White Card Update: Death on Coal Mine Construction Site

The Boggabri coal mine in New South Wales has become the site of yet another worker fatality to take place in the mining industry over the last couple of days. The previous incident took place in Queensland at the Grasstree coal mine.

The following short excerpt explains in brief what happened on the mining construction site,

CPA few days after the death of a worker at the Grasstree coal mine in central Queensland, another worker has died in north-west New South Wales.

According to the Queensland Times, the Thiess Sedgman Joint Venture employee was working on the construction of the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) for Boggabri Coal. The death was confirmed by the company on Wednesday.

The incident is being probed by officers from the workplace and police with the help of Thiess Sedgman.

Thiess Sedgman extended deepest sympathies to family members of the departed employee and promised them full support.

Workers on the site are being offered trauma counselling to help them cope with the situation.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/05/worker-dies-coal-plant-construction-site-boggabri/

This accident brings to 3 the death toll over the last 6 weeks on mining sites. According to police reports this latest accident involved a 30 year old man who died while working on the construction of a coal-handling plant at Boggabri coal mine in northwest NSW. It seems the man may have been hit by a piece of machinery on the site and suffered fatal injuries.

Witnesses say co-workers tried to assist and even conducted CPR on the injured man. Loud screaming and yelling was apparently also heard on the site at the time of the accident.

According to NSW assistant secretary Rebel Hanlon the latest fatality came on the back of last month’s double fatality at a mine site in the NSW Hunter Valley which shocked workers on the site. The previous accidents took place when a wall collapsed on 2 workers, Jamie Mitchell 49 and Phillip Grant, 35. The men were working 500m below the ground at the time on a coal mine in Paxton on April 15.

At the time of his death on the Boggabri coal mine the worker was apparently working on a construction site at the mine. The construction contractor, in his 30s, was in the open cabin work platform at the Boggabri mine site when he was killed.

The following excerpt from a post on Dailytelegraph.com.au explains:

The accident occurred at a construction site several kilometres from the open cut mine 60kms north of Gunnedah.

He suffered “traumatic head and neck injuries” and went into a “traumatic cardiac arrest” when paramedics arrived, a NSW Ambulance spokesperson said. He died at the scene.

The Telegraph understands the man was from the Gold Coast area and had a young family.

The rigger was working on the Thiess Sedgman Joint Venture Coal Handling and Preparation Plant (CHPP) or “coal crusher” at the Idemitsu Australia mine. The mine is a subsidiary of Japanese firm Idemitsu Kosan.

Source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/cherry-picker-worker-dies-at-boggabri-coal-mine-in-nsw-north-west/story-fni0cx4q-1226925216412


White Card Update: Statistical Data shows Housing Construction Growth

According to the latest housing data points, the new home building industry is heading for a recovery from the recent slump over the last few years. In fact seasonally adjusted figures show the number of new dwelling construction starts rose by 8.2 per cent in the final quarter of 2013, promising figures for those in the industry as well as those looking for a start in it. Young workers in particular should take advantage of the growth being experience, with the need for skilled construction workers rising and an expected skills shortage in the near future anticipated.

Although new home construction starts are on the rise, according to ABS figures the number of detached house construction starts is still weak. Most of the recent growth in construction has come from units and apartments according to the ABS latest dwelling figures for the December quarter ending 2013.

The following excerpt from a post on Brokernews.com.au explains:

Detached house building activity declined by 0.7% in the December quarter of 2013 while multi-unit building activity increased by 21.3% in the quarter.

The Housing Industry Association believes this shows the housing industry is picking up.

“Original figures show there were 47,326 dwellings commenced in the December quarter which was the strongest quarterly result since 2002, even surpassing the highs during the period impacted by the GFC stimulus,” said HIA economist Geordan Murray.

“Throughout the duration of the recovery to date, growth has been driven primarily by the NSW and WA markets. Given that the level of activity in these two markets has now reached historic highs, growth beyond the current levels could to be more difficult.”

