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Date PostedJune 30, 2014

White Card Update: Construction Site Safety Below International Standard

With the high number of incidents reported in Oz each month, construction safety is one that requires attention. More worrying is the amount of fatalities and serious injuries that occur each year.

A top international engineering solutions firm, Kentz recently cited Australian construction safety as being below world standards because of the tolerance of risks on our sites.  According to the firm construction companies in The Middle East and East Asia have been able to virtually eliminate safety incidents on their sites. So the question remains, why are incident rates so high in Oz?

SafetyCulture.com had this to say:

construction1-150x150Brian Kelly, Kentz country manager said that lost-time injury (LTI) rates in the country were worse than in other countries. The West Australian reports that Mr Kelly said while safety performance was a common topic of business discussions, locals would be mistaken if they believed standards were high.

 “The main thing we find in Australia is there’s a high tolerance for risk,” says Mr Kelly. It’s across the board at the moment. It’s a cultural thing.”

 According to Mr Kelly, he had been a part of projects in the Middle East and South-East Asia which achieved millions of man hours without an LTI.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/05/safety-standards-of-australian-projects-below-world-standard-says-engineering-consultancy-manager/

Perhaps the attitude towards safety needs to change and employers need to get stricter.  Safety.com.au recently interviewed a WorkSafe Inspector who reiterated that safety prevention is better than cure:

Last year, more than 20 Victorian construction workers were seriously injured on a weekly basis on housing constructions sites, costing the industry $17 million in medical costs, wages and other expenses.

 WorkSafe inspectors had addressed more than 1250 safety breaches on housing constructions sites across the state over the past year and all, it were found, were preventable.

 Most were the result of inadequate planning, poor housekeeping and a lack of supervision.

 WorkSafe inspector Treva Jol inspects construction sites across the south-west of the state.  If he drives past a building site and there is no perimeter fence and no toilet, it’s an invitation for a visit.

 Mr Jol says because building sites are always changing, so do the hazards.

 “Probably one of worst things I’ve seen lately is guys working at heights without fall protection,” he said.

 “Some are as high as five metres. What is more disturbing is the guy’s boss was next to him.

 “Housing sites are constantly changing with different trades on site for short periods over the life of a project.

 “As a result workers can face a continual and changing variety of hazards that require continual management.

 “We talk a lot about being trade ready. A brickie might come on site and leave rubble lying around and then the carpenter has to come in and clean up his mess.”

 Mr Jol said all workplace accidents were preventable.

 “While many incidents can be easily prevented, serious injuries continue to happen on housing sites often leading to work being stopped,” Mr Kol said.

 “Keeping a construction site safe is everyone’s responsibility. People working in this industry must stay on top of safety issues and not be afraid to speak up if something is unsafe.

Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/05/vic-prevention-the-key-on-construction-sites/

The WorkSafe inspector and the engineering company representative both are of the opinion that incidents on construction sites are preventable.  Failure to make safety the top priority on construction sites are the reason why workplace incidents continue to occur.

WorkSafe has highlighted the following as hotspots in the construction industry. The most common injuries and hazards that occur on construction sites include:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Injury while using handtools
  • Injury while lifting, pushing, pulling or handling materials
  • Noise related problems

Employers have many possible options available to them to address these issues. There are many solutions that employers can implement as hazard and risk control measures on construction sites.  However it is not sufficient to just eliminate the obvious risks on site. The law holds employers responsible for controlling all potential safety hazards on their worksite.  Some solutions may not be obvious, but employers can use a process to help them determine the best and most effective control measures. If employers and employees do their part, Australia can soon count itself among the likes of Middle Eastern and East Asian construction sites with zero safety incidents.

Peter Cutforth is a Director at Urban E-Learning, a global elearning and web strategy firm based in George St Brisbane. Peter's interests extend to training, safety and compliance, online marketing, and Mobile Apps.

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