Workers Responsibility in Avoiding Slips and Trips on Site

Slips, trips and falls are the most commonly occurring cause of injury on construction sites and on work sites in general which is why this aspect of OH&S requires and warrants more attention than less commonly occurring hazards. More workers are killed every year because of a slip, trip or fall than any other way on a construction site and despite being aware of risks, workers are still making mistakes which end up costing them dearly. This post attempts to recap some of the most basic duties of employees in avoiding slip, trip and fall injuries.

  1. Undergo the necessary training. Complete the general construction safety training course, White Card course which covers the basic aspects of construction site safety. Not only is it a mandatory legal requirement but it also covers important aspects of fall protection.
  2. Maintain a clean and clear work area. While you as a worker obviously do not have control over the entire site, you can control your work area. Keep it clean and clear of debris, clutter and tools which can present a tripping hazard to yourself or others. Also clean up any spills or chemicals on the ground as workers may slip on it.
  3. Utilise PPE as directed. PPE and fall protection needs to be utilised according to your training and instruction from your supervisors. Keep your PPE and equipment in good condition and store correctly to prolong its lifespan and effectiveness.
  4. Not sure, Ask. If you have any concerns regarding fall hazards left unattended or unaddressed raise these issues with a supervisor or safety rep. If you have forgotten any aspect of your safety training, ask for advice or additional training. Good communication is key in promoting safety on site and preventing careless behaviour which can contribute to falls and other hazards.

 

WorkCover NSW Authority concerned about Plant and Equipment Safety

WorkCover NSW has issued a warning to businesses to ensure plant and equipment safety because this is one of the greatest causes of injury on worksites in the state.

WorkCover NSW has reminded all businesses that the importance of ensuring plant and equipment safety cannot be forgotten. They have even gone so far as to offer $500 rebates to help local small business owners make the necessary safety improvements.

Builders should remember that plant includes any machinery, equipment, appliance or tool used in a workplace and is not just a piece of large machinery as many people incorrectly assume. However on a construction site the risks associated with plant can be greater than those you would experience on an ordinary work site not involved in construction.

Under NSW work health and safety laws, plant must be designed, produced, imported, supplied, constructed, installed and commissioned without any risks.

Read a little more about WorkCover’s warning below with an excerpt from www.noodls.com

General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson said WorkCover staff can assist businesses to prevent workers from being injured while using plant and equipment.

“Almost every workplace has some form of plant or equipment and there are many associated hazards, including entanglement or crushing, cuts or punctures, being struck by moving objects, electrical or explosive hazards, slips, trips and falls, and manual handling,” Mr Watson said.

“NSW businesses must provide information, training and supervision to workers and ensure plant and equipment is without risk to the health and safety of workers by ensuring it is installed correctly, operated by a competent person, not interfered with and that control measures are in place.

“In the three years to July 2012 more than 39,000 NSW workers were injured and 22 killed in incidents involving plant at a cost of more than $332 million to the NSW workers compensation system.

“Despite the risks, we believe injuries and fatalities involving plant and equipment can be reduced and that NSW businesses can do more to create safer workplaces.

“At WorkCover we recommend businesses follow three simple steps to ensure the safety of workers.

Source: http://www.noodls.com/view/4838C0949E6B24C067F023407CE5943EE93EAE40

The warning goes on to explain that employers must review processes on the work site and identify any hazards (this should be done regularly as construction progresses and not just once before the job begins as the site changes and hazards also change).

In identifying hazards employers must look for processes, machinery, plant or any situations which could cause harm. They then need to assess the risks by considering how serious the risks are. Once the risk is determined, employers should eliminate or control them by making the necessary changes to protect workers. WorkCover has developed some practical tools to assist businesses in this regard to manage risks.

For more information on how to manage the risks associated with plant and equipment in your workplace or the Small Business Rebate, call WorkCover NSW on 13 10 50 or visit www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

 

Video Highlights the Importance of Workplace Safety

Workplace Safety isn’t something that just happens, it is something that needs to be worked at especially among workers who have become complacent towards safety as more experienced workers usually do.

A good example of the magnitude of such a mistake is provided by a video from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland who have released a video about a worker who despite being experienced in the construction industry suffered a serious workplace injury that threatened to destroy his life.