Source: http://www.brokernews.com.au/news/breaking-news/abs-data-shows-dwelling-construction-growth-186659.aspx

According to statistics neither New South Wales nor Western Australia played a major part in the growth experienced over the December quarter however NSW did experience minor growth with WA declining slightly,

But neither NSW nor WA drove the growth in the December quarter. Dwelling commencements in NSW rose by 2.8%, while commencements in WA declined by 1.3%.

Source: http://www.brokernews.com.au/news/breaking-news/abs-data-shows-dwelling-construction-growth-186659.aspx

This is no reason to expect the construction industries in these states to remain stagnant. Economists have predicted growth across the board for the construction industries in Oz but the good news about the construction industry is that once you have completed your General Construction Safety training in one state, it is valid nationally allowing you to work anywhere in the country that you have a job opportunity.

Much of the activity in the construction sector can be attributed to commercial construction. It is important to keep in mind that residential construction is on the rise despite commercial construction activity being higher, particularly in terms of revenue.   The post went on to explain:

The ABS also released construction activity data to December 2013. Seasonally adjusted numbers show residential construction by value around $12 billion a quarter across 2013, which is slightly higher than the fourth quarter of 2012.

Only 23% of construction activity by value relates to residential development. This has fallen significantly since 2000 likely due to an increase in non-residential building activity.

Source: http://www.brokernews.com.au/news/breaking-news/abs-data-shows-dwelling-construction-growth-186659.aspx

It is important that people in this sector, both residential and commercial construction workers need to be in possession of the General Construction Safety Induction Card known as the White Card.

White Card Update: Addressing Bullying From Senior Staff

Employers should understand the importance of addressing bullying in the workplace but we need to recognise that bullying doesn’t always occur horizontally, between employees or colleagues, bullying can also occur from the top down.

A recent case which took place at Mount Thorley is an example of bullying from senior staff down to lower level employees.

Mine workers at the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine have alleged that they were bullied and harassed by senior staff at the mine and have lodged complaints against the supervisors in production and maintenance areas of the mine.

The CFMEU has lodged complaints on behalf of the 8 employees who claim that their supervisors at the mind had bullied them. The complaints have been lodged at the NSW Department of Trade and Investment mine safety office.

The CFMEUs union district president Peter Jordan reiterated that no workers should ever be bullied in the workplace and it is important that we take all bullying and harassment complaints seriously but even more so when it comes from eight separate employees within a single workplace.

Jordan explained that it was unusual for complaints to be lodged against supervisors from so many workers at the mine, usually individual members would lodge complaints against other workers at other mines.

A spokesperson from Mount Thorley Warkworth recently said in a statement:

Mount Thorley Warkworth mine workers claim bullying   Newcastle Herald“Mine safety operation inspectors are investigating under the Work Health and Safety Act,” the spokesman said.

“They have recommended that the company form a panel to further investigate the allegations, resolve the issue and report back to the inspectors.”

Source: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2381727/mount-thorley-warkworth-mine-workers-claim-bullying/


A panel consisting of Rio Tinto representatives and a CFMEU mine site check inspector will be considering the case within the next few weeks. According to a spokesperson from the mine, the company had clear standards which upheld the rights of all employees but other companies can save themselves this kind of problem by educating employees including management about bullying and monitoring the situation on worksites regularly. Employers should never wait until the situation gets out of hand before addressing the problem, especially when there are a number of workers making the same complaints. Ignoring even one complaint is bad enough, but when it takes 8 workers lodging complaints for action to be taken, the situation is out of hand.

Not only do allegations such as this one affect the corporate image of a company, it affects productivity and as research has proven bullying costs companies in Oz billions of dollars every year.

A survey conducted by Drake International earlier this year which questioned 800 employees revealed that half of them had witnessed bullying in the workplace and at least 25 per cent had actually been victims of bullying themselves. Much of this bullying occurs from the top down and employers have a financial incentive to address this type of behaviour before it affects workplace productivity and the company’s bottom line.

White Card Update: Latest Fatalities Report Released

The latest Safe Work Australian Notifiable Fatalities Monthly report has been released for December 2013 and according to it, there were 24 work related notifiable fatalities reported during this time.

