for members of the industry.
Shane Garret, Housing Industry Association Senior Economist said of the sustained growth,
“Residential construction was the economy’s good news story during 2014, and today’s figures indicate that we can look forward to another positive year for the industry,” Garrett said.
“With weaknesses in several areas of the Australian economy, new home building has come to life at an opportune time.”
“I think there are a few different things going on,” he said. “The interest rate situation is one of them, but you can’t ignore the fact that prices in Victoria and Melbourne in particular have been rising so strongly in the past year and a half. That’s definitely encouraging people to develop land and build more units.”
See more at: http://sourceable.net
If the growth in the industry has enticed you or someone you know to seek work in this industry, you need to first become eligible by completing the mandatory safety training. The White Card course which can be completed online, is a pass onto a construction site in Oz, without which workers aren’t only going into a high risk environment uneducated, but also breaking the law by doing so. The White Card is federally mandated by the Australian government.
An accident that happened on a rural Queensland property recently is an example of the electrical hazards associated with crane operation and heavy machinery operation in general. A crane operator was hospitalised after the crane he was in control of came into contact with powerlines causing him to suffer an electric shock.
Reports said that emergency crews were called to the property north of Pratten last week where the man had been electrocuted. The man was apparently using a crane mounted on a truck when the machinery clipped powerlines.
Powerlines present a risk to operators that should be identified and addressed in advance, so that incidents like this do not occur. An article on SafetyCulture.com.au also highlighted another similar incident during which a council worker was hospitalised after sustaining an electric shock due to contact with fallen powerlines. The article explained:
Early last month, a council employee in NSW was hospitalised after suffering an electric shock when he came into contact with fallen powerlines near a sewerage treatment plant. The man was battling a grass fire when the incident occurred.
One of the biggest mistakes workers can make is assuming that power lines aren’t live because this is how most accidents involving power lines occur. If unsure, always assume power lines are energized.
Operators of cranes, front loaders, lorry-mounted cranes/loaders, excavators, tipping trailers, bale trailers and tipper trucks need to be most cautious because they are the ones most likely to be at risk from live overhead power lines.
Operators of vehicles that could possibly touch over-head power lines should have a properly planned route prior to operation. This route should be drawn up to avoid over-head power lines. This is an important aspect of site safety, considering how serious the risks are. The article on SafetyCulture.com went on to discuss more about electrical incidents in WA.
According to a 2010-11 Western Australia’s electrical incident safety report, from 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2011, there were 9,977 reported electrical shocks in Western Australia. Approximately 52 per cent were recorded as occurring in regional and rural areas, with the Perth metropolitan area accounting for the balance. The reason for a greater number of shocks reported in regional and rural areas may be due to the presence of mining companies, which must comply with reporting requirements for electrical shocks.
Every employer needs to ensure that workers are properly educated about all the hazards on the worksite as well as safe working procedures. That includes ensuring all workers have received general construction induction training/The White Card as well as more specific site safety training.
Employers need to ensure that they are providing workers with a safe work environment and a safe system of work. This involves addressing the dangers work on the site may present.
A basic assessment process should go as follows:
According to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, criminal charges should be brought against the CFMEU, the nation’s latest construction union.
Recently tabled into Federal Parliament, the Royal Commission’s interim report recommended the union face criminal charges. In the 1566 page report, the commission describes a “pervasive and unhealthy” culture that prevails in the CFMEU.
The commission recommended that the Director of Public Prosecution bring criminal charges against the union for its behaviour, including what it calls intimidation and coercion.
It also recommended that the Queensland CFMEU state secretary face charges for breaches of the Corporations Act. The commission’s report also recommended prosecution be considered against the Victorian CFMEU secretary and assistant secretary for claims of blackmail made against him.
In an article on Sourceable.net you read some of the recommendations made by the commission in its interim report,
“That evidence is suggestive of the existence of a pervasive and unhealthy culture within the CFMEU, under which:
(a) the law is to be deliberately evaded, or crashed through as an irrelevance, where it stands in the way of achieving the objectives of particular officials;
(b) officials prefer to lie rather than reveal the truth and betray the union;
(c) the reputations of those who speak out about union wrongdoing become the subject of baseless slurs and vilification.”
The report also goes on to mention a number of cases in which the union’s representatives engaged in alleged illegal behaviour such as the banning of Boral from CFMEU controlled sites in Melbourne in what was described in an ongoing war with the construction giant Grocon. The union’s issues with Boral stemmed from its refusal to cease supplying cement to construction company Grocon.
In the post on Sourceable.net another case covered by the Royal Commission was also mentioned:
In another case, it found the union engaged in a deliberate and protracted campaign against crane operator Smithbridge Group by applying pressure on its customers to remove the group’s cranes from their sites unless the group signed the union’s form of enterprise agreement and arranged for all of its employees to become union members.
Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz welcomed the Royal Commission’s findings. He also urged the opposition to back harsher sanctions for misconduct as a deterrent to illegal behaviour. He also called for the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Mr Abetz went on to comment:
“I would have thought that anybody that is committed to the trade union movement would want to see a clean trade union movement – one where there is not criminality, where there is not thuggery, where there is not funny-money dealings going on,” Abezt said.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions, President Ged Kearney labelled the commission a political exercise and dismissed its findings. He also challenged the Abbott government to turn their attention to job creation rather than focussing on the investigations. Kearney went on to explain:
“Every Liberal Prime Minister since Billy McMahon has had at least one Royal Commission into trade unions – it’s their attack of choice against their political enemies,” Kearney said.
“What we have seen today is a desperate Government trying to make this something that it isn’t.”
The death of Jorge Castillo-Riffo at the Royal Adelaide Hospital building site recently shook up not only the other workers on the site, but the entire Adelaide construction industry. In fact the tragic accident led to workers on the site downing their tools and bringing building progress to a halt.
Jorge Castillo-Riffo, 54, suffered serious head, neck and back injuries at the worksite when he was crushed between a scissor lift and a concrete slab.
The accident occurred on a Thursday and around 1400 workers on the busy site downed their tools until the following week, only resuming normal activities on Tuesday. Normally work continues on the site 24 hours a day with workers operating in rotation night and day.
The following excerpt from an article on SafetyCulture.com.au explains
Not only were workers shocked, traumatized and too shaken to resume work immediately after the accident, but some may have also had concerns about site safety. In addition they were also showing respect to their fallen co-worker. Co-workers were offered counselling and collection tins were distributed to raise money to help support Castillo-Riffo’s family.
Aaron Cartledge, secretary of the CFMEU explained that there is a sense of comradery among the workers,
“One thing that we do well in this industry is that workers do pull together,” Mr Cartledge said.
The writer of the post explains that Castillo-Riffo suffered from head, neck and back injuries after he was trapped between a scissor lift and a concrete slab on Thursday and was rushed to hospital but died the following day.
The post went on to state:
Workers at the site returned to work Tuesday and paid homage to their fallen co-worker by offering a minute of silence. Aaron Cartledge, CFMEU state secretary said that they will start reviewing the procedures of the site and SafeWork SA will likewise look into the fatal industrial incident.
The Royal Adelaide Hospital building site currently employs more than a thousand workers and operates 24 hours a day.
