WorkCover NSW Issues Scaffolding Safety Alert

scaffolding collapse

WorkCover NSW have issued a safety alert highlighting the safety risks associated with scaffolding collapses. The alert also aims to help avoid such incidents.

The alert comes after an incident when workers were injured after a scaffold collapsed into the street. A second incident occurred when a scaffold collapsed into a laneway and neighbouring properties, no one was injured in this incident.

Access the alert here.

Occupational Health and Safety News

It is interesting to take note that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has published a report on work related injuries sustained between July 2013 and June 2014.

According to the report, of the 12.5 million people over the age of 15 who worked during that time frame, 531,000 sustained a work-related injury. While this figure still seems high, it is relatively less than we recorded in previous years, indicating a decline in workplace injuries and an improvement in workplace health and safety.

Not surprising though is that the manufacturing, transport and agriculture industries topped the list with the highest number of work-related injuries, followed closely by the construction industry.

The report also indicated that men were at a greater risk of workplace injury than women with males having a higher rate of work related injuries during the time period. This can be attributed to the fact that high risk industries are mainly male-dominated particularly the manufacturing, agriculture, construction and transport industries.

Another useful bit of information that we can make use of when tackling workplace health and safety issues is that sprains and strains are a serious concern which are sometimes not taken seriously enough. Sprains and strains followed by joint or muscle trauma were the most commonly reported.

Sprains and strains are usually sustained by workers engaging in manual handling tasks such as lifting, pushing, pulling or bending. General labourers on construction sites are often exposed to these risks but others such as tilers, roofers, carpenters etc. can also be placed at risk.

The ABS report revealed that most workers who suffered work related injury or illness took less than 5 days off work. Forty per cent of them took no time off work at all. Sixty per cent of those injured received some sort of financial assistance, including workers’ compensation.

It is important that we take note of the most common injuries and incidents so that we can pay better attention to them this year and hopefully reduce their occurrence in the workplace. Workplace injuries not only affect the injured worker, but their families, co-workers, employers and the economy in general as well.

In a post the writer explains what these stats mean to the ordinary worker,

meeting_1603These findings show just how common work-related injuries have been in recent years, and highlight the importance of following correct health and safety procedures to prevent these incidents from happening in your workplace.

In particular, ensuring that your workers follow correct manual handling techniques can prevent a large number of common work-related injuries, potentially saving your business money in workers’ compensation claims.


When an employee sustains a serious injury the cost of medical bills and other expenses can be large, as well as the cost of fines that may be incurred if the company is found to be negligent of safety regulations.

If the employer is found to be negligent in providing adequate safety equipment and procedures for the worker, the employer may have to pay thousands of dollars in damages, this can cripple a business.

In order to decrease liability, employers must demonstrate that they have gone to adequate lengths to protect their workers and provide a safe work system and environment. They must also ensure that workers have undergone the necessary safety training, including the White Card.

Dump Truck Collides with Worker at Heathrow Airport

One of the hazardous situations which are often overlooked on construction sites are those presented when machinery, vehicles or equipment break down and people are brought in to repair these items. Maintenance and repair of vehicles and equipment on construction sites presents its own risks which is why those responsible for the site and the repairs, need to have safe work plans in place to avoid incidents taking place where people are injured and even killed. Such a construction accident has taken place at the world’s busiest airport, Heathrow involving a contractor and a dump truck.

The accident happened when a mobile hoist failed and was being repaired by the victim. A dumper truck which was also in operation at the time, collided with the worker, resulting in his death.

According to reports in the media, the accident happened on 2 October 2014 on a construction project at Heathrow Airport controlled by Laing O’Rourke. The fatal accident apparently occurred on the Terminal 2 multi storey car park project where the victim was struck by a dumper truck while working on the night shift.

The accident occurred after a mobile hoist broke down on the site and a colleague was using a dumper truck to shift the hoist when the truck hit into the victim. The man died at the scene.

According to an article on the incident unfolded as follows:

“Police were called by London Ambulance Service at 04:46hrs on Thursday, 2 October to Cayley Road, close to the Ground Floor Car Park at Terminal 2, Heathrow Airport, following reports of a road traffic collision.

Officers attended and found a man in his thirties suffering serious injuries following a collision with a truck. The man died at the scene a short while later at 05:45hrs. Next of kin have been informed but we await formal identification.

The driver of the truck stopped at the scene. It is not believed that any other vehicles were involved. HSE has been informed and enquiries are under way into the circumstances surrounding the incident.”

