White Card Update: General Construction Site Safety

Each year dozens of workers leave home for a construction job and never return home. There is no doubt that construction is a dangerous industry and one that requires the strictest adherence to safety. Workplace Health and Safety legislation dictates that employers and workers do their part in the maintenance of a safe site and workers need to undergo the appropriate training, including site specific and general induction training.

However it’s always a good thing to keep updating your safety knowledge and skills and here we have included a few basic general construction safety tips that workers can keep in mind on site.

Good construction safety tips can be learned from reading the manufacturer’s instructions for correct use of equipment. The most common risks to safety for construction workers are falls, electrocution, crushing by heavy machinery, exposure to chemicals and being struck by falling objects.

Avoid manual handling hazards.  Lifting can present a hazard on construction sites and can result in injuries to the musculoskeletal system that will affect a worker right into their final years. Nowadays all heavy equipment and large industrial packaging have instructions on how to properly lift them, however in haste workers often ignore these. Something as trivial as how to lift correctly is often seen as to petty or small for workers to warrant attention and this is how injuries occur.  If something seems heavy, ask a co-worker to help you carry it. If you will be carrying an item over a long distance, use a forklift or other kind of vehicle to get the job done.

Instruction Manuals are not just a waste of time and paper. You should never operate a piece of machinery until you have been trained on it and you fully understand the manufacturer’s operational manual. Part of this includes knowing when something goes wrong with the equipment and becoming familiar with the procedures you will need to follow in case of an emergency.

A well maintained site is a safe site. Workers make an effort not to leave equipment lying around a site that can cause a tripping hazard or may fall on someone’s head. When you are done with power tools, unplug them before setting them down as the cords can also cause someone to trip. Always walk with caution on a site looking out for vehicles or people carrying large objects. Try to keep foot traffic moving through busy walking areas all of the time.

Be diligent in your dedication to safety. You should always know where the site supervisor is and who the site safety office is as well in case an emergency does occur. Report any unsafe behaviour or work practices immediately to prevent anyone from getting hurt. Even if the unsafe practice comes from a person in authority, do not be afraid to report it.

Stretching is not just for athletes. Stretch out your arms, legs, wrists and back when you have time as this will help loosen joints and muscles. The repeated motion of certain construction tasks can create problems such as muscle cramps or even carpal tunnel syndrome in your wrists and forearms. Stretching will prevent cramps and other problems.

Take extra precaution when necessary. For example if you will be lifting heavy items regularly wear a back support to prevent injury. Anticipate possible problems you may encounter beforehand. Use steel-toe boots with thick soles to protect your feet. Wear the proper protective gear in bad weather and be cautious in rainy or wet weather occasions to prevent slipping.

Any person who enters a construction site must have adequate training to prove that he is able to identify and avoid hazards that could cause death or injury due to the dangers that a construction site poses. Anyone operating a plant or machinery must be fully qualified to do so. However ordinary workers should be in possession of the White Card Training Course to certify that they are qualified to work on a construction site.  Each site worker is ultimately responsible for his own safety but also ensure that he/she does not put the lives of his/her co-workers at risk.  Therefore no matter the task being undertaken, every construction worker should ensure that he is working safely.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

White Card Update: Concrete Drilling and Cutting Safety in Construction

The proper manner of concrete drilling and cutting is an issue not often discussed on the construction safety sites. That is why we have decided to spread some light on the issue here for those workers that may be unsure.  Research into the topic suggests that the main thing construction workers should remember is to use the Right Tools.  

Use of the correct bit or blade is important to ensure a safe and accurate cut when drilling, hammering and cutting concrete.  A wood bit or a metal saw blade is not recommended as it is probably not going to do the job properly and will most likely cause undue stress and tension on the equipment and concrete.

The use of incorrect materials can also cause the bit to snap off which will damage the equipment and has often been the cause of injury to people nearby.  Workers attempting to cut concrete should know the depth and width of the cut or hole they require and utilise the correct tools to make the hole cleanly and safely.

