White Card Update: Danger of Slips, Trips and Falls – Is Your Workplace Safe?

While accidents can occur in any workplace, construction sites are particular susceptible to slips, trips and falls due to the large number of potential hazards on site. Slip and fall hazards are one of the most commonly identified hazards that are dealt with at some length in the OHS White Card course at www.whitecardonline.com.au.

Some of the injuries associated with slips, trips and falls include cuts, sprains, fractures, spinal injury and strains to name a few. As numerous as the possible injuries are the hazards that contribute to these injuries. By paying attention to these hazards, it is possible to reduce the risk involved.

Factors that contribute to slips, trips and falls include wet or oily floors, uneven or slippery surfaces or slopes.

Other areas of concern are working on ladders, working from heights, stairs, areas with bad lighting, working near trenches or pits. Vigilance is necessary when working with any of these.

Picture source: www.checkonsafety.com

Slips especially occur when shoes lose their grip on the floor. Whether a substance is spilled on the floor or an object is left on the floor that causes a fall, a loss of balance is the result.

Ladders

Working with ladders can be dangerous when not used safely. Ladders should be used specifically for its task, don’t improvise, follow the rules. Accidents do occur and you may injure yourself or co-workers and be held responsible. Some guidelines regarding ladders include, not placing ladders in front of doors or allowing more than one person on at a time. Another important point to remember is to not climb higher than the third rung from the top of a straight ladder or the second rung from the top of a step ladder.

Trenches

Another falling risk is the presence of trenches or pits on site. By falling into a trench or pit, workers can be seriously injured. While most deaths in trenches are caused by cave-ins, falls could also be hazardous. Fences, barricades, guardrails and appropriate warning signs must accompany trenches or pits. According to OHS law, employees must be trained about working near trench and other construction site hazards.

Heights

Falling from heights could also be critical. When working on scaffolding or a rooftop, workers need to be cautious. Regulation requires an approved safety system should be implemented, including guardrails, scaffolding and fall protection. If these measures do not sufficiently reduce the risk workers should be equipped with proper safety harnesses.

According to statistics trips most often occur due to uneven floor surface or obstacles on floors for example cables or tools, or loose tiles or foreign objects on floors. Good housekeeping is vital to ensure floors are kept clear of obstructions and possible tripping hazards. It is also important to make sure floors are free from holes, uneven surfaces or obstacles.

Smaller details that are often ignored also need to be attended to when identifying hazards. Such as appropriateness of footwear. Footwear on site needs to be suitable for the type of work and environment. A non-slip sole and appropriate tread is needed to ensure proper grip between the floor surface and footwear. Lighting is also often ignored and contributes to accidents on site. Poor lighting and distractions can impact a person’s awareness of their surroundings, including possible slipping or falling hazards in their path.

As an employee you can assist by keeping floors clean and clear of obstructions, dealing with spills or accidents immediately, barricading or placing warning signs around potential hazard areas, avoiding trailing cables, cords, pipes or other equipment across the walkway.

Workers need to have a thorough understanding of slips, trips and falls hazards and how these hazards can be managed and hopefully minimised. Staff should be trained on how to control hazards and avoid injury, including proper reporting procedures.

As a worker, you have a duty to take care of your own safety as well as that of your co-workers. Workers need to continually assess the situation to assure they are not putting themselves or others at risk. Compliance with safe work practice and cooperation with your employer is crucial in this regard.

If you feel your workplace does not comply with proper safety regulations or place you or your co-workers at risk report it immediately before it’s too late.

Other rules and guidelines would have been made available to you during your induction training. If you have not received your training and are working on a construction site you are doing so illegally. To rectify the situation complete your online white card course today.

Posted by Steven Asnicar

White Card Articles: Personal Protective Equipment on Construction Sites

According to statistics released by WorkSafe, injuries on housing building sites are costing the construction industry more than $17million a year. More than 20 Victorian tradies injuries a week were reported on housing constructions sites last year.

In order to reduce these skyrocketing figures it is important that both employers, employees and self-employed tradespeople comply with workplace health and safety policies. One such policy which can significantly reduce the number of injuries on construction sites is the use of PPE.


Picture: www.easyguides.com.au

Personal Protective Equipment is clothing or equipment designed to control risks to health and safety in the workplace. Examples of PPE are:

  • Ear plugs & ear muffs for hearing protection
  • Sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful effects of the sun
  • Hard hats, helmets & sun hats for head protection
  • Respirators, face masks & cartridge filters for breathing protection
  • Safety Boots for foot protection
  • High-visibility garments, thermal wear, overalls, aprons & safety harnesses for overall body protection
  • Reflective vests & fluoro jackets for protection of your abdomen and upper body
  • Goggles & Safety Glasses for eye protection

As an employee in the construction industry you have a legal obligation to adhere to your employer’s health and safety requirements, including use of PPE if instructed by your employer. Refusal to cooperate with these safety policies can result in disciplinary action or prosecution.

Employers have a responsibility to pay for and provide PPE and employees must utilise it as required.

Be vigilant on site and if you see a co-worker not using the PPE provided when they should be, warn them of the risk they are taking and immediately tell your manager.

PPE provide the least effective solution to hazards on a construction site because it doesn’t address the hazard but rather provides a layer of protection against it. It is still helpful in shielding workers from injury.  Therefore it should not be the only control measure implemented but should be used in conjunction with other safety measures.

