The Fortnightly OH&S News Wrap-Up: One mistake could cost you

Returning to work after a long holiday can be daunting. When it comes to construction work, getting back to work is more than a matter of productivity; in many cases it’s a matter of life and death. Worksafe WA has issued a reminder to all worksites to prioritise safety when they return to work. The relaxed attitude from the holidays can’t carry into the new year, especially when one mistake could cost you or a co-worker their life.

Read the full article here: WorkSafe WA Urges Worksites to Prioritise Safety

construction

To help you stay up to date with what is happening in the industry, we’ve compiled some of the latest OHS news, which you may have missed.

Heat Claims the Life of a Worker in Roma, Queensland

Be Prepared for Environmental Hazzards

Construction Vehicle Safety Update

Fire on Building Site Kills 10

Lifelong Consequences of Asbestos on Construction Workers

Few contaminants present such a long extended risk as asbestos does meaning that the effects of asbestos exposure can affect a person long after they have been exposed.

Workers engaged in renovation and rebuilding construction work are at risk of inhaling, ingesting or absorbing deadly asbestos fibres which although toxic to the human body, were used in the past to make building materials more durable and longer lasting.

Significant exposure to any type of asbestos will increase the risk of developing serious, life threatening illnesses such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and non-malignant lung and pleural disorders, including asbestosis, pleural plaques, pleural thickening, and pleural effusions.

Chronic exposure to asbestos may increase the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung and pleural disorders.

Most of the cases of asbestos related diseases in Oz are associated with occupational exposure. Workers in the construction industry are some of the most at risk because of the use of asbestos in building materials prior to its banning a few decades ago.

However there may still be some sites where asbestos containing building materials are lying dormant and when damaged during renovations or rebuilding these asbestos fibres are released into the air to enter the lungs of workers or anyone in the area.

Asbestos has now been banned from further use, however it was expansively used in the construction and composition of fire doors due to its excellent fire resistant properties. Caution should always be used when cutting into or working with old fire doors in buildings as these may be constructed of asbestos containing material.If the asbestos containing materials are in good condition it can remain in place but should be labelled to alert people to its presence and the hazard presented.

Diseases from asbestos exposure usually take a long time to develop but it is not worth risking it. Workers who are both smokers and exposed to asbestos are even more at risk of developing lung cancer than non-smokers do.

Often the worst part about exposure to asbestos is that it only reveals itself years later. The time between diagnosis of mesothelioma (the most common asbestos caused disease which is also lethal) and the time of initial occupational exposure to asbestos has been up to 3 decades.

When asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled, most fibres are expelled, but some become lodged in the lungs and remain there throughout life to affect the person later in life. Fibres can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation in the lungs which then affects breathing and causes disease.

People are more likely to experience asbestos-related disorders when they are exposed to high concentrations of asbestos or are exposed for longer periods of time which is why identifying and removing asbestos from construction sites prior to work beginning is so important to protect workers safety.

Exposure to asbestos can increase the likelihood of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant lung conditions such as asbestosis for which there is no cure.

 

Construction Induction Card- How Do I Get One?

WorkSafe Red Card, are they still valid?

According to WorkSafe the construction industry in Victoria is one of the largest, employing approximately 225,000 workers and growing.  This is an industry that is expanding each year requiring new and inexperienced workers to undergo general construction site safety training in order to gain access to work a construction site.

Due to the fact that this is a growing industry, wrought with high risk activities, construction safety training is crucial. Each week 50 workers are injured on building sites across the state, which is why the government has introduced the new, national white card to replace the previous Victorian Red Card which was mandatory for work on Victorian construction sites. The new requirement for work on any construction site in Australia is the completion of the white card course.

Many incidents occur because construction site safety is not sufficient and workers are not suitably trained. In order to avoid incidents like head trauma, broken appendages, back injury etc. workers must undergo construction site induction training in the form of a white card.

Thankfully the white card is available online. So all that is needed to complete the course is a computer and an internet connection. It is presented in the form of an easy to understand, interactive assessment that enables workers to complete the training at their convenience.

