Vic WorkCover – Emphasis on Construction Safety

Source : Elliott Brown

Following the statistics that were released showing that housing construction is costing the industry millions of dollars, the month of August will see WorkCover Inspectors target safety in Casey, Melbourne.

The organisation has named the campaign, “SafeSite” and will focus on inspections in the housing construction industry. Inspectors will be concentrating on safety planning, site supervision, fall prevention, housekeeping, electrical safety and workers onsite facilities and amenities.

According to the Assistant Treasurer of WorkCover, Gordon Rich-Phillips, the aim of the campaign is reduce the cost of housing construction accidents which was estimated at $17 million last year.

Rich-Phillips emphasised that safety requires a planned and concerted effort and doesn’t just happen, especially on fast paced sites.  Part of a safe site involves effective supervision and planning and every worker on site needs to be attentive to safety.  He also explained that while WorkCover is there to help, the ones ultimately responsible for safety are the workers on site.

WorkCover will target various suburban and regional areas over the next year, starting with this campaign.  Casey was chosen as the first area to be targeted, due to the high number of construction incidents that occur here each year however campaigns in five other areas will follow over the course of the next 12 months according to WorkCover.

 

White Card Update: Imported Material Tainted with Asbestos

The Construction Union is concerned about the incident involving asbestos being found in structures imported from Indonesia. The union has warned its members about the incident and issued an alert to educate workers.

Strangely the importation of asbestos products was banned in Australia almost a decade ago, so how this material could have slipped through the cracks is still unknown. The union is particularly concerned about the safety of electricians who may be exposed.

The asbestos was only discovered after a fire in one of the switch boards cause the asbestos sheeting to break, revealing the dangerous asbestos fibres within. 

WorkplaceOHS.com reported on the case:

The CFMEU has advised its members that asbestos was found in pre-assembled structures imported from Indonesia for installation at local building sites.

The alert was issued after the union learnt that the Bechtel Construction Pty Ltd site on Curtis Island near Gladstone, Queensland, had imported sheds built from converted shipping containers.

They were assembled in Indonesia and supplied by the international company METITO Pty Ltd to house the Motor Control Centres for the Sewage Treatment Plant.

CFMEU QLD/NT safety officer Andrew Ramsay said tests had confirmed the internal linings of the sheds consisted of Asbestos Cement Sheeting/Tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings.

‘As we are all aware the importation of asbestos products has been banned through the Customs Act in Australia since 31 December 2003,’ he said.

‘The asbestos in these sheds came to light after a fire in one of the switch boards caused the sheeting to be broken and exposed the fibres to the workers involved.’

‘The Union is concerned that many electricians may also have been exposed during fit-out of these sheds before the alarm was raised.’

Source: http://www.workplaceohs.com.au/hazards/hazardous-substancesdangerous-goods/asbestos-news-tainted-supplies-from-overseas-plus-more

The report goes on to report on the latest Mesothelioma figures in Oz which are among the highest in the world. It is expected that up to 18,000 more Australians will die from mesothelioma by 2020. Mesothelioma is the cancer of the pleura. This disease grows and spreads quickly before the symptoms appear which makes early diagnosis and treatments harder.  The average survival time after diagnosis is only 6-18 months. A very small exposure to asbestos can be enough to trigger the cancer. The danger of this disease is that there may be a lag time of 20 to 40 years after asbestos exposure before mesothelioma results.

The report goes on to cite the following statistics:

Mesothelioma report reveals diagnosis and death rates

Meanwhile, Safe Work Australia has published a statistical report containing data on the number of mesothelioma sufferers diagnosed between 1982 and 2008, as well as the number of deaths due to mesothelioma between 1997 and 2007.

The key findings are summarised below:

New cases diagnosed

 •In 2008 there were 661 new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed in Australia.

The number of new cases decreased from a previous peak of 652 new cases in 2003 to 591 new cases in 2006: initially suggesting a decreasing trend. However, the number of diagnoses reported in 2007 reached a new peak of 668 cases. This increase between 2006 and 2007 was mainly due to the increase in diagnoses for men (from 487 to 561 new cases respectively).

