Avoiding Injury from Falling Objects

On a construction site the actions of one person have far reaching repercussions and affect one or many other workers. Also the inaction of members of the industry can also have negative consequences for workers. As a worker on a construction site you are often at the mercy of one or many co-workers or employer and vice versa, your actions also affect them.

One of the hazards associated with this is that of falling objects – when a worker drops an object from above it may very likely injure or even kill someone below or a workers neglect may result in building materials or equipment falling from one level to the next, injuring people below. Even people in the adjacent areas are at risk. That is why principal contractors must manage these risks effectively.

An incident which took place recently is an example of what can happen if these hazards are’nt addressed. A worker on a construction site in Camperdown, inner Sydney has died after being hit by a number of metal beams.

The incident has attracted alot of attention not just because a worker was fatally injured but because just 2 weeks earlier the CFMEU had made accusations that safety at the Sydney construction site was neglected.

The accident which took place on a renovation project within the former headquarters of the New South Wales Nurses Association, happened just before midday when a 22 year old worker was hit by falling metal beams. The worker sustained injuries to his head and chest and tragically died on the scene.

This incident is particularly eye opening because it highlights the importance of addressing safety issues immediately. This incident could have been avoided if those in control of safety on the site had heeded the warnings of the union, only 2 weeks prior. On a hazardous construction site, proactive safety measures are necessary to avoid incidents. This site was obviously guilty of a number of safety failings and was shut down at Easter because of these safety concerns.

The workers involved in the incident had only been working at the company for about a week and was in Oz on a holiday work VISA. The CFMEU expressed its anger that warnings to the company about safety had been ignored which directly led to the death of the worker.

The incident happened as builders were digging at the bottom of the building and one of the slabs collapsed.

Even if hazards are addressed before work begins, employers should still review safety every so often to ensure that controls are still effective to address hazards and to ensure no new hazards have arisen which threaten worker’s safety.

Every employer has a responsibility to provide workers with a safe work environment and safe system of work, this includes prevention of free falling objects and where fall prevention is not possible a system to arrest falling objects before it can cause injury to workers.




Defining “Safety” in Construction

I was recently asked by someone a question which led me to question my own ideas about safety, the question, “what is safety”, the answer I found to be much more complex than I had originally thought.

The question got me thinking, not only about what the word “safety” means by what it implies to me to personally in the context of the work environment.

For me safety as it relates to the construction environment is a complex matter which involves all departments, tradespeople and workers as well as all entities involved in the construction project, from client to employer, principal contractor to casual labourer.

Helen Keller once said: “Safety is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,  nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

Many people think safety and danger go hand in hand, you cant have one without some form of the other, so using this logic naturally a construction site full of potential danger will require a level of safety to overcome these dangers. Being or “feeling” safe is the condition of being protected from this danger, risk or injury. Obviously where there is danger (on a construction site this comes in the form of hazards), safety must arise to bring about this “condition of protection from danger”.

But implementing this “protection” or “safety” is a process which requires a systematic approach taking into consideration all the factors on the construction site.

While most of the responsibility for safety is held by the employer, the construction worker, regardless of position or trade must also ensure that they do their part towards safety on site. Firstly each worker must complete the construction induction training, commonly referred to as The White Card.

According to Workplace Health and Safety Legislation you must be in possession of your white card before beginning any work on a construction site in Oz, no matter your trade.

The White Card Course is mandatory for anyone entering into a career or even just a temporary job on a construction site. This training does not involve costly and time consuming training in a classroom type environment, most people just complete the White Card Course online and receive their White Card in the mail.

The course is nationally recognised, so safety across all states is unified and improved. Workers are also able to work across borders and in any state they choose in Oz.

While we are all born with some sense of self preservation we cannot simply rely on our common sense to remain safe on a construction site. There are certain hazards that we may not be familiar with and there are tried and tested methods of overcoming these hazards – that is what the White Card Course teaches, how to work safely in the construction environment.


Workers, Go Home on Time!

Research conducted by The Australia Institute recently found that more than 50 per cent of the workers surveyed were dissatisfied with their working hours.

According to the study workers are either unhappy with the number of hours they work or unhappy because of an inability to get work or working too few hours to be able to support themselves and families.

The study’s focus was on the experiences of the “overworked” and those who are “underworked” in July 2013.

Workers that are fully employed seem to often be unhappy with the number of hours they work which results in them feeling overworked and dissatisfied. According to Kate Carnell, CEO of beyondblue, the organisation co-conducting the study, there is something very wrong in Australian workplaces because employees are working longer and longer but productivity does not reflect this because it is not increasing.

