White Card Update: Shield yourself from danger of falling objects

Source : Samuel P

Earlier this year a construction worker was fatally wounded when an excavator bucket filled with debris fell from a level above him and hit him, causing him to sustain fatal injuries.

One of the responsibilities held by construction employers and contractors is to provide a safe system of work and work environment for their staff, part of which entails ensuring that workers do not sustain blows from being hit by falling objects on site. One of the major dangers of this type of hazard is that workers seldom have control of its occurrence. Workers are at the mercy of their co-workers to remain alert and safe on site. Contractors should attempt to eliminate the risk of this occurring as much as possible on a construction site. Employers and contractors must also ensure that people in adjoining areas are not inadvertently struck by a falling object from the building site.

Quite often workers are hit by objects that fall from higher levels and sometimes these injuries can be life threatening, especially blows to the head. Items such as equipment, building materials, tools, debris etc. can fall and hit workers down below.

Once the risk has been assessed employers/contractors can determine how to minimise the risk from occurring. If the hazard cannot be completely eliminated, it must be separated from other workers by using barricades or hoarding, vertical sheeting or perimeter screening can be erected to close off the area where the risk exists and other workers.


Working Safely on Construction sites in the Dark

(Photo: Sailom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Most construction workers are accustomed to working on a busy construction site and often working overtime to meet strict deadlines. This sometimes involves shift work and workers often have to work at night. Working at night or in the dark presents a potential hazard to construction workers and is quite different from working in daylight. Some construction sites are naturally dark, even during the day and so certain safety guidelines should be followed in order to maintain safety.

Working on a construction site at night means most often workers are fatigued and the lack of light creates blind spots where workers cannot see.These are the two greatest risks presented.

Overcoming fatigue is often difficult when workers move from a day shift to a night shift. The body’s internal clock is disrupted and this causes you to become fatigued at work, thereby jeopardising your ability to safety work. Sleeping during the day when not on shift is vital to remaining alert at night. Workers should try sleeping in a silent, dark room with no sunlight during the day. Also sleep the same amount of hours as you would at night.

Working in the absence of light, means workers chances of having accidents are increased. This can be overcome by providing appropriate lighting on site and having signage that is brightly lit and visible wherever hazards are present to warn workers.

Employers can also reduce incidents by implementing traffic control and having an awareness of what is located at the site, through training and signage.

The safety plan of the site should include an analysis of potential hazards on site arising from working in the dark. Planning ahead means taking into consideration all the possible dangers that could arise that could harm workers including taking note of blind spots, tripping or falling hazards and dangerous equipment.

Ensure warning signs are well maintained, illuminated and visible at all times. They should also be appropriately positioned to warn of hazards.

Workers operating heavy machinery and equipment may not be able to see behind the vehicle in the dark, these blind spots present a hazard. Employers should try to ensure the equipment on site comes with rear vision video systems or object detection systems that alert the operator to obstacles or people when reversing.

Ensure that the site has all the necessary lighting to work safely at night, including equipment mounted lights, hard hat lights, lights mounted on poles or cranes and spot lights on particular work areas. Fluorescent vests should be worn by workers to make them visible to other workers and machine operators.

Keep workers and equipment separated and ensure heavy machinery remains in specially demarcated zones.  Identify the safest routes for workers to drive equipment through and put up signs to indicate high traffic areas. As a worker, be alert and on the lookout for moving vehicles and equipment. Each night a worker should be assigned as a spotter for heavy machinery drivers.

Also workers should be involved in developing the safety protocols for their site. Management and supervisors should consult staff about the dangers they encounter and together establish ways of dealing with them. Review the sites safety plan on a regular basis.

All workers should have received training when beginning work on the site, this means that workers should have been taught how to work safety and effectively in the dark if the job requires. Although working in the dark presents a visibility hazard, by working together, being informed and vigilant and adhering to safety guidelines, workers need not fall victim to accidents that so frequently occur in the dark.


Federal Government must Eliminate Asbestos by 2030

(Image source : http://www.actu.org.au/Images/Dynamic/attachments/7727/ACTU%20Asbestos%20Report%20Final-Auspoll.pdf )

Auspoll, a survey recently commissioned by the ACTU has revealed that most Australians want the government to implement measures to have asbestos completely removed from all homes and public buildings by 2030.

Auspoll, as the survey was named, indicated that the majority of Australians (around two thirds) are still concerned about the effects of asbestos and the health risks it poses, regardless of its nation-wide ban a decade ago.

Last month the national inquiry into the removal of asbestos report was released. According to the report, government should aim to have asbestos completely removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 18 years. The inquiry also suggests the establishment of an audit into the presence of asbestos in residential buildings erected prior to 1987.

According to statistics around 500 Australians die each year from Mesothelioma, which is why citizens remain so concerned about the presence of asbestos in houses and buildings. According to ACTU president,Ged Kearney the poll, consisting of 1022 people showed ‘deep public concern’ about theissue, hence the 2030 target.