 •In 2008, the age-standardised incidence rate of new cases of mesothelioma was 2.9 per 100 000 population.

This rate has increased over time, from 1.2 cases in 1982 to a peak of 3.2 in 2003. In 2008, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new cases occurred among men aged 85 years and over: 48 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and over.

Deaths due to mesothelioma

•In 2007 there were 551 deaths attributed to mesothelioma.

Data on the number of deaths due to mesothelioma are available for the years 1997 to 2007. Reflecting the increase in incidence of new cases diagnosed, the overall number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma generally increased over the period between 1997 and 2007: reaching a maximum of 551 deaths in 2007.

 •In 2007, the age-standardised rate of death due to mesothelioma was 2.4 deaths per 100 000 population.

The overall age-standardised rate has remained relatively stable over the 10 years for which data are available. Over the period the standardised rate has ranged between a minimum of 2.1 deaths per 100 000 population in 1999 and a maximum of 2.7 in 2001.’

Source: http://www.workplaceohs.com.au/hazards/hazardous-substancesdangerous-goods/asbestos-news-tainted-supplies-from-overseas-plus-more

 Posted by Steven Asnicar

 

White Card Update: Student Fall lands Government Department in Court

According to government statistics falling is the leading cause of death on construction sites and between 1995 and 1999, 362 falls occurred. That statistics makes this incident even more disturbing.

 A student at an Adelaide TAFE campus suffered a fall after walking across an unstable roof beam and fell through plasterboard 4.5m to the ground. The student received $20,000 from the government department involved for having suffered broken bones and other serious injuries.

th_roof_safety-150x119

SafetyCulture.com.au had this to report:

The Government Department that is responsible for an Adelaide TAFE campus has been fined $120,000 after an admission of guilt in the Industrial Relations Court. They are also required to pay $20,000 to the student that was injured in the fall.

 The fall happened in November 2009 when the construction student needed walk across a roof beam to assist with detaching a panel; he fell from the beam through exposed plasterboard 4.5 metres to the floor breaking bones and received serious injuries.

 The government department pleaded guilty to the failure to conduct a risk assessment and provide fall protection to the student.

Read more: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/08/government-department-in-sa-fined-over-student-fall/

Ordinarily construction site falls can result from a number of incidents, including use of unsafe or incomplete scaffolds, inappropriate ladders/ladder use, falling from or through roofs, falls from trucks, falls into holes, pits or shafts, accessing shelving, accessing mezzanine areas. Falls from heights are an extremely prevalent and dangerous threat to construction workers and so needs to be managed accordingly.

Even falls from relatively low height have the ability to cause very serious injuries, including fractures, spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damage. Management of the risks can significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by falling.

Employers should allocate responsibility to workers in managing fall prevention.  Each job is different and the needs have to be decided and specific responsibilities allocated. Responsibilities that can be distributed include ensuring adequate fall prevention is in place, equipment is used correctly, safety measures are maintained and workers are given adequate instruction and training. Employers have the main responsibility for ensuring that work environment is safe and free from fall threats.

Manufacturers, importers and suppliers of equipment must ensure that they equipment they provide is designed, constructed and tested so it’s safe to use when used for the purpose it was designed, manufactured or supplied. Employers also need to provide adequate information and training about how to use the equipment correctly. 

One of the highly risky practices on a construction site is working on a roof. To comply with the OHS Prevention of Falls Regulations 2003, employers must identify all tasks that involve the possibility of someone falling more than two metres.  These tasks may include construction, demolition, repairs or maintenance, on plant or structure, work on fragile or unstable surfaces, work on sloping or slippery surfaces, work near an edge, hole, pit or shaft.

Things that should be considered when assessing the risks include the nature, size and layout of the workplace, The duration, extent and type of work to be done, height at which workers will be required to access or undertake work, training and experience of employees undertaking  the work, how to get to the work area, the number and movement of people and plant on the work site and conditions of work.  Some aspects to consider include is it windy or slippery? Is there poor lighting, sloping surfaces or other hazards above or below work area such as power lines, impaling hazards or trees?

