White Card Update: How you can protect your Workers against Fires

Every year there a number of serious fires on construction sites and buildings undergoing refurbishment, placing workers as well as others in the vicinity at risk.

Those in control of the site need to carry out a risk assessment to determine the extent of the danger. In many cases conducting a risk assessment will be a relatively straightforward process but should be carried out by someone who is responsible and competent enough to do so.

When conducting a fire risk assessment there are 5 basic steps that should be followed.

Firstly the hazards should be identified, this may include considering how a fire could start and what could be a fire hazard.

The risk assessment should take into consideration who may be at risk – employees, visitors and anyone who is vulnerable like disabled people.

The next step would be to evaluate and take the necessary action. They should consider the hazards and people identified to be at risk and act to remove or at least reduce risk to protect these people.

Thereafter the person conducting the risk assessment must keep a record of the risks and action taken, make a clear plan for fire safety and ensure that everyone is aware of what they need to do in the event of a fire.

Construction being such a dynamic industry, the work processes and work environment change every so often, that is why regular review of the plan is necessary. Regularly check whether the plan is still effective depending on the changes to the site.

Some of the key aspects to consider when it comes to this fire plan is:

Means of escape

  • Routes of escape
  • Alternatives
  • Protection
  • Signs
  • Assembly points

When considering the best means of escape during the risk assessment process, escape routes required should be determined and these should be kept clear, open and unobstructed at all times.

There should also be alternative routes in the event that these routes of escape become affected by the fire.

Those in control of the site should consider protecting routes by installing permanent fire separation and fire doors.

These escape routes should give access to a safe place where workers can assemble and be accounted for, a fair distance away from the site. One a smaller site this may be the pavement outside of the site or across the street.

These escape routes should be adequately marked with signs that are clearly visibly and well lit. Enclosed escape routes should have lighting and emergency lighting in case the electricity is cut off during the incident.

Each site should have a way of alerting people of any fires or emergency situations on site. The warning should be audible enough for everyone on the site to hear and they should be trained to recognise this warning.

All workers should be trained on emergency response procedures as well as how to deal with hazards, this training is in addition to the mandatory White Card induction training that all workers must undergo.


Reasons to Complete Your White Card: Improvements in the Construction Industry Expected

According to economists the housing sector’s recovery is anticipated and construction activity is expected to strengthen later this year. This is good news for members of the construction sector and those currently unemployed, but it is also good news for young people who wish to enter the industry.

Construction is one of the largest industries in Oz and also one of the most rewarding. It is also a dynamic environment so workers seldom experience the exact same thing every day, which makes this an exciting job. It also helps that when work on one site is finished workers are free to seek work across borders or anywhere in Oz, as long as they have been adequately trained on general construction safety – also known as the White Card.

Building approvals are up by 7.7 per cent in the 12 months to August. There has been enough of an increase in approvals to suggest construction activity will improve over the second half of this year, economists believe.

According to economists as quoted by a post on Smh.com.au the growth is expected to strengthen over the course of the year. The article also explained that,

“Overall, the story for the residential construction market remains relatively positive, but on a month to month basis, these data are quite volatile and do tend to bounce around quite a bit,” Mr Eades said.

“We saw a significant amount of strength last month and so what we’re seeing now is just an unwinding of the strength that we did see in the previous month.

“We’re still very much of the view that given the lower interest rate environment, dwelling approvals will continue to strengthen over the rest of this year and next year as well.”

Read more: http:// /business/the-economy/construction-activity-expected-to-strengthen-20131002-2urte.html#ixzz2gYMPOriE

Because of this increase in building activity, it is a good time to consider entering the construction industry but first workers and potential tradespeople need to ensure that they are qualified to do so, in Oz this involves completing the general safety training course also known as the White Card.

A large majority of the industry’s workforce are employed as sub-contractors who undertake work on many different sites managed by different contractors, and often within different sectors of the industry.WHS Regulation requires that all persons who carry out construction work must complete general construction induction training before they can carry out construction work on the site, whether a temporary, permanent or casual worker.

