Basic Tips for Working from Heights

Falls from heights have been identified as the main cause of injury in construction workers. Civil construction sites in particular possess a high fall injury record.

Employers are often to blame, because they fail to provide supervision and fall protection, or fail to train workers on how to effectively use fall arrest systems. Many employers have been prosecuted for this, so in order to safeguard themselves employers should follow safety procedures.

1. Develop and Allocate responsibilities to workers for managing fall prevention. It is not only the employer’s duty to manage fall prevention workers also have a role to play.

2. Identify All Fall Hazards, for example work from house roofs, work on fragile or unstable surfaces, work on sloping or slippery surfaces, work near an edge, hole, pit or shaft.

3. Assess potential dangers and possible circumstances that may increase the risk of the fall.

4. Question whether the work can be done from the ground to eliminate the hazard or can a work positioning system be used to minimise the risk of falling.

5. Implement fall prevention measuresto control the risk, if the risk cannot be removed and train workers on these measures.

6. Ensure Emergency Procedures are in place in the event of a fall and workers are well trained in emergency response procedures.

7. Use the correct plant for the task and do so safely. Also ensure fall prevention devices are properly maintained and used.

8. Regularly conduct risk assessments and access safety measures at every site and as changes occur, review measures regularly.


White Card Update: Danger of Operating Mobile Plant near Overhead Powerlines

(Photo: SweetCrisis /

NSW authorities are consistently receiving notification of incidents involving mobile plant coming into contact with overhead power lines. In fact authorities cite an astonishing number of incidents where cranes, machinery and other mobile plant come into contact with power lines every year. Since 2011 a total of 55 incidents have occurred.

Such incidents include the following as reported on WorkCover’s website:

  • A mobile crane operator struck a 11kV power line when unloading a truck.
  • A truck driver raised a tipper and struck a 11kV power line.
  • An excavator boom struck a 11kV power line.
  • A low loader struck low voltage overhead power lines.
  • An operator raised a drill rig into high voltage transmission lines.
  • A wheat harvester struck power lines, which resulted in a fire that engulfed the machine.


The incidents above could have been avoided if the operators had identified the hazard in time and were able to implement a safe system of work and maintain a safe distance from the energised power lines.

The serious risk of contact with overhead power lines is that electrocution can result. The worker may suffer electric shock or burns. There is also the possibility of fires and explosions that may immobilise mobile plant involved in work and cause injury or death of the operator.

According to WorkCover an employer or person conducting a business or undertaking near energised overhead power lines and associated electrical apparatus should adhere to the following before commencing work:

Clearly identify the height and voltage of high and low voltage power lines, including overhead service lines to buildings.

Conduct a risk assessment of the proposed work.

If necessary, consult with the relevant electricity supply authority about the work and comply with any special conditions imposed by them.

A cement truck reversed into an overhead service line at a residential property.

Eliminate the risk by arranging for the electricity supply authority to isolate the electricity supply for the duration of the work.

If the risk cannot be eliminated, separate the electrical hazard from the mobile plant and the workers by ensuring the following approach distances are maintained:

Up to 132,000 volts – 3 metres

Between 132,000 volts and 330,000 volts – 6 metres

Above 330,000 volts – 8 metres.

Note: when applying the above approach distances, it is important to take into account the ‘sag and swing’ of the powerlines, the movement of the mobile plant and the strength of the wind, as well as possible operator error or equipment malfunction.

Ensure a safety observer is used whenever a mobile plant is in motion and is likely to come closer than the above approach distances.

Ensure an effective communication system is in place for the workers performing the work.

Remember the safe work procedure when working near overhead power lines – LOOK UP AND LIVE.

Emergency response to a power line incident

Should contact be made with a live overhead power line and a vehicle, the following actions must be taken.

Try not to panic. Remain calm and stay in the vehicle. Don’t risk being electrocuted by attempting to leave the vehicle.

Advise anyone near the incident site to stay at least eight metres away from the vehicle or any fallen power lines.

Source: Source:

Operators should also remember that in the event of an emergency they should contact the local electricity supply authority to have the electricity turned off. Emergency services should be immediately contacted by dialling 000 especially in a life threatening situation.

Operators involved in an incident should attempt to break the vehicles contact with the live power line if it is safe to do so. But if it will create another hazard then it should not be done.