Nineteen male workers as well as 1 female worker were killed and 4 innocent bystanders also lost their lives.

According to the report 11 deaths involved a vehicle crash on a public road and 4 were as a result of air crashes. A further 2 were caused by the victims being hit by moving objects and one was as a result of a fall from a height. One person was killed when hit/crushed by a moving object.

0The report reveals that the most number of deaths were linked to the transport, postal and warehousing industries which accounted for 15 deaths and mining was also a major contributor, causing 4 deaths.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industries also accounted for 3 fatalities each with the manufacturing and retail industry accounting for one.

The following table shows which states were the most high risk in terms of workplace fatalities, with Queensland leading for overall fatalities followed by NSW,

Source: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/publications/pages/notifiedfatalitiesmonthlyreport

Over the year (2013) 19 people lost their lives in the construction industry – one being a bystander not involved in construction work. Although this is an improvement from last year, it is still 19 fatalities too high.

In 2012 the number of people who lost their lives in the construction sector were 28. Although we experienced a slight drop in fatalities in 2013 as compared to the previous year, in 2011 there were just 14 deaths which indicates that we still have a long way to go in reducing fatalities in the construction sector.

According to the Notifiable Fatalities Report, the construction industry is responsible for the third highest number of fatalities, exceeded only by agriculture with 46 deaths and the transport industry with 82 fatalities.

Electrical hazards, slips trips and falls as well as hit by/crushed by incidents are still the leading cause of injury and fatalities on construction sites and it is important that we examine the reasons why these hazards are contributing to so many injuries and fatalities on building sites.

As the saying goes, to be forewarned is to be forearmed however when it comes to electrical hazards, falls and heavy machinery and equipment on construction sites this doesn’t seem to be the case because despite being aware of the risks, we are still exercising complacency on site. That is one of the reasons why regular review of safety plans and continuous training and communication with (and among) employees is of the utmost importance.

It is not enough to simply ensure workers have undergone General Construction Safety training (White Card training), they need to be continuously addressed regarding site safety. Often when we work for several weeks, months or even years without any serious incidents taking place, we tend to become “soft” about safety and allow an atitude of complacency to set in, sometimes thinking we are invincible, too experienced or that incidents only happen to other people. This type of attitute is to blame for most of the accidents that take place on construction sites because despite having received the necessary training, many Aussie workers are still falling victim to senseless workplace injuries.

Importance of Ongoing Training

Many employers recognise the importance of ongoing training for professional development but fail to recognise the importance of ongoing safety training which is equally if not more important.

New and better safety techniques, equipment, plans etc are being developed all the time and if a worker hasn’t received safety training in the last 20 years, the chances are their knowledge is going to be outdated and possibly place them (and others) at risk.

Also consider that workers who have received their White Card training a very long time ago may have forgotten a lot of the information taught and therefore may need a refresher course to ensure they are aware of safety now!

As new hazards arise, which often is the case as the project develops and progresses, workers must be made aware in order to remain safe – this is why continuous communication is of utmost importance.

Importance of Communication

Beside the need for continuous training, continuous communication with employees is necessary including verbal and written communication in a language that workers understand.

A good habit to get workers into is talking about safety and holding a daily or weekly safety meeting with all workers to discuss issues and solutions.

Communication with employees in both directions (from employer to employee and vice versa) is crucial to ensuring everyone on site is on par when it comes to safety because as we already know the actions of one can influence the entire site.

White Card Update: Addressing the Main Causes of Accidents in the Construction Sector

One of the main purposes of the White Card course which is mandatory for all construction workers is to teach people entering the construction field about the common concerns and their duty of care when it comes to safety on construction sites.

The white card will provide the general safety knowledge necessary to avoid injury on a construction site but it is also useful for workers who have already completed their white card training to refresh their safety knowledge. Also this post will provide potential construction workers with some idea of the most common risks that face people working on construction sites so that they can make a better informed decision.

The most common accidents on construction sites include:

  1. Slips, trips and low falls
  2. Falls from heights
  3. Struck-by accidents
  4. Crushing Injuries
  5. Electrocution

Although these are the 5 most common causes of injury on construction sites they aren’t the only ones. White card training and additional safety training provided by the employer are necessary to ensure workers are well equipped to deal with the hazards of construction work.