The study also found that the number of workers unhappy with their working hours has increased this year as compared to last year. Unfortunately the current labour environment is creating high levels of stress, depression and poor sleep patterns for many Aussies. This also has serious, negative consequences on worker’s lives, health, family and relationships.

The study included 1400 respondents, 800 of which were involved in paid work. A quarter of those overworked workers who were interviewed also experienced anxiety. The research also showed that 3.3 million “overworked” Australians also experience loss of sleep. Half of all Australian workers also wish they had more free time to spend with their families.

Many employees are suffering from financial insecurity because of unpredictable working hours which is beyond their control. Insufficient working hours are another problem plaguing Australian workers who revealed that involuntary time out of work was demoralising.

This excerpt from an article on ProbonoAustralian.com.au explains more about the research:

Early findings of the research paper Hard to get a break?, to be released in the lead-up to Go Home on Time Day on November 20, focus on the experiences of the “overworked” (those who would like to work fewer hours) and the “underworked” (for example, those struggling to enter the workforce or those who want to work more hours) and was based on an online survey conducted in July.

The findings revealed 50 per cent of Australians who are overworked would like to spend more time with their family.

Source: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2013/09/millions-aussies-lose-sleep-over-work#sthash.Qhel22if.dpuf

Carnell, CEO of beyondblue also explained that workers who are constantly under pressure to produce and forced to work extra hours to do so, are stressed which leads to depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are both serious issues which require attention, because while much attention is given to the physical health and wellbeing of workers, their mental wellbeing is just as important and also impacts on their overall health. Mental health issues affect workers, the employer and business, worker’s friends, family and community.

The post goes on to explain:

“Depression costs Australian businesses $12.3 billion every year through absenteeism, reduced productivity and staff turnover. So business owners need to wake up to the fact that poor work/life balance takes its toll on both their employees and their businesses.”

Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director of The Australia Institute, said Go Home on Time Day was a light-hearted way to start a serious conversation.

“When so many people say work – either too much or not enough – is making them anxious then it’s clearly a conversation that needs to be had,” he said.

“Managers see first-hand how productivity is affected when workers feel stressed or anxious. That’s why we’re encouraging businesses to participate.”

Read more at: http://www.probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2013/09/millions-aussies-lose-sleep-over-work#sthash.Qhel22if.dpuf



Worker Killed and another Injured after Building collapsed


Injured worker is removed from the site of the collapse

Photo: Channel Nine

Work Safety Authorities are currently investigating the cause of a building collapse that left one worker injured and claimed the life of another on a building site in Melbourne’s south-east recently.

WorkCover and the Victorian Building Authority investigators are currently trying to piece together the events leading up to the collapse in South Caulfield.

A 20 year old carpenter was unfortunately killed when he was covered by debris as part of a building he was working on collapsed.

According to police, the 2 men fell 10 metres when the top and mezzanine floors of the shopfront collapsed on Thursday morning, causing them to become trapped under the rubble.

This excerpt from a post on TheAge.com.au explains what happened:

Witnesses report hearing a loud crash as the floors gave way, narrowly missing two electricians working on the ground floor.

The pair tried desperately to free their workmates with the help of passers-by but were unable to save the 20-year-old.

A 48-year-old subcontractor pulled from the rubble was taken to The Alfred hospital in a serious but stable condition with fractured legs and a fractured arm as well as heavy cuts and bruising.

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said paramedics were called to the site about 10am.

Emergency crews and Workcover investigators spent the day at the scene but will not speculate on the cause of the collapse until investigations are complete.

Renovation of the narrow shopfront between a pizzeria and a beauty salon began in late April.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/tradesman-killed-workmate-injured-in-building-collapse-20130822-2segh.html#ixzz2cpBeooaz

The article goes on to describe how passers-by even joined co-workers to try and free the men from the debris. The younger worker was trapped under a lot of debris and unfortunately died on the scene. The post goes on to explain:

Nick Love, 21, said he and emergency workers worked for about 10 minutes to pull wood off the men. ”Once we got to the [younger] guy, he was under a lot of stuff and I just stepped back and let the paramedics do their thing.”

Source: :http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/tradesman-killed-workmate-injured-in-building-collapse-20130822-2segh.html#ixzz2cpBeooaz

An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said the surviving man suffered fractures to both his arms and possibly one of his legs but remained conscious throughout the ordeal. This is the 11th workplace fatality in Victoria this year and WorkSafe is on the scene investigating.

Workers can do little to prepare themselves for an unexpected incident such as a building collapse but it helps to be trained on construction site safety overall.