In Australia this safety training needs to take the form of the White Card, general construction safety induction card. This mandatory training must be completed before beginning work. Not only is it the law, it is also the right thing to do in order to ensure worker health and safety.

According to Workplace Health and Safety Legislation you must be in possession of your white card before beginning any work on a construction site in Oz, no matter your trade.

Once this mandatory general construction safety training is completed, workers are free to seek employment on any construction site, anywhere in Oz. Visit our home page for more information on the White Card or to register today.




Man electrocuted on Construction Site

Emergency services rush a man to hospital from a property in Rosewood Queensland after giving him a lifesaving shock. Photo source: Claudia Baxter, http://www.qt.com.au/news/man-requires-cpr-after-electric-shock-rosewood/1982107/

An amazing story has emerged involving a roofer who suffered an electric shock and 3m fall while working on a property in Rosewood, Queensland. Miraculously the man was brought back to life after his heart stopped as a result of a 30 second electrical shock which he suffered after drilling a screw through a corrugated iron roof and into a live electrical wire.

The 35 year old worker is lucky to be alive after he suffered the electric shock which caused his heart to stop beating as well as suffering a fall to the ground and a laceration.

This post from www.QT.com.au explains:

IQT_14-08-2013_NEWS_02_ELEC13A_t460A MAN was brought back to life by his workmates and paramedics after his heart stopped following a terrifying electrical accident at a worksite west of Ipswich.

The roofer was on top of a property in Mill St, Rosewood, when he drilled a screw through a corrugated iron roof and into a live electrical wire at 10am on Tuesday.

When the 35-year-old then touched the guttering he received an electric shock for some 30 seconds, before falling three metres to the ground.

Source: http://www.qt.com.au/news/man-requires-cpr-after-electric-shock-rosewood/1982107/

It is believed that the efforts of the victim’s co-workers were instrumental in keeping him alive. The crew on site were fast to help the man and begin CPR on him, while others quickly called paramedics.

It is important that workers on construction sites are adequately trained and aware of emergency response procedures for situations such as this one, so that they react quickly and correctly especially when there are lives at stake. This man was lucky that his crew were quick thinking and acted so fast, which paramedics say probably saved his life.

The article goes on to explain:

His workmates performed CPR for five desperate minutes before an ambulance arrived.

Within a minute of arriving, paramedics gave the man a single shock from a defibrillator, which restarted his heart.

Ipswich intensive care paramedic David Martin said the man’s heart was not beating when the first ambulance crew arrived at the rural property.

He said the CPR performed by his workmates had kept his blood flowing.

“The quick actions of his colleagues, noticing he was being electrocuted and calling us, made a huge difference towards a positive outcome,” he said.

Mr Martin added that ensuring the man’s blood was still flowing had increased his chances of making a good recovery.

“In the chain of survival it is important to get early CPR,” he said.

Source: http://www.qt.com.au/news/man-requires-cpr-after-electric-shock-rosewood/1982107/

The article goes on to explain that an hour after this incident occurred, a second worker complained on a minor electric shock and had to be treated by paramedics. The 27 year old worker was treated for minor abdominal complaints and taken to hospital for treatment. Workplace Health and Safety authorities are investigating the incident.


Importance of Training to survive emergency situations

Although the number of incidents occurring on construction sites where workers are injured or killed is declining according to work authority statistics, it is still important to ensure safety is a priority so that these good safety records are maintained. Sadly many people tend to become complacent with safety the more familiar they are with it, this is when accidents happen because people let down their guards.

The first thing employers should ensure is that all workers, whether contract workers, temporary, experienced or apprentice workers, are properly trained to handle the many hazards presented by construction work. According to Australian legislation this involves completing the white card course (visit our homepage for more on the online course).

Often on a construction site workers are injured or cause injury to others because they are taken by surprise. If workers are adequately trained on safety and remain alert at all times, the risk of incidents is lowered.  Unfortunately accidents do still happen and workers need to be able to respond appropriately in an emergency situation. Workers must be prepared to handle these situations to avoid injuries and possible fatalities.