  • Slips, trips and low falls

This is the most commonly occurring type of accident on a construction site. Although the injuries they cause are usually minor, they can also be life -threatening.

Too vast to cover in a single post this hazard is not unique to any one trade on the site, everyone on site may be exposed at some point to this hazard therefore it warrants particular attention from employers when safe work plans are being devised and taught to workers. Consider the risks associated with this hazard, they range from musculoskeletal disorders (e.g. strained ankle) to puncture wounds (from falling on sharp materials). And minor accidents aren’t the only risks, fatalities can also occur for example if a worker slips or trips onto a sharp object or breaks his or her neck.

  • Falls from height

All over the world falls from height are the most common cause of fatalities on construction sites and on work sites in general. Those involved in high rise construction in particular need to be especially cautious because there are number of work processes which can result in a potentially lethal fall from height. These include:

Inadequate, incorrectly erected scaffolding,

Absence of edge protection,

Unguarded openings in or on roofs of buildings,

Missing edge protection in roof work,

High risk demolition work

Incorrect and negligent use of ladders and hoists

  • Crush injuries

Crushing injuries can occur as a result of machinery, equipment or traffic on a construction site. They can also be a result of unsafe excavations often lead to fatal accidents or serious injuries.

People working in trenches can be crushed when the sides of the trench are inadequately supported, particularly during heavy rainfall or when construction vehicles are operated too close to trench edges.

Other structures such as walls that aren’t braced can also collapse because they aren’t properly supported.

  • Struck By Accidents

One of the worst risks that construction workers are exposed to is that of being struck by falling objects, materials or tools. Although PPE such as hard hats are mandatory on every construction site because of this risk, it is particularly concerning because it is out of a person’s control. For example a worker can be going about their business on the ground floor when another worker accidentally drops a tool or building materials from a higher level, hitting the worker on the lower level, possibly even fatally wounding that worker.

Issues such as lack of toe boards on scaffolding, lack of tool belts for workers, insufficient storage and stacking, and poor housekeeping can increase the risk of struck by accident.

Workers on site can also be struck by machinery and heavy equipment on site. Improper use of hoists, cranes and other heavy machinery can result in struck by accidents or crushing accidents. Proper traffic plans on site, training and ensuring that operators are high risk certified are vital to minimising struck by accidents involving construction heavy machinery and vehicles.

  • Electrocutions

Electrocutions are another common occurrence on construction sites and they are usually as a result of contact with underground or overhead live cables. Working with faulty equipment, power cords and cables that have exposed wires are also a risk to workers.


White Card Update: Falling Hazard Prevalent on Construction Sites

A teenager has suffered head injuries after a bad fall from a roof in New South Wales.  The young man may have been involved in construction work being done on the roof of a home when the incident occurred.

SafetyCulture.com.au reported:

Workcover is investigating an accident last week where a teenager sustained head injuries after falling from the roof of a home at Stanwell Tops, north of Wollongong.

 The 14-year-old boy was taken to Sydney’s St George Hospital in a serious condition after falling three metres.

 A hospital spokeswoman says the teenager is in a stable condition.

 A Workcover spokesman says two workers were carrying out roof work when the accident happened.

 New South Wales Police are also investigating.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/05/nsw-teenager-falls-three-metres-from-roof/

When working on construction sites, especially when working from roofs or heights the danger of falling is a serious one which can result in injury or death.







Image Source: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/man-killed-in-roof-collapse-at-sunnybank/story-e6freoof-1226365636827

Another fall incident resulted in a hefty fine for a roofing company. The company was found negligent of safety breaches resulting in the fall of a worker after failing to provide sufficient roof edge protection. The worker was seriously injured during the incident.

An article on Au.new.yahoo.com reported:

An Auckland roofing firm has been ordered to pay over $50,000 for its safety failings after a staff member fell from a roof, fracturing his back.

In the Auckland District Court on Thursday a judge ordered Metalcraft Industries to pay a fine of $43,000 and reparations of $10,000 after an employee fell three metres from a one storey building while on the job.

