Construction Safety News: Biggest Threat to Construction Workers

Ask any worker within the construction industry what is the greatest risk they face and you will hear a variety of answers from falls from heights to electrocution hazards, to being struck by vehicles, but in fact the greatest risk that construction workers face is actually ignorance.

Ignorance of safety issues is the greatest threat to the safety of workers on construction sites. The truth is employers can have the best safety systems in place but if workers aren’t trained on them they are ignorant of safety issues and virtually useless in terms of site safety.

It is vital that before allowing a worker onto a site, employers ensure that that worker is equipped with the necessary safety knowledge to operate on the site without presenting a risk to health and safety on site. This entails confirming that each worker has completed the White Card Course and is possession of a White Card. If workers have not completed this training, it does not matter how experienced or skilled they may be, they cannot set foot onto a construction site for work. If workers have not completed the course, employers need to ensure that they do so before allowing them to begin working on site.

While it is true that electrical hazards, slips, trips and falls are the most commonly occurring hazard on a construction site, if workers are trained on general construction safety they are more likely to be able to overcome these hazards without becoming a risk to themselves or others on site.

 

 

Safety Awareness during High-risk Construction Work

Quite often workers involved in high risk construction aren’t aware of the severity of the risks associated with the work they are undertaking and this can fuel an attitude of complacency, which in turn can lead to accidents on the construction site, accidents which can cost workers their lives or in the least cause them painful and inconvenient injuries.

High risk construction work is labelled “high risk” for a reason and it is important that workers are properly trained and certified to carry out certain high risk tasks.

Firstly workers need to understand what constitutes “high risk” construction work and what is required of them in these circumstances.

According to WorkCover NSW, high risk construction work is any hazardous construction work that has the potential to harm the health and safety of people or to damage plant and equipment.

WorkCoverNSW describes high risk on their website as construction work which:

  • involving asbestos, explosives or diving work

  • carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature

  • involving a risk of falling more than two metres or is carried out on a telecommunication tower.

  • including building or demolition work involving:

  • tilt-up or precast concrete

  • structural alterations or repairs to a structure that requires temporary support to prevent collapse

  • the demolition of a load bearing part of a structure

  • the demolition of any part of a structure that is likely to affect its physical integrity.

Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/newlegislation2012/your-industry/construction/Pages/high-risk-building-work.aspx

Some construction work is classified as high risk simply because of where it is carried out. For example work in or near a confined space, shaft or trench with a depth of more than 1.5 metres or a tunnel is high risk.  WorkCover NSW also provides a list of other environments that can be classified as a high risk environment:

  • pressurised gas distribution mains or piping

  • chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines

  • energised electrical installations or services

  • area where there are artificial extremes of temperature

  • area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere

  • road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians

  • area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant

  • water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning.

http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/newlegislation2012/your-industry/construction/Pages/high-risk-building-work.aspx

It is important that those in control of the site are aware of what activities are high risk because a safe work method statement (SWMS) must be prepared for all high risk construction work. If a SWMS is not developed, accidents can occur and the company is likely to be fined and/or prosecuted by authorities.

A common cause of accidents on construction sites is falls from heights. It is compulsory that any work from a height above 2 metres has a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is prepared because it too is classified as “high risk”.

It is also important that all workers on site have completed construction safety induction training, because this training covers general construction safety and touches on a number high risk construction tasks which workers need to be familiar with.

 

Fire Prevention on Construction Sites

There is a number of work activities on building sites that have the potential to set off fires. That is why it is necessary for the appropriate fire fighting equipment and fire protection to be available on the site.

The first step in ensuring that workers on site are prepared for fires is to identify and assess the hazards that may cause a fire. If these hazards cannot be eliminated, they must be controlled to avoid a fire. Even if there are appropriate control measures in place, the appropriate fire fighting facilities should still be provided as a last line of defence. These facilities will be determined by the hazards.

According to legislation, those in charge of the worksite must ensure that there are portable fire extinguishers provided and installed at all workplaces.

One of the concerns that some employers often face is, which fire protection and equipment to choose and where it should be located on the site and in proximity of the hazard. The type of fire extinguishers selected will depend on the hazards identified. For example if there is a risk of an electrical fire breaking out, it is necessary for a carbon dioxide (C02) extinguisher to be provided on the site to put out the fire.