Panic is the enemy when it comes to accidents on a construction site however there is little we can do to stop human nature, other than ensure that workers are prepared and in order to that they need to be trained. When an accident or some other emergency occurs workers don’t have much time to make decisions – that is why they need to be trained so that they are aware of what to do should something go wrong.

When events such as fires, explosions, structural collapses and falls etc. take place, fast action is needed to prevent further injury and assist workers that may be already injured. Workers need to be trained on the appropriate response because time to assess the situation is limited and workers need to instinctively know what to do.

Workers need to stay calm, raise the alarm and get help by alerting supervisors, first aid officers or health and safety reps as to the situation.

Employers need to remember that they have a responsibility to implement emergency response plans, keeping in mind all stages of the construction project. It is also important to consider the availability of emergency services. Every scenario should be taken into consideration and a strategy should be developed to control whatever the emergency situation may be. Some of the possible situations that need to considered are vehicle and machinery rollovers, excavation collapses, cranes making contact with over-head power lines etc, the list is very long.

Employers must however remember that having the best safety plan in place is not good enough to overcome incidents, workers need to be made aware of these plans through adequate training. Emergency procedures should be regularly reviewed and assessed to determine whether they remain sufficient or whether they should altered depending on the stage of construction and the processes taking place.


Electrical Safety during Renovation Work

Renovation work can present certain risks that workers need to be aware of. Whilst employers must ensure that workers are trained on all hazards and safety measures, there is one hazard that many workers often overlook when they’re working on renovation sites, that is electrical systems in buildings.

Some experts say that refurbishment work in buildings presents the greatest risk and therefore must be planned carefully and managed even more cuatiously. The process must be closely supervised to ensure that workers aren’t exposed to risk from electricity.

It goes without saying that specific specialist electrical work should only be undertaken by those who are trained and competent to do so and these specialists will obviously work to the strictest procedures however this doesn’t mean that other workers won’t come into contact with electrical systems.

Before beginning work, workers should check that the electrical equipment they are using is safe and has been properly maintained.

Even qualified electricians sometimes find themselves in dangerous situations involving electricity and most accidents happen when people work on or close to equipment that is either assumed to be dead but is actually live or is known to be live but adequate precautions have not been taken to protect workers.

One of the greatest risks is that electricity can kill without any warning – you cannot see, feel, hear or smell electricity so there is little likelihood of advanced warning.


Renovation and refurbishment sites present an electrical hazard to all workers, not just electricians.

Source: today.slac.stanford.edu

Often workers on renovation and refurbishment sites such as plumbers and joiners are electrocuted, it isn’t only electricians that are at risk. It is important that all workers on site understand how the electrical system works, ensure that the system is not live that they are working with, electrical tools are regularly inspected, residual current (trip) devices are properly installed and checked and  cabling and bulbs are protected against breakage.

The site planners need to ensure that the electrical system of the building is properly located and understood so that work can be planned and managed so that the workforce is not placed at risk.

During refurbishment, the relevant parts of the electrical system should be isolated to avoid electrocution of workers.

Employers should ensure that power tools are regularly inspected and removed from service if they are damaged. Tools should only be serviced or fixed by people qualified to do so.

RCDs must be properly installed and enclosed. They should also be checked daily and always treated with care. Ensure they are kept free of moisture and/or dirt and protected against vibration and mechanical damage.

Bulbs and cabling should be protected against breakage.  If a bulb breaks, the exposed filament may present a hazard to workers. That is why principal contractors should have a system in place for checking bulbs regularly to maintain electrical safety and to keep the site well-lit.



Beware the Danger of Falling Signs and Other Objects

A commonly occurring cause of injury on construction sites is from falling objects. There are a variety of different categories of objects that can fall from building materials to tools, however builders need to ensure that they do not contribute to this hazard by failing to maintain the site.

An example of what can happen when a builder neglects certain aspects of site maintenance has taken place in St George South London where a developer failed to inspect and maintain a sign which fell and hit a pedestrian in the head, causing her to sustain permanent brain damage.