Importance of Personal Protective Equipment

No construction worker should ever go without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), which employers have a duty to provide and train workers in the correct use of. Workers who are tasked with cutting or drilling concrete should be provided with the appropriate PPE to perform this task, in line with Australian standards. Workers should be trained on the appropriate PPE to use and how to utilise it correctly.  In controlling the risk of the hazards involved in cutting concrete, PPE should always be worn, however PPE should not be the only control measure but in fact the last step in controlling the risks. The law allocates the bulk of responsibility of workplace health and safety on the employer, who must ensure they have taken the appropriate action to eliminate or minimise the hazard as far as reasonably possible.

Covering your eyes and ears is vitally important in concrete cutting and drilling as these 2 features are most likely to be affected in an accident situation. The reason for this is because drilling and cutting concrete causes dust and particles to be expelled into the air making the person doing the job vulnerable.  These particles can hit into the sensitive eye area. This can cause a variety of injuries from mild irritation, swelling to serious lacerations. These consequences can be avoided by simply wearing the appropriate eye protection. Workers should never attempt to use regular sunglasses because these do not meet the necessary safety standards and can in fact worsen the extent of the injury of they break and pieces splinter into the eye.

The ears also need to be protected because drilling concrete or hammering creates loud, constant noise that can cause damage to the ear. Ear protection such as plugs or headsets will reduce the risk of inner ear injury, which can be extremely painful.

These small particles emitted by the cutting or drilling process combine with the dust that forms from the concrete cutting. These small particles can enter the lungs and affect breathing through the noise or mouth. It can also enter the throat and cause irritation or internal injuries.

Because concrete contains chemical compounds known as crystalline silica that are dangerous and can cause scarring in the lungs, water should be used around the cut to cool the bit and minimise the dust emitted into the air. Otherwise serious infections or diseases can result , that is why breathing protection is also a necessity when working with concrete cutting or drilling.

Another important tip is to have someone standing by in case of an emergency. If your equipment does not automatically spray water, a person can stand by who sprays using a spray bottle. They can wet the area around the cut to keep bits and blades cool and minimize the dangerous dust that is released into the air.

Also part of the PPE requirement is that you wear proper safety boots,that can protect your feet should a piece of concrete fall on them. Thick padded gloves will help to minimise the risk of cutting your hands or crushing your fingers.

Construction workers who follow advice, remember their safety training and adhere to the sites safety rules are a valuable asset to any construction site and will be highly regarded by management. Safety on site is not just the responsibility of employers, workers too can do their part to keep the site safe and incident free.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

White Card Update: Construction Workers Beware of Brain Injuries

Construction Industry Has Highest Number of Traumatic Brain Injuries in US Workplace

American Journal of Preventive Medicine study proves that Construction workers are most prone to brain injuries. The nature of construction work is dangerous and so workers often receive injuries to the head which can escalate into brain injury. In fact research has emerged that proves that traumatic brain injury is most common among construction industry workers.

This post was published on Neurosciencenews.com:

 Although traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, work-related TBI has not been well documented. In a study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers describe the epidemiology of fatal TBI in the US workplace between 2003 and 2008. This study provides the first national profile of fatal TBIs occurring in the US workplace. The construction industry had the highest number of TBIs and the agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry had the highest rates.

 “While TBI is an important topic for public health researchers, there has been a lack of attention paid to the investigation of brain injuries occurring in the workplace,” commented lead investigator Hope M. Tiesman, PhD. “Describing the magnitude of the problem, identifying at-risk sociodemographic and occupational subgroups, and documenting trends are vital first steps when developing prevention strategies…Future research should enumerate and describe nonfatal occupational TBIs in the US. An improved understanding of these factors should lead to more focused and tailored prevention strategies. With limited resources available for occupational safety and health programs, the identification and targeting of high-risk populations, including older workers, should be a priority for industry.”