The man slipped and fell while trying to secure a safe hold on a damp edge of a roof on a Glen Innes home, a statement from the Department of Labour (DOL) said.

He fractured his lower back, several ribs and injured his shoulder.

A DOL investigation found the fall could have been prevented if Metalcraft Industries had put in place roof edge protection for its three staff members working on the house.

“We expect everyone with staff or contractors working at height to actively manage this significant hazard,” northern general manager John Howard said.

Source: http://au.news.yahoo.com/queensland/a/-/latest/13771117/roofing-firm-to-pay-53k-for-workers-fall/

What can be done to prevent falls?

A fall from any height can result in injury or even death so a system of risk management is the best approach to address the issue. The system includes identifying, assessing and controlling the risk   or planning fall protection at the design stage of the construction project.

Falls from heights are the most common cause of death on building and construction sites, so developing and following a safe system of work is essential.

Step 1: Identify the hazards.  This could include for example: Working on a slippery or unstable surface or an elevated level.

Step 2: Assess the risk by taking the following elements into account:

  • Height at which the task is being performed
  • Condition of the supporting surface
  • The surface below the workers and the injury they could cause if fallen upon. Eg. unsheeted floor bearers and joists that could cause serious injury
  • Amount of experience the worker involved has
  • Weather conditions of outdoor sites
  • The duration of the task

Step 3: Control the risk

Fall protection measures should be developed to suit the particular task and the severity of the risk. In developing emergency procedures, the different types of emergency and rescue scenarios that might arise should be considered.

Eliminate the hazard

Working on the ground is the most effective method of protecting workers from fall hazards. This is not always possible, so the hazard has to be managed.

Substitute with a safer surface

Use temporary work platforms such as properly erected scaffolds or elevated work platforms.

Isolate the hazard

Use physical barriers to protect workers from falls.

Engineering controls

Use “work positioning” systems that will position and safely support a worker at the location where the task is to be performed.

Administrative controls

Administrative controls require a high level of training and supervision to be effective and are often supported with other fall protection measures. Eg. Use of warning signs to warn workers of falling hazard.

Personal protective equipment

Use personal protective equipment to minimise injury in the event of a fall. Make sure workers are trained on correct use of PPE.

White Card Update: Queensland Workplaces for Wellness Program to boost OHS

The Queensland government is offering businesses in the state an incentive to develop innovative health and safety ideas for the workplace by introducing a grant under the Working for Wellness Program Initiative. Safe and healthy workplace ideas are being encouraged in this way.

The grants amount to more than $1 million under the initiative. According to the government the aim of the program is to encourage productivity by promoting safety.

According to statistics healthy employees are three times more productive at work than their co-workers which in turn boosts the state’s economy. Also workers who smoke, drink excessively, have a poor diet and carry excess body weight have been linked to higher absenteeism rates, low morale and increased worker’s compensation premiums.

According to Queensland Attorney General Jarrod Bleijie, obesity costs Australian businesses around $6.4 billion every year through the loss of productivity. Bleijie explained that the grants were a way of encouraging healthy habits among workers and so far have funded more than 500 workplaces to give more 30,000 workers the chance to improve the health and wellbeing.

All employers should have a safe and healthy workplace program already in place and if they do, they can put forward an application for the grant regardless of what industry sector they are in, all sectors are eligible.

Although all industries are being encouraged to participate, those who have been identified as particularly high risk and so are especially encouraged to participate include those in the transport, agriculture, fishing, forestry, mining and construction sectors. Industries in rural and remote Queensland are also encouraged to get involved.

How Good Health Promotes Safety and Productivity

In addition to statistics that prove an improvement in health directly correlates to an improvement in productivity, good health is also vital to workplace safety, in other words a healthy workplace makes good sense for many reasons. Increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism ultimately benefits the company’s bottom line. It is also worthwhile remembering that improved health and safety also improves morale among workers and further contributes to a more productive work environment.