Operators who are involved in an incident involving a fire or life threatening situation that requires them jumping out of the vehicle, should avoid contact with the vehicle and ground at the same time. Also the operator should ensure that they land with their feet together and then continue to jump or shuffle with their feet together until at least eight metres clear of the vehicle or power lines.

It is also important that untrained or unequipped persons should not attempt to rescue a person who has received an electric shock as this has been the cause of secondary deaths of people just trying to help who are electrocuted themselves.

If you are a bystander, before you attempt to help in such a situation, ensure that the vehicle is immobilised, the power supply switched off and it is safe to do so.


Whitecard update: Hazards to the Health of Construction Workers

Workers in the construction industry face a number of health and safety hazards on their sites each day. Various tradesmen have to operate at the same time in a confined space on a site which makes the possibility on injury greater.

Some of the hazards that workers face involve exposure to materials that can cause serious illness and affect the worker’s long term health. Here we have included some of the materials that may cause damage or injury to workers health and safety and how they can be overcome.

Wood and Wood Dust

Construction workers are often involved in doing flooring and wall panelling and therefore have to handle large amounts of particleboard or fibreboard. These wood boards or panels contain a potentially deadly chemical, called formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is suspected of contributing to cancer in humans which is what makes it such a threat.


Construction workers are involved in sawing, drilling, sanding and other machine work that generates large amounts of wood dust. This wood dust becomes dangerous when it is airborne. Inhaling formaldehyde can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat and a range of other symptoms in extreme cases.

Nasal Cancer among wood workers is common because large wood dust particles can become easily trapped in the nasal passage. Chronic lung disease can also result from inhaling wood dust which drastically reduces the functioning of the lungs.

Occupational asthma is another side effect of this type of work. Woods such as oak, western red cedar and blackwood are known causes. Allergic diseases may be caused by handling and working with timber contaminated with fungi or moulds.

So how can this type of hazard be managed? Employers need to provide an efficient dust extraction system to control wood dust. Also the effectiveness of PPE cannot be underestimated. Suitable personal protection (in the form of dust masks and eye protection) must be worn when machining wood at all times. Good housekeeping is also important. The work area should be cleaned daily and wood dust removed.  To prevent the formaldehyde in custom woods from causing cancer, make sure that the work area is well ventilated.

Synthetic Mineral Fibres (SMF)

Another danger posed to construction workers are synthetic mineral fibres (SMF). There are products commonly used in construction of buildings, made from fibreglass, rockwool and ceramic. These are fibrous products which are widely used in buildings for thermal insulation and sound protection. This means that workers that are at risk include laggers, plumbers and carpenters.

Some experts even fear that these fibres could be as dangerous to workers health as asbestos because they have similar side effects.  Some of these fibres are less dangerous and cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Others, such as fibreglass are more dangerous and can cause lung cancer.

Employers should provide workers with suitable respirators and protective clothing. Workers have a responsibility to wear the PPE provided if they are exposed to the hazard.


Chemicals or solvents are commonly used by various workers on a construction site for degreasing, cleaning and painting and are also found in glues, paints and varnishes.

Solvents are chemicals that are easily evaporated which results in workers breathing in the toxic fumes.  Exposure to the vapour or liquid form can have both short and long-term effects on the construction worker’s health.

Exposure to solvents can also be absorbed through the skin rather than inhaled and may still cause damage.

Short term side effects may include headaches, nausea, drowsiness and dermatitis. The effects of repeated exposure include kidney damage, liver and skin problems. These solvents also have the ability of affecting a person’s mental state and nervous system causing sleep disorders, short-term memory loss and dementia.

Provision of information by the employer, to the workers is important and required by WH&S regulations.

Workers will be provided with site specific training that should incorporate the dangerous substance that workers will be exposed to on site and how to effectively manage this hazard. While these are not the only hazardous substances workers will have to endure on site, similar prevention methods can be used to prevent them causing harm to workers. 