Despite some concerns that safety on the RAH work site was being neglected, Health Minister Jack Snelling said he had conveyed to the construction managers how important safety was at the site. He stated that:
“This is … terribly, terribly sad and our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family and of course to his fellow workers, many of whom have been obviously traumatised by this terrible event,” he said.
On big sites such as this, it is easy for complacency to set in around safety especially when individual workers aren’t being properly supervised or monitored when in engaging in dangerous activities.
Although productivity is usually the first objective of builders and site controllers, this incident proves how important it is that safety be prioritised and that all workers receive the necessary training and supervision, especially those undertaking high risk work.
An incident that took place in the UK involving workmen being exposed to lead dust and fumes has highlighted the importance of identifying hazards and dealing with risks associated with these hazards.
Lead dust and fume exposure are two of the most unaddressed issues in the construction industry and one of the reasons for this is because these are sometimes not identified beforehand until it is too late. An incident which happened in London is an example of this.
An engineering company and contractor have been fined after 2 workers were exposed to lead during some refurbishment work.
The 2 men required hospitalisation after they inhaled dust and fumes when steel coated in lead paint was cut into in order to be removed from the structure being refurbished.
Blood tests conducted on the 2 workers revealed their lead levels were well above safe levels. As a result of the exposure, both of the workers required intensive treatment and months of monitoring before their blood tests returned to safe levels.
The following excerpt from PPConstructionSafety.com explains further:
Portsmouth Crown Court heard (12 December) that Bam Nuttall was responsible for a project to remove weathered steel from the former military control installation that has become a beacon for captains navigating waters around the Isle of Wight and the Solent.
The work involved removing sections of steel using cutting gear. Bam Nuttal Ltd knew the steel was coated in lead paint but failed to apply this knowledge and assess the need for control measures against lead exposure. Four Tees overlooked suitable control measures and failed to arrange suitable medical surveillance for those working with lead. Inspectors concluded there was little measures in place to stop the spread of lead dust and contamination.
The post on PPConstructionSafety.com went on to remind employers to assume painted materials contain lead unless they can prove otherwise.
The 2 companies involved received fines totally almost £70,000 for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act and Control of Lead Work Regulations 2002.
After the hearing, a member of the Health and Safety Executive, Andrew Moore explained:
“The Nab Tower exposure was serious, and demonstrates the need to properly assess and guard against potential inhalation of lead fumes and dust.
The paint coating the steel was known to contain lead and it should have been handled with care from day one. Instead both companies allowed a number of unsafe practices, including eating, drinking and smoking, to continue unchallenged at the site that fuelled potential contamination.
Not that the workers would have known because there was no surveillance in place to monitor levels of lead in their blood and flag when the exposure had occurred.
It is crucial that employers and duty holders be cautious and err on the side of safety when it comes to hazards. When cutting, stripping or grinding painted material, workers should assume that it contains lead and take the necessary precautions, rather than assuming it doesn’t, only to find out later that it does. Those in control of the work site should ensure that adequate decontamination, surveillance and all necessary controls are implemented so that incidents like this don’t occur.
An incident that took place on a construction site in London is not only a tragedy but also an example of neglect of health and safety leading to the death of an elderly member of the public.
The court found that there was a clear risk to the public which should have been easily identified and addressed.
A contractor was subsequently fined after a pensioner was seriously injured as she walked past the London construction site. A metal fence collapsed and knocked the pensioner to the ground on 1 August 2012. The elderly woman suffered debilitating injury and struggles with mobility issues as a result of the incident.
The 91 year woman was walking past the construction site when the fence collapsed onto her causing her to fracture her hip and shoulder. The incident which took place at Bromley High Street required the woman to stay in hospital for a long period of time and has negatively impacted her independence.
The case was heard by a Westminster Magistrates in November. The court heard that Fadil Adil, was responsible for the fence around the building site and the construction of flats and a commercial unit.
The fence was 2metres high and a similar mesh style fencing that is common across the construction industry however in this case the fencing as improperly installed. The magistrates heard that the fencing was not built or maintained to an approved design.
Apparently the fence collapsed not because of poor weather but because of its instability and the fact that it was unfit for the purpose. The court found that there was a clear risk which should have been addressed by Adil sooner.
Mr Adil pleaded guilty and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 in costs plus a further £5,000 in compensation. Following the hearing HSE Inspector Bernardine Cooney said,
This clearly wasn’t the case on this occasion and a pensioner was seriously injured as a result. She could have been killed, and the fence also posed a clear risk to other passers-by as well as workers on the construction site it served.
Fadil Adil could and should done more to prevent that risk as the principal contractor responsible for the site.”
This case reminds me of the tragic incident that took place on the Grocon site in Melbourne last year when a wall collapsed and fell onto 3 passers-by, killing all 3. Although this elderly lady was lucky to escape death, the outcome could have been much more tragic.
Employers need to ensure that any risks identified are addressed immediately so that they do not endanger the health and safety of workers or members of the general public.
People should be patient on roads near construction sites, Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza said on Saturday after an accident claimed the lives of 11 people.
The accident which took place in Mpumalanga, South Africa highlights the risks associated with road construction work, not only for those working on the site but also members of the public, both pedestrians and motorists.
The premier of the region was quoted by a local newspaper’s website as saying:
“We can only win the war against accidents when we all play our part consciously in ensuring that all of us are safe and arrive [at] our destinations alive.”
According to reports a mini-bus taxi and truck collided head on leaving 11 people dead on the scene. It is believed that the taxi failed to stop at a stop sign at a construction site when the truck had been signalled to go. In addition to the 11 killed, 2 people were seriously injured and another four received only minor injuries. The article went on to explain,
Mabuza said a preliminary report from the community safety office suggested that the driver of the kombi failed to stop at the “stop and go” site.
The driver allegedly continued to drive on the single lane afterwards.
“We would like to reiterate our stance that accidents are not only costly to government, but they rob families of their loved one and breadwinners, thereby creating a societal problem,” said Mabuza.
The Mpumalanga government was increasing infrastructure on the roads to ensure the roads were safe, he said.
While it is true that road construction zones can cause delays in traffic movement, people should recognise that road construction and maintenance of our roads is vital. Patience is vital to ensuring that everyone gets through road construction zones safely. Minor inconvenience is necessary because without road construction, roads would deteriorate and eventually become dangerous and cause damage to vehicles.
As the incident above demonstrates, a lack of patience can be fatal on the road esspecially around construction zones. As construction workers it is also important that we minimise the inconvenience to motorists as much as possible.
In Australia, regardless of the type of construction being undertaken, workers must be trained on general construction safety training. This training takes the form of the White Card Course. The White Card course is regulated nationally and because it is nationally recognised workers who obtain their white card can work on a construction site anywhere in Oz.
Another worker has been hospitalised after suffering an electric shock at a sewerage treatment plant in NSW.
The council employee came into contact with a fallen power line and was electrocuted. The man was apparently battling a grass fire at the time.
According to a report about the incident on OHS website SafetyCulture.com.au, the paramedics arrived at the scene and treated the man who was later taken into hospital in a stable condition. The fire was subsequently extinguished by fire crews. The man is lucky to be alive after being electrocuted by the live power line.