The worker, had been a member of the construction industry for more than 19 years when his injury occurred. The man fell 5 metres while working on a bridge, causing a severe injury to his back, affecting his ability to live and his career potential.

The worker was not only left to deal with the physical scars and pain, but the emotional depression that accompanied the incident as well as the fact that as a result of the injury he was facing possible financial bankruptcy.

Link:  http://youtu.be/HRp_JTh-7lc

Hopefully this video serves as a reminder to other workers in the construction industry, both new and old about the importance of safety.

 

Bechtel Suspect Equipment Tampering on Curtis Island Site

How often do you conduct inspections on your equipment before utilising it or starting your work? While safety training dictates that workers should conduct routine inspections before using equipment, many workers fail to do this, although it isespecially important for equipment used for lifting and carrying operations.

Although the incident did not occur on a building site it could have just as easily have, because building sites are where operations like crane lifting and carrying etc. are commonly undertaken.

This post from MiningAustralia.com.au explains what happened

Curtis-Island_2_300Investigations are underway on Curtis Island after Bechtel discovered equipment that had been tampered with on the QCLNG site.

Gladstone Police were called to the site on Monday when Bechtel workers found a number of chain block lifting devices that appeared to be missing nuts.

Bechtel Gladstone general manager Kevin Berg said further inspections found the equipment had been ‘intentionally damaged’.

“A full inspection of the equipment across the site found further suspected tampering had occurred on the same equipment,” Berg said.

Workplace Health and Safety and police inspected the site. 

“Workplace Health and Safety are now conducting an investigation, and I’ll wait till I see the findings of that before I decide whether it’s a police matter,” Detective Senior Sergeant Luke Peachey said.

Berg said it was ‘extremely distressing’ that someone may have intentionally put workers at risk.

Source: http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/bechtel-suspect-sabotage-on-curtis-island

One thing this incident makes perfectly clear is the importance of pre-work inspections whenerve heavy machinery and equipment is being used.

Before beginning work with any machinery or equipment on a construction site be prepared and read the manufacturer’s recommendations to know what to look out for. Most manufacturers of building machinery and equipment will stress the importance of the pre-work inspection. Ensure that co-workers are also aware of the need to conduct this inspection because their actions affect you and everyone on site as well.

Inspect the machinery and equipment carefully before work. It is important to inspect the entire piece of equipment carefully with safety in mind. Work in conjunction with your co-workers to inspect machinery and its parts. Write down and document all safety and maintenance concerns.

Conduct follow-up checks. Double-check equipment and pre-shift reports to ensure complete inspection of the equipment and its parts. Report your findings to your supervisor both written and verbally.

When changing machines, especially in the middle of your shift it is easy to forget to conduct an inspection. Ensure you make a visual walk around inspection and discuss with the operator you are changing with about your observations and machine performance.

If you notice anything awry don’t keep silent about it but report anything suspicious to your supervisor immediately. If you are unsure about whether something is wrong get a second opinion from a more experienced co-worker or a supervisor. Never begin work using equipment and machinery without first conducting the basic safety checks and following a checklist while doing so. Also keep a record of these checks and anything unusual you detect.

 

Gold Coast Construction Company fined after Worker Fatalities

A Gold Coast construction company has been fined $600,000 after 2 workers fell 26 storeys to their death while engaging in work on a high rise construction site.

It is disappointing that despite the fact that falls from heights are the leading cause of construction deaths, these types of accidents are still occurring. This accident claimed the lives of 36 year old Chris Gear and 52 year old Steve Sayer who were both experienced in the construction sector.

Rea what this post from www.goldcoast.com.auhad to say about the incident:

A GOLD Coast construction company has been fined $600,000 over the deaths of two tradesmen who fell 26 storeys from a Broadbeach high rise swing stage.

The tragic 2008 deaths of Chris Gear, 36, and Steve Sayer, 52, sent shockwaves through the Queensland construction industry and left behind two grieving families.

Today their widows wept in the Southport Industrial Magistrates Court as the first of three construction companies was convicted for failing to protect the men under Workplace Health and Safety Act.

Pryme Constructions, Karimbla Construction Services and Allscaff Systems have all been accused of breaching the Act in 2008 at the Meriton’s Pegasus construction site in Broadbeach.

