Quite often workers involved in high risk construction aren’t aware of the severity of the risks associated with the work they are undertaking and this can fuel an attitude of complacency, which in turn can lead to accidents on the construction site, accidents which can cost workers their lives or in the least cause them painful and inconvenient injuries.
High risk construction work is labelled “high risk” for a reason and it is important that workers are properly trained and certified to carry out certain high risk tasks.
Firstly workers need to understand what constitutes “high risk” construction work and what is required of them in these circumstances.
According to WorkCover NSW, high risk construction work is any hazardous construction work that has the potential to harm the health and safety of people or to damage plant and equipment.
WorkCoverNSW describes high risk on their website as construction work which:
involving asbestos, explosives or diving work
carried out in an area in which there are artificial extremes of temperature
involving a risk of falling more than two metres or is carried out on a telecommunication tower.
including building or demolition work involving:
tilt-up or precast concrete
structural alterations or repairs to a structure that requires temporary support to prevent collapse
the demolition of a load bearing part of a structure
the demolition of any part of a structure that is likely to affect its physical integrity.
Some construction work is classified as high risk simply because of where it is carried out. For example work in or near a confined space, shaft or trench with a depth of more than 1.5 metres or a tunnel is high risk. WorkCover NSW also provides a list of other environments that can be classified as a high risk environment:
pressurised gas distribution mains or piping
chemical, fuel or refrigerant lines
energised electrical installations or services
area where there are artificial extremes of temperature
area that may have a contaminated or flammable atmosphere
road, railway, shipping lane or other traffic corridor that is in use by traffic other than pedestrians
area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant
water or other liquid that involves a risk of drowning.
It is important that those in control of the site are aware of what activities are high risk because a safe work method statement (SWMS) must be prepared for all high risk construction work. If a SWMS is not developed, accidents can occur and the company is likely to be fined and/or prosecuted by authorities.
A common cause of accidents on construction sites is falls from heights. It is compulsory that any work from a height above 2 metres has a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is prepared because it too is classified as “high risk”.
It is also important that all workers on site have completed construction safety induction training, because this training covers general construction safety and touches on a number high risk construction tasks which workers need to be familiar with.