White Card Update: Trench Safety Warning

WorkSafe has warned that construction workers need to be aware of the danger of working around trenches. Construction workers in particularly are in danger of being injured when trench walls collapse. This warning follows an incident which saw a plumber sustaining serious injuries after a trench collapsed where he was working. Thankfully the worker did not suffer any serious injuries because as WorkSafe warns, the situation could have been much worse. This alert posted on WorkSafe’s website has more:

WorkSafe is reminding the construction industry of the dangers associated with trenches after one collapsed on a worker at a domestic housing site at Pakenham at the weekend.  The incident happened a week before a 12-month statewideWorkSafe campaign targeting safety on housing construction sites. Injuries on construction sites cost the industry $17 million a year in medical costs, wages and other expenses. The trench collapsed on a plumber while he was connecting a sewer at a housing construction site about 9.30am on Saturday. WorkSafe’s Construction Manager Allan Beacom said it was fortunate the worker had a colleague nearby who was able to raise the alarm. “Broken limbs, asphyxia and crush injuries are just some of the serious injuries that can occur when a trench collapses,” he said. “This man is incredibly lucky he wasn’t seriously injured; the consequences could have been a lot worse.” Mr Beacom said the incident was a reminder to the construction industry to review safety practices. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve come across an incident where a trench has collapsed on a worker. This time last year, WorkSafe issued a safety alert on this topic as we were coming across a number of incidents being engulfed in collapsed trenches.” “There’s a range of control measures that can be implemented before beginning work on trenches. They are well-known across the industry and should be implemented to eliminate any risk of a collapse.” “As we’re in the middle of winter, it’s equally important that environmental factors such as wet weather conditions and increased ground moisture are taken into account as they could affect soil stability.” “Poor soil stability and loose earth places workers at greater risk of serious injury if a trench is a metre or more deep. We urge those who are putting together a safe work method statement to take these factors into account.” Other control measures include ensuring:   –    A colleague is on site while trench works are being carried out; 1.Work is planned so it can be done safely, including determining appropriate; engulfment protection and site security requirements; 2.A safe work method statement (SWMS) is developed for high risk work that involves mobile plant or if the trench depth is 1.5m or more; 3.Workers never work outside of protection shields or remove it prematurely if it is being progressively installed; 4.Materials, spoil and plant are kept away from the edge of the trench. The Code of Practice for Safety Precautions in Trenching Operations can be found at Source:

A similar incident occurred last week when a worker was trapped waist deep in a trench and had to be rescued by emergency services. The accident happened when the man was working in the trench at a new housing project in Pakenham. The bad weather in the area caused the trench to collapse, trapping the worker in the hole. Emergency personnel had to use specialist equipment to free the man. This included the use of hydraulic equipment that firefighters utilised to dig the trench safely and prevent further collapse. The worker was been taken to hospital and thankfully only suffered minor injuries. The good news is that the authorities say these types of incidents are isolated which means that most workers do the right thing and work safely. The weather was the cause of the incident and not human error. This worker was lucky to escape unscathed however planning, developing safe work method statements and general caution when working near trenches will ensure that incidents of this nature remain uncommon.


White Card Update: Construction workers risk of Dermatitis

A little known problem in the construction world is the occupational skin diseases that affect many workers. Despite the various ways workers attempt to protect themselves the skin is still the largest organ of the body and so is the most vulnerable due to the amount of exposure it endures.

Construction workers can suffer from a disease called Dermatitis which is a skin disease. Skin diseases are caused by substances and processes used in the workplace. Known as dermatitis, this disease causes an inflammation of the skin. This disease is most often caused when the skin comes into contact with harmful agents.

There are 2 types of Dermatitis

  • Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Some substances penetrate the dermis and sensitise the skin. The result is that even very low concentrations of the substance trigger an allergic reaction in the future. Sensitisation may occur within days of exposure but usually takes months to years to fully show itself. That is why many workers are not aware they have a problem until it is very bad. Once a worker develops sensitivity to something or some substance, it is a life-long problem and any exposure to the sensitising substance must be avoided. Allergic responses are different for different people and the rash produced may look just like an irritant contact dermatitis.

  • Irritant Contact Dermatitis

Most Dermatitis inflammations (about 90%) are a result of contact with one or more of the many irritant agents on the construction site. It can occur in anyone and can show itself immediately or after years of exposure. The skin becomes red at the site of contact (with construction work this is usually the hands) and blisters, swelling and itching may develop. Over time, the skin becomes thick, rough and cracked.

Occupational skin diseases such as Dermatitis are a widespread problem. Construction workers and painters are particularly susceptible to this disease because they are in constant contact with cement, epoxy resins, paint, solvents etc.