For employers, if it is not possible to eliminate the risk, precautions should be taken to manage the risk and thus minimise the likelihood of someone falling.  Working on the ground is the most effective method of protecting workers from fall hazards, however this isn’t always possible so the hazard has to be managed.

Construction workers need to use personal protective equipment to minimise injury in the event of a fall or any other hazard protection on a construction site. Workers shouldn’t just be given PPE, but must be trained on its correct use so that workers can get the full benefit of the PPE.  This in conjunction with other measures mentioned above, when combined can contribute to a safer and healthier work environment.

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: How to Avoid Eye Injury for Construction Workers

The very nature of the construction industry and the various hazards that it presents make workers vulnerable to a number of injuries, including eye injuries. Eye injuries are one of the most common workplace injuries reported by construction workers because of the heavy machinery and tools involved. Construction work exposes workers to a wide variety of hazardous materials, many of which are airborne such as saw dust, sand, metal shavings, paint, stone dust, chemicals, dirt, nails, toxic chemicals and radiation.

According to recent studies most workers who reported eye injuries were not wearing personal protective eyewear at the time. Some workers using safety glasses were still injured because the glasses were not sufficient protection for the task undertaken.

Not only should employers provide workers with the appropriate Personal protective equipment for the job to be done safely, but they should also provide a wash station where eyes can be washed whenever necessary.

The best protective eye wear is the kind that protects the entire eye and has shields which reduce the gaps. These prevent dust particles and other foreign objects from flying into the eye area and damaging or irritating the eye because they have side shields which minimise the gaps.

Concrete coring and welding are just two of the many construction activities that necessitate the use of these safety glasses. Safety glasses with side shields usually have vents to prevent fogging and hampering vision. Workers who wear contact lenses need not use ventilated protective glasses and workers wearing prescription glasses should use the appropriate safety glasses that fit over their prescription glasses.

Although safety glasses are usually manufactured using the highest standards, its best to use safety glasses made from industrial strength materials that do not buckle under routine hazardous worksite conditions.

What are Workers Responsibilities?

While employers are responsible for providing the appropriate eye gear free of charge should the job require it, workers have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of themselves including their eyes. Workers must wear the eye gear whenever engaging in eye threatening activities. Employers must train workers on PPE and ensure they are well maintained and clean

Construction workers must use protective eye gear every time they are actively involved in a construction related task and the appropriate eye protection for the task should be utilised. Most eye injuries occur when workers least expect it and are not wearing the necessary protective eye covers.

Ensuring that PPE is well maintained and protective eye gear is kept in excellent condition is also the workers’ responsibility, but should the PPE become damaged it should immediately be reported.

Guidelines on What Protective Eyewear to Wear

  • Workers should always wear goggles or safety glasses that have side shields fitted, not ones that leave the sides open, exposing parts of the eye area.
  • If you use contact lenses, wear unvented goggles.
  • The following circumstances warrant and in fact require the use of safety eye goggles:

When there is a lot of dust, liquids, gases and when engaging in overhead work.

  • Also wear a clear, plastic face shield for:

Work with corrosive chemicals or metals that can splash into the eye, grinding, chipping, or using a wire brush on welds, work involving flying particles, sandblasting work.  

What to do in an Eye Emergency:

Hopefully it will not get to this, but should you find yourself with an eye injury first seek medical attention especially if the eye is sore, blurry or if you have lost vision. When waiting for medical help to arrive your first aid officer can assist or you can attempt to the following steps

If you get particles in your eye:

•Avoid rubbing the eye

•Your eye will naturally secrete tears, try to let these tears wash the dust out or irrigate the eye with an artificial tear solution or water.

•Attempt to lift the upper eyelid outward and down over the lower eyelid to remove the dust speck.

•If the particle does not wash out, keep the eye closed and seek medical care.

If you suffer a blow directly to the eye

•Apply a cold compress without putting pressure on the eye. A cold compress can be made by putting crushed ice in a bag.  

•In cases of severe pain or reduced vision, seek immediate medical care.

If you sustain cuts and punctures to the eye or eyelid

•Never wash out the eye as is often our first instinct to do.

