Canberra Road Site accused of being Dangerous by Unions

A Canberra road construction site has been accused of being dangerous by the local building union following an incident involving a piece of heavy machinery which was knocked off alignment after hitting into a solid rock.

Although no one was injured in the incident, the union has accused the principal contractor of having a bad safety record because 2 similar incidents apparently took place last year in November and December. The union has accused the principal contractor of neglecting worker safety and says that the site is an accident waiting to happen.

The contractor, Fulton Hogan has defended its safety record, citing its 500,000 man hours worked without injury. The project is an 11,5km four-lane parkway which will link the Federal and Monaro highways. The project started a year ago and is expected to reach completion in 2016.

According to the ACT’s Work Safety Commissioner, Mark McCabe the accident happened when a pile driving machine was being used next to a bridge joining 2 roads one morning when it hit solid rock and fell off alignment. No injuries were reported. Investigators apparently visited the site and determined that there was no danger to the workers.

The CFMEU ACT however doesn’t seem to agree and says that the use of the equipment has the potential to endanger the lives of those workers around it, even those not involved in its operation.

Dean Hall of the CFMEU said that the safety problems on the site were vast and that the principal contractor was doing all they could to “hide incidents and dangerous near misses”.

Last year vehicles on the site apparently rolled over on 2 separate occasions and a traffic controller working on the project had been struck by a car while performing her duties. Hall attributes the lack of injuries on the site thus far to pure luck. He says that sooner or later someone is going to get killed.

Hall also accused Fulton Hogan of hiding accidents from the public by surrounding it with big trucks. The company however has defended its actions saying that it is because of its safety procedures that the incident last week did not result in an injury. The firm has reaffirmed its commitment to keeping staff, customers, visitors, subcontractors, suppliers and the general public safe at all times. Of course in order to remain safe on any construction site, workers must, regardless of experience or job being undertaken, complete mandatory safety training first.

Without the mandated White Card general construction industry induction course there cannot be a safe site because workers who aren’t trained, don’t know what to expect when it comes to hazards on a construction site and therefore pose a threat to everyone on site including themselves.

To find out more about Construction Site safety and the need for the White Card, visit our homepage today!

 

Importance of Securing your Site from Trespassers

Construction firms need to ensure that they keep their sites secured from trespassers particularly because most residential construction sites represent to children a playground where they can have fun.

Especially over the school holidays it is important that work sites are properly secured so that members of the public and bored kids do not wander in easily and begin looking for ways to stay occupied, even interfering with dangerous equipment and material and placing themselves at risk.

Police in Queensland’s Ipswich are warning those in control of sites as well as kids and their parents that construction sites are off limits, this is especially important with large areas of the city’s outskirts earmarked for development.

According to reports in the media, the Ipswich Crime Prevention Unit through one of its officers, Sergeant Nadine Webster said police were targeting unlawful entry offences during school holidays – and not just on school grounds.

While the police have promised to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to anyone who unlawfully enters a private property, it is also important that construction firms and contractors ensure their sites are fully fenced and locked at the end of each work day and over weekends or holidays. We don’t want to see anyone injured or killed because they entered a construction site without knowing the dangers that lie within.

Also these trespassers can disturb the site, making it dangerous for workers when they return or even damage property or steal equipment, costing the company.

Another problem is that people tend to think that locked construction sites make good race tracks. A number of people of all ages have been breaking into construction sites that are fenced off to race their motorbikes, quad bikes or just take a shortcut through.

Many children are just breaking into construction sites to find a place to play and while they may be doing so innocently, there are life threatening dangers that lie within the site and pose a major threat to their safety.

The police have also warned that if you intend on embarking on a hike, bike or horse ride or four wheel drive through a private property, you must first obtain prior approval.

Police have also urged parents to know where their kids are at all times especially if there are potential threats in the form of construction sites nearby. It is normally those children who are left unsupervised who find themselves in trouble because of boredom and peer pressure, so parents should keep a close eye on their children as much as possible.

People who live and work near construction sites are also being urged by police to keep an eye out for illegal activity and report trespassers or other criminal activities they may notice.

