WorkCover Investigating Construction Site Fall

workcover nsw

The workplace incident that took place on Thursday morning is under investigation by WorkCover.

A man was seriously hurt after he fell at a construction site in Sydney. He sustained injuries to the neck and is being treated in hospital.

Falls contribute to a large number of workplace injuries, especially in the construction industry, which is why this incident is of such significance.

Click here for more.

WorkCover Hosts First Injured Workers Forum

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Source: www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

WorkCover NSW has launched its first Injured Workers Forum.

Held on the 25 June, the forum which took place in Sydney was attended by NSW Minister of Finance, Services and Property Dominic Perrottet and injured workers who shared their experiences first hand.

In addition to the forum WorkCover is conducting a survey of injured workers and consulting with key industry groups to improve the WorkCover experience for employees.

For more, click here.

WorkCover NSW investigates asbestos contamination scare

WorkCover NSW is currently investigating reports of asbestos contamination on a construction site in North Narrabeen, according to a report on DailyTelegraph.com.au.

A small amount of asbestos was discovered on the residential building site which raised concerns that there may be more asbestos on the site, placing workers at risk.

A licenced removal specialist was called in to safely rid the site of harmful asbestos containing material.

The article on DailyTelegraph.com.au details the incident further:

752460-b7b25212-1c44-11e3-98c9-32f8ade672c4A WorkCover NSW spokesman said an inspector visited the site and found a small amount of bonded asbestos.

“WorkCover has directed the principal contractor to engage a licenced asbestos removalist to manage the safe removal of asbestos from the site,” he said.

The Manly Daily was first alerted about the possibility of asbestos on the site when a concerned resident called in this morning. The resident, along with the Daily, put in calls to WorkCover NSW and Pittwater Council.

A council spokeswoman confirmed that the matter was the responsibility of WorkCover NSW, but pledged to investigate the site on Monday.

“WorkCover is the statutory authority for all matters concerning asbestos,” she said. “We will also carry out a follow-up inspection on the property on Monday morning.”

Source: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/northern-beaches/workcover-asbestos-inquiry-gets-under-way/story-fngr8hax-1226718752988

Now there may be a better way to manage asbestos on construction sites. An Australian firm has developed technology to help track, assess, remove and dispose of asbestos. The Australian federal government has pledged to tackle asbestos so that the country is free of the harmful substance by 2030, this technology has the potential to be revolutionary in this regard.

The company, Octfolio has launched what it calls a new Asbestos Information Management Software and can be obtained on their website www.octfolio.com

According to its creators the technology is the first and only integrated tool that is able to map, classify and quantify as well as enable the removal of asbestos from homes and buildings, in a strategic and cost effective way. It includes everything from online training for asbestos assessors and removalists to mechanisms for reporting illegal asbestos disposal.

A post on the Techi website www.itwire.com had this to say about the new technology,

“Essentially Octfolio works by creating a centrally operated database that unites all asbestos stakeholders from site assessors and removal workers to building owners and government agencies, recording their information in a micro format that then provides the big picture of what’s happening everywhere in the country in relation to asbestos contaminated sites and buildings, removal, disposal and storage.”

Source: http://www.itwire.com/it-industry-news/development/61563-new-technology-tool-to-help-in-asbestos-battle

However you choose to deal with asbestos is up to you, the normal way or using new and innovative technologies, but it is an issue which must be addressed and assessed even before work on the site even begins.

Employers cannot simply act as though asbestos doesn’t exist until it is uncovered by workers during the renovation or construction process because by then it may have already caused enough damage to workers and others on the site. Builders need to identify potential asbestos risks beforehand and ensure that a proper plan is put in place so that workers are not exposed, including calling in a licenced asbestos removalist to remove and dispose of the asbestos safely and legally.

 

WorkCover NSW Authority concerned about Plant and Equipment Safety

WorkCover NSW has issued a warning to businesses to ensure plant and equipment safety because this is one of the greatest causes of injury on worksites in the state.

WorkCover NSW has reminded all businesses that the importance of ensuring plant and equipment safety cannot be forgotten. They have even gone so far as to offer $500 rebates to help local small business owners make the necessary safety improvements.

Builders should remember that plant includes any machinery, equipment, appliance or tool used in a workplace and is not just a piece of large machinery as many people incorrectly assume. However on a construction site the risks associated with plant can be greater than those you would experience on an ordinary work site not involved in construction.