Pryme, the primary employer of the two men, has since gone into liquidation and is the first to be successfully prosecuted.

Magistrate Brian Kilmartin said Pryme’s failure to properly induct and supervise it’s workers had had fatal consequences.

Read more: http://www.goldcoast.com.au/article/2013/07/19/454940_gold-coast-news.html

The accident could have been avoided if the employer implemented the appropriate fall control measures such as adequate supervision of workers as well as OH&S training on work from heights.

Karimbla and Alscaff and their directors are still facing prosecution and the worker’s widows Myriam Gear and Brigitte Maiale also have a pending $5.6 million damages claim against the companies in the Supreme Court in Brisbane.

Something this tragedy highlights for other building firms is the importance of ensuring that workers, especially those engaged in high risk work are provided with the appropriate supervision. Supervision of workers undertaking very dangerous tasks is a good idea and experienced supervisors will ensure that staff are performing activities in the safest and most productive manner.

A mistake in the construction industry could cost a life, so supervision is necessary to ensure more than just productivity, it is needed to ensure that workers are engaging in safe work practices and adhering to their safety training and the sites safety procedures.

Another important part of OH&S is training. Ensuring that all workers are properly trained on safe workfrom heights, this is one of the reasons why white card training is such a vital requirement for all construction workers. This safety training is important in ensuring safety is enhanced and the high rate of fatalities due to falls from heights in the industry is combatted.

 

 

Gas Cylinder Installation causes Havoc on Construction Site

A frightening incident which occurred on a construction site is an example of how dangerous gas cylinder installation can be if it is not managed correctly. The accident in question occurred on a site in Berkshire, England in 2008 but the horrific memory of that day has been regurgitated by a court case relating to the prosecution of the company involved.

Whenever gas cylinders are being installed, extreme caution should be exercised and no shortcuts should be taken. The incident resulted in the death of a plumber as well as the serious injury of 6 other workers.

The incident happened when one of the cylinders being installed fell over, hitting into other cylinders and causing a chain reaction to be set off. The cylinders apparently rocketed around the site at speeds of up to 170mph, hitting one worker in the head, causing a fatal injury. The heavy argonite gas cylinder struck the 38 year old workman, Adam Johnston causing him to die before he could be rushed to hospital.

The sad incident resulted in massive fines for the company involved because of its inability to protect workers by providing a safe system of work and safe work environment.

Upon further investigation it was revealed that the cylinders were not properly secured and even had missing safety caps. It was also revealed that the cylinders were left unsecured without being safely secured in their racks resulting in the cylinders falling over and erupting, releasing gas under high pressure, causing the cylinder to move and collide with other cylinders, setting off a chain reaction, affecting 66 of the 80 cylinders.

This excerpt from a post on PPConstructionSafety.com explained what happened as workers frantically tried to make it to safety,

A chain reaction developed rapidly and for several minutes shocked and terrified workers desperately sought shelter as they “endured a barrage of heavy cylinders” rocketing around them. This continued until 66 of the 80 cylinders had been discharged.

Some of the cylinders travelled at estimated speeds of up to 170mph and developed sufficient energy to penetrate walls and ceiling voids, travelling into more remote parts of the building.

The court was told that the three companies involved failed to recognise the significant risks involved in the project or to carry out an adequate risk assessment.

The principal contractor and the main contractors failed to co-ordinate the scheduled work activities or to co-operate meaningfully in light of the risks. There had also been insufficient training and supervision.

Little evidence those involved were competent

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/07/06/huge-penalties-over-rocketing-gas-cylinder-death/

argonite

The image of the construction sites shows the damage done by the accident

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/07/06/huge-penalties-over-rocketing-gas-cylinder-death/

This incident highlights the importance of managing hazards such as that presented by gas cylinders. It is also important that employers provide a safe system of work for their employees and train workers on these safe work procedures to avoid a situation such as this one.

 

 

Electrician Fears Hundreds Unexpectedly Exposed to Asbestos

According to an article on CanberraTimes.com.au hundreds of tradespeople in Canberra could have unexpectedly been breathing in hazardous asbestos fibres while working on houses in the 1970s. The fears have been brought to light by a former electrician who himself worked in Canberra houses during the seventies when he says that he and others may have been exposed to “Mr Fluffy” asbestos without being aware of it.

