If you, your co-workers or employees are engaging in wall chasing work, make sure its being done in accordance with workplace health and safety laws, WorkSafe WA recently warned.
In the latest safety warning, WorkSafe highlighted that exposure to dust and carbon monoxide, noise, saw, kick-back and serious cuts are just a few of the possible risks that construction workers could face. It’s crucial that the appropriate measures are taken to ensure workers aren’t unduly exposed to the risks.
A particularly concerning risk is exposure to carbon monoxide because it is a commonly overlooked risk yet it can be fatal.
WorkSafe warned employers that wall chasing when using a petrol-powered chasing saw without exhaust extraction or within walls is above legal occupational exposure standard.
The effects of this on workers includes headaches, difficulty thinking, nausea, disorientation, personality changes, hearing problems, delayed reactions, nerve damage and paralysis, heart and lung damage, coma and death, WorkSafe said.
If we take into consideration that chasing concrete can produce very high levels of silica containing dust, anyone breathing in this dust cloud is at risk. Other than those involved in the work itself, those in close proximity to the grinder will be particularly at risk.
What can be done to address the hazard?
Prevention is always better than cure, so thinking about the risks before beginning work will help us limit the need for chasing at initial design stages or plan how to use this work method within limits.
Prevention isn’t always feasible, in which case we need to control the risks. Controls help minimise the risks caused by the chasing work.
Controls may include grinders with on-tool extraction or hose connections that a tightly fitted and secured to prevent leaks.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) are another type of control. Employers should determine the appropriate PPE such as masks. They also need to ensure workers are provided with the equipment and the necessary training on these PPE.
Supervision should also play an important role in chasing work. Those supervising need to ensure that controls are being utilised properly and PPE are correctly used. They should also ensure equipment is tested and well maintained.
Checking on equipment regularly, at least on a weekly basis will ensure they remain effective and any faults are addressed quickly.
It’s also a good idea to implement a health surveillance programme to ensure workers are safe.
Finally ensure workers engaged in this work have received the necessary safety training.
Especially around this time of the year, people tend to think less about safety and more about their next party. But its important to keep safety a priority, particularly on a high risk work site such as construction. This video from WorkSafe should help you answer the question “How Safe is Your Workplace?”
The safety campaign launched by WorkSafe encourages businesses and workers to create a safe work environment. The campaign urges employers and workers to ask themselves, “How Safe is Your Workplace?”.
The commercial will run for 4 weeks online, on television, on radio and in print.
WorkSafe Victoria says the campaign arose out of a need identified earlier this year following research and questioning of 1000 Victorian workers. The workers were asked about their perception of workplace health and safety. Watch the video below.
WorkSafe has warned that asbestos needs to be cleared out of our environment and people should not be afraid of the clean-up because it poses little risk to people nearby when done correctly by an accredited removalist.
Via an article on Abc.net.au WorkSafe says they have often received enquiries from members of the public about whether asbestos removal poses any risk to the people around when it is being carried out.
WorkSafe principal scientific officer, Sally North says that WorkSafe often receives queries when asbestos is removed and as long as workers follow the code of practice which includes minimising the generation of asbestos fibres, there shouldn’t be any harm to the public.
Accredited removalists will know to keep the work surface wet, using a low pressure spray or by spraying with PVA.
North also explained that it is best to avoid the use of power tools to avoid disturbing the fibres and causing them to disperse into the air. She also added that fixtures should be left in place.
Sally North also explained that the risk is greatest for people who work with asbestos rather than those who may have encountered it once off, therefore those working with it need to be more careful.
A horrific accident has taken place on a construction site in Ballarat during which a worker’s face was crushed by a hydraulic arm.
Although the incident happened at a brick company and not on a building site, it could easily have occurred within the construction industry because there are many similar hazards shared between the 2 industries.
The accident happened when the worker in question dropped some bricks. A machine ram came down on the worker’s shoulders. This caused his face to be forced into the fallen bricks that he was trying to recover.
The man suffered a broken scapula, broken jaw as well as multiple fractures to his right elbow and face.
This was the second serious incident for the employer who was fined $55,000 six years earlier but had still failed to implement the necessary safety precautions to ensure workers were safe by providing safe operating plant and procedures, let’s hope they have finally learnt their lesson.
This excerpt from an article on SafetyCUlture.com.au explains what happened:
A brick company has been given a fine of $90,000 for a workplace incident where the face of a worker was crushed by a hydraulic ram.
The ram came down on the shoulders of the worker and forced his face into the fallen bricks that he was attempting to recover.
He was transported to hospital with a broken right scapula, broken jaw, and multiple fractures to his right elbow and face and needed surgery.
The employer’s lawyers pleaded guilty in the Ballarat Magistrates’ Court to one charge under sections of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.
The court heard that the same company was fined $55,000 and convicted in 2007 for a similar accident where a worker received significant injuries; it was found that they had failed to provide and maintain a safe operating plant.
The WorkSafe prosecutor said that the worker had been working alone in the packaging area when he had turned off the “strapping machine” the clear bricks that had fallen underneath the hydraulic ram.
Another worker turned it back on not realising that he was retrieving the bricks.
This incident is a reminder to employers that they have a duty to provide a safe work environment and safe system of work to employees.
Employers also have a responsibility to ensure that all operating plant and procedures are safe. They need to do this by first identifying the hazards associated with these plant and procedures and attempting to eliminate them.