How can skin diseases be prevented?

A safer alternative to the product giving the problems should be sought. The hazard should be eliminated by for example replacing epoxy paint withnon-epoxy containing paint.

The work process should be totally or partially enclosed. For example, total or partial enclosures around machines, parts of machines, or conveyer belts can prevent oil mist and oil splashes contaminating workers’ hands and clothing. If it is necessary to see the part being machined, these enclosures can be transparent. Mineral oils are one of the most common causes of dermatitis.

A possible solution may be automating certain work processes. An example would be using a machine to wash paint trays instead of workers scrubbing the trays with solvents. This will eliminate the problems caused by breathing in solvent vapours, as well as skin problems caused by contact with solvents.

Work practices could be changed, to eliminate or reduce the chances of skin contact with chemicals. An example would be providing automatic dispensing of organic solvents from drums to containers thereby reducing the risk of skin irritation when the solvent splashes or vaporises.

(Photo: adamr /

Tips to Follow:

  • Employers must provide protective clothing. PPE should be supplied and laundered by the employer. Protective clothing should never be taken home.
  • Gloves do protect workers hands but some workers skin may be irritated by latex gloves. Try using PVC gloves if you develop a reaction to latex.
  • During long periods of work, remove gloves and give hands time to air at regularly because hand care is important.
  • Hand cleaning should be done with soap or other solvent-free hand cleansersand not with organic solvents.
  • As soon as you notice any changes in your skin texture, colour etc. see a doctor. Perhaps if it is detected earlier it can be cured or managed better so as not to develop into full blown occupational dermatitis.
  • Good housekeeping is important. Work areas should be kept as clean as possible. Ensure that surfaces and the outside of bottles and their containers are not splattered with substances.
  • Employers should provide paper or disposable towels for workers to dry their skin. Workers can insist on this. Toxic materials should not be wiped off with a reusable towel.
  • Like all dangerous activities, work using dangerous chemicals should be isolated to prevent workers that are not involved from being exposed.

Vic WorkCover – Emphasis on Construction Safety

Source : Elliott Brown

Following the statistics that were released showing that housing construction is costing the industry millions of dollars, the month of August will see WorkCover Inspectors target safety in Casey, Melbourne.

The organisation has named the campaign, “SafeSite” and will focus on inspections in the housing construction industry. Inspectors will be concentrating on safety planning, site supervision, fall prevention, housekeeping, electrical safety and workers onsite facilities and amenities.

According to the Assistant Treasurer of WorkCover, Gordon Rich-Phillips, the aim of the campaign is reduce the cost of housing construction accidents which was estimated at $17 million last year.

Rich-Phillips emphasised that safety requires a planned and concerted effort and doesn’t just happen, especially on fast paced sites.  Part of a safe site involves effective supervision and planning and every worker on site needs to be attentive to safety.  He also explained that while WorkCover is there to help, the ones ultimately responsible for safety are the workers on site.

WorkCover will target various suburban and regional areas over the next year, starting with this campaign.  Casey was chosen as the first area to be targeted, due to the high number of construction incidents that occur here each year however campaigns in five other areas will follow over the course of the next 12 months according to WorkCover.


South Australian Government to fast-track building work

The government of South Australian has announced plans to fast track current building projects in efforts to boost the construction revenue generated in the state. The question remains, what will the safety consequences of this action be?

The reported on the governments plans:

THE South Australian government is to fast-track building projects worth more than $20 million to provide a boost to the state’s construction sector.

Premier Jay Weatherill said the projects would be intensively case managed to cut through red tape and bring them on quicker to help the industry through a difficult period.

“This won’t alter our existing planning, environmental and safety approvals system, which is the best in the nation,” Mr Weatherill said on Monday.

“But there is a sense of urgency about the circumstances of the building and construction sector.

“That’s why we are taking this extraordinary step to ensure that our construction industry is supported.”

Mr Weatherill said maintaining an infrastructure spending program in the state budget was also part of the government’s support for the construction sector.


An incident that occurred this week highlighted the danger of working on construction sites and the need for greater attention to safety. A young apprentice lost his life when he fell from a height. The young worker was identified as Leigh Anthony Reaney and was just 20 years old.