Also according to the ACT CFMEU, asbestos (including the ”fairy floss” amosite insulation) was a daily concern for workers in the ACT going into houses and commercial buildings. So much so that the CFMEU’s secretary Dean Hall has called for an urgent audit to be undertaken on all commercial premises built before 2003 in order to confirm that mandatory asbestos management has been conducted.

This excerpt from the post on CanberraTimes.com.au explains,

7The Canberra Times revealed on Thursday that while the ACT government was spending $2 million deconstructing a home in Downer, there had been no investigation into the commercial buildings that could still contain the dangerous substance. Non-residential buildings were not surveyed along with houses built before 1980 under the loose-fill asbestos removal program carried out by the Commonwealth then ACT governments.

Mr Hall said while experienced builders and tradespeople knew about the general risk of asbestos, the union was finding that younger workers, commonly apprentices, were not aware of the dangers.

But he said the risk was potentially in every building.

”On a daily basis we have reports of people who have inadvertently exposed asbestos,” he said.

There was no knowledge of which homes contained Mr Fluffy asbestos and many commercial premises did not have an up-to-date asbestos management plan in place or even have one at all. Mr Hall called for an audit to be completed on all commercial buildings built before 2003 – the year asbestos was banned in Australia – to make sure all properties had been tested for asbestos.

Read more at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/tradies-unaware-for-years-of-asbestos-danger-20130725-2qnoo.html

It is frightening to think that there are people walking around who aren’t even aware that they have been affected by asbestos, what is even more concerning is the number of people who weren’t aware of the exposure they suffered and died as a result of undiagnosed and therefore untreated medical conditions relating to asbestos exposure.

According to building industry veterans, crawling into roof spaces during the seventies was a common practice, with no thought given to the fact that asbestos was present and deadly. It was apparently also common to walk through loose infill insulation in many homes. Workers also commonly removed roof tiles to allow light into the work area, leaving themselves exposed to millions of visible asbestos fibres, sadly at this time the risks were not known.

The post goes on to explain:

It was not until the early 1980s that the use of amosite asbestos was banned in Australia and it would be a further eight years before the Commonwealth’s survey was carried out in the ACT.

”You knew you were breathing it in,” Mr Carruthers said. ”You could pick handfuls of it up and it would float away … any movement at all, you just had to walk through it.”

Mr Carruthers said he had recently undergone a medical check-up and had mentioned his asbestos concerns to his doctor and would soon undergo an X-ray.

Read more at: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/tradies-unaware-for-years-of-asbestos-danger-20130725-2qnoo.html

 

 

Avoiding Stress and Injuries on Site

Building industry workers are faced with so hazards in addition to physically taxing tasks such as having to bear heavy loads and using dangerous equipment and tools which can take their toll on a person.

Add to that the risks associated with equipment such as cranes and scaffolds which require work from heights and extra care as well as manual handling tasks which can cause sprains and strains workers are often left feeling very stressed and run down.

When workers are stressed they are not working at their optimum which can in fact cause them to neglect safety, causing injuries and possibly fatalities. So often stress and injury go hand in hand. Here some useful tips to help you avoid stress and injury on construction sites,

1. Use ergonomically correct portable and high-powered tools.Tools are meant to make your job and your life easier. Many users do not know the strain their badly designed tools are placing on them. Frequent use of poorly designed toolscould help you develop such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, white finger and trigger finger.

Power tools with their high vibration and excessive noise can also pose a risk. Employers must make sure that the power tools they choose for workers not only have lower vibration but have a long trigger. They should also consider both left-handed and right-handed workers when selecting tools.

When utilising hand tools, employers or safety coordinators should obtain tools that require as little force as possible to avoid excessive strain on the worker when they hold tools tightly.

2. Sit down when working at lower levels rather than standing and leaning over by bending your back. It is also not good to squat because you do not have good balance when you squat and this can be dangerous when using dangerous tools. Also avoid kneeling, this puts unnecessary strain on your knees especially when conducting work over longer times.