Fire prevention on the work site can actually be aided by following a few safety tips include good housekeeping by removing waste materials and accumulated dust on a regular basis (because these present a fire hazard), keeping flammable materials in a place where the is no risk of them causing a fire and by utilising the correct warning signs wherever necessary.

Choosing the right equipment for the job need not be a complicated task despite the various options available. Here are some tips on choosing the right fire equipment for the job:

1.       Water Fire Extinguisher:

If a hazard has been identified which poses the risk of wood, paper, textile or rubbish fire breaking out, then a water extinguisher is the way to go.

2.       Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguisher:

This extinguisher is suitable for when fires occurs involving live electrical appliances such as switchboards, electric motors and electronic equipment. These extinguishers can also be used on smaller flammable liquid fires induced by petrol, paint or solvents commonly found on a construction site.

3.       Foam Fire Extinguishers:

A foam fire extinguisher is designed to be used on flammable liquids such as petrol, paint and solvents. These aren’t suitable for use on electrical fires.

4.       Powder Type Fire Extinguisher:

This type of extinguisher is available in a variety of powders to cover a wide range of risks. Dry chemical powder is extremely effective when used to extinguish flammable liquid and energised electrical equipment

According to Australian legislation it is recommended that fire mains and/or fire hose reels be available for the fire fighting purposes as the building progresses. Fire blankets are also an option and are suitable for stove top fires usually caused by cooking oils.

 

Commercial Vehicle and Equipment Defects on Construction Sites

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Photo source: www.masterbuilder.co.in

There are already a number of hazards on construction sites without adding to the list unnecessarily by neglecting vehicle safety and failing to maintain vehicles and equipment – this in itself presents a hazard to worker safety.

Construction accidents can occur because of defective commercial vehicles or equipment used by construction workers to undertake high-risk tasks.

It is the law that construction employers ensure work equipment is maintained and kept in a satisfactory state. Equipment should be in efficient working order and regularly maintained or repaired.

An important part of construction safety is that construction equipment and vehicles are maintained so that they are mechanically in good condition.

Planned maintenance is important and should be thorough, regular and frequent enough to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines and common sense.

Employers should remember that they are legally bound to make sure that work equipment, including construction vehicles, are in good working order.

It is also vital that vehicles are well maintained and mechanically sound. Employers need to consider how they plan on ensuring that vehicles are well kept, maintained and repaired. This should include determining when and how often inspections will occur, including basic checks by drivers before using the vehicles as well as regular maintenance inspections carried out regularly every so often or after a certain mileage. Drivers should be taught to check that the tyres are properly inflated and conduct a quick basiccheck before using the vehicle – providing drivers with a checklist is a good idea and will help them remember everything they need to check each day and sign off before beginning work.

Another aspect to consider is preventive maintenance. Preventative maintenance is also needed to help avoid failures during use. This should be thorough, regular and frequent enough to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines and common sense.

The parts of the vehicle which need to be paid special attention include the brake system steering system, the tyres, mirrors, windscreen wipers and washers, warning devices specific safety systems, racking etc.

Only qualified and skilled workers should be allowed to operate construction vehicles and equipment. Also vehicles and equipment shouldn’t be left with the engine on when unattended.

The vehicle should have suitable and effective brakes and the windows, mirrors and CCTV should provide good all round visibility.

Vehicles need to have suitable warning devices (for example horns, rotating beacons, reversing alarms) and these should always be working because they are an important aspect of safety.

The vehicle should be clearly visible, that includes painting and markings on the vehicle which make it stand out.

Seats and seat belts should be fully operational, safe and comfortable and the dangerous parts should have guards fitted.

Also construction sites have unstable, sometimes rocky terrain. It is important that driver protection is present to prevent injury should the vehicle tip over and to prevent the driver being hit by falling objects etc.

Vehicles should always be utilised and maintained according to the manufacturers’ requirements because vehicles and equipment are an important part of construction site safety.

 

Managing the Risks of Working from Heights on Construction Sites

Employers, are you sure you’re doing all you can to eliminate or minimise the risks of work from heights? The truth is falls from heights are the most common cause of fatalities on construction sites in Oz.

Perhaps one of the reasons why falling is such as common occurrence on construction sites is because there are so many ways in which workers are exposed to slipping, tripping and falling hazards.