This post on The has a detailed report:

A 20-YEAR-OLD man injured in a workplace accident at the Devonport homemaker centre site on Monday has died.

Police confirmed Leigh Anthony Reaney, of Launceston, died yesterday afternoon following a 4.5-metre fall from a roof at the Stony Rise construction site about 1.40pm on Monday.

The apprentice roofing contractor fell onto a concrete slab below. His workmates rushed to help and assisted him until ambulance paramedics arrived.

He was taken by ambulance to the Mersey Community Hospital at Latrobe and then airlifted to the Royal Hobart Hospital in a critical condition, where he died from his injuries yesterday.

Workplace Standards and police were at the Fairbrother-operated site on Monday afternoon and again yesterday.

Workplace Standards general manager Roy Ormerod said the man was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and a harness, but his harness was not connected to a secure line.

“One of the things we’re investigating is why wasn’t the harness attached,” Mr Ormerod said.

He said the cause of the accident was still under investigation, but Mr Reaney fell through a sump, or a large box covered with sheet metal that directs water from the guttering to the down pipe.

“That wasn’t secured properly, but then it’s probably not designed to take his weight anyway. We have to ascertain if it’s risky behaviour or negligence and prepare a report for the coroner on causation.”

Fairbrother CEO Craig Edmunds issued a statement from the company yesterday and said the thoughts and wishes of the entire Fairbrother team were with the young man’s family, friends and workmates at this very difficult time.

“All of our people and our subcontract partners have been shaken by this terrible news,” Mr Edmunds said.

“Fairbrother is cooperating fully with Workplace Standards Tasmania and the police, who are conducting investigations and inquiries into this tragic incident. As this matter is now the subject of a formal investigation, the company is unable to provide further comment at this stage.”


Although the worker was wearing the appropriate PPE, the equipment was not properly utilised which led to its ineffectiveness in preventing the workers death. The actual cause of the fall is however still under investigation, however it is likely to be either risky behaviour or negligence.

In general fall protection concerning safety harnesses involves three basic elements, each of which are equally important, they are the safety harness, the lanyard and the anchor point. Each one of these elements needs to be working as if any of these elements fail the entire system fails and a worker can be seriousness injured or killed.

 A good fall protection plan is not as simple as putting on a safety harness and going to work. Training is needed to ensure it is being effectively used to minimise the risk of injury or as in this case death.

Posted by Steven Asnicar


White Card Update: Imported Material Tainted with Asbestos

The Construction Union is concerned about the incident involving asbestos being found in structures imported from Indonesia. The union has warned its members about the incident and issued an alert to educate workers.

Strangely the importation of asbestos products was banned in Australia almost a decade ago, so how this material could have slipped through the cracks is still unknown. The union is particularly concerned about the safety of electricians who may be exposed.

The asbestos was only discovered after a fire in one of the switch boards cause the asbestos sheeting to break, revealing the dangerous asbestos fibres within. reported on the case:

The CFMEU has advised its members that asbestos was found in pre-assembled structures imported from Indonesia for installation at local building sites.

The alert was issued after the union learnt that the Bechtel Construction Pty Ltd site on Curtis Island near Gladstone, Queensland, had imported sheds built from converted shipping containers.

They were assembled in Indonesia and supplied by the international company METITO Pty Ltd to house the Motor Control Centres for the Sewage Treatment Plant.

CFMEU QLD/NT safety officer Andrew Ramsay said tests had confirmed the internal linings of the sheds consisted of Asbestos Cement Sheeting/Tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings.

‘As we are all aware the importation of asbestos products has been banned through the Customs Act in Australia since 31 December 2003,’ he said.

‘The asbestos in these sheds came to light after a fire in one of the switch boards caused the sheeting to be broken and exposed the fibres to the workers involved.’

‘The Union is concerned that many electricians may also have been exposed during fit-out of these sheds before the alarm was raised.’


The report goes on to report on the latest Mesothelioma figures in Oz which are among the highest in the world. It is expected that up to 18,000 more Australians will die from mesothelioma by 2020. Mesothelioma is the cancer of the pleura. This disease grows and spreads quickly before the symptoms appear which makes early diagnosis and treatments harder.  The average survival time after diagnosis is only 6-18 months. A very small exposure to asbestos can be enough to trigger the cancer. The danger of this disease is that there may be a lag time of 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure before mesothelioma results.