The article on SafetyCulture.com.au concluded by issuing this warning to people as storm season approaches and the risk of live power lines falling to the ground increases,
If you come across fallen power lines, or lines contacting trees, immediately notify the local distribution company. If on roads or public places, the police should also be notified.
Although everyone in general needs to be aware of the risks associated with fallen power lines, particularly during the storm season when heavy winds have a tendency to cause power lines to fall, construction workers should be trained on how to treat power lines and the risks associated with the storm season for outdoor workers.
Storms are a major threat to construction workers which is why especially during the stormy season workers need to be aware of the weather in advance by watching and listening to weather broadcasts. It is also important to keep an eye out for storms particularly thunderstorms that may threaten and not to being any work that cannot be quickly stopped if lightning starts.
When out at a construction site remember that during thunderstorms, no place outside is safe. Workers should be taught to minimize the risk by assessing the lightning threat and taking the appropriate actions.
If you hear thunder, you are at risk of being struck by lightning so stop working and seek safety within a substantial building. This is not always possible on a work site especially if it is not built substantially as yet, then workers should seek safety in a metal topped vehicle with the windows up.
Workers on construction sites should stay off of and away from anything tall or high, including rooftops, scaffolding, utility poles, ladders, trees, and large equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, track loaders, and tractors.
You should also never touch materials or surfaces that can conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, metal equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes, and plumbing and stay away from areas where explosives are being kept such as on demolition sites.
If a power line falls, always treat it as live and stay away from it.
An accident on a construction site in Seattle in The USA has left one person dead and hundreds of others in danger, it has also highlighted how dangerous work on construction sites can be.
A 38 year old worker was killed after being electrocuted during the accident when he was doing some work with a compressed air tool. A hospital in the area as well as a number of surrounding neighbourhoods was left without power following the accident.
The incident is a reminder of the risks associated with electrical hazards on construction hazards, risks that can affect not only workers on the site but even members of the public.
In this case a hospital lost its power as a result of the accident, this could have resulted in serious complications for its patients. According to the report 890 customers were affected.
The following excerpt from an article on Myedmondsnews.com explains what happened to trigger the accident:
According to police spokesman Sgt. Josh McClure, the victim was working with a compressed air tool while in a ditch, and died at the scene. Snohomish County PUD spokesman Neil Neroutsos said the worker’s contact with the line caused the outage at 1:50 p.m.
Neighbors reported hearing a loud boom at the time of the outage, but Neroutsos said he couldn’t yet confirm whether a transformer blew. The outage affected about 890 customers, he added.
McClure said that power outage not only affected the hospital but was scattered across several Edmonds neighborhoods including downtown. Swedish/Edmonds used backup generators until power was restored about 2:24 p.m, he said. According to McClure, power interruptions in the area may still be possible.
Electrical hazards are just one hazard that is present on a building site, there are numerous others hazards associated with construction activities.
Due to the hazardous nature of construction work and the risks presented to workers such as the risk of electrocution, health and safety plays a particularly important role in the lives of workers.
There are many aspects of workplace health and safety that we need to become familiar with before we can operate on a high risk work site such as a construction site fairly safely. In order to become familiar with construction health and safety workers must complete general construction induction training.
Construction safety training is mandatory for all construction workers in Oz regardless of which state or territory a person plans to work, this ensures that workers can seek employment anywhere in the country and a fairly uniform course is completed by all workers which also promotes and enhances safety.
One of the topics covered by the general construction safety course, also known as The White Card course, is electrical hazards. As already mentioned electrical hazards are just one of the hazards presented by construction work and completion of the course will teach workers about the other most prevalent hazards and risks that they may face on building and construction sites so that they do not work in a way that endangers the safety and health of their co-workers or themselves.
The White Card which can be completed quickly and conveniently online, also teaches workers about what the law says about health and safety, what their duty of care is when it comes to WHS and the responsibility of employers to their employees in the construction industry.
Construction news website Sourceable.net recently posted an article about the advancements in paint technology which are having positive influences on the health and safety of workers as compared to old fashioned paints.
The new, advanced paint solutions offer both functional and aesthetic benefits as well. Some of the functional benefits include structural reinforcement and better indoor air quality which unlike previous paints does not negatively affect people’s health.
Paint consists of pigments, binders and solvents. Pigments provide the colour for the paint and binders cause the paint to stick to the material being painted. Solvents such as water and mineral spirits carry the binder and the pigment until the paint is applied and then it evaporates. Some paints have additional components, for example to add texture or reflectivity. As the article highlights improvements in the elements that make up the paint, have benefits for workers as well as people inhabiting and working in these structures.
The article goes on to discuss different paints, such as Graphene paint and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Biocides in Paint. The article highlighted the benefits of technologically advanced Graphene paint,
Gaphene can also repair itself when damaged. Researchers at the University of Manchester, UK, including Konstantin Novoselov, one of the original discoverers of graphene and a Nobel laureate, bombarded damaged graphene sheets with pure carbon. The carbon atoms automatically filled in the gaps in the hexagonal structure of the graphene and restored its strength. This offers the potential for damaged graphene in structures to be repaired relatively quickly and simply.
Graphene’s conductivity also lends itself to production of electricity. Novoselov’s team has also produced paper-thin wafers made from graphene and other thin materials that conduct electricity on par with today’s typical photovoltaic cells. Adding graphene to paint, Novoselov said, may enable them to create paint that generates electricity for the building, an approach similar to solar sensitive nanoparticles.
The article goes on to highlight how graphene’s low resistance to electron flow makes it more efficient for photovoltaic cells, an element that suggests it has the potential to make solar electricity for the built environment cheaper and more accessible.
The benefits of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Biocides in Paint were also highlighted:
Solvents evaporating are one of the issues with VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. Modern paints may contain hundreds or thousands of chemicals, some of which are toxic to humans. Low-VOC and no-VOC paints reduce the number of VOCs, making them healthier for both installers and the occupants or users of the building.
The writer goes on to explain that even VOC-free paint can contain toxic chemicals but most commercially made paints include additives that inhibit the growth of mould, mildew, bacteria, and fungus. Some of those additives, such as triclosan, methylosothiazolin (MIT), and benzisothiazolin-3-one (BIT), are implicated in a variety of adverse health reactions for painters as well as building inhabitants.
Although painters can be confident that new paint technology is good for their health, especially in the long term where previous paints had adverse effects, painters’ safety also needs to be a priority and the first step to ensuring this is completing construction safety training in the form of The White Card Course.
Mr Fluffly homes have become a real concern for homeowners in possession of homes built in the 1960s and 1970s as well as builders and other tradespeople whose job requires them to work on these old homes in Canberra.
This is because a number of these homes still contain harmful loose amosite asbestos with the potential to induce fatal asbestos diseases such as Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and other lung related cancers. That is why a new law requiring the visible tagging of homes containing Mr Fluffy insulation has been so welcomed.
The new law requires the placement of visible tags in the meter boxes of all affected Canberra homes so that tradies and homeowners can be particularly cautious when working on these homes and can arrange for the appropriate removal by registered specialist if necessary.
The problem with these homes is presented when these loose asbestos fibres are disturbed and become airborne, for example when the house is under renovation, however when dormant these fibres don’t present a threat.