•Do not attempt to remove an object that is stuck in the eye.

•Cover the eye with a rigid shield, like the bottom half of a paper cup and seek immediate medical attention.

Chemicals in the eye

•As soon as possible, wash the eye with water for at least 15 minutes. Place the eye under a faucet or shower, use a garden hose, or pour water into the eye from a clean container.

•Remove contact lenses first before flushing out the eye.

•Do not try to neutralize the chemical with other substances or bandage the eye.

•Seek immediate medical attention after flushing.

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

 

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 Online News Update: Warning to Construction Workers

Hotter Summers a Risk to Your Health

Rising Summer temperatures pose a threat to the health and safety of Aussie workers, in particular workers who spend a great amount of time outdoors, such as construction workers. According to experts temperatures are set to triple over the next 10 years which could result in more fatalities due to dehydration, heat strokes and other heat related illnesses. Loss of concentration and impairment in judgement, especially in construction workers can have a devastating effect due to the risk involved in construction work.

An interesting post on SafetyCulture.com.au provided more information on the issue:

Australian workers are facing increased safety and health risks as summer becomes hotter, an expert warned.

According to a report by the Herald Sun, academics at the National Climate Change Adaptation Conference, which opened on Tuesday, said a review on workplace laws should be done as summers become hotter.

 Dr Elizabeth Hanna from the Australian National University’s centre for epidemiology and population health, said increasing summer temperatures were causing more heat-related health problems and fatalities, with many happening at work.

 “Australia really needs to start developing some adaptation options because what’s going to happen is we’re going to face that horrible question, ‘Do we down tools over summer or work until we’re dead?’” said Dr Hanna.

 She also said that days when temperatures reached more than 35C would triple over the next decade.

 “The problem is if you sweat up to maximum you become dehydrated, and dehydration has the double whammy – it impairs your mental ability and so people can have poor judgment, particularly if they’re using equipment and machinery and can increase accidents.

 The Herald Sun further reports that there are 1000 heat-related fatalities every year, and this figure is expected to increase.

 Dr Hanna is leading an ANU study to learn about industries and activities that are most susceptible to heat-related diseases.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/06/aussie-workers-face-greater-health-risks-as-summers-become-hotter/

Construction employers and workers need to pay more attention to health and safety outdoors as temperatures begin to rise. Employers should develop a strategy to deal with the increasing temperatures, so that workers are not too badly affected.

When working in extreme heat it is extremely important to guard yourself against heat related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, cramps etc. The risk involved with working in hot environments intensifies when high temperatures, high humidity and low air movement combine. Places with bad ventilation or confined areas are particularly susceptible to this.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. To prevent heat strokes are to avoid becoming dehydrated and to avoid vigorous physical activities in hot and humid weather. However working in construction, this may not always be possible, so managing the heat is the next practicable step.

When working in extreme heat:

  • Drink at least half a litre of water each hour, to replace the water lost during sweating. Dehydration is the biggest problem when working in the sun, so replace water lost through sweating to avoid this.
  • Wear the appropriate PPE (Personal protective wear), example long sleeve, loose fit shirts when working in the sun. Sunhats to protect the face and guard against sun stroke.
  • Ventilate the work area to provide a good flow of cool air. This is especially important where work processes generate heat such as machinery and equipment. In very hot environments, where there is no fresh air workers are likely to faint.
  • When working outdoors, skin cancer is a major hazard so make sure to wear the appropriate PPE and take the necessary precautions such as wearing a hat and applying sunscreen.
  • Take frequent rest breaks and relax in a shaded rest area. Employers should provide a place, out of the sun where workers can have lunch breaks and rest.
  • Employers should provide free access to cool drinking water so that workers can keep themselves hydrated
  • Employers should also encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss.
  • Educate workers about recognizing the early symptoms of heat stress
  • For outdoors work, try to reschedule work to cooler times of the day. If this is not possible arrange workers in shifts so that the same workers are not in the sun the entire day.

Employers need to address the issue before it results in even more serious consequences such as illness, death or workers downing tools hampering productivity and affecting their bottom line even further.  

Posted by Steven Asnicar