The report goes on to cite the following statistics:

Mesothelioma report reveals diagnosis and death rates

Meanwhile, Safe Work Australia has published a statistical report containing data on the number of mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed between 1982 and 2008, as well as the number of deaths due to mesothelioma between 1997 and 2007.

The key findings are summarised below:

New cases diagnosed

 •In 2008 there were 661 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia.

The number of new cases decreased from a previous peak of 652 new cases in 2003 to 591 new cases in 2006: initially suggesting a decreasing trend. However, the number of diagnoses reported in 2007 reached a new peak of 668 cases. This increase between 2006 and 2007 was mainly due to the increase in diagnoses for men (from 487 to 561 new cases respectively).

 •In 2008, the age-standardised incidence rate of new cases of mesothelioma was 2.9 per 100 000 population.

This rate has increased over time, from 1.2 cases in 1982 to a peak of 3.2 in 2003. In 2008, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new cases occurred among men aged 85 years and over: 48 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and over.

Deaths due to mesothelioma

•In 2007 there were 551 deaths attributed to mesothelioma.

Data on the number of deaths due to mesothelioma are available for the years 1997 to 2007. Reflecting the increase in incidence of new cases diagnosed, the overall number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma generally increased over the period between 1997 and 2007: reaching a maximum of 551 deaths in 2007.

 •In 2007, the age-standardised rate of death due to mesothelioma was 2.4 deaths per 100 000 population.

The overall age-standardised rate has remained relatively stable over the 10 years for which data are available. Over the period the standardised rate has ranged between a minimum of 2.1 deaths per 100 000 population in 1999 and a maximum of 2.7 in 2001.’


 Posted by Steven Asnicar


White Card Update: Construction Worker Burned on Site

An incident that occurred on an American construction site is a startling reminder of the danger of burns that construction workers are exposed to. The incident took place last Thursday when construction workers were preparing to place concrete in a driveway using a skid loader. The burn victim caught on fire after becoming drenched in gasoline. Thankfully the worker survived with just 20 per cent burns to his body, it could have been much worse but co-workers managed to hose him down with water.

This is what the post in had to say:


A man was burned over nearly 20 per cent of his body in a construction accident at Spring Gardens Estates in South Middleton Township on Thursday morning.

According to South Middleton Township Emergency Services Administrator Ron Hamilton, the incident occurred shortly before 9:30 a.m. and involved a piece of construction equipment.

He said workers were using a skid-loader in the first block of Spring Garden Estates, preparing to place concrete in a driveway along the curbing. At the time, a worker smelled gas coming from the machine, which wasn’t running, and attempted to take the lid off of the gas tank to relieve the pressure.

When he did that, the lid “blew off” of the tank and shot gasoline onto the victim, who was “soaked,” according to Hamilton.

He said that shortly thereafter, an ignition source, possibly a hot muffler or other parts of the machine, lit the spilled gas as workers were using the loader.

The driver, who was the man who was sprayed earlier, then caught fire due to his gas-soaked clothing, Hamilton said.

Co-workers managed to find a garden hose and hosed him off.

“He was lucky that was around,” Hamilton said.

According to Hamilton, paramedics with Cumberland Goodwill EMS reported that the man was burned over 20 per cent of his body, and, as a precaution, he was flown via Life Lion to Johns Hopkins Burn Center in Baltimore.

The Union Fire Company arrived and quickly doused the remaining flames using foam, Hamilton said.

The name of the man was not released.

Read more:

On construction sites there are a variety of ways that fires can occur and pose a huge hazard to workers. From electrical fires caused by machinery to gasoline fires like the one in the post, hazards on building sites abound. Fires on construction sites can cause mass destruction and loss of life. All workers should be trained on fire safety and take responsibility to ensure that fire risks are minimised. Workers should not engage in wreakless activities that may cause a fire.

The site should be kept clean and clutter free. Equipment should be put away in their correct place. Also workers should be trained on workplace health and safety best practice when carrying out tasks that present a potential fire hazard.  Workers should keep in mind that in order for a fire to occur, a chemical reaction is required. This chemical reaction involves an ignition source (heat),  Fuel (can be gas like in the post discussed above, flammable liquid or timber) and Oxygen.