It is understood the £77m car park job is just weeks away from completion and hand over


Even those workers who aren’t involved directly in the activity of building but whose jobs take them onto a construction site are at risk of serious injuries, as the incident above highlights and must undergo the necessary safety training, including White Card training according to federal law.

It is also important to remember that according to federal law anyone whose work brings them to a construction site regularly, such as construction vehicle and equipment mechanics must undergo the General Construction Induction course known as The White Card.

Even mechanics working on the heavy vehicles and machinery used for construction need to undergo this training and it is in their best interest to do so as the incident mentioned above proves.


Darwin Minister calls for CBD Height Restrictions to be Lifted

The Minister for Lands, Planning and the Environment Peter Chandler has called for Darwin’s current 90 metre height restriction on buildings in the CBD to be scrapped. Chandler has proposed an amendment to what he calls unnecessary red tape that will be placed on public exhibition for a period of 28 days.

Chandler says the current restrictions only hamper investment and development, he went on to state:

darwin “There is no reason why buildings in Darwin’s CBD should be limited to 90 metres through an arbitrary regulation. It is unnecessary red tape and a road block to investment,” Chandler said.

See more at:

According to the Minister, the restrictions don’t only present an obstacle to investment but also creates hindrances architectural and planning. The article on also explained:

 “Height limits can stifle design leaving developers little choice but to use every square inch of their lot, often stacking buildings next to each other. This is not conducive to a modern, liveable tropical city,” he said.

See more at:

The restriction was introduced in 2009 by the Labor government in response to a request by the RAAF to permit optimal access for its aircrafts entering Darwin International Airport however there has been pressure mounting to do away with the cap on CBD developments.

It should be noted that the airport is mainly a RAAF facility but also serves private and commercial aircraft.

There have been numerous calls for the restrictions to be lifted including from the Northern Territory Real Estate Institute chief executive officer Quentin Kilian who earlier this year labelled the height limits as unnecessary. He also said it was a key factor holding back innovative development of the Darwin downtown area. Kilian went on to state:

“Quite frankly, if you have got a $3 billion aircraft and you can’t fly around a building, get a new job,” said Kilian.

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If the height limits are lifted by the Territory’s government, buildings whose heights exceed 90 metres will still require the approval of the Department of Defence. They would also require the approval of civil aviation authorities.

Removing the height restrictions aren’t the only motivation behind Chandler’s actions, he also hopes a more innovative development culture will be promoted by giving more authority to the Development Consent Authority (DCA) to alter the requirements of the Planning Scheme for building design. He believes the changes in restrictions will be good for the economy by promoting investments. He went on to explan:

“This will allow the DCA some flexibility in recognising that a development may have found a better way of reaching design requirements,” he said. “The current prescriptive nature of the Planning Scheme has resulted in some developments with long blank walls.”

“These changes will encourage investment in innovative designs which will result in developments that better suit Darwin’s lifestyle.”

See more at:


White Card Update: 3Ps Approach to Managing Electrical Arc Flashes

220px-Lichtbogen_3000_VoltElectrical flash-overs also called arc flash accidents occur all the time and have the ability to cause serious injuries. While one of the best ways to manage these electrical arc flash events is to implement the appropriate controls and utilise the correct PPE, it is also useful to remember the 3 P’s to make managing electrical arc flashes a little easier.

The UK standard for dealing with an Arc Flash hazard is useful to remember because according to it, arc flash hazards can be handled in the following way:

1. Prediction

Prediction is the first P in the 3 P system. This involves predicting the likelihood of an arc flash taking place and the severity and scope of the impact.

Workers can predict the likelihood of the arc flash occurring by assessing the amount of “incident energy” is received during an event by a person within the reach of the arc.

2. Prevention

The next step in the process is prevention. We should try to prevent the arc flash from occurring in the first place. We must  also make certain that the risk from arc flash is addressed at this level through either designing out, elimination entirely or by remove the hazard at its source.

3. Personal Protective Equipment:

Similarly to the Hierarchy of Controls method, the 3 P method advocates utilising personal protective equipment as the last resort. As with other hazards, PPE should always be the last line defence in dealing with arc flash events.

Even though it is lowest on the hierarchy of controls and the 3P list, PPE can be extremely useful for managing electrical arc flash events. It is important however that the correct PPE is utilised and workers are trained on correct use.