According to authorities the aim of the new law is to protect the health and safety of tradies who are most likely to come into contact with these asbestos fibres which are still present in a number of old Canberra homes. The law will be enforced by ACT WorkSafe who is expected to provide more than 1000 tags to affected homeowners.
The tags which are apparently composed of an industrial strength self-adhesive vinyl will be provided to homeowners free of charge and they will have until January first 2015 to have them fixed to their meter boxes.
Homeowners have no reason not to ensure they comply considering that there is no charge to them however if they fail to attach the tag before the beginning of next year, it will be considered an offence and homeowners will have to face the consequences.
The new law regarding the tags was recently announced by The ACT’s chief Minister Katy Gallagher,
“It is important that the government focus not only on those living in affected Mr Fluffy houses, but also apply strategies to protect tradespeople and other workers who may come into contact with affected homes,” the Chief Minister said.
The chief minister explained that all workers would have to be trained in the risks associated with their work and that the tagging was just one way of raising awareness of work with asbestos,
“All workers must be trained in risks they may encounter as part of their work. The ACT Government has recently mandated asbestos awareness training for all tradespeople and other workers who may come into contact with asbestos. This training, which specifically deals with Mr Fluffy asbestos, must be undertaken by 30 September this year,” the Chief Minister said.
“Tradespeople should also continue to discuss the circumstance of homes they may be working on with homeowners, ask for copies of any asbestos assessment reports for the property and engage appropriately licensed asbestos experts to assist with the work to be undertaken.
Homeowners should not think that the new law negates their duty to inform tradies of the presence of Mr Fluffy insulation and possibility of harmful asbestos, and provide them with a copy of an asbestos assessment report.
Latest figures from Safe Work Australia show that in 2011 there were 606 mesothelioma deaths and 125 asbestosis deaths in Australia. That is a total of 731 people who died from the 2 asbestos induced diseases. This is obviously a serious issue especially for us here in Oz where asbestos related disease rates are at their highest. In fact on the UK can rival Oz in asbestos deaths.
That is why the first Australian International Conference on asbestos awareness being held in Melbourne is of the utmost importance.
The awareness and management conference is currently on at the Crown Melbourne Southbank Victoria. The event was organised by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency and is part of events to mark the National Asbestos Awareness Month.
The conference is being made up of a panel of experts from around the globe with extensive knowledge of asbestos management, health, advocacy and research. The conference is hoped to highlight the need for change in our region and around the world when dealing with asbestos risks.
According to speaker at the conference Peter Tighe of Australia’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, both the UK and Australia are facing similar risk from the widespread use of asbestos sheeting. However the use of asbestos is apparently greater in Oz than in The UK because of the use of sheeting in housing constructed between 1950 and 1970 despite the UK having the leading number of mesothelioma deaths in the world.
A variety of pertinent asbestos related issues will be tabled at the conference and according to the agency’s website some of the topics to be covered include:
For more information visit http://asbestossafetyconference2014.org/program/
The 2 day conference “Working towards an asbestos free Australia” kicked off on Sunday and this is what a post on SafetyCulture.com.au had to say about the event:
This event will provide a stimulating and entertaining environment for delegates and stakeholders to discuss the big issues facing them in raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos in our work and domestic environment and how it can be managed into the future.
Builders involved in renovation work on older homes are at a particular risk, so assisting these members of the population minimise their risk is crucial to tackling this third wave of asbestos related diseases that is sweeping the country.
Obviously builders and tradespeople must still be trained in asbestos risk but homeowners also need to take responsibility for informing all tradespeople that may work on their homes that it may be affected by the asbestos.
ABC Online – 5 hours agoAbout 1,400 workers will stop work at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital construction site until Tuesday after a fellow worker was critically injured. A 54-year-old man suffered serious head and neck injuries at the worksite yesterday when he was crushed …
Union secretary Aaron Cartledge said the workers were too traumatised and distraught to return to work this morning.
“A lot of people are still doing it hard out there, a lot of guys are very emotional,” he said.
Working from heights on equipment like a Scissor Lift is an activity that should have specific training for all participating workers.
Working from heights, although covered briefly in the White Card course, is also a separate qualification, although it is not clear in this event, whether the tradesman would have required the WFH ticket in this case or not.
WhiteCardOnlineExpress.com.auas safety training exponents send condolances, thoughts and prayers to the injured worker's family and friends.
Western Australian construction workers may soon see themselves being recruited by New Zealand employers as the country’s economy begins to lift and the rate of unemployment falls. The country is seeking skilled construction workers, an article on Abc.net.au explains.
Even more reason for people considering construction as a career has presented itself, this time as opportunities for construction jobs open up in New Zealand. While Australia experiences its own construction boom, construction workers are now also in demand in New Zealand.
According to the article, a contingent of 30 New Zealand government and business representatives will travel to Pert next week to attempt to fill 2000 immediate vacancies and convince thousands more to move across to New Zealand. They will apparently also be trying to persuade expatriates, who left to work in mining in WA, to return home especially as activity in the Australian mining sector winds down.
The New Zealand Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said that many positions are available in various sectors of the economy. ICT and construction are in particular need of workers, the minister said:
“We have some real shortages in a few areas, one in the ICT space, that’s common around the world, but in New Zealand we have some fast-growing ICT companies,” he said.
We’re training as many people as we can but there’s a shortage.
“Our economy’s going pretty well and we’ve got some significant shortages so we thought it would be an opportunity to profile the fact that there’s some great opportunities back in NZ.”
“In the construction area, obviously the Christchurch rebuild is continuing.”
The “rebuild” that the minister is speaking of, which is driving construction in Christchurch was caused by the earthquake that hit in 2011 and resulted in the deaths of 185 people. It also destroyed 70 per cent of buildings in Christ Church city centre.
Auckland has a real shortage of construction workers and the government is appealing for workers who left New Zealand to work in WA during the boom here, to return to Auckland to fill skills shortages.
Mr Joyce went on to explain:
“There’s significant numbers of New Zealanders that have worked in Western Australia over the last few years around some of the bigger projects which are now finishing,” said Mr Joyce.
Mr Joyce said that between 300,000 to 400,000 New Zealanders moved to Tasman in the last 15 years for work. Now that employment rates are improving and skills shortages are being identified, these workers are being asked to consider moving back.
It is believed that job offers are going to be made to workers on the spot, particularly in sectors like construction and engineering. Nigel Bickle from New Zealand’s Ministry of Business explained:
“With unemployment falling and economic growth picking up, we need as many skilled workers as we can find particularly in construction, engineering, healthcare, the tech sector and trades,” he said.
“We’re visiting Perth to urge skilled workers to relocate temporarily or permanently. We’re also asking Kiwis to consider returning home.”
There has never been a better time to enter the construction industry, and for workers who aren’t sure what their next step should be, they should be completing the White Card course which is the mandatory general construction safety course in Oz. No matter where in the world workers move, the knowledge gained by completing the White Card course is invaluable to safety and can be applied anywhere in the world to enhance health and safety, even if workers are considering moving to New Zealand or anywhere else in Australia.
Mr Joyce went on to explain that more skilled workers were needed to continue the country’s economic growth which is why they will recruiting workers at the Jobs Expo at Scarborough’s Rendezvous Hotel on November 22 and 23.Mr Joyce explained:
“We’ve been growing at just under 4 per cent and it looks like we’re continuing to grow,” he said.