For more information visit the Workplaces for Wellness website at:


The Importance of Promoting Good Health in the Workplace

Because we spend the majority of our time at work it is important that this is a safe and healthy environment for us. We can either benefit from a safe and healthy worksite (and flourish) in both our professional lives and wellbeing or we can suffer the consequences of ill health which also has a negative effect on safety.

According to leading health bodies employers have a responsibility to provide a healthy workplace for employees. According to the Queensland government, 1500 Aussie employers have implemented some form of a health program which covers around 400,000 employees. Although this may seem like a significant amount, it only equates to 3.6 per cent of Australian employees.

Obviously more employers need to get involved with such initiatives, not only to improve their productivity but also to make them a preferred employer amongst the workforce. According to a study quoted on the Wellness Program website, 30 per cent of people said they would prioritise an employer who offered them a workplace wellness program. So the company ultimately benefits from a healthier and happier workforce.

What does the Workplace Wellness Program Entail?

On its website, the government funded initiative claims to be designed to help employees improve their wellbeing. It does this by helping them to adopt a healthier lifestyle beginning with a small investment to a comprehensive program with a more substantial investment for larger numbers of workers. But even companies which fall outside of the scope of the grant should implement measure to encourage healthy living among its workforce.

Employers can consider introducing activities into the workplace which raise awareness about health issues as well as learning new skills. Programs should also encourage a healthy work culture and involve the introduction of policies in the workplace that can aid workers in making the healthiest personal lifestyle choices.

Why is this so important? Many may argue that worker health is not as important and implement hazard control measures and safety plans to avoid injuries because after all an individual’s health choices are their own. However it is worthwhile keeping in mind that ill health can be extremely costly to a business as well as the economy on the whole.

Statistics show that workplace stress costs the Australian economy $14.81 billion a year and stress related absenteeism costs the employers $10.11billion annually. Obviously there is a financial benefit and motivation for implementing worker health plans.

Statistics also show that when health and wellness are not properly managed, an organisation is four times more likely to lose human capital in the following 12 month period – an obvious incentive to implement health plans as soon as possible if your company has not already done so.

White Card Update: Keeping Plant and Machinery in Good Condition

An important part of workplace health and safety on construction sites in particular involves ensuring that all plant, machinery and equipment is properly maintained and in excellent working order to ensure its continued effectiveness. Machinery that is not properly maintained poses a health and safety risk which is why part of the safety plan should include the maintenance and repair of these vital tools to the job.

Despite the need for maintenance and repair being vital to maintaining a safe working environment, these maintenance and repair operations can in themselves become a hazard if they aren’t planned and managed properly. They also pose a risk if the safety plan doesn’t take them into account because the plan is not regularly reviewed.

Particularly in high risk industries such as construction, the risks involved with heavy machinery should never be underestimated or overlooked, which usually happens when they are introduced into the site after the safety plan has already been developed.

Companies who fail to identify and address the hazards associated with plant, machinery and equipment face not only heavy fines but possible workplace injuries and fatalities.

A steel manufacturing company recently found this out the hard way after they were fined $56,250 because of failing to ensure that plant was properly maintained.

The following excerpt from a post on SafetyCulture.com.au explains:

A steel manufacturing company was fined $56,250 plus legal fees on Monday for operating a heavy goods lift despite several identified risks.

SafeWork SA prosecuted the company under the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 for failing to ensure that plant was maintained in a safe condition.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/steel-manufacturer-fined-plants-unsafe-condition/

According to reports an investigation was carried out following an incident which left one worker with minor injuries when he fell 16 metres down a lift shaft. The lift was apparently not in a safe condition and the door guides were missing. The article goes on to explain:

Investigation revealed that the lift was not in a safe condition due to missing door guides, a worn door lock, broken emergency access devices and a pool of water in the bottom of the lift pit.

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Bryan Russell, reminded businesses to focus on following up risk assessments, audits and actions.

“Companies can maintain their excellent safety records by regularly auditing and inspecting and, acting to mitigate risks and hazards,” said Mr Russell.

Source: http://content.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/03/steel-manufacturer-fined-plants-unsafe-condition/

As SafeWork SA highlighted, regular review and auditing of safety plans and procedures is necessary to ensure plans continued effectiveness.