Arc flash PPE should be chosen based on either:

  • an incident energy analysis method or
  • a hazard/risk category method.

When addressing arc flash hazards, as with any hazard in the construction industry, communication and training play a crucial role in managing hazards.

Employers and site controllers must ensure that assessment and strategies as well as plans set in place to manage this hazard are communicated to workers and well documented so that they can refer back to it when necessary.

Workers must be trained on the hazards that they face including electrical risks. Training for all workers in the construction trades begins with ensuring everyone has completed general construction safety training in the form of the White Card Course.

The White Card course which has been mandated by the federal government for all workers in construction to improve workplace health and safety in this industry, covers the most common construction hazards in general. Electrical hazards, work from height hazards, manual handling hazards are just some of the hazards covered by the white card training, however it is the duty of employers to ensure that workers receive the necessary additional training on hazard such as arc flash hazards and any other hazards specific to the site.

Image: Wikipedia

Borders Opened to Foreign Workers to fill Regional Skill Shortages

Even more evidence that activity in the construction industry is on the rise, is the fact that our borders have been opened to foreign workers to fill skill shortages in the industry in regional areas.

The new program allows foreign workers to fill these regional skill shortages which the government says will boost rather than take away jobs from Australians.

According to immigration minister Michaelia Cash we shouldn’t look at it as jobs being taken away from Australians but rather facilitating better job creation which will actually benefit Aussies. Cash says that if companies cannot access skilled labour, they aren’t going to be able to do this.

Minister Cash was recently quoted in an article on The minister said in a statement on Friday,

 “Targeted skilled migration under DAMA (Designated Area Migration Agreements) guidelines will provide incentives to grow business and local economies for the benefit of Australians,”

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The DAMA initiative was launched under the former regime – the Labor government. The guidelines of the program will now be finalised after consultation with state and territory governments, companies and workers’ unions.

The program starts with companies in the Northern Territory giving them the go ahead to seek foreign skilled or semi-skilled labourers provided that they have not been able to fill the skills gap with suitably qualified Australians and have being trying to do so for the previous six months unsuccessfully.

Cash also explained that this was not an opportunity to exploit foreign labourers. These workers will have to be paid the equivalent or a comparable salary to that of skilled Australian workers. The guidelines do allow for a slight drop in the salary as Cash explained,

foreign-construction-workerGuidelines permit a 10 per cent discount on the minimum $53,900 salary payable to overseas workers on 457 visas. Senator Cash said that still meant DAMA workers would be paid above award rates.

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Despite the government’s insistence that the program will boost Australian jobs rather than steal them, the program has been met with a lot of opposition.

The Labor as well as the unions aren’t in favour of the program with Opposition leader Bill Shorten saying that priority should be given to Aussies in regional areas rather than bring in cheaper foreign labour. Shorten was quoted as saying,

 “The government needs to explain why it would exploit underpaid labour .. from overseas in preference to finding jobs for unemployed Australians,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“There is no place in Australia for exploiting guest workers from overseas to work alongside Australian workers, doing the same work for lower rates of pay,” he said.

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The unions also aren’t sure about the program with the country’s largest construction union, The CFMEU saying that this program would undercut the local labour market and would be exploited by employers. The union’s national secretary Michael O’Connor stated:

“It will mean less work for young Australians looking for a start in industry at a time when apprenticeship levels in construction and mining are at record lows,” CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said in a statement.

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Another union, the Maritime Union of Australia through its national secretary Paddy Crumlin said that the government’s program in response to a 12 year high in unemployment was a “disgrace”.

Despite the government’s plan to bring in foreign labour for regional skills shortages, the nationally recognised white card is another tool to ensuring that regional jobs get filled. Workers from across Oz, in every state and territory need to be in possession of the white card and because of its national recognition, workers can work on any construction site in the nation, even in regional Oz.

White Card Update: Importance of Suicide Awareness as Public Health Issue

If one good thing has come out of the tragic death of comedic legend Robin Williams it is the awareness that is being raised around the topic of suicide and suicide prevention. Unfortunately it has also highlighted how little most of us know about the issue.

According to an article on suicide prevention is an important issue particularly because Lifeline has predicted that the rate of suicide is at a 10 year high.

In fact according to the Bureau of Statistics 2535 suicides occurred in 2012 and it accounted for the most number of deaths among males and females between 15 and 44 years.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the prediction by Lifeline that as many as 30 people attempt suicide daily with 250 people making a suicide plan. An additional 1000 people consider suicide each day.