In addition to the general construction induction training, employers must also ensure that workers undergo site specific induction. By conducting an assessment of the site and the possible hazards, employers should work together with employees to develop safety procedures for the site. Site specific training will entail training workers on these procedures.

All workers performing construction work require proof that they have completed a general construction induction course for the industry in the form of a White Card which replaced the original Red Card. The course can be completed through a registered training organisation. Only once the course has been completed and the white card issued can the worker be allowed entry onto a construction site to work.

How do I get it?

It is simple to complete your White Card course because it can be conducted online, when and where it is convenient for you. What’s more is that our white card is accepted in all states, so you are not restricted to work only in Victoria, if you move your white will be valid in any state. All that is needed is a computer and an internet connection in order to access the course material. An easy assessment is done online and once completed you are issued with a certificate of completion/statement of achievement which will enable you to receive the white card. All instructions are available online at www.whitecardonline.com.au

Although red cards issued previously will still be valid, workers who wish to obtain the construction site safety training now can do so through the online white card course. In order to obtain more information on the Red Card and new White Card, visit WorkSafe Victoria’s website: http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/safety-and-prevention/your-industry/construction/how-to-comply/induction-training

 

White Card Update: Dangers of Manual Demolition for Construction workers

Demolition is a dangerous part of construction work and manual demolition in particular can cause serious injuries to the workers involved. The most common problem that affects workers during a manual demolition is the unexpected collapse of the wall being demolished.

Earlier this year a wall which was being demolished manually unexpectedly collapsed on a worker in Sydney causing his death. The bottom section of the wall had been broken with a sledge hammer and the entire wall was to be removed to enlarge an area. The wall was weak because the bottom section had been knocked out so the wall collapsed onto the worker and crushed him.

Workers should be aware of the correct sequence that needs to be followed during a manual demolition. This type of task involves working with dangerous tools that also can present a hazard to workers if not used correctly. These include jackhammers, sledge hammers and picks which you should be trained on before using. Masonry and brickwork should be taken down evenly and demolished in reverse order to their construction.

Employers and contractors should ensure that workers are competent and have received training and instructions on safe demolition methods before even starting demolition. Ask workers to produce competency certificates to prove that they are certified. Employers also need to ensure that the process is supervised by a person qualified and competent to do so.

When removing entire wall sections using manual demolition methods that incorporate hand tools, such as jackhammers, sledge hammers and picks, workers should avoid weakening the wall. Weakening the wall was the cause of death for the worker in Sydney earlier this year. Weakening of the wall can be avoided by never taking down multiple rows of brick at once or starting at the bottom of the wall. Workers should remove the top row of bricks using a hammer and chisel and finish an entire row before starting the next.

Another possible hazardous situation may occur when removing a portion of a wall where masonry will remain above the opening. This is often done to install a door or window. Workers should ensure the upper area of masonry should be supported prior to commencing demolition and the demolition should commence at the top of the intended opening.

Bystanders and workers on the site that are not involved in the demolition should be kept away from the area. This involves setting up exclusion zones to keep unauthorised people outside of the area where the wall may collapse or debris may fall.

Employers should consult workers when developing a safe work method statement before beginning the demolition work as is done with all dangerous construction activities.

Part of working safely on a construction site involves workers wearing the appropriate PPE and employers providing this PPE and training on it. Safety glasses, a dust mask, gloves and long-sleeved clothes should be worn as protection from flying objects and dust. When the demolition process produces excessive noise, hearing protection should be worn. If the demolition is being done at a height, fall protection should be in place and operating effectively. Workers must never work from the top of a wall that is being demolished.

A wall should not be permitted to stand unless it is effectively supported against collapse. Before demolishing a wall, it is important to ensure that the wall is not a load bearing wall and is not providing support for other walls.

Undoubtedly the worker that was killed earlier this year was not sufficiently trained on how to demolish a wall safely. Sadly it is too late for him, however other construction workers should not fall victim to the same fate. Do not attempt to demolish a wall if you are unsure of how to safely do so. Also if a supervisor or superior asks you to do something that could put your safety in jeopardy, do not do it because your life is worth more than any job.