Simply implementing a good and thorough safety plan is not sufficient to ensure accidents are avoided. Although this may be sufficient at first, these safety plans must be reviewed regularly, as the work on the site progresses and the environment and work processes change. The safety plan must change together with the site if necessary and in order to determine whether alterations to the safety plan are necessary, the plan should be regularly reviewed.

Regular Revision of safety training and safe work procedures is also necessary as the construction progresses to ensure the continued effectiveness of the control measures and that workers are aware of the changes.

White Card Update: Protecting Workers from Pests

Recently Workplace Health and Safety Queensland called upon workplaces in the state to address the problem of mosquitoes breeding to protect workers from mosquito bites.

The work safety authority has reminded employers that mosquitoes lay eggs in containers that hold water in building sites and work yards which make these workplaces a prime breeding ground for these pests. It is for this reason that workers, particularly construction workers are at risk of getting mosquito-borne diseases including dengue fever, Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus.

Employers must remember to check workplaces at least once every week for any items that can hold water and remove these if possible. The safety authority has reminded employers that preventing mosquito-borne diseases is easy by simply not allowing water to fill up in containers, tarpaulins, buckets, fallen palm fronds and pot plant bases.

Employers have also been reminded to store any containers that may hold water undercover or in a dry place. On a construction site this may include work equipment, surplus materials or trailers and bins which should be kept covered.

Good housekeeping also plays an important role and any rubbish lying around the site should by thrown into the garbage including empty containers, debris, waste materials, tyres etc.

There are certain construction practices which promote mosquito breeding more than others including sand extraction activities, storm water drainage construction, construction of water retention in tidal areas, land fill operations, sewerage pond construction etc.

Any construction practice that increases the flow of water, silt or nutrient interrupts or prolongs the drainage through these areas, has the potential to promote mosquito breeding.

Diseases Associated with Mosquito Bites

There are numerous diseases linked to mosquito bites but undoubtedly the most well-known and feared globally is Malaria. Arboviral Encephalitides, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and Yellow Fever are some of the others, less commonly known.

In The NT at least 30 people a year are infected with malaria, most of these people in rural areas but the spread of malaria to the adjacent lying urban areas is also on the rise which is why we need to be proactive in avoiding the promotion of mosquito breeding. Coastal and swampy parts of the country are also at risk.

Breaking down Malaria

Malaria is caused when a parasite infects the red blood cell. Malaria spreads from person to person by the bite of a female mosquito. The mosquito bites an infected person and transfers the protozoa into the blood of a healthy person.

There are actually 4 types of Malaria but the signs of infection are more or less the same, including

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Enlargement of the spleen
  • Back pain
  • Joint aches
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Severe anaemia
  • Headache

Although malaria can be spread in other ways, the most common is from a female Anopheles mosquito. Mosquito spreads the parasite during a meal through its’ saliva. The Sporozoites thereafter travel to through the blood towards the liver where they mature and enter the bloodstream as Merozite and invade the red blood cells. From here they continue to multiply.

The other diseases caused by Mosquitoes include Arboviral Encephalitides, Dengue Fever, Rift Valley Fever and Yellow Fever. All can be serious and by preventing the breeding of mosquitoes on site, you can avoid infecting workers.

Avoiding Malaria and other Mosquito Linked Diseases

Those living in malaria prone regions such as the NT, coastal regions and areas near bodies of water and mangroves should make sure they follow certain precautions. If you live or work in an area which is prone to mosquitoes in addition to implementing procedures to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes as mentioned above (checking the site once a week for areas where mosquitoes can breed), implementing certain personal protective equipment can also help.

Workers in particularly prone areas should use mosquito repellent cream to keep mosquitoes away from them. They should also wear PPE that protects them like long sleeves and long pants that cover their legs, particularly if they work at night.

Ensure that good housekeeping forms part of the sites safety control plan. Clear shrubs and other weeds around the work site that help mosquitoes to breed and hide. Containers that hold paint, chemicals and other construction materials should be discarded after use and left to collect water and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Never allow stagnant water around the site to percolate as it helps breed mosquitoes.