Although the topic is one that many have tried to raise awareness around including former Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry, the death of Robin Williams recently has sparked conversation around the issue, such as the article on and this one.

Now the concern has arisen that people may copy the behaviour of Williams, as it is common for people to mimic the behaviour of celebrities as reported in the media. The following excerpt from the article explains:

1408193708978.jpg-620x349The Australian government funds an organisation called the Mindframe National Media Initiative, managed by the Hunter Institute of Mental Health, to provide media guidelines on suicide reporting. This is partly to address the fear of “contagion” or “cluster” – the concept that a person learning of a suicide will be encouraged to copy that behaviour.

The data indicates only a small proportion of all deaths by suicide can be linked to contagion. There is little evidence to suggest sensitive and accurate reporting of suicide inspires others to follow.

The exception is the celebrity suicide, which explains why there has been so much concern over the reporting of how Williams died.

McGorry has suggested the media guidelines, while well-intentioned, actually represent “anxiety-driven science” and inhibit proper, healthy discussion about suicide.

Regardless, it seems rules and consideration have been set aside in the media frenzy which has followed Williams’ death.

Read more:

There are fears that rules around reporting of suicides are been ignored when it comes to the Williams suicide.

One Fox News anchor labelled Mr Williams a “coward” and another controversial message by the Oscars Academy referenced William’s role as genie in the 1990s smash hit movie Aladdin with the words “You’re free”.

Others in the industry also accused Williams of hurting the public despite raising awareness around the topic of depression.

I find the topic of suicide a particularly concerning one for the construction industry because construction workers are often not encouraged to engage in open communication which often leads to them hiding their problems and rather contemplating suicide than seeking help.

Given the high risk nature of construction work coupled with the pressure of everyday life as well the macho nature of the work environment,  construction workers have been identified as “high risk” when it comes to suicide.

Hopefully the death of Williams will encourage others who are suffering from depression and suicidal tendencies to seek help before it is too late.


South Australian Businesses Reminded to Heed Safety Warning

SafeWork South Australia and its Executive Director, Bryan Russell are reminding all businesses and employees of the need to fulfil their workplace health and safety duties.

According to Russell the 3 prosecutions handed down by the Industrial Court last week serve as a reminder to other employers and workers about the importance of WHS. Russell and SafeWork SA’s message to employers is to fulfil health and safety requirements before accidents occur, rather than waiting until there is an incident.

Although only one of the 3 prosecutions that occurred last week were related to the construction industry, the fact that there were 3 in one week is an indication that overall health and safety is being neglected.

The building company involved received a staggering $100,000 fine after it pleaded guilty to breaching Occupational, Safety and Welfare Act 1986. The incident involved a teenage worker who was injured when he fell down a lift shaft. It was the seventeen year old’s first day on the job at Henley Beach when he sustained several injuries.

The other 2 incidents occurred at a development company and a retail company. One incident involved a fall and an unprotected worker and the other resulted in the hospitalisation of a worker in an incident involving a forklift. It is also concerning that in all 3 incidents, workers were injured because of a fall.

An article posted on explains more about the incidents and the warning issued by SafeWork SA,

SafeWorkSA_webIn the same week, a development company pleaded guilty to breaching Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 by failing to ensure that a worker used harness and inertia reel to protect him from falling. The worker fell while working on a construction site. He sustained lacerations to his face, broken bones and some residual physiological problems.

The company was issued with a conviction and was fined $130,000 with a 30% discount ($91,000).

A retail company also pleaded guilty to breaching the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 for an incident in July 2012 that left a worker hospitalised. He was lifted off the ground in a cage which was being lifted by a forklift. He overbalanced and fell to the ground and was hit by the cage that fell on top of him.


Falling is the most common cause of injury on worksites, yet many employers are clearly still failing to guard against fall hazards, resulting in the high number of worker injuries. That is why SafeWork SA has issued their warning and reminded all businesses of the possibility of legal action for any safety breaches or unsafe practices discovered on their work sites.

Russell went on to state:

“If found guilty severe penalties may be imposed by the courts.”

He said successful management of work health and safety can be achieved by following simple steps including identifying and addressing risks in worksites, consulting with workers and providing training and supervision to workers.

“Prevention is better than prosecution,” said Mr Russell.



Flash Fire in Confined Space

Often whilst engaging in construction activities we are required to work near hazards or in a hazardous environment. In fact a construction site is one of the most hazardous places to work which is why workers must be trained on construction site health and safety in order to avoid succumbing to the risks associated with these hazards.