A worker in Calgary landed in serious condition in hospital after he fell 4 storeys at a jobsite while engaging in construction work. It is believed that as he fell the worker struck other building surfaces before hitting the ground.

Read this excerpt from www.Cbc.ca which explains what happened:

The man.in his late 40s, was working on a building under construction at Crowchild Trail and 53rd Street N.W. around 7:30 a.m. Saturday when he apparently fell.

“Initial concerns were the significant height of the fall for concerns of internal injuries,” said Stuart Brideaux with Calgary EMS. “He may have struck other building surfaces before he touched the ground.”

The man’s co-workers provided first aid until emergency crews arrived, Brideaux said.

Occupational Health and Safety is expected to investigate the incident.

According to paramedics, any fall of a distance over 10 feet is considered quite serious.

The worker fell roughly forty feet.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/story/2013/06/15/calgary-construction-worker-scaffold-hth.html

Although each workplace will conduct their own risk assessment and have varying control measures introduced these are some examples of the measures that can be undertaken

  • Temporary work platforms

Risks must be controlled through the use of stable and securely fenced work platforms (such as scaffolding or other forms of portable work platform).

  • Guardrails

Guardrails should only be used in situations when it is not reasonably practicable to use temporary work platforms.The perimeter of buildings, structures, pits, tanks, floor openings, etc, should have guardrails to stop people falling over the edge. The guardrails should have the necessary strength so that they are able to withstand the impact of a person falling against them.

  • Fall arrest systems

Fall arrest systems should only be used in situations when it is not reasonably practicable to use either temporary work platforms or guardrails. Fall arrest equipment such as harnesses and lanyards can be used as travel restriction systems to prevent workers moving from safe to unsafe areas.

  • Training is one of the key ways of teaching workers how to overcome fall hazards. Training in the form of site specific safety training as well as white card training can educate workers about the risks and control measures to overcome fall hazards.

One of the topics covered by the White Card course is Slips, Trips and Falls. Slips, trips and falls contribute to a large amount of injuries on construction sites particularly causing musculoskeletal injuries. Sprains, strains, cuts, bruises, fractions and even death can result from a fall from a height. Even falls from relatively low heights can be serious and possibly fatal which is yet another reason why White Card training should not just be an option but a priority for every worker entering the building industry.

 

Worker Loses Leg – Danger of Unguarded Machinery on Construction Sites

An article on Ppconstructionsafety.com discussed the risks associated with unguarded machinery on construction sites. The incident involved a construction boss who was well aware of machinery guards missing yet failed to take action.

A contractor has been fined for an incident during which a worker’s lower leg had to be amputated after he slipped into an unguarded concrete mixer. The worker was part of a group engaging in road construction work sealing off a pavement when the incident occurred, now his life will never be the same again. Investigators said that the mixer should not have been used once the guard had been removed.

The injured worker slipped as he was climbing from a flatbed lorry which was parked next to the mixer. The worker put his left leg down to steady himself and accidently entered the unguarded opening of the mixer as its moving paddles severely injured his lower left leg, consequently it had to be amputated at the knee.

This excerpt taken from PPConstructionsafety.com explains further:

HSE found the guard over the rotating paddles in the petrol-powered mixer had been removed the day before the incident and not replaced.

Incident will have a huge impact on the rest of his life

Colin Boon of West Street, Biddulph, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a breach of Section 3(1) of The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £6,700 and ordered to pay £8,000 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alastair Choudhury said:

“This was an entirely preventable incident and a young man has sustained an injury that will have a huge impact on the rest of his life. Colin Boon failed in his duties to these workers. He was aware the guard had been removed and took no action to prevent use of the machine on the 13 September 2013.

Guarding on machinery is there for a reason – to prevent people getting hurt. If it is removed, absent or defective, employers are putting employees and others at risk of injury or death. No commercial pressure to take these risks is justified and the potential costs of incidents far outweigh any savings in time or money.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/05/30/worker-lost-leg-through-unguarded-slurry-mixer/

Machinery such as mixers are a hazard like any other and as the law dictates hazards on construction sites, once identified need to be assessed and if possible eliminated. If the hazard cannot be eliminated, the risk associated with the hazard should be minimised. One of the ways of minimising the risks involved with mixers is ensuring that appropriate guarding is present, failure to do so is a breach of duty, even in Oz.