Source: http://neurosciencenews.com/construction-industry-highest-traumatic-brain-injuries-us-workplace-tbi-neurology/

An acquired brain injury caused by trauma like an object falling on your head (like in the case of the construction worker who suffered injury after an excavator bucket fell and hit him in the head) or when workers fall from scaffolding and hit their heads on concrete are almost  common on construction sites. In fact these incidents often result in physical disability and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Statistics show that in Australia males under 25 years of age are most at risk of sustaining traumatic brain injury in either motor vehicle or work site accidents.

According to the research certain sectors like construction and transportation hold the highest number of traumatic brain injuries.

The post goes on to state:

 Using data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injury (CFOI), coupled with the Current Population Survey, investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Safety Research, Analysis and Field Evaluations Branch, Morgantown, WV, determined that the fatality rate is 0.8 per 100,000 workers per year. The leading causes of fatal TBI were motor vehicle (31%), falls (29%), assaults and violent acts (20%) and contact with objects or equipment (18%). Men suffered fatality rates 15 times higher than women, and workers 65 and over had the highest TBI fatality rates of all workers (2.5 per 100,000 per year).

 Certain occupations remained more hazardous than others, with construction, transportation, and agriculture/forestry/fishing industries recording nearly half of all TBI fatalities. The logging sub-industry had the highest occupational TBI fatality rate of all at 29.7 per 100,000 per year. However, occupational TBI death rates significantly declined 23% over the six-year period.

Source: http://neurosciencenews.com/construction-industry-highest-traumatic-brain-injuries-us-workplace-tbi-neurology/

When transporting a load on a construction site there is the chance that the load may shift and cause a brain injury. When securing a load, ropes are extremely ineffective so rather use webbing strap which is stronger than rope. Use rubber mats to increase the friction in the vehicle to ensure the load doesn’t shift. Also remember that low friction equals high risk.  Vehicle loading decks and loads should be free of oil, grease, water, dirt and other contaminants that may reduce friction, therefore to combat this, always secure loads properly.

A useful quote to remember is:

“If you are travelling at 100km/h and stop suddenly, a poorly secured load can be travelling at the same speed at your head!”

http://www.bia.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=407:brain-injury-australia-works-to-prevent-brain-injury-in-the-construction-injury&catid=10:news&Itemid=22

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 Cumberlink.com had to say:

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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: http://cumberlink.com/news/local/man-burned-in-construction-accident-in-south-middleton-township/article_c8a4912a-e298-11e1-b835-001a4bcf887a.html

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: Trench Collapses

A worker was lucky to escape with his life when a trench he was digging collapsed and caused him to become trapped about waist high in mud. The incident occurred on a Pakenham housing development  and according to witnesses the mud was similar to quicksand. After around 2 hours the man was freed by about 6 dozen firefighters from the CFA and MFB.

Experts say the problem arose when a sewerage channel nearby caused the ground to become unstable following the heavy rains in Melbourne.  Rescue workers suffered great difficulty trying to retrieve the man and had to call in hydraulic pumps and wooden barriers to protect the safety of the rescue workers involved. The worker involved was later diagnosed with mild hypothermia. WorkSafe’s investigation is ongoing.

 This is what Heraldsun.com.au had to say:

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A TRADESMAN has been rescued from quicksand-like mud after a trench collapsed around him on a building site in Melbourne’s outer south-east.

The 35-year-old was digging a channel in the backyard of a new residential development in Stable St, Pakenham, when it caved in about 8.30am, trapping him in waist-deep mud.

Sixty firefighters from the CFA and MFB were called to the scene. They worked for more than two hours to free the man.

CFA acting operations officer Michael Cherry said recent heavy rains and a nearby sewer channel had made the ground unstable.

“The mud was liquid, like quicksand and this type of thing can kill people by sucking them in and putting pressure on their ability to breathe,” Mr Cherry said.

“He’s been very lucky that the mud was only up to his waist and not up to his neck.”

Mr Cherry said it was a difficult retrieval. The crews used hydraulic pumps and plywood barriers to move the mud and reach the man without getting sucked in themselves.