Different fires can be extinguished differently and there are more than just one kind of fire extinguisher.  The first method is Starvation of the fire by removing the fuel from the fire. Smothering of the fire by remove the oxygen from the fire can be done by throwing a fire blanket over or the third method, cooling is to remove the heat or ignition source from the fire. The last method is to inhibit the chemical reaction by removing any chemical reaction that is fuelling the fire.

All sites will have an emergency fire extinguisher on site but call emergency services and the fire department as soon as a fire breaks out.

Fire extinguishers will act to either remove or inhibit one of the factors that contribute to the fire. So a water extinguisher removes heat and a dry chemical extinguisher removes the oxygen from a flammable liquid fire. CO2 extinguishers remove oxygen and also result in cooling of the fire.

On a construction site you may not have the luxury of time so by simply throwing some loose soil or sand over the fire may extinguish it or douse it a little.

Posted by Steven Asnicar


White card update: Cold a Workplace Health and Safety Concern

The recent case involving a collapsed trench in which a worker was trapped has brought to light another valuable lesson for the construction industry. While trench safety is of utmost importance and prevention should always be the ultimate goal, accidents do happen as In this case and these do bring on serious consequences. The worker trapped in the trench was waist high in mud and contracted mild hypothermia.

Working in the cold is environmental condition that many workers have to deal with regularly, however in situations like this one the cold can present an even greater hazard. A common misconception is that old people are the only ones that can get hypothermia but that’s not true.

So What Are The Signs Of Hypothermia?

The one sign synonymous with coldness is shivering. It is the body’s way of keeping warm but shivering alone does not mean you have hypothermia.

So check for the following signs:

Confusion or sleepiness, slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing, weak pulse, change in behavior or in appearance, shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions are all signs that a person may have hypothermia.

 What to do:

A body temperature a few degrees lower that the normal can be dangerous and may cause heart failure or an irregular heartbeat, heart problems or death.

If it is suspected that someone has hypothermia, use a thermometer to take his or her temperature. By shaking the thermometer first, you will ensure the thermometer starts at the lowest point.

Call emergency services if the person’s body temperature is too low and while waiting for them to arrive, keep the person warm and dry. You can do this by moving them to a warm place or by wrapping them iin blankets, towels or whatever is available on the construction site. Even body heat will help, so you or a co-worker can lie close to the person. You can give the person something warm to drink but not alcohol or caffeinated drinks.

Once taken to the hospital, it will be deduced whether the person has hypothermia using a special thermometer that can read very low body temperatures. Recovery depends on how long the person was exposed to the cold and his or her general health.

 How to Avoid Hypothermia?

Lowering of body temperature (also known as hypothermia) has an effect on the brain, causing erratic behaviour and numbness, muscular weakness and cramps. Therefore when operating dangerous equipment or working in a dangerous environment such as a construction site, the cold condition compounds the already prevalent hazards. For example a working operating a piece of heavy machinery or tool such as a jack hammer cannot afford to experience numbness or erratic behaviour caused by extreme coldness.  Hypothermia can occur when land temperatures are above freezing or water temperatures are below 37° C.

Obviously in emergency situations such as the worker who had a trench collapse on him, you cannot prepare beforehand but in generally cold climates you can.

• You may not always be able to warm yourself. Pay attention to how cold it is where you are by watching the local weather and dressing appropriately, especially when engaged in construction work which is typically outdoors.

• Check the weather forecasts for windy and cold weather. Try to stay inside or in a warm place on cold and windy days. If you have to work outdoors, wear warm clothes including a hat and gloves. A waterproof coat or jacket can help you stay warm if it’s cold, raining or snowing.

• Wear several layers of loose clothing when it’s cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Don’t wear tight clothing because it can restrict blood flow which can cause the body to lose heat.

• When the temperature has dropped, avoid alcohol as drinks can make you lose body heat sometimes. Have warm drinks and take breaks out of the cold.

• Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin and body fat helps you to stay warm.

 Some workers with health problems may be more vulnerable to hypothermia than others. These include problems with your body’s hormone system such as low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), health problems that keep blood from flowing normally (like diabetes), and some skin problems where your body loses more heat than normal.

Some health problems can make a worker get hypothermia more easily. One such health problem is severe arthritis because it makes it difficult for a person to put on more layers or get out of the cold.

Posted by Steven Asnicar