Under NSW work health and safety laws, plant must be designed, produced, imported, supplied, constructed, installed and commissioned without any risks.

Read a little more about WorkCover’s warning below with an excerpt from www.noodls.com

General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson said WorkCover staff can assist businesses to prevent workers from being injured while using plant and equipment.

“Almost every workplace has some form of plant or equipment and there are many associated hazards, including entanglement or crushing, cuts or punctures, being struck by moving objects, electrical or explosive hazards, slips, trips and falls, and manual handling,” Mr Watson said.

“NSW businesses must provide information, training and supervision to workers and ensure plant and equipment is without risk to the health and safety of workers by ensuring it is installed correctly, operated by a competent person, not interfered with and that control measures are in place.

“In the three years to July 2012 more than 39,000 NSW workers were injured and 22 killed in incidents involving plant at a cost of more than $332 million to the NSW workers compensation system.

“Despite the risks, we believe injuries and fatalities involving plant and equipment can be reduced and that NSW businesses can do more to create safer workplaces.

“At WorkCover we recommend businesses follow three simple steps to ensure the safety of workers.

Source: http://www.noodls.com/view/4838C0949E6B24C067F023407CE5943EE93EAE40

The warning goes on to explain that employers must review processes on the work site and identify any hazards (this should be done regularly as construction progresses and not just once before the job begins as the site changes and hazards also change).

In identifying hazards employers must look for processes, machinery, plant or any situations which could cause harm. They then need to assess the risks by considering how serious the risks are. Once the risk is determined, employers should eliminate or control them by making the necessary changes to protect workers. WorkCover has developed some practical tools to assist businesses in this regard to manage risks.

For more information on how to manage the risks associated with plant and equipment in your workplace or the Small Business Rebate, call WorkCover NSW on 13 10 50 or visit www.workcover.nsw.gov.au

 

Work on Construction Site Halted after Asbestos Scare

Work on a Murwillumbah construction site has been placed on hold until it is cleared of asbestos. This after the council identified a potential WH&S risk involving asbestos and other contaminants and requested that work on the site be halted until the issues could be resolved.

A meeting was also conducted on the site with an officer from WorkCover NSW, council representatives, the site’s owner and the site development proponents to ensure that all the required health and safety measures are implemented before work can continue on the site.

This excerpt from an article on www.mydailynews.com.au explains what happened:

25-2156863-twe110413building4_t460AN asbestos and other contaminants scare has caused work to ground to a halt on a 24-hour McDonald’s fast-food outlet and IGA supermarket development at Murwillumbah.

Work would not re-commence on the $3 million Tweed Valley Way development until a “satisfactory” Work Health and Safety Plan had been completed, Tweed Shire Council Director Planning and Regulation Vince Connell said.

In July 25 council identified a potential occupational health and safety risk on the site involving asbestos and other contaminants and requested that the site owner cease all work until the concerns had been addressed, Mr Connell said.

A Workcover NSW officer met this morning with representatives from council, the site owner and the development proponents on the site with the aim of ensuring that appropriate health and safety measures were put in place.

Source: http://www.mydailynews.com.au/news/mbah-maccas-work-halted-after-asbestos-scare/1973555/

All parties at the site meeting agreed that the next logical step would be for the site principal to consult with the construction consultants and contractors in order to document the construction work conducted up until now and thereafter produce a Work Health and Safety Plan as well as project management measures for future work on the site. These plans would be developed with the assistance of WorkCover NSW and Council.

The development of the McDonalds restaurant seems to have been plagued with problems from the beginning having only been approved last year under 124 special conditions because of some residents opposed to the fast food outlet.

This incident highlights the importance of determining the presence of asbestos before work even begins and making sure that workers on site are aware of the risks. It is also an example of why appropriate health and safety plans are implemented prior to work beginning on the site.

Before work begins on any site the hazards need to be identified and the risks associated with them need to be assessed. Once they have identified the hazards common to the site and the risk associated with them, a safe work method statement should be developed.

All hazards are serious but asbestos and contaminants are particularly so because workers are often unaware of the risk to their health until it is too late and they have been exposed to possibly deadly asbestos fibres. One of the biggest risks of exposure to asbestos fibres is the possibility of developing Mesothelioma. Australia has the highest rate of this fatal disease in the world, which is why the issue of asbestos is such a concerning one in this country especially on construction sites.