In addition to being the law, completing the White Card Course will teach workers the basic safety issues needed to operate safely on a construction site so that they do not place their own safety or that of their co-workers in jeopardy.


Commonly Missed Hazards on Construction Sites

Construction sites are considered to be one of the most potentially hazardous working environments and excessive exposure to hazards places workers at risk of injury and possibly even death. It is for this reason that companies engaged in construction activities need to identify all these hazards and address them by either eliminating them, minimising the risks associated with them and implementing the necessary control measures so that everyone on site is kept safe.

Unfortunately sometimes hazards can go unnoticed and sometimes even when the risk associated with a hazard is obvious those in charge of the site still fail to address them. For some reason there are certain hazards that are ignored more than  others, perhaps because it seems like too much of an effort and expense to implement the necessary control measures. Here are a list of commonly missed hazards on construction sites although not all inclusive the list can be useful in identifying any problems you may have missed on the construction site. The number of construction accidents relating to these hazards is the basis for the list.

1. Electrical Hazards:

In light of multiple electrical accidents which having been taking place on Aussie worksites,  many of which have proven fatal, it is important that we address general electrical safety on the construction site. Although the subject of electrical safety is too vast to cover in a brief paragraph having the right mindset, being alert and attentive to hazards is vital to avoid injury due to this hazard.

Workers need to learn how to recognise electrical wires whether they be in the form of power lines, electrical wiring exposed on the site due to work processes being undertaken or cables buried underground, particularly when working on renovation construction sites.

2. Slips, Trips and Falls

Some of the injuries associated with slips, trips and falls include cuts, sprains, fractures, spinal injury, strains and possibly death. As numerous as the possible injuries are, so too are the hazards that contribute to these injuries. By paying attention to these hazards, it is possible to reduce the risk involved.

Factors that contribute to slips, trips and falls include wet or oily floors, uneven or slippery surfaces or slopes, working on ladders or scaffolding or in fact working from any height, stairs, areas with bad lighting, working near trenches or pits etc.

Each of these need to be considered individually and if they cannot be eliminated or replaced with less hazardous work, the necessary control measures should be implemented to deal with them.

3. Hazards associated with Heavy Construction Equipment –

A number of construction workers die every year due to heavy construction equipment. The main causes of such accidents include ground workers struck when a vehicle is reversing or changing direction; equipment rollovers that injure the operator; mechanics run over when brakes are not properly set and ground workers crushed by falling equipment from backhoes, buckets, and other moving construction vehicles. To prevent these risks, workers should follow all construction safety guidelines necessary to eliminate the exposure to such injuries and accidents.

Safety risks on construction sites are unavoidable; however, these can be prevented if workers are instructed on how to identify the hazards that might be present at the work-site. The employer must establish proper safety standards that meet Australian regulations. This will ensure that workers will have a safe working environment during normal operation.

Most importantly ensure that all staff are aware of the risks and control measures implemented to deal with hazards on construction sites. Training and ongoing education of workers is vital in avoiding incidents on construction sites.



WorkCover Tasmania launches Workplace Bullying Research

WorkCover Tasmania has launched a new workplace bullying research initiative with the hope of developing strategiesand measures to overcome the problem. Despite attempts by workplace authorities to clamp down on bullying in the workplace, it is still rife among the Australian workforce and WorkCover Tasmania is attempting to tackle the issue as it relates specifically to their region.

A WorkCover board member, Kevin Harkins said that the research would look at both individual and organisations perceptions and experience with bullying, this would help in the formation of strategies to reduce the impact of workplace bullying.

Bullying is not limited to any one industry and is seldom stereotypical such as a boss bullying his/her subordinates. One of the problems the research aims to tackle is getting a more in-depth and state specific idea of the problem because in the past most of the research around bullying has been centred at a national and international level, little data specific to Tasmania is available – this is something the Bullying Project research program aims to overcome.

The research will begin with a state-wide telephone survey of the community followed by more in-depth interviews with respondents who have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying first hand within the past 6 months. Thereafter a survey of Tasmanian organisations will take place, which will involve looking at how they dealt with bullying within their organisations, relevant policies and procedures and the impact of bullying on the workplace.

The following excerpt from a post on TasmanianTimes.com explains more about WorkCover Tasmania’s efforts:

af39fb9896b7b2555d56b39ef13e56c4Mr Harkins said bullying had a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the targeted individuals and could result in depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches, lowered self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.

“The negative impacts often also extend to families, with the individual withdrawing or taking out their anger and frustration at home. “Time off work is often then required to treat the physical and psychological effects of bullying, or the person leaves their job, which may add financial pressure to the family, further compounding an already difficult situation.”