Those in control of the site need to consider the importance of keeping trespassers out, not only for the safety of the trespasser but also for the safety of workers and to ensure that the progress of work is not hampered on site.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

Unions against Proposed Changes to QLD OHS Safety Laws

Unions in Queensland are outraged by proposed changes which were made by the Attorney General recentlyto the occupational health and safety laws. The changes would mean that unions who wish to inspect safety breaches on work sites will have to wait a whole 24 hours before they are allowed to access construction sites, something the unions say will compromise safety.

The aim of the changes according to a representative is to give government safety regulators time to deal with safety issues and to access it first before the unions can step in and takeover, however union bosses are very concerned by the proposed changes.

The president of the Queensland Council of Unions, John Battams, believes that lives will be endangered if unions are forced to give notice before entering worksites because employers will have forewarning to be able to simply cover up their safety neglect.

According to an article on http://ohspolicy.com.au companies are welcoming the proposal while unions have warned against it. This excerpt from the article explains,

The purpose of these changes, according to Jarrod Bleijie, is to make sure that all safety issues are dealt with by the government’s safety regulator and to “stop unions hijacking work sites.”

The Property Council has welcomed the proposal union bosses are concerned.

John Battams, the president of the Queensland Council of Unions, said that lives will be put at risk if usions are forced to give notice before entering worksites as employers will have time to cover up dangerous practices.

He said that 24 hours gives employers plenty of time to “hide what would be otherwise obvious dangerous situations.”

Source: http://ohspolicy.com.au/proposed-changes-to-qld-ohs-safety-laws-will-risk-lives-according-to-union/

The unions fear that those “cowboys” in the building industry who are still putting productivity before safety are going to benefit from the proposed changes because they will be able to commit safety atrocities and workers will pay, with no hope of help from unions who will be barred from the workplace until it is too late to make a difference.

Michael Ravbar of the CFMEU said that safety would be likely to decrease while accidents would undoubtedly increase if the proposal was to be implemented.

It seems the Queensland construction sector safety has become a serious issue especially because this year has seen an increase in fatalities. Although the increase was minimal (only 2 more workers died this year as compared to last year), even one life is one too many. This year alone 9 people have died while working on building sites in the state.

The number of workers suffering hand injuries and other diseases seems to have fallen according to figures provided by Safe Work Australia.

The article goes on to explain:

Michael Ravbar, the CFMEU secretary said that though most builders valued safety over profits there are still those that are considered cowboys and rednecks who don’t.

He said that the proposed changes would cause safety to decrease, fatalities increase along with accidents.

However, according to Mr Bleijie it is the unions that are hurting workers by causing them to be locked out of workplaces.

Source: http://ohspolicy.com.au/proposed-changes-to-qld-ohs-safety-laws-will-risk-lives-according-to-union/

White Card Update: How you can protect your Workers against Fires

Every year there a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment, placing workers as well as others in the vicinity at risk.

Those in control of the site need to carry out a risk assessment to determine the extent of the danger. In many cases conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward process but should be carried out by someone who is responsible and competent enough to do so.

When conducting a fire risk assessment there are 5 basic steps that should be followed.

Firstly the hazards should be identified, this may include considering how a fire could start and what could be a fire hazard.

The risk assessment should take into consideration who may be at risk – employees, visitors and anyone who is vulnerable like disabled people.

The next step would be to evaluate and take the necessary action. They should consider the hazards and people identified to be at risk and act to remove or at least reduce risk to protect these people.

Thereafter the person conducting the risk assessment must keep a record of the risks and action taken, make a clear plan for fire safety and ensure that everyone is aware of what they need to do in the event of a fire.

Construction being such a dynamic industry, the work processes and work environment change every so often, that is why regular review of the plan is necessary. Regularly check whether the plan is still effective depending on the changes to the site.

Some of the key aspects to consider when it comes to this fire plan is:

Means of escape

  • Routes of escape
  • Alternatives
  • Protection
  • Signs
  • Assembly points

When considering the best means of escape during the risk assessment process, escape routes required should be determined and these should be kept clear, open and unobstructed at all times.

There should also be alternative routes in the event that these routes of escape become affected by the fire.

