During Asbestos Awareness Week, 19-25 November the dangers related to asbestos were highlighted, particularly to young tradespeople and apprentices who may not be familiar with the risks or what to do if they suspect exposure.
Minister for Industrial Relations Grace Grace visited year 10 students at Kelvin Grove State College’s Trade Training Centre highlighting the importance of asbestos safety.
She reminded them that there is no cure for mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis and there are other horrible conditions that can be contracted from exposure to asbestos.
It’s crucial that everyone is aware of the risks from students to apprentices to experienced tradespeople and foremen. It’s also important for people to know what to do if they suspect asbestos may be present.
The NT is one of the areas in Australia experiencing extremely hot temperatures prompting WorkSafe to issue a safety warning to businesses and workers to take precautions to avoid heat illnesses which can be deadly.
Heat related illness can present itself as heat rash, heat cramps, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
NT WorkSafe warned employers and workers to follow safety tips to help avoid heat related illness including,
drinking plenty of water,
using shade protection including a hat and suncreen,
ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) is efficient for the work being done and the amount of sun exposure,
Try to schedule work for cooler times of the day and avoid the hotter hours
The 12 month construction blitz conducted by SafeWork inspectors in NSW has been hailed as a success following 1258 notices being issued and 186 small businesses receiving rebates.
The blitz was aimed at reducing work from heights.
According to SafeWork NSW Executive Director, Tony Williams 1000 sites were visited, prompted by 9 workplace deaths in the state in 2017. Alot more people were injured on construction sites due to falls from heights.
“Falls from heights is the number one killer on construction sites. We undertook a concentrated education campaign for tradies and provided rebates for small business,”
“Since the start of the blitz, we have given more than $86,000 of rebates to 186 small businesses to help them work safely at heights.
“While inspectors have observed troubling levels of non-compliance, they are working with employers to educate them and taking enforcement action where needed, including issuing on-the-spot fines. Williams explained.
Mr Williams said inspectors issued 1258 notices to stop or improve work processes and 93 on-the-spot fines when the falls risk to workers was imminent or serious, and for repeat offender workplaces.
Since the start of the safety blitz, inspectors say they have seen an improvement of up to 9 per cent in compliance relating to work from height such as scaffolds, formwork, ladders, safety planning documents, site inductions, and toolbox talks. Mr Williams said the construction industry still has a long way to go to secure safety.
“Over the next two years, SafeWork will continue to work on those areas of highest risk in the construction industry. This includes working on roofs, ladders and non-compliant scaffolds, as part of a broader falls from heights action plan SafeWork NSW is releasing today,” Mr. Williams said.
So far in January (January 24, 2019) according to Safe Work Australia, there have been 5 workplace fatalities in Australia.
In 2018, there were 152 workers killed at work, an improvement from the previous year when 190 workers were killed on the job.
Of the 5 workers killed in 2019, 2 were from the construction industry, as compared to last year this time when only 1 construction worker had died on the job. The agriculture, fishing and forestry industry was responsible for 2 deaths this year as well, with the transport industry claiming one life.
For the construction industry, we haven’t had a very good start to the year however it’s not too late to make a change. There’s still time to turn things around and make safety the first priority, beginning with construction safety training.
Construction workers on Canberra’s light rail network recently had to work in near 40 degree heat, despite the construction union pushing for a deal for workers to stop working when temperatures reach 37 degrees.
Workers had to endure 39 degrees recently while working on the government funded light rail project, in attempts to stop delays to completion of the first stage of the project from Gungahlin to the city.
WorkSafe Victoria has urged employers in the north to ensure the protection of workers in the extreme heat.
With temperatures often soaring above 40 degrees, employers were reminded to ensure work is managed safely and that workers are well hydrated.
Working in such extreme heat can cause dehydration and heat stress which can be fatal in the worst cases. Brain injury and organ failure are also a risk,WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said.
She warned that it is important to plan out the day and prioritise the workload, rescheduling or modifying the work load to reduce heat exposure.
While charges, fines and prosecutions aren’t the most serious consequences of workplace incidents such as trench collapses, (the human cost is much higher) they hopefully do serve as a deterrent for others to avoid similar mistakes that can have such as tragically high cost of human life.
One such incident involved the deaths of 2 workers who died in Ballarat last year when a trench collapsed. The civil construction company involved has since been charged with breaches of section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The company is accused of failing to maintain the battering or benching of the excavation and failure to use trench shields and manhole cages to avoid the risk of engulfment. It also failed to provide workers with supervision.
The incident took place in March 2018 when the 2 workers were laying pipe in the trench at a housing development site. One worker, a 34 year old died on the scene while the other worker, a 21 year old man died in the hospital shortly afterwards.