The accident occurred when a decaying sign fell onto the head of a passing pedestrian and caused severe injury. The 33 year victim was innocently walking passed the site when the incident occurred and after several weeks in hospital she has sustained permanent brain damage.

The company was ordered to pay fines and prosecution costs but the young woman paid the greatest price, an excerpt from an article on PPConstructionSafety.com below explains what happened:

developer1Olivia Richardson, aged 33, from Clapham, was struck by the section sign advertising the luxury St George Wharf development as she walked along the pavement near Vauxhall Bridge, London with her partner on 22 March 2008.

She was hospitalised for five weeks, including several days in intensive care, and required significant brain surgery. Formerly a primary school teacher, she is no longer able to work and continues to suffer from multiple permanent effects of her injury.

The Old Bailey heard (26 September) that parts of the timber sign (approx 12m x 3m) positioned more than 3m above the pavement, had decayed to the point that it was blown down by a strong gust of wind.

Ms Richardson’s partner recalled hearing a cracking sound as the pair approached traffic lights at Vauxhall Bridge. He turned to find her lying on her back beneath the sign, bleeding heavily from a deep head wound and slipping in and out of consciousness.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/30/member-of-public-brain-damaged-by-falling-sign/

British work health and safety inspectors who visited that site after the incident said that it was observable that the sign could have fallen at any time. The sign was only designed to have a life span of 2 years yet the sign had been in position for 9 years and had never been checked by the developer.

Experts suggest that heavy winds which were recorded on the day of the incident combined with the bad condition of the sign was to blame for the incident. To make matters worse the suspicious sign was situated very close to a busy junction with a lot of pedestrians and near an underground station, opposite a bus station. Had the incident have taken place during rush hour when there were more commuters, the results could have been even worse.

Although cosmetic maintenance was made to the sign during its nine year existence, no one made sure that it was structurally sound and safe.


Exploring the Dangers of Hand and Arm Vibration Explored

One of the less known and less addressed hazards on a construction site is that stemming from the use of tools, equipment and machines that can cause injury from the vibration of the equipment.

Employers have a responsibility to assess the risk of injury from vibrating power tools and to take all necessary action to eliminate the risk if possible. If not they should attempt to reduce the risk as much as possible to minimise the likelihood of worker injury.

Although this is one of the risks that may not be taken as seriously because it doesn’t maim or kill anybody, exposure to hand-arm vibration can cause serious injury which may affect an employee’s ability to work.

Workers need to be informed, instructed and adequately trained especially if they are at risk. Workers need to know the symptoms of injury and what they need to do for their own protection.

Workers should understand what activities pose the risk of hand-arm vibration being transmitted. This includes workers operating hand-held power tools such as road workers operating jack hammers, workers using hand guided equipment such as a vibrating compactor or whilst holding materials being processed by a machine.

Workers who are exposed are likely to suffer permanent harm if they have regular contact with a vibrating tool.

The risk involved with hand-arm vibration is that it can cause a range of conditions called hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). There are also other diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome and white finger which workers can sustain.


Image source: www.nems.co.uk

A worker’s hand who is suffering from White Finger

Some of the symptoms can appear after a few months of exposure or it may take years to develop. With regular or repeated exposure, workers can suffer permanent damage and disfigurements which can hinder their ability to work thereby affecting their ability to earn a living.

Signs to look out for:

  • tingling and/or numbness in the fingers
  • inability to feel things properly
  • loss of strength in the hands
  • The most obvious sign is fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery, particularly in cold and wet conditions – usually this starts on the finger tips.

These symptoms can be very serious and the effects may include, pain, distress, disturbed sleep, inability to do certain everyday tasks, reduced ability to work in cold weather, cold weather triggers painful fingers and your gripping strength is decreased.

The workers that are most at risk include those involved in construction activities especially those who work with hand-held power tools and machinery a lot such as concrete breakers, sanders, grinders, hammer drills, chainsaws etc.