Those in control of the site should consider protecting routes by installing permanent fire separation and fire doors.

These escape routes should give access to a safe place where workers can assemble and be accounted for, a fair distance away from the site. One a smaller site this may be the pavement outside of the site or across the street.

These escape routes should be adequately marked with signs that are clearly visibly and well lit. Enclosed escape routes should have lighting and emergency lighting in case the electricity is cut off during the incident.

Each site should have a way of alerting people of any fires or emergency situations on site. The warning should be audible enough for everyone on the site to hear and they should be trained to recognise this warning.

All workers should be trained on emergency response procedures as well as how to deal with hazards, this training is in addition to the mandatory White Card induction training that all workers must undergo.

 

Reasons to Complete Your White Card: Improvements in the Construction Industry Expected

According to economists the housing sector’s recovery is anticipated and construction activity is expected to strengthen later this year. This is good news for members of the construction sector and those currently unemployed, but it is also good news for young people who wish to enter the industry.

Construction is one of the largest industries in Oz and also one of the most rewarding. It is also a dynamic environment so workers seldom experience the exact same thing every day, which makes this an exciting job. It also helps that when work on one site is finished workers are free to seek work across borders or anywhere in Oz, as long as they have been adequately trained on general construction safety – also known as the White Card.

Building approvals are up by 7.7 per cent in the 12 months to August. There has been enough of an increase in approvals to suggest construction activity will improve over the second half of this year, economists believe.

According to economists as quoted by a post on Smh.com.au the growth is expected to strengthen over the course of the year. The article also explained that,

“Overall, the story for the residential construction market remains relatively positive, but on a month to month basis, these data are quite volatile and do tend to bounce around quite a bit,” Mr Eades said.

“We saw a significant amount of strength last month and so what we’re seeing now is just an unwinding of the strength that we did see in the previous month.

“We’re still very much of the view that given the lower interest rate environment, dwelling approvals will continue to strengthen over the rest of this year and next year as well.”

Read more: http:// /business/the-economy/construction-activity-expected-to-strengthen-20131002-2urte.html#ixzz2gYMPOriE

Because of this increase in building activity, it is a good time to consider entering the construction industry but first workers and potential tradespeople need to ensure that they are qualified to do so, in Oz this involves completing the general safety training course also known as the White Card.

A large majority of the industry’s workforce are employed as sub-contractors who undertake work on many different sites managed by different contractors, and often within different sectors of the industry.WHS Regulation requires that all persons who carry out construction work must complete general construction induction training before they can carry out construction work on the site, whether a temporary, permanent or casual worker.

In Australia this safety training needs to take the form of the White Card, general construction safety induction card. This mandatory training must be completed before beginning work. Not only is it the law, it is also the right thing to do in order to ensure worker health and safety.

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.

Once this mandatory general construction safety training is completed, workers are free to seek employment on any construction site, anywhere in Oz. Visit our home page for more information on the White Card or to register today.

 

 

 

White Card Update: Ensuring your Site is Suicide Safe

Suicide is an issue that seems to be growing, especially in highly pressurised work environments such as construction. The issue has become such a relevant one in the construction industry in the Queensland that a program now exists to help workers in the industry identify suicidal tendencies in their co-workers and help to combat the problem.

An alarming revelation has been made by WorkCover Queensland, according to data obtained by the work safety authority, a construction worker in Queensland is 6 times more likely to die as a result of suicide than lose their life in an on-site accident. This information was gained from the Mates in Construction charity construction.

Workers are also more than twice as likely to commit suicide than other groups of men in Australia and any other industry, this according to the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention report into suicides in the Queensland construction industry.

A post on WorkCover Queensland’s website described how Australian Bureau of statistics data has shown that men are much more likely to take their own lives than women although women attempt suicide more than men, their attempts are often unsuccessful.

The article on WorkCover’s website also quoted the MATES in Construction Operations manager, John Brady who explained more about the problem facing Queensland’s construction industry:

w310MATES in Construction Operations manager, John Brady says employers are now coming to understand that mental health and wellbeing is a workplace health and safety issue. As a safety issue, it forms part of their duty of care to their employees.