One such hazard that commonly occurs on construction sites (whether mining construction, road construction, building construction sites etc.) is presented by a confined space.

We need to recognise and identify what constitutes a “confined space” before we are able to address the risks associated with this hazard. A confined space is classified as an enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not designed be occupied by a person.

Typically on a construction site an example of a confined space may be presented by excavations or trenches, drainage or sewerage pipes and crawl spaces.

But what makes work in confined spaces most high risk are its atmosphere, contaminants or engulfment, serious consequences could result, possibly fatal.

Risks Associated with Work in Confined Spaces

An accident which took place in San Joaquin in the USA is an example of why work in confined spaces can be so high risk and deadly to workers. Last year a flash fire occurred inside a metal tank, causing an industrial painter to sustain serious burns. The company responsible was subsequently fined for their failure to adequately address the hazard and provide the worker with a safe work environment.

The following excerpt from a post on details the incident:

On Dec. 17, 2013, the worker was spraying a flammable coating on the inside walls of a large steel tank when a fire was ignited by a portable halogen light. The 37-year-old man was rescued but spent three days in the burn unit at San Joaquin Community Hospital.

“This was a preventable accident,” said Christine Baker, Director of the Department of Industrial Relations. “The employer was aware that working inside the confined space was dangerous but did not take the required steps to avoid putting workers at serious risk.”


The company employing the man should have identified the risks associated with working in the space and implemented the necessary measures to guard against them. The company responsible for this incident was accused of using an unauthorised electric lamp while the painter was working in an explosive atmosphere, not having a permit to work in a confined space and not providing proper ventilation or protective equipment for the worker in the confined space.

Another problematic action or inaction identified on the employer’s part was failure to train workers for work in confined spaces.

Although this incident occurred in the United States, Australia also has strict health and safety laws pertaining to work in confined spaces and in general on construction sites.

In Australia every worker engaging in construction work of any sort must complete general construction safety training in the form of The White Card course.

This course is aimed at educating workers on the basic health and safety issues relating to construction work, of which one if working in a confined space.

But in addition to this certification that every worker must obtain, employers have to ensure that workers engaged in high risk work are adequately trained and supervised, in certain instances this involves obtaining a high risk licence, in which case being in possession of a White Card alone will not be sufficient.


Avoid Becoming a Victim of “Caught between” Accidents

A construction worker on an American site in Connecticut was recently killed when he became trapped between a backhoe and trench box, crushing him.

The man was involved in the replacement of a water line on site last Friday when the accident took place.

According to reports, all attempts by paramedics to revive the man were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The following is an excerpt from a website that explains what happened:

A construction worker in Windsor, Connecticut was killed Friday in a tragic trench accident. Danny King, 51, was working inside a trench Friday afternoon as part of a water line replacement project when he was crushed between a backhoe and a trench box, according to a report from NBC Connecticut. Paramedics made attempts to save King’s life upon arriving at the scene. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. King was the son of John King and worked for his father’s company King Construction.

Read more at:

Although this incident took place on the other side of the globe, I thought it held some valuable lessons that even workers on Aussie sites can learn from.

  1. The company should have conducted a risk assessment and followed a hierarchy of controls to get the hazard under control it is a workers responsibility to ensure that they abide by the sites safety plan. For example if the plan includes utilising a specific PPE, employees have a responsibility to abide by the plan and their safety training.
  2. Employers need to understand each stage of the construction process and as the site changes, so will its hazards and risks, therefore the safety plan needs to change along with it. Workers need to undergo continuous and ongoing safety training to keep up to day with any site safety changes.
  3. When operating machinery or equipment, inspect it first, ensure it is in good condition and that guards are in place. Operators should pay particular attention to its moving parts and ensure they are guarded adequately.
  4. Those workers not involved in the operation of this equipment and machinery should ensure they keep a safe distance and remain in the exclusion zones.
  5. Operators should pay particular attention when reversing and proper procedure for reversing should be developed if reversing is absolutely necessary, otherwise it should be avoided altogether.

To learn more about construction site safety in general, workers and potential workers should undergo White Card training (which is the general construction induction course for workers in Oz).

This training is not only a compulsory requirement for all in the construction field but it will also ensure that workers are aware of common hazards that construction work can present. It also covers caught between hazards in general, as well as other risks associated with construction work in general.