Research findings will provide the basis for a comprehensive strategy to combat bullying and its effects on workplaces and individuals in Tasmania.

Source: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/workcover-tasmania-launches-workplace-bullying-research/

The Workplace Bullying Project Team is made up of representatives from the WorkCover Tasmania Board, Workplace Standards and the Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner. The team will be looking into the definition of workplace bullying as well as attempting to identify initiatives to raise awareness about the issue, stressing that inappropriate behaviour such as any form of bullying will not be tolerated. The team will also be looking into the development of management systems and how these can be implemented at an organisational level.

Mr Harkins also explained what the team will be looking into on an individual level:

“On an individual level, the strategy will also look at early intervention methods, support mechanisms and quality information for individuals, as well as ensuring external intervention is readily available to resolve issues of bullying.”

Source: http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/article/workcover-tasmania-launches-workplace-bullying-research/

WorkSafe Vic Warns of Dangers Associated with Precast Concrete Panels

WorkSafe Victoria has warned of the dangers associated with precast concrete panels, being increasingly used for various types of building projects around the state.

Anyone in the construction industry would have noticed that precast concrete panels are becoming more commonly used in construction but the risks associated with their use is often underestimated, a recipe for disaster.

WorkSafe Victoria are warning builders to be aware of the risks associated with the use of these panels and implement the necessary controls to ensure worker safety.

WorkSafe Victoria is currently on a 10-week campaign to visit construction sites across the state to alert builders of the dangers of these huge panel structures. The greatest risk associated with these panels is that they may fall and because of their size, the damage and injury they can cause is great. WorkSafe has warned that because concrete panels can be over 12 metres high and weigh more than 15 tonnes, they require significant temporary bracing to keep them stable and avoid possibly fatal accidents.

On its website WorkSafe warned:

WorkSafe construction manager Allan Beacom said that precast panels were used in many types of commercial and residential developments, such as shopping centres, warehouses, factories, and apartment complexes, but their size and weight made their use a high-risk operation.

“There have been several recent near misses from the collapse of precast panels,” Mr Beacom said. “Concrete panels can be over 12 metres high and weigh more than 15 tonnes, and they also require significant temporary bracing to keep them stable. So there is no margin for error when panels are used.”

Mr Beacom said the panels had to be erected and temporarily braced by licensed riggers and crane operators. Builders then had the responsibility to ensure the stability of the panels until they were locked into the building structure.

See more at: http://www.worksafenews.com.au/component/k2/item/345-beware-the-risks-when-using-concrete-precast-panels.html#sthash.R9y35Cx4.dpuf

One of the issues that seem to be contributing to the problem is that many builders in the industry do not have sufficient experience working with these precast panels and workers aren’t trained to work with or around them safely. Mr Beacom warns that employers need to be aware of the risks and have safe working methods in place to keep workers out of danger.

It is vital that employers develop and implement specific processes and procedures if precast concrete panels are to be used on site to ensure the safety of everyone on site because if it should fall, it is very likely that someone could be seriously injured or killed.

The post on WorkSafeNews.com.au went on to explain,

Mr Beacom said there were no second chances when a concrete panel fell. “Its size and weight means it’s either going to be a near miss or a fatality should something go wrong,” he said.

“This campaign is aimed at ensuring anyone involved in this type of construction gets home safely at the end of their day.”

See more at: http://www.worksafenews.com.au/component/k2/item/345-beware-the-risks-when-using-concrete-precast-panels.html#sthash.R9y35Cx4.dpuf

Tasmanian Minister welcomes Reduction in Workplace Injuries

We seldom hear good news when it comes to workplace health and safety, so it is encouraging to hear that the Tasmanian Minister has praised the reduction in workplace injuries in the state.

Tasmania’s Workplace Relations Minister says that workplace injury statistics prove that the many efforts of the government such as safety messages are making a positive impact.

Apparently the number of workplace injuries have dropped to an all-time low to below 9000 in 2012 as compared to previous years.

David O’Byrne announced the record low numbers at the launch on WorkSafe Tasmania month. He said that for the first time in history the number of injuries have dropped below 9000 in the state. He attributed the decline to a combination of factors including everyone working together to improve safety. Considerable effort has been put in by state government, workplace safety authorities, employers and employees who have all played a part in reducing the number of injuries among workers.

Some of the factors that presumably have contributed to this improvement in workplace safety in Tasmania include sufficient training and supervision of staff, commitment to safety by employers and employees, this is important for all states who want to also experience the same kind of improvement.

The unions believe the decline in workplace injuries have a lot to do with tougher fines under new workplace laws.