Although the employer in the story above suffered a financial loss, the real loser here is the employee who now has to go through life with only one fully functional leg. Every aspect of his life has changed and his quality of life will never be the same. However he was fortunate to have escaped with his life, others may not be as lucky.

 

Vic Tradies the Safest but more needs to be Done

It is sobering to think that with each working day that passes somewhere in Victoria 10 tradespeople are suffering injuries serious enough for them to submit workers compensations claims, especially when you consider that Victoria actually has the best safety record in the country.

17,000 claims for injury over the past 5 years is too high a number and $1 billion in costs comes from construction industry injuries alone. In fact tradespeople and labourers make up the majority of workers injured, 80 per cent.  Every year around 200 health and safety breaches are found on construction sites across Victoria.

According to WorkSafe more needs to be done to improve safety and get workers talking more about safety. This is why WorkSafe has introduced the Top Tradie Cup to engage workers and get them interacting about safety. The Top Tradie Cup runs for six weeks and the competition combines safety with something most people love, football in order to test the football and safety knowledge of Victorian tradies.

An article on SafetyCulture.com.au provides more information on the issue:

TopTradie_logoEvery day ten tradespeople are injured badly enough to need to submit a workers compensation claim according to the statistics from WorkSafe Victoria that were released today.

Over the last five years there have been over 17,000 claims for injury reported to WorkSafe from the construction industry alone that was a cost of nearly $1 billion for treatment, wages and other related costs.

When the statistics are examined, labourers and tradies account for nearly 80 per cent of workers that are injured.

Denise Cosgrove, the WorkSafe Chief Executive, said that there is more that needs to be done in the construction industry even though there seems to be a strong understanding of safety.

She said that WorkSafe inspectors in average visit 40 Victorian construction sites every day with 6500 health and safety breaches discovered annually.

Ms Cosgrove said that the numbers of deaths and injuries illustrates the need for everyone to work harder at ensuring safety at construction sites. Most of the injuries were a result of poor planning, deficient site housekeeping and not enough worker supervision.

She said that the statistics have been released today so as to spotlight the launch of the Top Tradie Cup that is designed to get tradies and others at construction sites talking about safety.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/04/every-day-10-victorian-tradies-injured/

According to Cosgrove the majority of construction site injuries are caused by poor planning, poor site housekeeping and a lack of supervision and although they may not always be life-threatening, they are often painful, long-lasting and result in long periods off work costing the company, the tradie and the economy.

With the Top Tradie Cup WorkSafe aims to promote a culture of safety on work sites which will hopefully encourage behaviour change which will ultimately lead to fewer workers being injured on site thereby forcing employers to address the issues of planning, housekeeping and supervision in order to provide workers a safe work environment and safe system of work.

 

WorkSafe NSW issues Mobile Plant Safety Alert

WorkCover NSW has released a new safety alert which construction employers and workers need to pay attention to.

The WorkCover NSW authority released a new safety alert on working with or around mobile plant in order to make workers aware of the risks associated with this hazard.

Mobile plant includes forklifts, elevating work platforms, delivery vehicles, order pickers, earth moving equipment, prime movers, cranes etc. which all have the ability to cause serious, even fatal injuries to workers working around them or those operating them. Unfortunately these are also commonly used on construction sites and are irreplaceable in many instances.

The alert was prompted by the fact that in the last 5 years in NSW10 workers have been killed and over 2000 injured in accidents involving mobile plant and machinery on construction sites.

In just the last six months, four workers were killed when they were struck by moving plant, while one plant operator was killed when they collided with other mobile plant. Another worker lost his life when the mobile plant he was operating collided with a fixed object

WorkCover NSW advises the following action be employed by employers:

Work health and safety legislation requires PCBUs to ensure that risks to the health and safety of workers and others due to mobile plant (including vehicles) are eliminated or, if this is not possible, minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. PCBUs must consult with workers when they identify hazards and make decisions about ways to eliminate or minimise risks.

PCBUs must also provide workers and others with adequate information, training, instruction or supervision to protect persons from plant-related risks. They must ensure that workers understand site specific safety policies and procedures for their workplace, including any traffic management policies or procedures. This includes workers of other PCBUs who share or utilise the workplace (eg other trades, delivery drivers), and may also apply to visitors to the workplace.

Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/formspublications/publications/Documents/working-with-plant-safety-alert-3987.pdf

The alert also advises that employers ensure effective traffic management procedures be developed to suit the unique requirements of each workplace. The nature of the workplace can determine not only the type and effectiveness of control measures that can be implemented, but also how often these control measures should be reviewed to ensure that they remain effective. Workers should be consulted on this because they can provide insight into the effectiveness of control measures which they are working with each day.

Employers and principal contractors are required under work health and safety legislations to ensure that health and safety risks for workers and the public are reduced or eliminated so far as is reasonable practicable however this is not always possible and so minimising the risk is required to ensure that workers are not placed in dangerous situations.

It is also important for employers to provide workers with adequate information, training and instruction as well as supervise them to protect them from the risks related to mobile plant. Some of the most important considerations include traffic management and separating workers from the hazard if they are not involved in the operation. For more information visit http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/formspublications/publications/Pages/working-with-plant-safety-alert.aspx

 

Construction Workers Beware when Offloading Materials on Site

A plastering company’s director died during a modified delivery operation on a construction site in London recently. The construction company responsible was ordered to pay over £50,000($73,683.50) in fines and prosecution costs. The accident happened when a pallet containing over a tonne of render fell on top of him, killing him. The man was the director of a plastering company who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The incident occurred when delivery operations were being carried out and the pallet fell and struck the man, aged 37.The victim Phillip Ring was from Plymouth.

The site had breached safety regulations by not offloading the delivery at a nearby construction site using a forklift truck but restrictions on access to the site and a lack of mechanical handling equipment resulted in unloading the pallet by hand at a nearby business park using the pallet truck and lorry tail lift.

A post on PPCConstructionSafety.com explains further:

During the operation control of the load was ‘lost’ causing the load to fall from the tail lift thereby crushing Mr Ring who was standing on the road at the rear of the vehicle. He suffered serious head injuries and died later at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

Significant risks involved in delivery operations

RR Transport Ltd of Redruth was fined £22,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 3(1)(b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Jo Fitzgerald said:

“This was a tragic incident and it illustrates the significant risks involved in delivery operations. Thinking through those risks in a structured way helps delivery firms identify what could go wrong and improve safety.

While HSE does not say that RR Transport’s failings caused Mr Ring’s death, by failing to assess the risks properly the company did not have a number of important steps in place, which would have made their operation safer.

The company did not have a clear, consistent system for drivers to follow for using tail lifts, the tail lifts on their vehicles had not had the thorough examinations required by law and they did not have a proper system for inspecting their pallet trucks.”

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/04/16/off-loading-render-pallet-ended-in-tragedy/

Good planning and preparation are the keys to safe loading and offloading on construction sites. Early identification of traffic management, holding areas and loading/unloading facilities that are required will establish the safety management leadership to support good practice when all loading and unloading takes place on construction sites. While there are some principal contractors that take their responsibilities seriously and provide access gantries that can be located around the site at appropriate positions for off-loading and others have installed systems for the contractors to connect their safety equipment to before offloading, there are still some that aren’t concerned about the danger workers and the public are being confronted with because of improper loading and offloading.

 

Safety blitz found breaches in housing construction sites

WorkSafe Victoria has conducted a total of 120 safety blitzes on houses across Bendigo, Ballarat, Mildura, Warrnambool and Geelong which has yielded shocking results. 90 safety breaches have been discovered last month as part of the organisations Operator SafeSite program.

A number of workplace deaths have occurred this year already and construction workers in particular are in danger. That is why employers and workers need to work together to do all they can to ensure workplace safety.

The inspectors warned sites ahead of time of their visitation yet many failed to make their sites safer before inspectors showed up. Some businesses did yield the warnings and made improvements before inspectors arrived.

Fifty one improvement notices were handed out by site inspectors requiring businesses to fix health and safety breaches before it results in serious injury for workers. During the blitz a total of 39 breaches were identified and dealt with on the spot.

Some of the things that need to be considered include security of the site in the form of fencing, housekeeping and safe storing of tools when not in use are all examples of small measures that need to be taken but can make a huge positive impact on site safety.

Inspectors have reminded people in the housing construction sector that safety takes a proactive approach, it doesn’t just happen. It requires planning, effective controls in place, regular supervision and training.

For those businesses who have been issued with notices and those who managed to escape without any notices, inspectors will be conducting follow-up visits over the next few weeks, so make sure your business is not the one receiving safety notices for lack of safety compliance.