The reponsibility of using nail guns on a construction site was hammered home (excuse the pun!) recently for one worker, who received a hefty fine for firing aContinue reading
According to statistics released by WorkSafe, injuries on housing building sites are costing the construction industry more than $17million a year. More than 20 Victorian tradies injuries a week were reported on housing constructions sites last year.
In order to reduce these skyrocketing figures it is important that both employers, employees and self-employed tradespeople comply with workplace health and safety policies. One such policy which can significantly reduce the number of injuries on construction sites is the use of PPE.
Personal Protective Equipment is clothing or equipment designed to control risks to health and safety in the workplace. Examples of PPE are:
- Ear plugs & ear muffs for hearing protection
- Sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful effects of the sun
- Hard hats, helmets & sun hats for head protection
- Respirators, face masks & cartridge filters for breathing protection
- Safety Boots for foot protection
- High-visibility garments, thermal wear, overalls, aprons & safety harnesses for overall body protection
- Reflective vests & fluoro jackets for protection of your abdomen and upper body
- Goggles & Safety Glasses for eye protection
As an employee in the construction industry you have a legal obligation to adhere to your employer’s health and safety requirements, including use of PPE if instructed by your employer. Refusal to cooperate with these safety policies can result in disciplinary action or prosecution.
Employers have a responsibility to pay for and provide PPE and employees must utilise it as required.
Be vigilant on site and if you see a co-worker not using the PPE provided when they should be, warn them of the risk they are taking and immediately tell your manager.
PPE provide the least effective solution to hazards on a construction site because it doesn’t address the hazard but rather provides a layer of protection against it. It is still helpful in shielding workers from injury. Therefore it should not be the only control measure implemented but should be used in conjunction with other safety measures.
There are various circumstances that may arise on site that can be prevented or minimised by wearing personal protective equipment. Circumstances that warrant the use of PPE include:
- Where there is a risk of noise induced hearing loss, employers should provide hearing protection. The need for such hearing protection equipment such as ear plugs will be assessed by conducting noise surveys in the affected areas.
- Workers that are required to work outdoors should be provided with protective clothing and sunscreen suitable for protection from sun damage, especially workers who are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays for long periods of time and are at risk of sun burn and skin cancer due to direct exposure to harmful UV rays. Radiation from long hours of outdoor work can be reduced by providing hats, long sleeves/trousers and an adequate supply of sunscreen.
- When there is a possibility that a person may be struck on the head by a falling object or their head is vulnerable to injury in any way head protection in the form of a safety helmet must be worn.
- Hazards such as flying particles, dust, splashing substances, harmful gases, vapours, aerosols, and high intensity radiation from welding operations warrant and necessitate eye protection due to risk of eye injury or loss.
- Respiratory protection should be provided after all other practicable measures have been taken to provide control measures to ensure that no worker is exposed to an atmosphere that is or may be harmful to health.
- Workers operating near moving traffic or moving plant and equipment should wear high visibility safety vests to reduce the risk of injury associated with not being seen and being hit or run over by machinery or construction vehicles.
- Hand protection should be provided where there is a hazard associated with a potential for hand injury, such as working with certain tools. The list of hazards that injure hands will be compiled for each workplace and suitable hand protection should be provided to minimise risk.
- Safety /Protective footwear should be provided by employers where the nature of the work exposes the employee to risk of injury to feet. On a construction site, all workers have the risk of injuring their feet.
While employers do have the responsibility of providing workers with PPE, it is the responsibility of workers to follow the workplace health and safety policies and regulations as instructed by employers… this is covered in our White Card training course. This includes utilising PPE as instructed. Workers should not charge employees for PPE, as they are required to provide it by law. Employers must also provide the necessary training and instruction on use of PPE. Workers who fail to utilise PPE as required are not only making themselves eligible for disciplinary action and prosecution, but even more serious they are putting their lives at risk.
The New South Wales Government has decided that it will not be proceeding with recommendations to compensate the relatives of deceased asbestos victims as this would constitute a material breach of the 2006 agreement between the government, unions, victims and James Hardie. The recommendation was aimed at achieving fair compensation for family members whose relatives had died prematurely due to asbestos related illnesses before receiving the full compensation awarded them.
According to WorkplaceOHS.com.au:
Fairer compo for asbestos victims’ relatives won’t proceed
A recommendation to remove restrictions on the compensation available to the relatives of deceased asbestos victims has today been knocked back by the NSW Government.
The NSW Attorney General, Greg Smith MP said that the government had reluctantly decided it would not be appropriate to implement the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations in its report on compensation to relatives.
This decision followed legal and actuarial advice which indicated that to do so would have constituted a material breach of the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF) Funding Agreement.
That Agreement was entered in 2006 into following negotiations between the NSW Government, unions, victims’ representatives and James Hardie. It includes a provision under which the NSW Government promised it would not legislate to increase or decrease damages for dust diseases.
The AICF Funding Agreement is the key mechanism by which Australian asbestos victims continue to have access to around $1.5b in compensation funding from James Hardie. The Agreement will run for at least another thirty years.
‘The Government appreciates and regrets that this response will disappoint some asbestos victims and their families,’ Mr Smith said.
‘However, we hope that they will understand why the Government needs to consider the importance long-term of providing certainty of continued compensation to all asbestos victims, both current and future generations.’
The Law Reform Commission’s report made recommendations for abolishing a legal principle so as to achieve greater fairness for the families of deceased dust diseases victims who may be disadvantaged by the existing law when the victims die before completing their actions for damages
The decision was met with criticism from unions, Greens and the families affected. Unions NSW pointed out that WA, Victoria and South Australia had adopted similar recommendations. Greens MP and spokesman David Shoebridge accused the government of not doing enough to ensure fairness for the families of asbestos victims, considering that 3 other states had adopted the recommendations. While opposition leader John Robertson said he believes that government has reached a new low in this decision.
In related news The High Court of Australia upheld a decision that found 7 directors of James Hardie guilty of making misleading statements about its asbestos compensation fund, reiterating that this case is not about numbers or profits but about people’s lives. The court maintained that directors need to be held accountable for their actions and their statements to the public.
SafetyCulture.com.au had this to say:
In 2009 the Supreme Court of New South Wales found former James Hardie non-directors had breached the Corporations Act when making the statements in 2001.
In 2010, the non-executive directors successfully appealed against this decision. But the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) appealed against the decision in the High Court the following year, and was successful.
“The case brought into sharp focus the fundamental responsibilities of both executive officers and non-executive directors who are ultimately responsible for significant public company decisions, and the release of information concerning those decisions, to the share market, employees, creditors and the public,” said ASIC Chairman Greg Medcraft.
AMWU National Secretary Paul Bastian also welcomed the decision but questioned whether the law was tough enough on directors and executives generally.
“The Corporations Law needs real teeth to stop fraudulent conveyancing of finances and to be able to pierce the veil of multiple company holdings,” Bastian said in a media statement.
“It also needs to hold corporate directors to account for their moral behaviours and to be able to impose lasting and meaningful penalties on them such as having to attend death-bed hearings of victims and their families or imposing heavy community duty fines.