Similarly to other hazards on a construction site hand-arm vibration needs to be dealt with systematically. Firstly the hazards need to be identified and the risk associated with them needs to assessed. Once the risk is assessed, it should be eliminated if possible and if not practicable it needs to be minimised as much as possible. Even risks related to hand-arm vibration need to be controlled and managed and workers need to be trained on how to safely operate tools and equipment that present a risk, as to avoid injury and harm.


ACTU Calls for Better Safety Laws to reduce injuries

More than half a million workers are injured in Australia every year and over 100,000 of those injuries are serious. It is for this reason that ACTU has called on the government to introduce better safety laws to protect workers and reduce injuries. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has accused the Queensland government of doing just the opposite with the recent discussions of changing right of entry laws to limit access to worksites, a move the unions say will make workers more vulnerable instead of empowering and protecting them.

According to ACTU head Ged Kearney more must be done to prevent injuries on Australian worksites. More than 600,000 injuries a year is unacceptable and is costing the Australian economy over $60 billion a year.

Kearney says that thousands of workers are being fatally injured from preventable factors, which is an indication that more vigilance is necessary, but Kearney says the government is heading in the opposite direction, causing less vigilance.

She says there aren’t enough inspectors and they are unable to visit anywhere near the number of workplaces required. Fines and prosecutions are extremely low compared with the number of injuries and deaths. While employer fines run into only $22 million, the cost of injury claims in Australia is in the billions.

The following excerpt from an article on www.TheAustralian.com.au explains:

WORKPLACE safety laws in Australia need to be further strengthened to reduce the death and injury toll, unions say.

ACTU president Ged Kearney says more than 600,000 workers are injured every year in Australia, costing the country $60 billion.

“Thousands of workers are injured or killed from preventable factors and that tells us we need to be much more vigilant, not less which is the direction we are heading,” Ms Kearney said.

The ACTU on Tuesday hosted its health and safety conference in Adelaide with union representatives from across the country.

It was told that there in addition to a shortage of workplace inspectors, fines and the number of prosecutions for workplace safety issues remain low.

See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/unions-want-better-safety-laws/story-fn3dxiwe-1226740379287#sthash.OkBeim0l.dpuf

The ACTU president also reiterated that workplace safety provisions should be encouraging workers to speak up about safety issues rather than try to silence them, which is what they say limiting access to sites would do. She also reminded everyone that employers, government and unions need to work together to ensure workplace safety.

One of the problems that are also giving rise to workplace injuries is the number of workers who are afraid to speak out against dangerous practices because of fear for their jobs, thereby endangering their own lives in the process. The post goes on to explain:

She says the rise of casual or contract work is also a concern.

“People in insecure work are too frightened to speak up about safety in case they lose their job,” she said.

See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/unions-want-better-safety-laws/story-fn3dxiwe-1226740379287#sthash.OkBeim0l.dpuf

Kearney says that employers who fail to protect workers by implementing appropriate safety procedures on purpose should be fined and prosecuted and those that fail to do so because of ignorance should receive more guidance. Either way government needs to work together with employers and unions to improve workplace safety.


White Card Safety Induction News

Did you know that work in the construction sector carries with it a number of hazards that workers are exposed to daily. Some hazards are more common than others such as trips, slips and falls, struck by moving vehicles and machinery and electrical hazards. These hazards claim a number of lives across Oz each year, which is why it is so important that workers are adequately trained to handle these and other hazards before beginning work in the construction sector.

Currently, according to SafeWork Australia’s Notifiable Fatalities report, the construction sector is the third worst in terms of number of fatalities with around 13 people dying as a result of construction accidents. Safety training in the construction industry is a necessary requirement, not only for the wellbeing of workers but also to bring down these high fatality rates as well as a high injury rate.

For this reason the federal government have unified work health and safety laws across Oz to allow for greater consistency and improved safety. Workers entering the construction industry can now complete one general safety training course, The White Card course and use it to work anywhere in Oz. The White Card is the national safety induction card for work in the construction industry.

Why is it necessary?