There are various circumstances that may arise on site that can be prevented or minimised by wearing personal protective equipment. Circumstances that warrant the use of PPE include:

  1. Where there is a risk of noise induced hearing loss, employers should provide hearing protection. The need for such hearing protection equipment such as ear plugs will be assessed by conducting noise surveys in the affected areas.
  2. Workers that are required to work outdoors should be provided with protective clothing and sunscreen suitable for protection from sun damage, especially workers who are exposed to the sun’s harmful rays for long periods of time and are at risk of sun burn and skin cancer due to direct exposure to harmful UV rays.  Radiation from long hours of outdoor work can be reduced by providing hats, long sleeves/trousers and an adequate supply of sunscreen.
  3. When there is a possibility that a person may be struck on the head by a falling object or their head is vulnerable to injury in any way head protection in the form of a safety helmet must be worn.
  4. Hazards such as flying particles, dust, splashing substances, harmful gases, vapours, aerosols, and high intensity radiation from welding operations warrant and necessitate eye protection due to risk of eye injury or loss.
  5. Respiratory protection should be provided after all other practicable measures have been taken to provide control measures to ensure that no worker is exposed to an atmosphere that is or may be harmful to health.
  6. Workers operating near moving traffic or moving plant and equipment should wear high visibility safety vests to reduce the risk of injury associated with not being seen and being hit or run over by machinery or construction vehicles.
  7. Hand protection should be provided where there is a hazard associated with a potential for hand injury, such as working with certain tools. The list of hazards that injure hands will be compiled for each workplace and suitable hand protection should be provided to minimise risk.
  8. Safety /Protective footwear should be provided by employers where the nature of the work exposes the employee to risk of injury to feet.  On a construction site, all workers have the risk of injuring their feet.

Conclusion

While employers do have the responsibility of providing workers with PPE, it is the responsibility of workers to follow the workplace health and safety policies and regulations as instructed by employers… this is covered in our White Card training course. This includes utilising PPE as instructed.  Workers should not charge employees for PPE, as they are required to provide it by law. Employers must also provide the necessary training and instruction on use of PPE.  Workers who fail to utilise PPE as required are not only making themselves eligible for disciplinary action and prosecution, but even more serious they are putting their lives at risk.

 

News Update: Fall Prevention on Construction Sites

In the construction industry, workers are often expected to conduct their duties at great heights. It therefore becomes vital that measures are taken to ensure that these individuals are operating in a safe working environment. In Western Australia legislation has been around for many years to address this issue specifically, namely the Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at the Workplace. The latest revised version of this Code, released in 2004, states that the code is:

…intended to provide practical guidance on meeting the requirements in the Occupational Safety    and Health Act 1984 and Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 relating to prevention of falls at the workplace, including those that came into operation from 1 July 2001.

Source: http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe/PDF/Codes_of_Practice/code_falls.pdf

In addition, this Code of Practice takes care in describing who should make use of it stating:

 This code should be used by everyone who has a duty to prevent, as far as practicable, falls at workplaces. This includes employers, employees, self-employed people, architects, engineers,   designers, builders, manufacturers, suppliers, safety and health representatives and safety and health committees.

It is interesting to note this paragraph not only places the onus on the employer but also the employee. As a result it empowers the employee to make use of the Code of Practice so that they can themselves ensure that when they are operating on a site that everything is up to code. This in theory should not only prevent accidents but distribute the responsibility of accident prevention to the entire workforce.

The Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at the Workplace however is not always adhered to and the consequences can be costly. SafetyCulture.com.au recently reported on an accident in which a scaffolding company failed to adhere to the best practices set out in the Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at the Workplace, it reported that:

A scaffolding company has been fined $22,000 over an incident in which a worker was injured when he fell through an insufficiently protected void on a construction site. Source

Using this incident as a case study it may be of interest to examine how valuable lessons can be extracted from instances like this one. This case revolves around one specific detail, the fact that the scaffolding company partially covered a void with scaffolding and then covered the rest with unsupported particleboard. The problem arouse because the unsupported particleboard was not marked and no warnings were given, this left the unsuspecting working with little chance of knowing that, that part of the structure was unsupported. The article goes on to state that:

 The void was quickly covered with planks after the incident. The same hazard was discovered in two other units, and these voids were also covered with plank.

The problem was diagnosed and a solution was quickly and effectively implemented. The solution however did only arise after the incident and it is useful to examine what the company could have done to prevent such an incident from occurring. The Code of Practice: Prevention of Falls at the Workplace identifies a three step process to follow in order to indentify and deal with hazards such as the one visited in the article:

  • identify hazards;
  • assess risks; and
  • control risks.

It goes on to state that in identifying risks, consideration should be given to:

  • previous injuries, ‘near miss’ incidents or accidents arising from falls which have occurred at the workplace or other similar workplaces;
  • relevant codes of practice and guidance notes;
  • consultation with employees, safety and health representatives (if any), safety and health committees, self employed people and contractors to find out what problems may be associated with performing tasks/ jobs;
  • walk through inspections of the workplace (consider using checklists); and
  • any other records or statistics which indicate potentially unsafe work practices.

Following this process employers and employees alike are able to manage a site to the extent that accidents and injuries should be virtually nonexistent. It is interesting to note that once the incident occurred, the scaffolding company seemed to follow these steps word for word. They were quickly able to identify the hazards in the two other units, assessing the risk and then controlling the risks with the fitment of sturdier planks over the particleboard. The company displayed how one can identify risks with consideration to previous injuries.

Workplace safety is of the utmost importance not only to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees but also to prevent incurring costly fines and lawsuits that can result from accidents. Thus it is important that all employees are given safety training. Safety training like that of the White Card course, which is a requirement for anybody working in the construction industry as set out in the National Code of Practice for Induction for Construction Work, which is available to all at SafeWorkAustralia.gov.au

(http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/AboutSafeWorkAustralia/WhatWeDo/Publications/Documents/244/InductionForConstructionWork_2007_PDF.pdf) This type of induction training is designed to expose construction workers to workplace safety and where and how to find the information that is going to be relevant to them in terms of workplace safety.

Posted by Steven Asnicar