 

White Card News: Electrician’s Fall results in $147,000 fine

Ask any worker on a construction site what the most common cause of serious injury is and most will agree falls from heights are major concern.

Recently another incident took place when a worker fell 3.4metres to the ground while engaging in work on a residential building site in Western Sydney. Falls from even relatively low heights can be dangerous so falls from this height are particularly concerning.

The two companies involved as well as a company director have been fined $147,000 and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs by the courts.

The company involved, MRD Future Homes (Aust) Pty Ltd (MRD) a small construction company was contracted to build three two-storey townhouses under the same roof span in Canley Heights.MRD then subcontracted J & M Costa Enterprises Pty Ltd (J & M Costa to complete electrical work at the site. Both the companies subsequently received fines for the accident during which a 22 year old electrician working inside a townhouse fell through an opening on the first floor.

The worker fell over 3 metres onto a concrete floor below causing serious head injuries as well as multiple brain haemorrhages, a fractured collarbone and multiple spinal fractures.

WorkCover explained its’ investigation into the incident on its’ website WorkCover.nsw.gov.au:

A WorkCover investigation began and MRD, MRD’s director, and J & M Costa were each charged with a breach of the Occupational Health & Safety Act 2000. 

The investigation found that at the townhouse the open stairwell opening was without any fall protection.

• MRD pleaded guilty, was fined $70,000, and ordered to pay WorkCover legal costs.

• MRD’s director pleaded guilty, was fined $7000 , and ordered to pay WorkCover’s legal costs

• J & M Costa pleaded guilty, was fined $70,000, and ordered to pay WorkCover legal costs.

WorkCover NSW’s acting General Manager of Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy said given the circumstances, any fall through the stairwell opening was likely to be very serious, and the risk should have been better managed.

Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/newsroom/Pages/$147,000infinedafterseriousfallinjureselectrician.aspx

Regulation requires an approved safety system to be implemented, including guardrails, scaffolding and fall protection. If these measures do not sufficiently reduce the risk workers should be equipped with proper safety harnesses.

According to WorkCover NSW there was a clear safety breach by the companies involved here because if there were adequate safety measures in place this accident would most likely not have occurred because falls would have been guarded against. Falls from openings would have also been anticipated and the appropriate control measures would have been implemented to avoid serious injuries such as those suffered by the young workers. In this situation there was no fall protection, no handrail in place, no void platform or any physical barrier to avoid a worker falling through the hole.

This incident highlights the need for fall protection to be implemented but it also highlights how important it is that the proper safety protocols are maintained.

 

Vic WorkCover Authority and WorkCover NSW begin Joint Safety Project

The Victorian WorkCover Authority and WorkCover NSW have begun a joint safety project with local construction businesses in an attempt to raise awareness of the similarities and ease with which working on either side of the border is possible and improve health and safety on construction sites across both states.

In Victoria and NSW, one common characteristic shared by both states is that the construction industry is one of the highest risk. According to WorkSafe in the last 5 years 328 construction workers in Victoria’s northeast were injured. These injuries cost more than $8.3million. In NSW South West more than 1209 injuries and work related illnesses as well as 3 fatalities occurred in the 3 years leading up to 2010/2011 which cost more than $14,3million in workman’s compensation, hence the need for greater safety awareness.

The project will entail inspectors from both WorkCover Vic and WorkCover NSW visiting construction sites and explaining the similarities between the NSW and Vic health and safety laws. They will also touch on the subject of perceived impediments to working across the border and how to ensure health and safety compliance.

Recently it was announced that a new program would be rolled out to help rid the industry of any red tape issues for workers who operate across borders in both states. Previously WorkCover NSW did not accept the competency certificate for training that was obtained in Victoria but that has all changed, making work across the border much simpler.

This excerpt was taken from a post on WorkSafeNews.com.au and explains further:

General Manager of WorkCover NSW’s Work Health and Safety Division, Peter Dunphy said the project aimed to increase certainty, reduce the regulatory burden and address some of the challenges construction industry businesses face working along the border.

“Many construction companies are based in one state but undertake work in the other,” Mr Dunphy said.

“This has created confusion about the differences between NSW and Victorian health and safety laws and the perception that they have to comply to a completely different set of safety requirements if the work across the border.