The man was taken to Monash Medical Centre suffering mild hypothermia.

WorkSafe is investigating.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/man-trapped-in-muddy-trench/story-e6frf7kx-1226448096606

Across the globe a similar case ensued in Utah in The USA where a construction worker had to be rescued from a trench by emergency rescue services after it collapsed. The man and several other construction workers were preparing the trench for a sewer line. The 29 year old man had to be airlifted to hospital after being buried waist deep in the trench. The problem with trench rescues is that rescue workers often have to risk falling into the trench themselves in order to rescue the victim, which is why these rescue operations are so risky and lengthy. Fortunately the worker involved escaped with his life and a few broken bones because he could have easily been buried alive.

This post on Heraldextra.com provides more information:

Battalion Chief Doug Bateman of the American Fork Fire Department said the injured man had an obviously broken femur and possibly some internal injuries. Bateman said the worker was conscious during the rescue.

“He was in severe pain but conscious the whole time,” he said. He said the situation was critical enough to warrant having the medical helicopter ready for service.

“Any time you have something like that you have to be wary,” he said.

Work on the project has been shut down, pending an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Early Friday afternoon an OSHA investigator was on the scene.

Bateman said the injured man was fortunate.

“Not very many people come out of a trench collapse alive,” he said. “History shows that on trench collapses, not many come out alive because of factors of compression on the body and the forces that are put on those limbs.”

The trench was approximately 15 feet deep. The man was reportedly working to move a trench box, which shores up the sides, from one location to another as the work continued. The area is on the east side of Interstate 15 and west of the Cinemark movie theaters.

A ladder the man had been standing on was seen afterward, bent to a nearly 90 degree angle.

Three other workers were nearby when the collapse happened. They called 911 for help and began a rescue attempt.

Cody Stansfield was one. He did not see the collapse, but was onsite immediately after.

“It is a bad feeling,” he said. “It is scary. He was in a lot of pain. He is a good guy and had a family. We hope he is OK. This is a dangerous profession. I am glad he is alive.”

He had worked with the injured man off and on over a three- or four-month period, he estimated.

“We are worried for him,” he said. “There was a lot of adrenaline flowing.”

Stansfield said such accidents were uncommon.

“In 15 years I have never seen anything like it,” he said.

When emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they had to be sure the trench would not collapse further.

“We had to make sure it was safe for our personnel,” Bateman said. After that, they began work with shovels to extricate the injured man.

Source: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/north/american-fork/man-pulled-from-collapsed-trench-in-american-fork/article_573ac980-77f7-5b24-b321-96ef8ca87229.html

These 2 incidents highlight the need for extreme caution to be exercised when working with trenches or excavations.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

ACT Construction Safety Officer Speaks Out

Whistleblower slams site safety

The recent attention received by the appauling safety record of ACT construction sites has lead a construction site safety officer to speak out. The worker spoke out about the exploitation of construction workers by employers who are forced to neglect safety in order to receive their pay. The death of concreter Ben Catanzariti has highlighted the loopholes in the industry that are costing lives.

This post by Canberratimes.com.au has the full details:

The ACT construction industry is plagued by a culture of silence over dangerous safety breaches, which has seen at least one outspoken safety officer bashed and sent death threats, a whistleblower says.

 And vulnerable construction workers, including dozens of illegal foreign workers, are being pressured to sign off on workplace safety to get their pay cheques, the construction union says.

 The lethal consequences of workplace safety were brought into sharp focus this week, after the death of concreter Ben Catanzariti, 21, who died after being hit by a concrete boom at a Kingston site on the weekend.

 Just days later, a worker fell from scaffolding and speared his leg through a reinforcing bar, and a worker yesterday fell from formwork at a Belconnen site.

 Mr Catanzariti’s death, the fourth since December, sparked an industry-wide audit of the construction industry by the ACT government, with Attorney-General Simon Corbell citing fears that companies are trading off the safety of workers for profits.

 But startling revelations have been made by a former safety officer at the Nishi construction site in New Acton, who wants to lift the code of silence gripping the sector.