“Unemployment is down in the low 5s and our employment is up to nearly two-thirds of the adult population which is quite a significant lift.
“The worry is that we’ll start to hit capacity constraints for our economy in particular areas, including construction, engineering and ICT, unless we keep building that workforce.”
How to deal with Incidents is an important part of any construction worker's safety induction and on-site induction, as well as part of regular process on a building site.
Dolphyn.com.au recently contributed on Safetyrisk.net's blog:
Most approaches to incident investigation focus on technique and process. This is important, gathering facts and compiling important information is critical. However, what most approaches don’t consider the range of biases that come with being human. In particular, it is crucial to understand and be mindful of hindsight bias. Credits: Dealing with Incidents
Dolphyn's “Conversations on the Couch” video below provides some interesting findings about “Hindsight Bias”:
The rate at which we are currently churning out houses is around 30,000 less than what is actually required in order to meet the demand, according to a recent analysis of the home building industry.
Although we are experiencing a housing boom in Oz, new projections show that Australia’s long-run average annual rate of new home building could be tens of thousands less than what is necessary to meet future demand.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) released its’ analysis of a range of scenarios regarding population and income growth through to the year 2050. According to the HIA projections, we would need a total of 186,391 new houses and apartments if medium growth rates of each plausible scenario come to pass.
The HIA says that medium growth figures indicate construction deficit of at least 30,000 homes a year. This is compared to average yearly commencements of just under 157,000 over the 2 decades leading to June2014 according to ABS data.
However the deficit spoken of by the HIA is not equal throughout Oz. The HIA says that states such as South Australia and Tasmania which have low population growth rates are actually building more homes than required in the long run, the high growth states such as NSW require a much greater increase in home construction productivity.
According to an article on Sourceable.net the long term average home building rates in Western Australia on the other hand need to be increased by more than half in order to meet the demands, under the HIA’s implied scenarios for the state.
It should however be noted that these projections are subject to considerable variability and implied annual levels of demand for new housing vary from 248,186 to 118,164, depending on which scenarios actually play out.
The post on Sourceable.net also goes on to quote HIA economist Geordan Murray who explained that medium scenario figures put the current cyclical boom in new housing construction into perspective.
“In 2013/14, the number of new homes built was about the same as the number of new homes demanded by the population during the year,” he said. “Unfortunately a match of this kind is an aberration – throughout much of the last decade there was a considerable mismatch between the level of demand for housing and the amount of new home building.”
HIA goes on to detail how each state compares and what would be required in order to meet the demand through to 2050 (assuming that medium range projects prevail).
Even with a modest rate of expected population growth (one per cent), New South Wales would need to lift activity from historic home building rates of 40,861 new houses and apartments per annum (20 year annual averages of dwelling commencements to June 2014 – ABS figures) to 45,284 dwellings per annum
Strong growing Victoria would have to lift historic building rates from 42,731 per annum to 46,669 per annum
Stronger growing Queensland would require a massive lift in annual home-building rates from 35,862 dwellings per annum to 44,364 dwellings per annum
Booming Western Australia would require a bigger lift still from 21,125 new dwellings to 34,993
The ACT and Northern Territory would have to lift historic build rates from 2,854 and 1,497 to 3,455 and 1,962 respectively.
November is Asbestos Awareness Month and all Aussies are being called to participate actively in the activities that are on offer. Activities include hosting a “Blue Lamington Drive” to highlight asbestos issues in homes and help raise crucial money for the Asbestos Disease Research Institute and Support Groups.
The Awareness campaign is titled ‘Get to know Asbestos this November’ and will educate Australians on the risks associated with asbestos and how these risks should controlled.
The initiative also includes Council Awards which will incorporate a number of categories linked to asbestos. Firms that are active in the campaign will be eligible to enter the awards. This excerpt from an article on SafetyCulture.com.au explains more:
Aside from the Blue Lamington Drive, Betty – The ADRI House will be visiting communities around Sydney and Melbourne Metropolitan areas throughout November to educate people about where asbestos may be found in and around homes built before 1987.
Organisations who actively participate in the Asbestos Awareness Month will also be qualified to enter The Betty Awards.
Most Innovative Asbestos Awareness Month Council Campaigner: National
Most Active Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Metropolitan Council (State)
Most Active Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Regional Council (State)
Best Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Association or Community Group
Best Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Business or Corporate
Best Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Government Department or Organisation
Best Asbestos Awareness Month Campaigner: Individual
The article goes on to detail that the use of asbestos has become extremely contentious and health organisations around the globe are issuing warnings about the serious health implications that asbestos poses. In fact the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that around 107 workers around the world die annually because of asbestos related diseases.
The article also highlights the fact that asbestos is known as a “hidden killer” sometimes taking as many as 60 years after the first exposure for fatal diseases to develop such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestos. In Oz at least 25,000 people are expected to die from asbestos related disease in the next 4 decades.
Although the use of asbestos has been banned in the country since the 1980s, there were many buildings that were constructed prior to this which are still standing today and being inhabited by people who may be unwittingly exposing themselves and their families to deadly asbestos. Building materials that contained asbestos included under floor covers such as coverings such as carpets, linoleum and vinyl tiles, behind wall and floor tiles, cement floors, internal and external walls, ceilings, eaves, garages, around hot water pipes, fences, extensions to homes, outdoor toilets, dog kennels, chook yards and backyard sheds.
The Asbestos Awareness Campaign website states:
“It’s vital that Australians take the warnings seriously, that they stop playing ‘renovation roulette’ and protect themselves and their families from exposure to asbestos fibres during renovations and maintenance,”
“Australians need to think smart, think safe, think asbestos awareness.com.au – it’s not worth the risk!”
Watch the Asbestos Awareness Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MV9kK_nCBzE
While many technologies are labelled nuisances in the workplace, particularly high risk construction places like the construction industry, there are many new advancements in the field of safety technology that is aimed at enhancing safety particularly on the construction site. For example mobile phones on site can become a distraction to workers which can endanger their safety but they can also be a valuable tool to enhance safety.
The reason the new technology can be so beneficial to the construction industry is because it is focused at tracking missing workers on a site during evacuation.
Evacuation as we know is common on construction sites especially when safety issues arise involving fires, crane mishaps, structural collapses etc. The new smart phone app aims to improve rescue efforts during work accidents and has been hailed as a “pioneering development” in life saving technology.
The team that developed the app has now been awarded a grant of $50,000 by the ACT Government Economic Development Directorate to make further improvements to their site safety app. The company SignOnSite explained that their app helps track missing workers on site during evacuation.
Ultimately the app will increase a worker’s chance of survival should an emergency on site occur.
The following excerpt explains:
“With this new feature of the app, construction workers will be able to specify exactly where they are on site and the app can potentially live-track their movements in these high-risk environments once an evacuation is started,” said Alexandria Garlan, a construction management student.
Another student, Mitchell Harmer said the app could save lives.
“For example, rather than a fire fighter searching an entire burning building to try and find a missing person, the app can show them that the person was last recorded being in a specific room, so they might be able to reach them quicker,” said Mr Harmer.
“If there is an emergency, this technology will potentially increase the chance of survival for both an employee lost on site or the emergency services workers trying to find them.”