Employers need to assess all the risks involved. If the hazards cannot be removed, the risk involved must be minimised as much as possible. Employers need to plan and develop safety control measures to handle plant and machinery hazards and implement these on site.
Workers should be adequately trained on safety procedures and on general construction safety in order to remain safe while working on the hazardous construction site.
Construction workers and contractors in The ACT who take shortcuts when it comes to safety need to reconsider their approach to OHS if they are to avoid on-the-spot fines as much as $3000 from next month.
WorkSafe ACT inspectors have been given the go ahead to start issuing on-the-spot fines for safety breaches on construction sites as of July in a last ditch attempt to combat the high injury rates on construction sites in the state.
Last year a shocking report into Canberra’s construction sector found that the ACT had a dismal safety record when compared to the rest of the country. The serious injury rate in the state is substantially higher than the national average – a definite cause for concern which resulted in the government agreeing to the report’s recommendations which included the implementation of on-the-spot-fines for perpetrators.
But innocent builders do not need to be fearful of the new penalties, if you’re doing the right thing there is nothing to be afraid of. Also under the new penalties, building site managers will still be able to challenge a fine in the courts if they believe it has been incorrectly imposed.
According to Workplace Safety Minister Simon Corbell, there will be 11 types of safety breaches that are covered by the new fines. This excerpt taken from ABC.net.au explains what else the minister had to say about the new fines:
“These deal with relatively straight forward, factual matters that allow inspectors to exercise their discretion and issue a fine,” he said.
“That will send a message to people in control of development sites that they have to keep their house in order in relation to these basic safety obligations.”
WorkSafe ACT has welcomed the new powers, saying employers could face on-the-spot fines of around $3,000.
WorkSafety commissioner Mark McCabe says construction companies can no longer gamble on work safety.
“I think they knew it’s only the very serious cases that are going to end up in court,” he said.
“They could roll the dice and just hope to get away with it basically.”
One of the most important aspects to consider when ensuring site safety is that all workers are aware and familiar with safe work methods and construction safety best practices in order to maintain a good safety record. Remember that on a construction site the actions of one may have far reaching and serious implications for another or a group of other workers, or even the public which is why every worker needs to be aware of construction site safety. The way to ensure this is make sure each worker is in possession of the general construction safety White Card.
The White Card is not just a mandatory legal requirement but is also a useful tool in every worker’s arsenal ensuring that they are well aware of the hazards they will face on a daily basis and how to overcome them. So to avoid fines for safety breaches and fines for workers not being in possession of their White Card, ensure that all workers are in possession of the White Card. If you or any of your employees are not, you are breaching safety regulations, visit www.whitecardonline.com.au today and register.
You know the asbestos crisis has gotten out of hand when it starts affecting schools as it did this week in Victoria. Timboon P-12 school’s future is in question after a number of students and teachers had to be evacuated after asbestos was discovered on the premises. The school had to be shut down and the gates locked so that students were not at risk of further exposure.
This is the last straw for desperate parents who are hoping that the government will now take action after 5 years of lobbying for $7 million to fix down the run down facilities.
According to an article on www.standard.net.au an independent report commissioned by the government has revealed that 57 per cent of the school buildings are in poor condition and at least 34 per cent need to be bulldozed.
WorkSafe Victoria did not have any information for parents as to how much asbestos was found or the risk it exposed their children to. Parents also do not know when their children will be allowed to return to school.
The post on Standard.net.au explained:
“WorkSafe was called to Timboon P-12 School in relation to asbestos … it identified several safety concerns, including exposed asbestos and peeling paint that may be lead-based,” a spokeswoman said.
She was unable to say who had contacted WorkSafe with the concerns.
“A prohibition notice was issued, which prevents the school being used until all safety issues are addressed.”
The Education Depart-ment released a brief letter to parents through Timboon P-12 principal Rosalie Moorfield, saying that “WorkSafe visited our school to inspect the eaves of our toilet block, which were suspected to contain asbestos”.
“However, the inspector brought wider concerns to our attention and has issued a prohibition notice,” Ms Moorfield said.
According to reports an environmental assessor is now completing an overall review of the school and will release findings soon.
This incident is an example of how innocent lives can be affected by asbestos. Disturbing asbestos materials may generate airborne asbestos fibres. Asbestos is only dangerous if it becomes airborne and inhaled over a period of time, at which time it may contribute to life-threatening, incurable diseases such as Mesothelioma and Asbestosis some of which only reveal themselves years later. It’s frightening to think that innocent children may have been exposed to asbestos fibres and may suffer later on down the line.
With all the asbestos related incidents occurring in Oz as of late, it is important that builders and even the general public are aware of what to do if they are exposed.
If you have been exposed to asbestos, it is important to assess the amount of your exposure. If you were exposed only very briefly, or only at very low levels, your risk of a resulting disease is probably low. However, if you were exposed at high levels or for long periods of time, you may be at increased risk of certain cancers or the other diseases and need to seek medical attention. Smoking may make the consequences of asbestos exposure worse, so quit immediately. Speak to a medical health professional as you may have to go in for regular check-ups because asbestos related diseases take so long to reveal themselves.
Also inform your doctor if you start to have symptoms that might be related to asbestos exposure such as shortness of breath, a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, trouble swallowing, or unintended weight loss. See your doctor as soon as possible for any respiratory illness.