Keep in mind, malaria is one of the major causes of millions of deaths around the world and when left untreated, it could lead to many complications that include dengue, paralysis, coma and death.

Most importantly get rid of mosquitoes by keeping your work environment clean.

White Card Update: No Workplace Deaths for Construction Industry this Year

As at 26 January 2014, 22 Australian workers have died at work, none of these fatalities however have come from the construction industry.

According to Safe Work Australia, responsible for recording work fatality and injury, updating statistics and preparing reports, the number of workers who lost their lives this year so far is 22.

The construction industry has showed significant improvement from previous years, and although we are still in the early months of 2014, as compared with previous years, we are doing well.

At this time in 2012, 25 construction workers had been fatally wounded and in 2013 the number was 19. This year the number is at zero, which shows that the efforts being made to improve safety on construction sites are paying off.

What makes these figures even more impressive is the fact that since September last year activity in the construction sector has significantly grown, nationally. Usually an increase in activity corresponds with an increase in injuries and fatalities as workers and construction companies scramble to improve productivity however this year, that is thankfully not the case.

Construction companies as well as workers need to be commended on their commitment to safety which has brought about this result. However we should not become complacent about safety just because we have experienced a good year so far. We need to ensure we end 2014 as well as we started it.

What it takes to maintain a Good Safety Record

While many companies have the tendency to start off the year on a high note by addressing safety issues, not many are able to maintain these high safety records indefinitely. Perhaps this is due to the complacent attitude that sometimes sets in over time or it could be as a result of the pressure to get work done quickly that forces workers and employers to push for productivity at the cost of safety? Whatever the reason, it is important that we retain safety as a main priority throughout the year and at every stage of the construction process.

  1. Training

The key to ensuring that all workers on site are safety minded is by providing them with the necessary safety training.

Laying the foundation is the most important part of any building project because without a good foundation, you have nothing to build a strong structure upon. The same is true for a culture of safety on a work site. It is important to lay the foundation of safety knowledge by ensuring that every worker on site has completed General Construction Induction Training and is therefore in possession of a White Card. Even workers who aren’t directly involved in the building process but are regularly on site must complete this training.

In addition to general safety training, employers must also provide workers with additional site specific training so that they can become familiar with the safety issues relevant to the work site as well as the control measures to overcome hazards as planned by management.

Any additional training a worker may need must also be provided depending on the work being undertaken, sites unique features etc.

  1. Identifying Hazards and Assessing the Risks

There are certain aspects that should be considered when identifying the hazards such as taking into consideration the construction workplace itself including its location, layout, condition, operations being undertaken and accessibility.

Once the hazards have each been identified it is important that the risks associated with them are assessed. Assessing the risks on sites as well as developing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are all part of an employer/contractors responsibility under the law. Employers should understand the risks associated with each hazard in order to eliminate, minimise or control them adequately.

After a risk assessment is conducted, action should be taken to control the risks by implementing the necessary control measures. Not all control measures are equal, and the best control will be one that eliminates the hazard completely. This is not always feasible and the next best control measure will minimise the risks associated with the hazard. The least effective controls involve implementing safe work practices and introducing personal protective equipment to the work environment.

Once control measures have been implemented, they will likely be effective but as the construction develops and the site changes etc. this is likely to change and control measures may not be as effective as they once were. That is why it is important to Review the control measures implemented regularly to ensure their continued effectiveness.

  1. Maintain Good, Open Communication

Employers should design a communication plan to ensure that communication is effectively handled on site and is an on-going process. Good communication does not end at the same time as safety training, it should be a daily process and should be two-way, not just from employers to workers.

Workers must be allowed and encouraged to freely communicate with management about issues, safety concerns etc. because they have first-hand experience with hazards at ground level and can be a valuable resource in enforcing site safety.

Another aspect of communication that is just as important as the daily verbal communication is the written communication between employers and workers. Workers can refer back to written resources at any time when they have a problem or a query and cannot speak to a supervisor immediately. Employers should therefore provide workers with written material in language that is clear, concise, simple and should have pictures that illustrate the safety message.