The article on SafetyCulture.com.au goes on to explain that the company is also developing another safety app called Lone Worker which is designed specifically for workers who work in solitary. The app allows these workers to communicate with the employers off-site about their situation at a simple click of a button. The developers are apparently working in conjunction with ACT Emergency Services and the construction industry in the development of these apps.
The article goes on to explain:
The funding adds to the $35,000 the students’ were awarded in 2013 at the Innovation ACT awards to develop the app and a further $10,000 grant from St George bank they won this month to support their business.
The group is seeking industry consultation on their apps. More information can be found on the SignOnSite website.
While new developments in technology are revolutionising the way we stay safe in the construction field, there is nothing that can replace good quality safety training. Any worker beginning a job on a construction site must undergo safety training first and the best quality training can now be obtained online. The course teaches workers important safety issues such as what to do in an emergency and requirements for workers in isolation.
The mandatory White Card course is now available online, allowing workers to complete training within a day whilst gaining all the necessary safety knowledge to stay safe on a building site.
See more here to do a White Card course online
According to a report in SafetyCulture.com.au a crane collapse has occurred in Ballarat, toppling onto a school which had been destined for demolition.
The following excerpt is from the article and explains further:
A building along Ajax Street has a damaged roof and a cracked wall after a crane toppled onto its side during works Tuesday morning.
According to The Courier, no one was injured in the 11.30am incident at Ballarat Clarendon College.
Workers said the building was earmarked for demolition.
Ballarat Clarendon College confirmed they owned the building but declined to comment on the incident.
Although no one was injured in this incident, the freak nature of construction accidents and crane collapses in particular make it very clear why safety should be a priority on every work site, especially construction work sites where hazards and risks abound.
Anyone working on a construction site or in the vicinity of a building site may potentially be at risk of injury because of the hazardous nature of the construction environment, obviously people cannot be expected to simply walk onto a construction site already knowing what is expected of them in terms of safety (and what to expect of their employers in terms of their duty of care), that is the purpose of the general construction induction course.
More on Crane Safety
It is important that workers on construction sites exercise diligence and check to ensure that cranes are properly checked and certified. They should report any malfunctions or suspicions they may come across.
Unfortunately one of the most common causes of crane mishaps are malfunctions. Malfunctions sometimes cannot be avoided but it is important that cranes are properly maintained. It is also vital that cranes are inspected before each use. Operators need to be made aware of the importance of reporting any malfunctions on the machinery. Usually if operators aren’t properly trained and high risk certified, they will not be aware of the proper procedures to follow and the importance of checking, maintaining and reporting on cranes, therefore employers need to ensure that they hire operators that are qualified for the job.
Another major problem associated with toppling cranes is overloading. This is also associated with a lack of training and a lack of adherence to safety as workers who engage in this are often in a rush to get the job done as quickly as possible without taking into consideration the cranes limits etc.
Site Safety Training
In addition to operators being high risk certified and all workers on site having completed the necessary task specific and site specific safety training, it is also compulsory for everyone on site to complete general construction induction training, known as The White Card course.
The federal government has mandated that due to the high risk nature of construction work, anyone who works on a construction site, regardless of the job they are undertaking, complete general construction safety training first and have in their possession a valid White Card as proof of doing so.
One of the reasons why White Card training is compulsory for people engaged in any form of construction is because it highlights the general construction safety issues that workers tend to overlook because of familiarity, especially more experienced workers, working on larger construction projects.
For example one of the issues the course covers is safe work from heights because although this is a major cause of injury and fatalities in the construction sector, it is also commonly overlooked because it so often occurs in the field. Unfortunately it is human nature for familiarity to breed complacency.
Workers think that because they are exposed to work from heights on a daily basis, they are more immune to the risks than others who aren’t familiar with working from heights. This is simply not the case, and it applies to all hazards that occur on a construction site, which is why White Card training has been mandated by the federal government.
Another problematic issue related to complacent attitudes on construction sites is the lack of safety on larger construction projects. It is common for site controllers to lose track of what’s going on in terms of safety controls when there are hundreds of workers operating on a single site, engaged in a number of different trade activities at the same time.
And with a number of new big projects being planned and many already commenced in the state, it is important that we do not lose focus of the important issues, of which safety is a priority.
One such project is the expansion of the Melbourne Airport. Melbourne Airport has spent $420 million last financial year and that amount is expected to double this financial year due to the construction at its business park. The construction consists of a warehouse and logistics facilities for TNT, Toll Group, DHL and an apartment complex for the Quest Group. The 360 hectare business park has about 26 freight facilities and will be one of the biggest in the state when complete.
CEO Chris Woodruff recently stated:
“Next year alone we expect to invest around $700 million as part of sustained 10-year investment period,” Mr Woodruff said.
Much of that outlay will be spent on a new terminal and road links to cope with growing passenger numbers.
“Asia continued to drive our international growth with China holding its place as our most important long haul market. Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan all grew by an extraordinary minimum of 20 per cent,” Mr Woodruff said.
According Woodruff, there will be a new domestic terminal which cost an estimated half a billion dollars. It includes a ground transport hub for picking up and dropping off passengers and vehicle parking. This stage of the construction should be completed by mid 2015.
The airport’s property and construction executive, Linc Horton was also quoted, explaining that this construction site is one of the largest in the state and will probably remain so over the next decade. He explained that plans are also underway for four construction stages of an elevated loop road to ease traffic congestion at the airport.
Man Hospitalised after Construction Site Fall
Yet another fall incident has taken place on a construction site in Melbourne, this time leaving a worker nursing serious injuries after he fell from the second storey of the building under construction.
According to reports the man fell five metres from the second storey of the building and landed on the first floor. The man suffered a serious spinal injury from the fall.
The following excerpt from SafetyCulture.com.au explains what happened:
The man was lowered to the ground using a hydraulic platform and later rushed to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where his condition was said to be stable.
The man is believed to have suffered a serious spinal injury.
The article goes on to describe the high rate of workplace falls that take place each year on Aussie construction sites.
According to Safe Work Australia, work related injuries and fatalities related to a fall from a height are the most common cause of death and serious injury.
The following statistics explain more:
Over the eight-year period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2011, 232 workers were killed following a fall from a height, 11% of all workers killed over this period.
In the eight years from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2011, 20 workers died following a fall from a building under construction. Falls from height accounted for 6% of all serious workers’ compensation claims in 2010–11.
In order to get these statistics under control more attention has to be paid to work from height safety.
Although most workers don’t see the need for fall protection when the fall risk is less than 2 or 3 metres, even falls from relatively low heights can be injury causing. Some people have even sustained fatal injuries after falling from these low levels.
Providing workers with a safe work environment and a safe system of work also includes implementing the correct measures to protect workers from work height hazards. Employers should ensure that work sites with work from height hazards have a height safety policy in place, regardless of the size of the site or the company. Even small companies and small work sites can be the source of serious health and safety incidents.
Employers should not just provide workers with fall protection systems and expect them to use common sense to utilise them. Once a plan has been developed, workers must be trained on this work from height safety plan. Employers must thereafter ensure that the plan is being adhered to, supervision of workers on site is paramount to ensuring safety. Employers and employees should also get to know what Australian legislation says about work from heights and abide by it.