An article on Abc.net.au explained more about the latest injury figures,

Workplace Relations minister David O’Byrne says there were 8,934 injury reports last year, 378 fewer than the year before.

“For the first time we’ve dipped below 9,000 injuries per year,” he said.

Four Tasmanians have been killed at work in the past year.

New workplace laws came into effect this year.

Unions Tasmania’s Kevin Harkins says they are helping combat an alarming culture.

“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

There has been a 4 per cent drop in the number of Tasmanians being injured at work, a positive trend, but more still needs to be done. Although 4 per cent doesn’t seem that significant of a change, even one injury is one too many, so any improvement is welcome. Tasmania still has the second highest injury rate after Queensland and has a long way to go before it is on par with other states such as Victoria in workplace safety.

Although the government has implemented the mandatory national white card, aimed at encouraging uniform safety on construction sites across Oz, the construction industry is still showing some of the highest injury rates in the country.  While the construction industry is one of the most injury ridden, it is important that builders recognise the importance of training to reduce injuries and incidents on site.


SafeWork SA warns, “Beware of Imposter Inspectors”

Some companies in South Australia were alarmed at discovering that people they thought were SafeWork inspectors, issuing them with instructions and inspecting work on their sites, were in actual fact imposters posing as inspectors.

SafeWork SA has subsequently issued a warning to all SA businesses to be aware of fake safety inspectors visiting worksites and even issuing verbal and written directions.

Two imposter inspectors apparently visited construction sites in the state and conducted their own safety inspections, even issuing workers with directions, according to SafeWork SA’s news release.

Safe Work SA has urged all employers to ask for proof of identity and check the credentials of any unknown persons who ask for access to a workplace especially those claiming to be SafeWork inspectors. Those who are authentic SafeWork inspectors will always be carrying an ID proving they are who they say they are and are an authorised inspector. Also they will usually be wearing a SafeWork SA uniform with SafeWork’s emblem on it.

Also generally it is important that construction sites in particular practice good security, not only for the safety of workers but also for the safety of others entering the site. The site should not be open for anyone to enter and access should be strictly controlled because it is a highly hazardous environment and there is a lot of room for accidents to occur.

Working Safely Around Heavy Machinery

A workman on a construction site in Perth was trapped under his machinery and had to be rescued by emergency services. The man sustained injuries as a result of the incident, however the full extent of his injuries have not yet been revealed.

Read what happened according to a post on Perthnow.com.au

922800A WORKMAN who was trapped under machinery has been freed and is being airlifted to Perth for treatment.

The worker was trapped under machinery at Coolup, about 100km south of Perth.

A DFES spokesman said the man had been freed from under the machinery and would be airlifted to Perth for treatment.

The helicopter landed at RPH just after 1pm.

St John Ambulance received the call for help just after 10am today.

Firefighters from Mandurah and volunteer Fire and Rescue Service firefighters from Pinjarra and Waroona attended the accident scene.

The extent of the man’s injuries is not yet known.

Read more at: http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/injured-worker-trapped-under-machinery-in-south-west/story-fnhocxo3-1226720121021

One of the most common hazards associated with machinery on construction sites is caught between and struck-by injuries. Caught between injuries occur when workers are caught between the machinery and something else or 2 pieces of machinery. Sometimes workers become trapped in the cab of the heavy machinery after an incident occurs and is unable to escape with outside assistance. Often workers can become pinned by machinery and are unable to move or are seriously injured as a result.

Struck-by injuries are another common cause of injuries involving heavy machinery. Workers are commonly struck by machinery and moving vehicles on construction sites and there are various measures that need to be implemented to avoid these events.

Machinery that has unguarded moving parts or that is not lockedout during maintenance; heavy equipment that tips over and working between moving materials and immovable structures, vehicles, or equipment are just some of the working conditions that contribute to caught between hazards.

Virtually every site uses machinery that has moving or rotating parts or that requires maintenance or repair at some point during construction. If machinery is not adequately guarded or de-energized during maintenance or repair, injuries from caught- between hazards may result. Injuries that may occur range from amputations and fractures to fatalities.

Operators also need to be aware that they or other workers on site can be trapped and crushed under heavy equipment that tips, especially if they are thrown from the equipment.

Another hazard that you need to be aware of involves being pinned between equipment and a solid object, such as a wall or another piece of equipment or between materials being stacked or stored and a solid object. Workers could also be pinned between shoring and construction materials in a trench. Some of the types of injuries that can result include multiple broken bones, asphyxiation and/or death.

These types of hazards and the prevalence with which they occur highlight the need for general construction safety training. This general safety training in Oz should take the form of the White Card Course. For more information on how to complete the course online visit our homepage.