Construction Workers Face Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing

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.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/

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.

 

 

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Awareness During Construction Material and Goods Deliveries

One of the aspects of construction site safety that sometimes goes unnoticed and unattended to is traffic management of deliveries.

On a larger site there can be more than one or even a few trucks delivering goods, materials, equipment etc. to a site at any given time and it is important that these deliveries are managed in order to avoid accidents involving trucks, pedestrians, other construction vehicles and moving equipment.

The most common form of injury for truck drivers doing deliveries surprisingly doesn’t occur when they are in the truck but actually when they get out of the vehicle, especially because a lot of the time these truck drivers aren’t construction workers, aren’t trained on construction site safety and so don’t know what to look out for.

Also an alarmingly high number of accidents involving truck drivers occur when they are offloading their vehicles. Whether delivering to construction sites or not, drivers are at risk, read what happened to one truck driver in Perth, according to a post on SafetyCulture.com.au

A truck driver, delivering groceries, had his legs crushed when a car pinned him to the rear of his truck in a collision.

At the time of the incident the 31-year-old driver was standing at the back of his truck when he was hit at about 7.15 pm yesterday. He received serious injuries to his legs and was transported to the Royal Perth Hospital.

The driver of the car, a 51-year-old woman was unharmed in the accident.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/08/truck-driver-injured-while-delivering-groceries/

The actions that are most risky when it comes to trucks making deliveries on construction sites is reversing, loading, unloading and pedestrian movement around the truck’s loading/ off-loading area.

It is vital that employers plan traffic and pedestrian movement on construction sites and keep pedestrians and trucks separated as much as possible.

By law this is another hazard presented by construction work which employers are required to first identify and then assess the risks associated. Employers must then control these risks by:

  • Eliminating them – for example if a hazard is identified such as reversing trucks, try to eliminate the need for trucks to reverse at all, perhaps by redesigning the route.
  • Substituting it with something less hazardous – for example if a larger truck is deemed to be a risk, substitute it with something smaller which would pose less risk.
  • Isolating the hazard – for examples keeping vehicles away from pedestrians or vice versa
  • Minimising risks – using engineering controls to erect pedestrian barriers to separate trucks and people, lowering trucks speed limiters, having separate entrances for trucks and people.
  • Applying administrative controls – for example educating workers and driver, providing training, supervision, restricted pedestrian access to certain areas, banning reversing during certain times etc.

For  more about Construction safety, click here.

 

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Why Construction Workers Need Personal Protective Equipment for Site Safety

When it comes to a list of the world’s riskiest industries, construction is somewhere near the top. Sadly despite most construction accidents being avoidable, often the proper precautions aren’t taken to ensure that workers are provided with a safe working environment and safe system of work.

Unfortunately most accidents on building sites are as a result of negligence or ignorance due to a lack of training.

Once employers identify the risks associated with construction work, assess these risks and implement control measures if these risks cannot be eliminated, they must then ensure that workers are trained and knowledgeable about the measures and how to stay safe on site.

Sometimes even once the proper control measures are implemented, an accident can still occur, due to momentary lapses in judgement, fatigue, lack of supervision, lack of training or some other reason but in this situation personal protective equipment (PPE) can be invaluable.

Although PPE will not prevent an accident from occurring, it will reduce the severity of the impact on the worker, sometimes saving the worker from death.  Remember on site to utilise the following most common PPE, however this list is not exhaustive and the PPE utilised will depend on the risks presented,

  • Protect the head with a hard hat

Hardhats protect every person on the site from head injuries which may occur from falling objects, when a person slips, trips and falls and bumps their head or when another worker or machinery hits in the worker etc. Hard hats of excellent and dependable quality will ensure protection of our construction workers’ heads and often prevent serious head injuries which can be fatal at times.

  • Protect the face and the eyes with safety protectors

In the job site, it is expected that the workers will have to deal with various particles that may put their face and eyes at risk. There are safety gears designed for the face and eyes to help construction workers avoid exposing them to dangerous elements, including dust, hazardous chemicals, and airborne flecks that could cause harm.

  • Protect the hands with gloves

Specific tasks that present a risk to workers hands require gloves to be utilised. There are many different types of gloves such as rubber gloves, welding gloves, insulated gloves, and others which are available for each job. The gloves will protect them from lesions, chemical burns, and other forms of injuries due to handling of different construction materials. The gloves should comfortably fit the workers to ensure that they could perform their duties well and avoid further risks.

  • Protect the feet with safety footwear

Construction workers should wear safety shoes or boots. Ideally, those with soles that are slip and puncture resistant are best for construction workers to prevent injury from machinery, equipment, tools, materials etc.

When choosing the right PPE for the job, employers the selection processes must include consultation with workers and also include an evaluation of the risk and performance requirements for the PPE.

Once the right PPE for the job is determined, workers need to receive training on how to utilise PPE, store, maintain and handle PPE.

Training about PPE is covered extensively in this White Card course

 

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Decline in Workplace Accidents attributed to Stricter Laws

Tasmanian unions have expressed their satisfaction with new workplace laws which they believe have had a positive impact on injury rates in the state and which they believe will continue drop in the future as a result of these laws.