Once a work from height plan has been developed and implemented, employers should also remember to review the plan regularly. As the construction progresses, the safety needs will change and the plan needs to change along with it. Once changes are implemented workers must be informed and trained accordingly.
Many of the accidents that take place on construction sites are minor and the injuries don’t appear too drastic (we tend to be shocked by images such as the one above), but every now then an accident happens which causes such disfigurement that it shocks even the most seasoned of construction workers. That is the case with a 46 year old workman from Xian China who suffered serious disfigurement that his skull now has to be rebuilt using the latest 3D technology and titanium.
An article featured on www.Businessinsider.com.au detailed how far the medical profession has come in plastic surgery and the replacement of body parts which can now be customised to an individual’s needs using a revolutionary new system but I found most interesting was the effects that the construction worker suffered as a result of a fall from a height. The article explains:
This year alone, doctors have printed tubes that stabilised a child’s collapsed windpipe and they have installed the first ever 3D printed vertebra in a 12-year-old boy.
Now, in a surgery that was one of the first of its kind, doctors replaced part of a Chinese man’s skull with 3D printed titanium mesh that was moulded to perfectly restore the part of his skull that had been smashed in an accident.
The accident which disfigured Hu, a 46 year old construction worker from Xian happened whilst he was working on a construction project when fell 3 stories and smashed his head on a pile of wood.
As a result of the fall, the man smashed in a portion of his skull and this caused damage to his brain. The man suffered serious vision loss in his left and lost the ability to write and speak.
This is an example of the type of consequences that can result from construction accidents – making the need for safety even more clear.
The outcome for Hu may have been bad, but he has been given some hope by the new medical breakthrough,
Doctors at Xijing Hospital in Xi’an brought in experts from around the world to try and figure out how to restore some sense of normalcy for Hu. They decided to scan Hu’s head and 3D print a titanium mesh replacement for part of his cranium, modelled after the right side of his head in order to give him a symmetrical appearance.
Even more impressive, his doctors think that after his brain has time to repair itself and grow within its new titanium structure, Hu should regain some of his lost ability to communicate.
Others may not be as lucky as Hu, firstly to survive the accident and secondly to be able to receive medical attention to correct the effects of the fall incident. Although nothing can erase the pain and suffering that Hu suffered.
One of the ways that workers can avoid falling victim to the hazards presented by construction work as Hu did, is adhering to their safety training.
Training for Australian construction workers involves completing the White Card course, a general construction safety induction course which equips workers with the basic health and safety knowledge necessary to work on a construction site.
There are thousands of worker injuries taking place all over Australia on any given day, costing the economy billions annually. Most of these injuries are avoidable yet many of them actually permanently disable, maim and even kill workers simply because health and safety did not take precedence on the work site. While many employers and site controllers know how to satisfy inspectors by imposing the minimum safety controls required by the law, there are certain safety measures that are commonly known but tend to slip through the cracks on a busy, ever-changing construction site – one them being housekeeping.
Workers can often become complacent when it comes to housekeeping or may even have the best intentions but in the rush of knocking off at the end of the day, forget to keep their “house” in order by basically cleaning up after themselves.
Also because construction has typically been such a masculine industry, the very term “housekeeping” may cause male construction workers to put up mental barriers and attach a feminine connotation to the phrase but truthfully speaking housekeeping on a construction site could be considered more important that housekeeping in the traditional sense because people’s lives are at risk.
Another concern that people have when it comes to housekeeping in the workplace is how to approach it but housekeeping should be approached like any other hazard on a construction site is. Employers or site controllers should also ensure that this hazard is assessed and inspected regularly to ensure that no hazards slip through the cracks. As with any other hazard, they should be eliminated, substituted or controlled. In many cases housekeeping may not solve the problem but it will minimise the risk of injuries resulting.
Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to housekeeping, the main issues that seem to arise are:
One of the most important safety controls with regards to housekeeping involves storage safety. Employers must ensure that when storing materials on construction sites, it is done in a safe manner that does not pose a threat to the safety of workers or visitors to the site.
For example, when materials, equipment or plant and machinery are being stacked for storage it is important that the plant and materials cannot fall on a person. Workers should also be able to retrieve equipment and materials from storage without being injured or injuring others.
Disposing of Dust and Waste materials
When it comes to debris, the most important rule is that debris is progressively removed from the site before it is able to pile up. If debris builds up on the site it can become problematic in a number of ways such as presenting tripping hazards, blocking emergency and regular entrances and can also fall on workers causing injury. They also become a fire hazard.
Also when it comes to painting on the site, paint waste and wash waters need to be discharged properly and not into storm water drains.
When using oil based cleaning materials, they should be filtered for reuse or taken to an appropriately licensed waste depot. Unused paint should be disposed of in a similar manner and not just dumped anywhere.
Dealing with Dust
Dust is another particularly problematic issue on construction sites because it affects the health of everyone and not just those workers involved with the work. When inhaled or ingested it can make people sick and can also affect people’s eyes if it gets in. To avoid this risk, the appropriate amount of water should be used to keep roads and stockpiles moist to limit the amount of dust in the air and pollution which can spread into storm water drains and the entire system.
Employees can monitor if the proper precautions are being followed by employers in relation to this hazard including providing the proper safety training to workers, if not they should report it through the proper channels because their health and safety and that of their co-workers is being threatened.
The White Card course is here
The growth in the construction industry nationally is starting to have real benefits for local communities. We recently heard that a boom in the construction industry is taking place on the Gold Coast, creating work for local tradies with 2 big projects beginning soon, at Burleigh and Ormeau.
The southeast Queensland manager for JM Kelly Builder, Mr Lewkowicz is managing up to 30 tradies each weekday on the construction site that will be the $3 million science department at Maryland College in Burleigh Waters. Lewkowicz says that for the first time in years builders are able to gain work locally rather than having to travel for work.
He was quoted as saying:
“The tradies are starting to work locally again because quite simply the work is more fluid, and I have not seen that in years,” Mr Lewkowicz said.
“The M1 used to be packed at 5-6am with tradies heading to Brisbane, but that’s starting to change.
“There’s a level of confidence coming back into the local industry.”
The Master Builders Association recently issued a report which supported Lewkowicz’ views. The report surveyed conditions in the industry for the quarter ending June which showed a positive turnover for the 4th quarter in a row.
Improvements were shown in the residential and commercial construction activity. Companies experienced greater profitability into positive territory for the first time since the Global Financial Crisis.
The Master Builders report went on to state that further improvement is expected in the sector. In fact it is expected that the industry will experience sustained growth.
The announcement that the sector is growing comes at a time when a number of new major construction projects have been announced for the Gold Coast. In fact according to Master Builders, the improvement in the industry is expected to be state-wide.
The article went on to explain:
The improved outlook coincides with developers announcing major new projects on the Gold Coast, with Melbourne-based Villawood announcing it had purchased a 233ha site at Upper Ormeau, where it plans to build 150 rural-residential lots.
Deputy Executive Director for Master Builders Paul Bidwell stated that the industry was showing signs of recovering and growth across Melbourne. Even those regions which were previously battling, have shown improvement in activity. And even more workers are expected to be employed as the new projects that have been undertaken continue to expand. Lewkowicz explains:
“Although the southeast corner continues to lead the way … even the struggling resource regions of Mackay and Whitsunday and Central Queensland had some good news to report,” Mr Bidwell said.