John added that MATES in Construction exists to support the construction industry to deal with high rates of suicide. It does this by raising awareness that suicide is a preventable problem and makes clear pathways for workers to get help which makes getting help easier. They also follow up to ensure the help workers get is appropriate to their needs.

Established in 2008 in response to high suicide statistics in the industry, John says MATES in Construction aims to build a culture on site where it is okay to ask for help. It trains workers to identify when a mate might be struggling and how to support them to get the help they need.

Source: http://www.workcoverqld.com.au/construction/articles/is-your-site-suicide-safe

The MATES in Construction program is aimed at tackling the issue of construction worker suicide in particular and because this has been identified as such a major problem in Queensland, employers as well as workers in this industry should embrace and make use of the program.

Raising awareness for the problem of suicide in the industry is vital in making workers less ashamed to talk about their issues and needs and hopefully reduce the number of suicide attempts we see in this state.

The post also explained that the MATES in Construction program is delivered on site and supported by the MATES team of field officers, backed up by case managers and the 24/7 help line 1300642 111.

 

Beware the Danger of Falling Signs and Other Objects

A commonly occurring cause of injury on construction sites is from falling objects. There are a variety of different categories of objects that can fall from building materials to tools, however builders need to ensure that they do not contribute to this hazard by failing to maintain the site.

An example of what can happen when a builder neglects certain aspects of site maintenance has taken place in St George South London where a developer failed to inspect and maintain a sign which fell and hit a pedestrian in the head, causing her to sustain permanent brain damage.

The accident occurred when a decaying sign fell onto the head of a passing pedestrian and caused severe injury. The 33 year victim was innocently walking passed the site when the incident occurred and after several weeks in hospital she has sustained permanent brain damage.

The company was ordered to pay fines and prosecution costs but the young woman paid the greatest price, an excerpt from an article on PPConstructionSafety.com below explains what happened:

developer1Olivia Richardson, aged 33, from Clapham, was struck by the section sign advertising the luxury St George Wharf development as she walked along the pavement near Vauxhall Bridge, London with her partner on 22 March 2008.

She was hospitalised for five weeks, including several days in intensive care, and required significant brain surgery. Formerly a primary school teacher, she is no longer able to work and continues to suffer from multiple permanent effects of her injury.

The Old Bailey heard (26 September) that parts of the timber sign (approx 12m x 3m) positioned more than 3m above the pavement, had decayed to the point that it was blown down by a strong gust of wind.

Ms Richardson’s partner recalled hearing a cracking sound as the pair approached traffic lights at Vauxhall Bridge. He turned to find her lying on her back beneath the sign, bleeding heavily from a deep head wound and slipping in and out of consciousness.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/member-of-public-brain-damaged-by-falling-sign/

British work health and safety inspectors who visited that site after the incident said that it was observable that the sign could have fallen at any time. The sign was only designed to have a life span of 2 years yet the sign had been in position for 9 years and had never been checked by the developer.

Experts suggest that heavy winds which were recorded on the day of the incident combined with the bad condition of the sign was to blame for the incident. To make matters worse the suspicious sign was situated very close to a busy junction with a lot of pedestrians and near an underground station, opposite a bus station. Had the incident have taken place during rush hour when there were more commuters, the results could have been even worse.

Although cosmetic maintenance was made to the sign during its nine year existence, no one made sure that it was structurally sound and safe.

 

Construction Workers Face-off against Concrete Filling Machine

A video of workers trying to “tame”an out-of-control concrete filling machine using various means is a hilarious reminder of the risks involved with the use of this machinery on construction sites.

When workers are being trained on equipment, they need to be taught how to handle the machine in every scenario. The hazards associated with concrete filling machines and the risks should have been assessed and workers should have been trained on not only how to safely use this machine but what to do if something went wrong, as it did in this case. This training is over and above the general safety induction training in the form of the white card which every construction worker in Oz must undertake.

Although the video is a funny lesson, the outcome could have been more serious if someone had been injured. The video shows an out of control concrete filling machine, spinning around on a construction site. Workers confused by the whole situation undertake various means of getting the machine under control, without any success while risking their own safety at the same time.

http://youtu.be/ime00rN64As