 Adam Usher, formerly an electrical leading hand and safety officer for a sub-contracting firm, has told The Canberra Times he regularly received death threats and was repeatedly involved in brawls over reporting safety breaches on the site.

 He has also alleged he witnessed dozens of near-misses that were never dealt with properly, including an incident where a WorkSafe ACT officer was almost hit by a falling reinforcing bar after shutting down the site for safety breaches.

 ”The builders’ representatives repeatedly breached OH&S guidelines and ignored requests made by WorkSafe inspectors,” Mr Usher said. ”The inspectors shut the site down due to the number of non-compliance infractions every time they visited. It’s just like every single site I’ve worked on in Canberra.”

 The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union ACT secretary Dean Hall said there had been numerous complaints about people being victimised as safety representatives.

 The Master Builders Association could not recall any incidents of workers being victimised because they raised safety issues.

 Molonglo Group and PBS had never heard of workers receiving death threats and said it could have been a response from a disgruntled worker.

 They also said the site was very ”safety strict”.

 WorkSafe ACT has visited the Nishi site numerous times in the past six months – more than most in the capital.

 ACT Work Safety commissioner Mark McCabe said in one incident ”there was something we believe thrown at one of our inspectors but we could not prove what had happened or who had done it so we couldn’t do anything about it”.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/whistleblower-slams-site-safety-20120727-230cx.html#ixzz21rU2cRob

WorkSafe recorded an astonishing 1570 visits to construction sites over the period 2010-2011.This amounted to an average of four a day which means that the industry accounted for approximately 59 per cent of all visits in the ACT. 

The agency reported receiving a number of anonymous tipoffs about safety issues on construction sites in the Act. Presumably due to the danger of being victimised if they follow the appropriate channels.  Unfortunately in a small town, victimisation would make a person’s life miserable and make it difficult for them to get a job.

 People are threatened with raising safety issues because it is believed that there’s going to be a cost to the business and to the worker ultimately. 

An audit has been ordered into the construction safety in ACT, so hopefully soon a solution will be found to the high number of injuries and deaths being experienced.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Alert

Operating Cranes and Plant near Overhead Electric Lines

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued an alert aimed to assist employers and operators of the dangers associated with operating plant and cranes near overhead powerlines.

This post by SafetyCulture.com describes the alert in detail:

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has issued an alert regarding contact with overhead electric lines when operating a crane or other plant.

 It is a risky scenario as as it can be extremely difficult for crane or plant operators to see or judge distances from them.

 Actual contact with the lines is not needed to deliver an electric shock, as a close approach to the line conductors may cause a ‘flashover’ or arc.

 Before operating a crane or item of mobile plant, a worksite inspection should be conducted to identify potential hazards such as overhead electric lines or other electrical equipment. A risk assessment should include:

 the location and voltage of the overhead electric lines

 the nature, size and shape of the load to be moved

 the setting up and packing up processes

 the type of crane, mobile plant, machinery and equipment used and its design envelope

 the stability of crane or mobile plant and suspended loads

 site conditions, including unexpected movement of the terrain, ground or surface upon which the crane or plant is located

 the prevailing and unexpected wind strength and direction and weather conditions

 the qualifications, competency, skill and experience of people doing the work

 traffic or pedestrians that could interfere with the work

 the minimum clearance distance from the closest part of the crane or other operating plant to the electric line

 whether the load is being carried above the electric lines and may accidentally fall onto the energised lines

 the possibility of sway and sag of the overhead electric lines

 the possibility of the crane or plant becoming energised through voltage induced by adjacent electric lines, especially high voltage lines

 how the load being carried by a crane is secured and whether any part of the load may inadvertently move during the operation and encroach on the authorised person zone

 the potential for inadvertent movement of the crane or mobile plant, the load, people and electrical equipment in the area

 the functional behaviour of the crane, load or plant that could result in inadvertent contact with overhead electric lines.