The importance of the commencement of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 which took effect on 1st January 2012 is that it ushers in a new age for workplace regulations across Australia. These new regulations include the requirement for general construction induction training for all workers in the construction industry, applying in all states and territories.

According to the revised Act, employers have a duty to provide workers with appropriate information, instruction, training or supervision to ensure that workers can carry out their work safely.

In addition to fulfilling a mandatory requirement, it teaches workers practical tips that they can apply to work on the site in order to avoid injury and avoid endangering their co-workers while performing their duties – this is also part of the legal responsibility.

What does it entail?

Our course can be completed online in one sitting or over a period of time that is suitable for you. All you need is a computer, internet connection and printer. Some of the topics covered by the White Card Course include:

  1. Workplace Safety Guidelines on issues such as personal protective equipment, bullying, housekeeping etc.
  2. The Basic Principles of Risk Management including elements of construction work such as need for a safe working environment, how to identify hazards and eliminate or minimise them and the injuries that can result from these hazards.
  3. The White Card also advises on Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS).
  4. The course covers how to assess the risks and determine how people can be hurt. This involves assessing the risk associated with each hazard.
  5. How to identify risk control measures and how to implement these risk control measures.
  6. Common Construction Hazards, including biological, chemical, ergonomic and physical hazards as well as those hazards presented by the work design.
  7. Incident reporting and response procedures are another important section covered by the course and teaches workers how to respond to a situation.

Where can I sign up?

Our White Card course is valuable in assisting employees overcome construction hazards because it has been developed by industry experts, who have years of experience in the construction industry, if it worked for them, it will work for you too. Visit our homepage to register or get more information.


Guarding against Roof-light Falls

When implementing fall protection it is important that builders don’t only take work from ladders, scaffolds and roofs into account, they also need to be aware of the risk involved when roof lights are present on structures.

All too often employers fail to identify or assess the risk associated with roof-lights and workers fall through them as a result. This is what happened on a construction site in Leicester in The UK recently.

A worker is lucky to be alive after falling through the roof-light because the builder in charge had failed to implement the necessary precautions.

A principal contractor has been fined for failing to implement the necessary safety precautions to prevent the injury of workers on site after a workman fell through a fragile roof light while working on the roof of a factory. The man was involved in minor building renovation and repair at a factory. Part of the renovation included replacing the roof-lights.

The following post from PPConstructionSafety.com explains what happened:

fragilerooflightacc9Leicester Magistrates heard (12 Sept) that the defendant, James Beeston, and another workmen were replacing the rooflights with solid strips of roof sheeting using a jig. The other workman was kneeling on a board over one of the roof lights and attemtping to use the jig.

James Beeston came to show him what to do and as the other man moved away he fell through the fragile roof light behind him to the concrete floor 3m below.

He was airlifted to hospital with a fractured neck and right arm. He also suffered soft tissue damage to his kidneys and hip and has not yet returned to work.

HSE investigators found that builder James Beeston failed to provide any suitable safety measures to prevent a fall through the fragile roof material.

Fragile roof dangers likely to be put before the courts

Mr Beeston, of Limby Hall Lane, Swannington, Coalville, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(2)(a)of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £397.

Source: http://www.ppconstructionsafety.com/newsdesk/2013/09/12/fragile-roof-injury-toll-continues-apace/

Following the case the health and safety inspector, Tony Mitchell said that falls through roof lights are a significant cause of fatal incidents on British construction sites. These risks are widely known among the construction industry and yet the builder failed to implement the necessary measures to reduce the risks.

When performing work on roofs where roof-lights are present there are certain precautions that need to be implemented. Before work begins builders should check carefully for any roof lights in non-fragile roofs as they can be difficult to spot, for example they may have been painted over and in bright sunshine they can blend in with the surrounding sheets.

Take precautions to prevent falls wherever the job involves passing by or working within 2 m of fragile roof lights. Such safety precautions may include but are not limited to:

  • Fitting the appropriate secure covers over the roof lights
  • Providing suitable guard rails and toe boards around the roof lights
  • Providing a safety net, airbag or similar immediately below the roof light.