With multiple teams, heavy machinery, castings and concrete works and precarious spaces – Construction sites are busy and fairly dangerous spaces. With proper coordination, consultation and cooperation organisations can ensure the health and safety of all members present on site.
What is Construction Work
Construction work is any work carried out in connection with the construction, alteration, conversion, fitting out, commissioning, renovation, repair, maintenance, refurbishment, demolition, decommissioning or dismantling of a structure, or preparation of a building site.
Due to the nature of risk to life involved in certain industries, the Australian government has been proactive in creating laws and strategies to enable the safe working conditions. The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 has identified the construction industry as a priority due to the high number and rate of work-related fatalities and serious injuries.
For a number of years, construction has consistently been among the top few industries with the highest number of serious claims. Since 2006-07, it has had the fifth highest incidence rate of serious claims of all industries. The Strategy aims to reduce the incidence of serious injury by at least 30% nationwide by 2022 and reduce the number of work-related fatalities due to injury by at least 20%.
Since the Strategy launched, Safe Work Australia and all jurisdictions have been working collaboratively with the industry, unions, relevant organisations and the community to reduce traumatic injury fatalities and injuries in the transport industry.
Precautionary Measures on Site
The old adage “Prevention is better than cure”, cannot be ignored when we consider the safety of staff and works on site.
Personal Safety Equipment
Equipping the staff members with personal safety equipment can save the PCBU (Person conducting business or undertaking) a fair amount of heartache. Helmets or hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, safety boots and earmuffs are the basic construction wear if provided to the workers can immediately reduce claims and injuries.
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Depending on the nature of the construction, equipment like safety harnesses, safe cage lifts, safety eyewash, and fireproofing can ensure the work is carried out with minimum problems.
Safety Officer or Consultant
It is also fairly common, and a norm growing in popularity to hire a safety officer or consultant to guide from workers to the management staff the proper guidelines and processes to ensure the injuries and fatalities can be prevented while working on the site. The safety officer also makes rounds of the site to ensure that staff is adhering to the guidelines.
Demarcation of Danger Zones
Safety markings, signages, and barriers are simple and effective ways to ensure safety on site. It is important that these are in bright or reflective colours, and the signs are in bold lettering. As most construction sites are noisy ensuring high visibility of danger zones can be extremely helpful to all on site.
Safety Briefing for Staff Members on Site
As per the safety norms in Australia to be able to carry out construction work, a person must complete an introductory safety training course called ‘general construction induction training’. This is also commonly known as ‘white card’ training.
Under the model WHS (Work Health and Safety) Act, a PCBU must make sure every worker has completed white card training, including those who have completed training in the past but have not carried out construction work in the last two years. Once a person has completed that training they may apply to a WHS regulator for a white card.
A white card issued in one state or territory or by the Commonwealth is generally recognised Australia wide.
Regulations and Rules in Australia
The WHS Model Act
In 2011, Safe Work Australia developed a single set of WHS laws to be implemented across Australia. These are known as ‘model’ laws. For the model WHS laws to become legally binding, the Commonwealth, states, and territories must separately implement them as their own laws.
The model WHS Act forms the basis of the WHS Acts that have been implemented in most jurisdictions across Australia.
The main object of the Act is to provide a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces. It does this by:
- Protecting workers and other persons from harm by requiring duty holders to eliminate or minimise the risk
- Providing for fair and effective representation, consultation and cooperation
- Encouraging unions and employer organisations to take a constructive role in promoting improvements in WHS practices
- Promoting the provision of advice, information, education, and training for WHS
- Securing compliance with the Act through effective and appropriate compliance and enforcement measures
- Ensuring appropriate scrutiny and review of actions taken by persons with powers or functions under the Act
- Providing a framework for continuous improvement
- Maintaining and strengthening national harmonisation of WHS laws and facilitating a consistent national approach to WHS
Responsibility and Safety Duties for the Company
It is important that PCBUs understand their responsibilities and duties towards the staff and workers on the site. As construction is high risk work with injuries and fatalities, the PCBUs must ensure checks and safety. At each step of the process in construction work, PCBUs are subject to certain general and specific duties under the model WHS laws. For example:
- The model WHS Regulations require the person that commissions construction work to consult with the designer of a structure about safety matters and to give the designer and the principal contractor for the project information about safety matters
- A PCBU that carries out construction work must manage and control WHS risks associated with that work. It must also ensure that a construction site is secured from unauthorised access
- The principal contractor for a construction project is also a PCBU and must be aware of the WHS duties that apply to all PCBUs that carry out construction work, as well as the specific duties that are imposed on principal contractors in that industry
- Specific duties that apply to principal contractors include, but are not limited to, the duty to be clearly identified by signage posted at the construction site, the duty to prepare, review, keep and inform others about the WHS management plan for the construction project
- Under the model WHS Act, the person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace, the means of entering and exiting the workplace and anything arising from the workplace are without risk to the health and safety of any person
Training your Management Staff
Once the PCBU has initiated the workers on site on the safety measures, it is also essential that the management staff, and other upper executive level officers understand the importance of safety. Here are a few pointers:
- Management must understand that safety cannot be overlooked in order to cut costs or make profits.
- Risk assessment should be added to the project management details
- Clearly identified responsibility and staff member associated with it should be appointed
- Management initiated safety drives and checks to ensure ground staff is adhering to the safety rules
- Awareness/Orientation towards of incident management
- Cross level committee development initiative to ensure fair representation of all level of staff