 Electric lines should always be treated as energised unless the operator of the crane or mobile plant has received an access authority or other form of written documentation from the electricity supply authority which allows people to work within the no-go zone.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/07/safety-alert-for-operating-cranes-near-overhead-electrical-lines/

Contact with overhead powerlines can pose a serious risk of electrocution when operating a crane or other plant because of the difficulty they experience judging the distance between the crane and the powerlines overhead.

Workers on a construction site, whether working with plant and machinery or not will encounter this equipment at some time or the other due to their prevalence on site. It is difficult to imagine a construction without plant or machinery, especially commercial sites. Therefore it is important for uncertified persons who have not been trained in crane operation to be aware of safety procedures for plant and machinery. These plant and machinery include cranes, concrete booms, elevating work platforms, earthmoving equipment etc.

In order to manage the risk involved with operation of plant and machinery, first these risks need to be identified. An inspection to identify the risk involved with setting up cranes or other equipment in the vicinity of power lines should be carried out. The crane or machinery operator should be included in the risk identification process together with the employer.

When working with power lines overhead, authorities suggest you treat all electric power lines as live and either have them de-energised or create an exclusion zone around them and keep workers out. De-energising power lines should only be done once arrangements have been made with electricity authorities during the planning stages.

Once the risks have been identified, the employer should conduct a written assessment of the risk and it’s potential for harm.

By following the appropriate measures, employers and operators can reduce the number of operator injuries and deaths that occur each year as a result of contact with overhead powerlines.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

White Card Online: Unguarded Machinery a Problem on Site

WorkSafe has begun a year long campaign to highlight the dangers of unguarded machinery, coincidentally co-insiding with an accident which left a worker injured after his thumb was crushed by an unguarded machine. The company involved has been issued a $30,000 fine because it removed guarding from a machine.

The importance of guarding has been highlighted by WorkSafe’s Regional Director Shane Gillard who has urged other businesses not to ignore safety on their sites but address any issues before it was too late such as the company involved in this story.

The company, Campbellfield manufacturing company, neglected the duties in failing to properly guard the machinery, in addition to failing to provide the appropriate instruction, training and supervision.

This post by SafetyCulture.com.au provides more insight:

A business has this week been fined $30,000 in the Broadmeadows Magistrates’ Court after a contractor had his thumb crushed in an unguarded machine in 2010.

 The prosecution come as WorkSafe begins a 12-month campaign targeting dangerous machines.

 Regional Director, Shane Gillard, said removing guarding from a machine was a recipe for disaster and urged businesses to revisit safety practices around machinery before it was too late.

 “Guarding is there to protect workers from being seriously hurt or killed, yet we frequently come across incidents where someone has suffered a serious injury that could easily be prevented,” he said.

 The Campbellfield manufacturing company pleaded guilty to failing to provide instruction, training and supervision.

 The worker’s thumb was crushed while operating an unguarded operating press after a safety device that stops the machine from working when guarding is removed was taken off.

 The court heard the device was removed by a sub-contractor who was engaged by the company to carry out work and training at the site.

 The subcontractor spent 10 minutes removing the device on the day of the incident then trained the worker to work the press without the guard.

 He later told WorkSafe investigators he was aware the press was being used by the worker without the interlocked guard.

 WorkSafe’s investigation found the company did not know the interlocked guard had been removed by the sub-contractor, but failed to provide proper supervision, instruction and training.

 The company was fined $30,000, without conviction, while the subcontractor had earlier received a $5000 fine in May after pleading guilty to failure by a self-employed person to ensure people are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php

Many machines and equipment on construction sites can be dangerous and pose a variety of risks. These risks must be either eliminated or reduced. Quite often elimination of the risk is not possible, as the particular machinery is necessary for the task, in this case minimisation of the risk should be the next priority and this can be done by introducing guarding to prevent access of workers or their extremities to dangerous parts.

Every workplace using machinery needs to implement the appropriate guarding. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workers on site and according to the law part of that protection involves providing appropriate machine guards. These need not be elaborate or complicated and should not interfere with productivity in any way.