Asbestos has been used in thousands of materials and products throughout Australia for decades and has historically been used in places that were likely to experience intense exposure to the elements, which would degrade and deteriorate the product.So asbestos was used to give the product strength and longevity.  As the material deteriorates asbestos fibres are released into the air, which can have extremely harmful effects on the health of the human beings who inhale it, especially over time.

Although asbestos was banned, there are a number of buildings and homes that are still laced with asbestos through asbestos containing building materials which is now deteriorating and posing a potential threat. With Australia’s high rate of asbestos consumption, members of the public are understandably concerned.

It is thought that over one million homes have asbestos containing material, that’s almost a third of every domestic dwelling built prior to 1982, as well as hospitals, offices and schools. It is affecting the entire nation.

The majority of people who participated in the poll agreed that asbestos remains a huge health risk in Australia and even more indicated that the presence of the deadly substance would affect their decision to buy a home or not.

According to the poll, around 85% of the public back the recommendation for a national audit to be conducted which would identify remnant asbestos across Oz and about 90% advocated a national program for its removal.

Another recommendation made by the poll participants was for property sellers to have to provide certification that a property is asbestos free before selling it and even admitted their willingness to pay more for a property if the asbestos was removed by the previous owner.

A national asbestos summit is to be held in Sydney from the 4th of September to discuss how to handle the problem of asbestos. The unions will use the summit to discuss their plans for the removal of asbestos.

To read more about the ACTU Poll, visit http://www.actu.org.au/Images/Dynamic/attachments/7727/ACTU%20Asbestos%20Report%20Final-Auspoll.pdf



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:


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: Cold a Workplace Health and Safety Concern

The recent case involving a collapsed trench in which a worker was trapped has brought to light another valuable lesson for the construction industry. While trench safety is of utmost importance and prevention should always be the ultimate goal, accidents do happen as In this case and these do bring on serious consequences. The worker trapped in the trench was waist high in mud and contracted mild hypothermia.

Working in the cold is environmental condition that many workers have to deal with regularly, however in situations like this one the cold can present an even greater hazard. A common misconception is that old people are the only ones that can get hypothermia but that’s not true.

So What Are The Signs Of Hypothermia?

The one sign synonymous with coldness is shivering. It is the body’s way of keeping warm but shivering alone does not mean you have hypothermia.

So check for the following signs:

Confusion or sleepiness, slowed, slurred speech, or shallow breathing, weak pulse, change in behavior or in appearance, shivering or no shivering; stiffness in the arms or legs, poor control over body movements or slow reactions are all signs that a person may have hypothermia.

 What to do:

A body temperature a few degrees lower that the normal can be dangerous and may cause heart failure or an irregular heartbeat, heart problems or death.

If it is suspected that someone has hypothermia, use a thermometer to take his or her temperature. By shaking the thermometer first, you will ensure the thermometer starts at the lowest point.

Call emergency services if the person’s body temperature is too low and while waiting for them to arrive, keep the person warm and dry. You can do this by moving them to a warm place or by wrapping them iin blankets, towels or whatever is available on the construction site. Even body heat will help, so you or a co-worker can lie close to the person. You can give the person something warm to drink but not alcohol or caffeinated drinks.

Once taken to the hospital, it will be deduced whether the person has hypothermia using a special thermometer that can read very low body temperatures. Recovery depends on how long the person was exposed to the cold and his or her general health.

 How to Avoid Hypothermia?

Lowering of body temperature (also known as hypothermia) has an effect on the brain, causing erratic behaviour and numbness, muscular weakness and cramps. Therefore when operating dangerous equipment or working in a dangerous environment such as a construction site, the cold condition compounds the already prevalent hazards. For example a working operating a piece of heavy machinery or tool such as a jack hammer cannot afford to experience numbness or erratic behaviour caused by extreme coldness.  Hypothermia can occur when land temperatures are above freezing or water temperatures are below 37° C.

Obviously in emergency situations such as the worker who had a trench collapse on him, you cannot prepare beforehand but in generally cold climates you can.

• You may not always be able to warm yourself. Pay attention to how cold it is where you are by watching the local weather and dressing appropriately, especially when engaged in construction work which is typically outdoors.

• Check the weather forecasts for windy and cold weather. Try to stay inside or in a warm place on cold and windy days. If you have to work outdoors, wear warm clothes including a hat and gloves. A waterproof coat or jacket can help you stay warm if it’s cold, raining or snowing.

• Wear several layers of loose clothing when it’s cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Don’t wear tight clothing because it can restrict blood flow which can cause the body to lose heat.

• When the temperature has dropped, avoid alcohol as drinks can make you lose body heat sometimes. Have warm drinks and take breaks out of the cold.

• Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin and body fat helps you to stay warm.

 Some workers with health problems may be more vulnerable to hypothermia than others. These include problems with your body’s hormone system such as low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), health problems that keep blood from flowing normally (like diabetes), and some skin problems where your body loses more heat than normal.

Some health problems can make a worker get hypothermia more easily. One such health problem is severe arthritis because it makes it difficult for a person to put on more layers or get out of the cold.

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:


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.


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


White Card Update: Construction Worker Hit by Falling Glass


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.


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