3. Keep your wrists and arms neutral. If you do not, by the end of the shift, your body will be suffering from swelling, tingling, strains and pains. Over time you can develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Any condition that exerts pressure on the median nerve in the wrist can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Tendon inflammation resulting from repetitive work can also cause carpal tunnel symptoms, construction workers often engage in repetitive tasks which can result in this condition if workers are not careful.

4. Lift objects correctly to avoid sprains, strains and back aches. While it’s easy to get injured by carrying heavy loads, it’s not that hard to avoid this hazard altogether.Remember to always bend your knees and to avoid twisting to the side when lifting. To maintain balance, put one foot slightly in front of the other and evenly distribute your weight.

5. Balance the weight of your tool belt because although they are small, they can pull on the body and bring it out of alignment. If you find that one side of your belt is heavier than the other, then make the necessary adjustments by transferring tools to the lighter side to even the load.

Preventing Falls in Construction – Learning from Others

One of the best ways to learn about safety is to look at the examples, both good and bad set by others within the same industry. When it comes to safety one of the major issues is falls from heights, claiming more lives than any other hazard in the construction industry.

The most problematic issues on construction sites, such as falls from heights are also the most preventable. US Safety experts suggest that when engaging in work from heights, if it cannot be eliminated it therefore must be controlled -there are 3 simple steps to safeguarding workers, they are:

  1. Plan
  2. Provide
  3. Train

On a USA governmental website dedicated to workplace health and safety, experts suggest using this 3 step system to manage fall hazards. Employers should consider using this advice in developing their safety methods and training for their staff engaged in work from ladders, scaffolds, roofs or any heights.

The 3 step system starts as any good construction plan does, with planning ahead of time before the job even begins by anticipating risks and assessing them, thereafter planning how safety is going to be ensured.

When working from heights, including ladders, scaffolds and roofs employers need to plan the tasks first by deciding on how the job will be carried out, what tasks will be implemented and the safety equipment needed for each task.

www.osha.gov goes on to explain about the “planning” stage:

When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site. For example, in a roofing job, think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems…

Read more: https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html

The next stage of the 3 step system involves providing the right equipment for the job. Workers especially those working above 2 meters high are at risk of serious injury and possible death and in order to protect these workers employers must provide the correct fall protection and the right equipment for the job. That means they must determine whether a ladder or scaffold or other safety gear is needed and providing this equipment to workers. For example there are various different ladders and each has their own risks and merits, determine which are relevant for the task at hand.

The post goes on to explain about the “Providing” stage:

Different ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different jobs. Always provide workers with the kind they need to get the job done safely. For roof work, there are many ways to prevent falls. If workers use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits, and regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it’s still in good condition and safe to use.

https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html

The final step in the process is “Training”. This involves training everyone on site to use PPE and safety equipment safely. The guidance on OSHA.gov goes on to explain:

Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they’ll be using on the job.

https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/index.html

 

Dealing with Harassment in the workplace

A key problematic issue identified in the building industry is bullying. Bullying has been linked to depression and a high suicide rate in the construction industry. In this post I attempt to discuss the problem of workplace harassment and how to deal with it, an issue particularly relevant in the macho, male dominated industry.

It is important when discussing harassment or bullying in the workplace to first identify what it actually entails for example sometimes people may mistake direction or correction by their employer as bullying when in fact they are simply doing their job. When these employers or supervisors begin to use derogatory language or be abusive or behave in an intimidating way then it crosses over into bullying. It is important for workers to recognise the difference.

Workplace harassment is:

  • repeated, unwelcome and unsolicited
  • the person considers to be offensive, intimidating, humiliating or threatening
  • a reasonable person would consider to be offensive, humiliating, intimidating or threatening.

Source: http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/hazards/harassment-bullying/index.htm

Harassment or bullying in the workplace can be committed by employers, workers, co-workers, groups of people at work, customers and even members of the public.

Workers that bully and intimidate others are most commonly experiencing some sort of emotional problem themselves which they project onto others. These individuals as well as those who are the victims of bullying need to seek help from a counsellor or mental health professional, instead of attempting to deal with this issue themselves because this is what often leads to depression and suicide.

For more information on workplace bullying and harassment visit http://www.deir.qld.gov.au/workplace/hazards/harassment-bullying/index.htm