The first step in guarding machinery is to identify the hazards and the associated levels of risk. Employers should look at the safety characteristics of machines when purchasing new equipment and try to get suppliers and manufacturers to fit guards to your specifications.

Identifying the hazards or events that could give rise to a potential injury needs consideration, including the types of injury or illness they can cause such as lacerations or crushed fingers (such as this worker) caused through inadequate machine guarding.

Employers should conduct a separate risk assessment for each machine and any associated system of work used with that machine.

Consultation between employers and employees is an important step to evaluate the effectiveness of implementing control measures such as machine guarding is essential.

If an employer has determined that a hazard cannot be eliminated or replaced with a less hazardous option, the next preferred measure is to use an engineering control.  Examples of engineering controls that can be introduced to minimise the risk of machine injury is introducing guarding, using enclosures, automating a process.

 Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

White Card Update: Construction Worker Hit by Falling Glass

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According to a report on Examiner.com.au a construction worker lies critical in hospital after being hit by a sheet of falling glass outside a Hospital Construction site. The man was working as a glazier when the incident occurred and the man had to be treated for severe lacerations. He is still in a critical condition but has stabilised since yesterday.

The post goes on to state:

A CONSTRUCTION worker is in a critical condition after being crushed by a sheet of glass outside the Launceston General Hospital yesterday.

 The glazier was working on the hospital’s new integrated care centre in Frankland Street when the glass fell on him.

 Ambulance Tasmania received the call around 10am, and treated the man for severe lacerations.

A hospital spokeswoman said he also suffered multiple fractures and internal injuries, and was taken to the emergency department in a serious condition.

 By yesterday afternoon his condition had deteriorated, and he was listed as critical but stable.

The hospital’s occupational health and safety officers attended but work continued at the construction site, which is managed by Fairbrother. The company’s general manager Peter Killick said he could not comment on the accident because the worker was a subcontractor from an interstate firm.

Workplace Standards, which is investigating the incident, said the man was employed by Hi Tech Glazing.

http://www.examiner.com.au/news/local/news/general/lgh-worker-critical-as-glass-plunges/2262249.aspx

The worker in this incident is lucky to alive, considering the dangerous nature of glass and the seriousness of the lacerations he received. Unfortunately another worker this year was not as lucky. Earlier this year a teenage worker was killed by a falling excavator bucket on an Australian construction site in Sydney. The incident was made more sad by the fact that the worker was a young apprentice at the beginning of his life when it was cut short by safety breaches on the site.

These two occurrences although tragic highlight the need for stricter adherence to safety measures on site. Falling objects present a very real danger to construction workers and need to be addressed on every construction work site. All employees need to take the necessary precautions to avoid objects falling and hitting other people on site and adjoining areas, such as dwellings, yards, or roads beside the construction site.

Possible falling hazards are objects such as tools and materials, debris and other equipment that has the potential to fall from a workstation or platform or into a trench and potentially injure a worker or passer-by.

Both employers and employees have a responsibility to assess the risk of objects falling and injuring workers. Controls must be used to reduce these risks. Safety controls need to be in accordance with regulation standards.

Possible measures that can be undertaken to minimise the risk of injury from falling objects include :

  • Barricade or hoarding at least 900mm high less than or equal to 15 degrees,
  • hoarding at least 1800mm high greater than 15 degrees and less than or equal to 30 degrees,
  • Another possible solution may be using fully sheeted hoarding at least 1800mm high greater than 30 degrees.
  • If the angle is equal to or more than 75 degrees and not demolition work, erecting work or dismantling formwork you should erect a gantry, close the adjoining area, ?erect a catch platform with vertical sheeting or perimeter screening. 
  • For demolition work or work to erect or dismantle formwork, the principal contractor must close the adjoining area, or screening containment can be erected on the perimeter.