“Regardless of which state you work in, the risks and controls on construction sites are well known, as are the control measures that should be in place.

“Each state has the same or similar requirements for high risk work licences, plant operator competencies and accepts the other states’ safe work method statements and builder’s plans.”

Allan Beacom, the VWA’s Construction Unit manager, said the project aimed to reduce injuries and deaths from unsafe work practices in construction sites in border areas.

“We want to improve the ability of builders and sub-contractors to recognise, manage and control construction hazards and risks on both sides of the border,” Mr Beacom said.

Read more: http://www.worksafenews.com.au/component/k2/item/329-agencies-link-for-construction-safety-project.html

The organisations also aim to encourage better housekeeping practices, safety planning and supervision. It is hoped that this will help minimise what workers perceive as difficulty with working across the border and result in a more productive, healthy and safe construction industry in both states.

The post goes on to explain that during the inspector visits scheduled for throughout the month of June a new inspection checklist will be trialled to ensure a consistent and uniform approach to site health and safety. There will also be joint information sessions held across both states.

 

Help for Those Affected by floods and fires

According to an article on the website SafetyCulture.com.au ,WorkCover NSW is reminding the community to take extreme care during the clean-up and renovation of properties following floods and fires to avoid the potential exposure to asbestos.

WorkCover has joined forces with other government agencies to assist people affected by the flooding to get back on their feet with minimal disruption to services for NSW businesses and individuals.

Additional resources have been allocated by WorkCover to help residents, businesses, workers and other organisations to protect people’s health and safety when cleaning up in bushfire and flooding affected areas.

The post goes on to list a number of issues to take into consideration during the clean-up:

If you are cleaning up after a flood or fire you should consider the following.

Electricity

Check that an electricity clearance has been given before attempting to use it.

NSW Fair Trading has issued a warning to flood victims about solar panels.

Asbestos

Identify any likely asbestos containing materials or dangerous chemicals.

This website has additional detailed health and safety information and publications on high risk areas such as asbestos and electrical safety.

Assess the what work needs to be done

Work out the order of the work to be done so that new risks are not introduced. For example:

think about how you will get access to the areas where the work is to be done, or the possibility of creating instability from removing things in the wrong order

consider what could go wrong during the clean up and repair work

work out what tools and equipment will be needed to do the work safely

check the correct equipment is available and is in good working order

check that the people required to operate the equipment have the right skills and competencies and ensure supervision of less skilled workers is available

check that people allocated to perform work are not fatigued.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/

Another issue that people need to consider according to the article is first aid. It is vital that the appropriate first aid facilities are in place and people have clean drinking water and facilities to maintain hand hygiene and use the toilet. If there is an injury, there should be access to medical treatment.

Personal protective equipment is also important to protect the body and workers should have the necessary PPE for the jobs they are undertaking. These PPE must be correctly worn, workers should be educated on this.

WorkCover has also placed particular attention on counselling services. If there are any in place staff should be encouraged to use it and WorkCover will continue to offer advice and provide extra information so people who carry out work are fully aware of the safety requirements during recovery, repair or rebuilding operations.

Workers that are injured by the floods or fires and cannot get medical attention immediately can work together with WorkCover to meet their requirements so that their claims and compensation payouts are not affected.

WorkCover has also agreed to assist businesses that are financially affected by these disasters and are not able to pay their premiums to the Worker’s Compensation Scheme. This help can include waiving late payment fees, reinstating statutory instalments, and offering extended payments arrangements if needed.

 

Asbestos Awareness Week

Construction workers are not the only ones at risk of contracting an asbestos related disease. According to WorkCover NSW people undertaking DIY tasks at home and being exposed to asbestos because of old building materials that may have been used in the construction of their homes. Asbestos may have been left dormant in a home or dwelling but may be disturbed by renovations or DIY work.

Asbestos is formed in fibre bundles and as it is further processed or disturbed the fibre bundles become progressively finer and more hazardous to health. The small fibres are the most dangerous and this is why the fibres released during renovations or revamps of buildings are extremely hazardous. They are invisible to the naked eye but when inhaled penetrate the deepest part of the lungs causing significant, permanent damage.

This video by WorkCover NSW on Youtube highlights the danger of exposing your family to these deadly fibres during renovation work.

