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Date PostedMay 28, 2014

White Card Update: Hoist Accident threatens workers on Newcastle Building Site

Last Tuesday was a dramatic day for 3 building workers who managed to narrowly escape injury after a construction hoist broke free from a high rise construction site.

The incident happened at the University of Newcastle around 1pm on Tuesday. The construction company responsible, John Holland is apparently building 4 student accommodation buildings for the university.

According to reports, the 3 were lucky to be alive following the incident which resulted in a lift frame breaking free from the building five storeys up, leaning out into the air.

One spokesperson, Peter Harris an organiser from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said the 3 were extremely lucky because they managed to get the hatch opened and tipped it back over onto the building shortly after it had broken free.

Harris went on to explain that this was probably the greatest near miss that had occurred in a number of years. The previous incident had resulted in the death of a demolition worker who had been killed in a cherry picker while conducting steelworks demolition.

Another incident had taken place in 2002 when a worker, Greg Rees, 33 from Fennell Bay was killed following the collapse of a five storey water tower in September of that year.

Investigations are underway into the cause of the incident which could easily have turned fatal. According to Newcastle Trades Hall Council Secretary Gary Kennedy, both he and Mr Harris’ investigations are still underway and would resume on Wednesday.

Kennedy went on to highlight the importance of safety and reiterate why safety is taken so seriously by the union, despite the union being condemned for hiding behind safety to further its own goals. Kennedy also added that he didn’t mind having companies upset with him as long as people were being kept safe.

Mr Harris also noted that it was ironic that the accident happened just one day after the International Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job.

Because the company responsible, John Holland’s workers compensation is covered by the Commonwealth agency Commcare, WorkCover will not participate in the investigation despite it being the usual inspection authority in the state. The CFMEU have vowed to continue their investigations.

Although John Holland spokespeople refused to comment on the incident, they did admit that an incident had occurred involving one of its hoists and that nobody was injured in the incident.

While investigations into the incident continue and we wait to hear the actual cause of the commotion, this does highlight 2 very important issues – the need to prioritise safety and the need to ensure that workers on construction sites are adequately trained on safety.

Prioritising safety on a worksite is a complex issue and it usually depends on the overall culture of the company and its commitment to safety. An issue which cannot be compromised on however is safety training because despite construction companies’ wishes or attitudes, the law dictates that all workers engaging in any kind of work on a building site must complete White Card training first. One can only imagine how many more incidents of this nature we would hear about if this training were not a mandatory federal requirement.

The White Card training is also important in educating potentially naïve young workers about their rights and what their employer’s responsibilities to them are.

While employers have the most crucial role to play in site safety and ensuring workers have been adequately trained and instructed, the white card also teaches them about what is expected of them under the law – their duty of care.

On building sites, because the actions of one worker can have such dire consequences on the health and safety of another, or many others it is important that workers are aware of their duty of care and how to work in a way that does not endanger the health and safety of their co-workers or members of the public.

Every person, regardless of their experience and position needs to undergo this training even if they are simply delivering building materials to construction sites.

Construction labourers in particular are at risk of injury, according to statistics, so it is especially important that these workers complete the training before they even pick up their tools.

The White Card is not only a tool to ensure safety but a legal requirement to avoid prosecution by authorities. But luckily the government has made achieving this accreditation simpler by mandating one national White Card to be used throughout Oz. What makes it even more convenient is that all it takes to gain this accreditation is to complete a comprehensive, affordable online course.

For more information about the White Card, visit our homepage today.

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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