As an employee there are certain basic steps that can be followed to minimise the risk of injury from falling hazards. Some of the basic guidelines to follow are:

  • Use fences and barricades to separate the hazard from other workers and people
  • Use the appropriate signs to warn of the danger of falling objects
  • Install safety nets where necessary to catch falling objects or debris
  • Keep tools in the appropriate place or toolbox and not lying around the ground
  • Ensure materials are properly secured  when moving or lifting

While it may be too late for the workers injured in these instances adherence to safety planning and regulation can assure that other workers on construction sites avoid the same fate.

 

Posted by Steven Asnicar

White Card Online News Update: Scaffolding Incident Results in Death

A tragic incident involving scaffolding has occurred on a site in the UK, which although sad can teach workers and employers an important lesson in scaffolding safety.

The incident occurred when a young worker was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m to his death. The workers father has blamed a breach in site safety as the cause of the death. Another worker who was working nearby was also injured in the incident but thankfully escaped with his life. The principal contractor was blamed for the safety breach and received a hefty fine.

BBc.co.uk reported on the incident:

_61266038_chrisheaton

Two construction companies have been fined more than £300,000 after an employee fell to his death when he became entangled in a chain.

Christopher Heaton, 25, from St Helens, was working on flats in Manchester when he was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m (72ft).

Shawton Engineering and Amec Group were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court over breaches in safety rules.

Mr Heaton’s father, Len, said his son’s death in 2004 devastated his family.

Falling steel

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted steel-erection company, Shawton Engineering, and the site’s principal contractor, Amec Group, following an investigation into Mr Heaton’s death.

It found Mr Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him, while working on the city centre apartments, when one of the supporting brackets gave way.

He was struck by a falling steel block, became entangled in the operating chain and was dragged over the edge of the scaffolding.

Another worker, who does not want to be named, was also injured.

The investigation concluded the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain and the work had not been properly planned or monitored.

‘Happy go lucky’

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Heaton said: “The loss of our son has completely devastated our lives.

“Chris was a good lad, with a happy go lucky outlook. He loved his job and was looking forward to a career in engineering.

“I used to worry about him all the time, especially when he was out at night. Ironically, I didn’t worry too much when he was at work. I thought he was safe.

“Chris would still be alive today if simple health and safety rules were adhered to and hopefully lessons have been learned to stop this type of incident happening again.”

Neil Jamieson, HSE Principal Inspector for Construction, described the incident as “horrifying” and said: “If either Chris’s employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently then his life could have been saved.”

Shawton Engineering Ltd, of Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Newton le Willows, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work.

The company received a nominal fine of £1 because it had gone into administration.

Amec Group Ltd, of Birchwood Boulevard, Birchwood, Warrington, was found guilty of breaching part of the same act, by failing to ensure the safety of workers, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

It was handed a fine of £300,000 plus costs of £333,866.

The latest figures show that 50 construction workers were killed while at work in Great Britain in 2010-11 and there were nearly 3,000 major injuries.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-18647955

If this incident has raised alarm bells in your head and you fear for your own safety on site there are a few questions you can ask yourself, from erection to dismantling to help you determine whether scaffolding work is being performed to standard or not.

  • Has a competent formwork designer/manufacturer/supplier designed the system?
  • Has the formwork been properly constructed? Are all the formwork components, support timbers and structural ply, in a serviceable condition?
  • Is the formwork deck safely laid?
  • Is the steel fixing being done safely?
  • Is the formwork structurally adequate?
  • Are the wall and column shutters safely lifted and secured?  During strong winds large shutters need to be secured and not lifted.
  • Are workers prevented from accessing the area beneath the concrete pour?
  • Are concrete pumps being used safely?
  • Are kibbles being used safely? Crane-lifted concrete kibbles normally require a person with a dogging or rigging certificate to operate them and direct their movement.
  • Are concrete vibrators being used safely? Vibrators should be well maintained and fully serviceable.
  • Are the concreters working safely?
  • Is formwork being dismantled safely?

If proper safety is not being followed, employees should report the matter immediately as it poses a risk to all workers on site.

Posted by Steven Asnicar