Figures have been released in coordination with the launch of WorkSafe month which show a 4 per cent drop in the number of Tasmanian workers injured on the job.

According to The Workplace Relations minister David O’Byrne, last year we saw 8934 injuries as compared with the 9312 reported the previous year. It was the first year that our workplace injury rate dropped below 9000 in a year. And workplace fatalities in the state over the past year were just 4.

According to the Unions Tasmania’s Kevin Harkins, the new workplace laws which came into effect at the beginning of this year have helped to combat the alarming workplace culture of prioritising productivity over safety.

An excerpt from Abc.net.au explains:

“Tight timeframes, tight profit margins…just pushing to get the job done,” he said.

But Mr Harkins says Tasmania is still the second worst performing state behind Queensland.

Most injuries and deaths occur in construction and farming jobs.

Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-25/fall-in-worplace-accidents-down-to-tougher-laws-say-unions/4843776?section=tas

The post goes on to provide a cautionary tale for readers about a worker injured on a potato grader conveyor belt. This incident highlights the importance of managing workplace hazards proactively before work on the site even begins. This involves anticipated the dangers and developing a safe plan to overcome the dangers.

Read what the post went on to explain:

Last year, Chris Dornauf spent an agonising hour and a half with his arm caught in the conveyor belt of a potato grader.

He says recovering from a workplace injury is a slow process.

Cut all five nerves, or five tendons and two of the main arteries,” he said.

After eight surgeries and with more to come, he still has not regained the use of his arm.

He is now able to drive trucks instead of working the farm, but says he is more aware of what might go wrong.

“When you stand back and look at it, you think about how dangerous things are,” he said.

“It’s a big, it’s a lot different now.”

Read more: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-25/fall-in-worplace-accidents-down-to-tougher-laws-say-unions/4843776?section=tas

Despite the drop in injuries and fatalities in Tasmania, more still needs to be done nationally to enforce workplace safety. It is for this reason that the federal government has made general construction safety training (also known as White Card Training) a mandatory requirement for any worker in the construction sector.

Ensuring that each worker has completed this training is not only the law but will also ensure that workers are aware of the hazards presented by construction work, so as to not endanger themselves or their co-workers on site.

The White Card course is nationally recognised which means that once a worker completes the training in one state, they are able to work in any state in Oz without having to redo their training. This makes work across borders much easier and allows workers to choose where they want to live and work anywhere in the country.

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Protecting your skin and hands when engaging in Construction Work

During construction work your hands and skin are exposed and susceptible to physical, chemical and radiation hazards.

Personal hand/skin protection are often the only means of protecting hands from injury caused by physical hazards (caused by sharp or jagged edges on materials or tools), heat, vibration, corrosive or toxic chemical, ultraviolent radiation particularly if workers spend most of their time outdoors.

Some of the physical hazards affecting hands include sharp edges, splinters and heat. The best form of PPE for these is leather gloves because cotton gloves will not be sufficient to protect against harm.

Training on the appropriate and safe use of tools and machinery that can present a hazard to workers hands should be conducted to ensure workers are using tools and machinery correctly. Incorrect use of some tools and machinery can result in serious injury to the hands and arms, in fact in some instances workers have lost fingers due to injuries caused by incorrect use tools.

Another hazard that can affect hands is the vibration transferred from tools and equipment can affect hands and arms. A common condition that can result is hand/arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). This condition can cause circulation problems, sensory problems and musculoskeletal issues.

Preventing HAVS means employers must provide workers with power tools with built-in vibration reducing components and allow sufficient breaks when working with vibrating tools.

Workers should wear appropriate clothing in cooler weather to maintain core body temperature and wear gloves whenever possible.

To protect against chemical hazards the material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the product being used should identify whether gloves are needed and what they should be made of. MSDSs must be available on site for all workers to access whenever the controlled chemical is being used.

Ultraviolet radiation is another hazard to worker’s skin and hands especially in recent years when countless numbers of people have gotten skin cancer from unprotected excessive exposure to the sun. Construction workers are particularly susceptible because they spend so much time outdoors in the direct sunlight.

Workers should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater to all exposed skin areas. Also ensure that the ears and back of the neck is covered. The sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun and should be reapplied every two hours.

Also don’t forget to protect the lips. Use an SPF 30 or higher sunscreen lip balm and reapply every two hours just as you would sunscreen. Remember skin cancers can develop on lips as well.

Workers should not neglect the back of their necks and wear protection for this area. Neck protectors are available that clip onto your hard hat.

Workers should also wear UV-absorbent safety glasses and clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible. Tightly woven material will offer greater protection as a physical block to UV rays and should be loose rather than fitted especially in hotter weather.

Workers should be provided with adequate shaded areas for breaks and lunch out of the sun.

Most importantly ensure that all workers are educated on the hazards of UV radiation as well as all the hazards to their hands and skin and the safety measures which can be implemented to control them before they even begin working on the site.

For more info on PPE on construction sites refer to the White Card course at www.whitecardonline.com.au

 

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