Mr Lewkowicz said the new Burleigh building was on track to be completed for the start of school next year.
He said the number of people working on the project would increase as it progressed.
While local work for construction workers is good news because workers can spend time at home with their families rather than having to spend long hours travelling or living away from home, for those who aren’t so lucky to find work near home, the good news is that with the new nationally recognised white card, workers can seek work anywhere in the nation, in any state or territory.
Employers should never underestimate the value of investing in their employees’ health and safety. Many companies recognise the importance of physical health and safety but neglect workers mental health and wellbeing. Now there is a new landmark campaign that aims to tackle this issue.
The campaign launched by Beyondblue aims to make workplaces more mentally healthy by encouraging employers to be more proactive in tackling mental health issues.
A recent PWC report indicated that Australian businesses will receive an average return of $2.30 for every $1 they invest in an effective workplace mental health strategy. In other words investing in worker’s mental health will translate into a financial return for those companies wise enough to do so.
The campaign by Beyondblue has been launched in conjunction with the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance.
The following excerpt from a post on SafetyCulture.com.au explains more:
Chairman The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC said the report provides a compelling case for businesses to back a campaign called Heads Up which will give businesses practical advice on the importance of mental health in workplaces.
“This report shows that employers have a responsibility not only to their workers, but also to their businesses’ profitability, to tackle these conditions at work. Heads Up will provide them with a tailor-made Action Plan to do this and helps ensure that Australia’s 11.5 million workers receive the support they need to be mentally healthy and productive,” he said.
Later on this year the campaign will also introduce an Action Plan that will facilitate a more customised mental health plan for each workplace, because after all each work site is different and presents its own risks and mental health threats. The post on SafetyCulture.com.au goes on to explain:
In June, an Action Plan will be introduced on Heads Up website to allow businesses to create tailor-made mental health plans to implement in their workplaces to ensure they are progressing towards workplaces that are as mentally healthy as possible.
Sadly mental health issues are commonly misunderstood and are an often ignored aspect of worker wellbeing, hopefully this campaign will go a long way in enlightening employers on the importance of addressing mental health issues by also highlighting the financial benefits for them of doing so, after all most companies are driven purely by profit and worker safety and wellbeing takes a back seat to profits.
Mentally healthy workplaces deliver higher productivity levels, improve workforce participation and increase social inclusion in addition to improving the company’s bottom line. Seldom do we consider the consequences of ill mental health on individuals, the family unit, the business, communities and the economy, despite the fact that these consequences are far reaching and profound, obviously warranting greater attention, especially from employers and co-workers, let’s hope this campaign will help in changing this relaxed attitude toward worker mental health.
Equally important as worker mental health is physical health and wellbeing. Much of a worker’s physical wellbeing is dependent upon their own actions but it is also affected by the actions of other workers in site. It is for this reason that general construction safety training is such a crucial requirement.
Part of the Victorian government’s crackdown on the construction industry includes the mandatory drug and alcohol testing of construction workers involved in government funded projects.
While the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the industry’s leading union has condemned the announcement, the government has cited widespread drug and alcohol use on construction sites as its motivation, claiming that they are trying to improve safety on building sites, which they say is being compromised by drunk and drugged workers.
According to a report by the Herald Sun, construction workers involved in work on all new government funded projects will have to face random drug and alcohol testing.
Any company wishing to bid on government funded projects will now have to first commit to implementing appropriate security measures including having a comprehensive strategy in place for the random drug and alcohol testing of workers.
The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said in an interview with the Herald Sun that the move was aimed at boosting safety in workplaces. He said there have been reports of drug and alcohol taking on construction sites and the government was targeting this dangerous behaviour which he said is a serious risk to the safety of their innocent co-workers.
The following excerpt from a post on SafetyCulture.com.au explains further:
“Reports of illicit drug use and distribution on Victorian construction sites are widespread,” said Dr Napthine in an exclusive interview with the Herald Sun.
“The presence of intoxicated and drug-affected workers on building sites presents a real and serious risk to the safety of hard-working Victorians.”
Dr Napthine said that companies must have “comprehensive drug and alcohol screening measures” before they can be eligible for Victorian Government construction biddings.
“The Coalition Government takes workplace safety seriously, which is why we are moving to complement the already good work of the Victorian WorkCover Authority,” said Dr Napthine.
Apparently the changes to construction guidelines will be prepared by the Industrial Relations Minister, Robert Clark who will head the team.
Companies who plan on bidding for government contracts will have to start introducing the mandatory testing by as soon as the middle of this year and will have to show that they have a comprehensive plan for doing so in place.
The CFMEU has been openly critical of the announcement which they say is unnecessary because there isn’t any widespread use of alcohol or drugs on construction sites. The government however doesn’t see why the new measure would be met with apprehension when it is already the case on many privately funded construction sites. The government claims they are simply trying to improve the safety of workers on construction sites.
Yet another construction site has closed because of safety concerns. This time a large construction site belonging to the Empire Building Group in Wright on Canberra’s west was shut down because of a lack of safety and basic provisions as discovered by inspectors who visited the site after several worker complaints.
According to Mark McCabe, ACT Work Safety Commissioner who visited the site on Monday, they received complaints that the site was not up to scratch when it came to safety late last week but the company closed the site before inspectors could visit the site. On Monday inspectors made the discovery that safety was being sorely neglected on the site, particularly relating to the general oversight of work processes on site and supervision.
The following excerpt from SafetyCulture.com.au explains what happened:
“When we went out to the site, there was no clear company or group that was accepting responsibility for supervision which effectively meant it wasn’t being supervised,” he said.
“Now that’s a pretty primary requirement for any site, that alone was enough for us to shut down the site.”
According to Mr McCabe, the site will remain closed until the safety issues are addressed.
He adds that safety concerns have been raised on numerous occasions.
“We have been out 16 times in the last two years to sites being managed by this company and on two other occasions we’ve had to shut the whole site down.”
Perhaps even more than the lack of supervision and disregard for worker safety was the fact that this was not the first time that this site had to be shut down because of safety concerns. According to McCabe there had been previous complaints about the safety on the site and Work Safety authorities had to visit the site 16 times in a timeframe of just 2 years.
Other employers can learn from the bad example set by this company if they want to avoid similar consequences. Shut downs are not only inconvenient but also costly. Companies that fail to recognise hazards and address safety on work sites can expect to have more incidents taking place, more workers being injured, more properties being damaged and work set back as well as the possibility of receiving costly and often crippling fines from authorities.
It was also reported that the employers responsible for this work site failed to provide workers with adequate induction training. In Australia authorities place a lot of emphasis on occupational health and safety training, particularly in high risk industries such as construction. That means that everyone who begins work on a construction site, even experienced workers (as well as apprentice and new workers) must complete general construction induction training and receive a white card as proof of doing so, as well as complete site specific induction training.
While workers have a responsibility to ensure they complete white card training, employers must ensure that workers are provided with site specific induction training to ensure that they are educated on safety issues that relate specifically to the work site, something that the company in the incident above failed to provide.
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