In order to avoid significant health risks, its best to identify the presence of asbestos beforehand and develop a plan of how you are going to deal with it. Home improvers should call in a professional to remove the asbestos and not attempt to do so alone.

 

WorkCover NSW Issues Mobile Plant Safety Alert

NSW Safety Watchdog WorCover has issued a safety alert regarding the use of mobile plant and machinery around overhead powerlines following numerous incidents being reported daily.

This post by SafetyCulture.com.au has more:

WorkCover-logo-250x313-21

 WorkCover and NSW Electricity supply authorities continue to receive notifications of incidents where mobile plant have come into contact with energised overhead power lines.

 Since July 2011, there have been a total of 55 incidents reported where cranes, machinery and other mobile plant have come into contact with power lines.

 Such incidents include:

  • A mobile crane operator struck a 11kV power line when unloading a truck.
  • A truck driver raised a tipper and struck a 11kV power line.
  • An excavator boom struck a 11kV power line.
  • A low loader struck low voltage overhead power lines.
  • An operator raised a drill rig into high voltage transmission lines.
  • A wheat harvester struck power lines, which resulted in a fire that engulfed the machine.
  •  A cement truck reversed into an overhead service line at a residential property.

 The state safety administrator points out that each of these incidents is the result of a failure to identify the hazard of overhead power lines and a failure to implement a safe system of work, including the maintenance of safe approach distances from the energised power lines

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/07/nsw-safety-watchdog-releases-mobile-plantoverhead-power-lines-safety-alert/

When working with power lines overhead, authorities suggest you treat all electric power lines as live and either have them de-energised or create an exclusion zone around them and keep workers out. De-energising power lines should only be done once arrangements have been made with electricity authorities during the planning stages.

Once the risks have been identified, the employer should conduct a written assessment of the risk and it’s potential for harm.

In assessing the risk the employer or self-employed person should consider the following:

  • The minimum clearance distance between the crane/machinery and the power line
  • The characteristics of the load being transported in the case of cranes, including dimensions of the load and whether the load is conductive.  Similarly to electric lines, loads should also be assumed to be conductive until proof that it is not has been provided by a person qualified to do so.
  • Also consider whether the load is above the electric line. If it is there is a possibility of it falling onto the lines.
  • Also consider unexpected movement of the terrain, ground or surface upon which the crane or plant is located, possibly resulting in a corresponding surge or sudden movement towards live electric lines.
  • Consider the weather, prevailing or unexpected wind strength and direction.
  • What are the chances of swaying or sagging of over lines. This can be caused by weather or varying temperatures.
  • Whether the functional behaviour of the crane, load or plant may result in contact with electric lines overhead.
  • What is the likelihood of crane or plant or machinery becoming live through contact with energized line.
  • How the load being carried by a crane is secured and if a part of the load may come into contact with the electric line.

The next step in the process would be to develop strategies to either eliminate the hazard or minimise its risk. With all workplace risks, elimination is always the preferred method of dealing with risks.

There are a variety of methods that can be undertaken to eliminate the risk, such as de-energising lines, rerouting electric lines or replacing existing overhead lines with underground lines.

Often, elimination is not possible, so replacing the risk with one less risky would be the next alternative. 

The next step in the process would be the isolation of the hazard. Some examples of this may be to erect a physical barrier to prevent any part of the machine or the load being moved from entering  the exclusion zone and injuring someone outside of the zone.  A non-conductive physical barrier should be erected and be capable of withstanding an impact from falling objects, loose materials or other plant or machinery.

Alternatively re-designing equipment or the work process should be undertaken. This may involve using limiting devices to limit the movement of the machinery so that it does not accidentally injure a worker nearby. Where the limiting device prevents movement, sudden stopping or the momentum of the load should be considered.

The introduction of administrative measures is the next measure that should be considered and can include using a safety observer to watch and warn workers and machinery operators of dangers while the machinery is in movement.

It does not need to be said again because all workers should be wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Using insulated gloves may be one such method, as it will prevent electrocution when the worker comes into contact with a conducting part of the crane, plant or

When implementing risk treatment measures need to be developed when elimination is not possible. Monitoring and reviewing the risk treatment measures developed should be conducted regularly and whenever the work site changes. Modification of the measure or its implementation should then be carried out.

Posted by Steven Asnicar