10675NAT Asbestos Awareness Training Course Online?

According to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, asbestos awareness training is required for all individuals who work in fields that may involve contact with asbestos. Builders, carpenters, cablers, plumbers, and other professionals who work in the ACT for several years have needed to take the 10675NAT training course to fulfil these requirements along with White Card Training.

The 10675NAT is the current ACT-approved training course for asbestos awareness training. It replaces the 10314NAT as the standard for learning how to identify asbestos.

What Is the Training Requirement for Asbestos Awareness?

To meet the ACT training requirements for asbestos awareness, individuals must complete the 10675NAT course. As a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), it is your responsibility to ensure that your workers have completed this training through an approved training provider.

Aross Australia, if you reasonably believe that you or your workers will work with asbestos-containing materials (ACM), you need to arrange this training with a qualified training company. You also need to maintain a record of who has been trained and when the training was completed. In the ACT is mandatory for any person entering a construction site just like the white card in most states of Australia.
There are no specific prerequisites for taking the 10675NAT course. The only requirement is that the student should be able to read, understand, and converse in English.
If an individual cannot read and write in English, they may hire an accredited translator. However, translators are not usually provided by the training organisation.

How Is the Training Delivered?

Asbestos awareness training courses are not available online. Face-to-face delivery is required for the 10675NAT. These asbestos awareness training courses also need to be delivered by a qualified training organisation.

The courses are typically designed to be completed in a minimum of four hours. However, the exact length of the course may depend on the company offering the course and the number of students.

Why Do You Need to Complete an Asbestos Awareness Course?

The 10675NAT is required for specified workers in ACT and Canberra. All work conducted on building sites requires workers to complete asbestos awareness training. Exposure to asbestos is known to increase the risk of an inflammatory lung condition called asbestosis. This condition can lead to shortness of breath and permanent lung damage. It may even increase the risk of lung cancer.The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 requires that information, training, and instruction is provided for identifying asbestos. Currently, the 10675NAT is the approved training course to meet these requirements.

If you completed training prior to January 2008, your previous asbestos training is not accepted. For training completed between January 2008 and June 2014, the course must have been offered through an accredited registered training organisation and be something like CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos which is a higher level course to the awareness one. If the training course did not meet these requirements, the 10675NAT will be required.

The purpose of the training course is to reduce the health and safety risks associated with asbestos exposure. The Minister’s declaration of occupations is a long list of occupations where workers may reasonably be exposed to asbestos. Any worker with an occupation listed in the Minister’s declaration of occupations needs to complete the necessary training. Along with builders and plumbers, bricklayers, stonemasons, architects, AC mechanics, civil engineers, scaffolders, and roof tilers need to complete the asbestos awareness training.

How Much Does the 10675NAT Training Cost?

The average price of the 10675NAT training course can vary, depending on the company providing the course and the region. In Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, the typical price for this course is $265. In Brisbane, you may pay between $220 and $250. The course is not that popular outside of Canberra because it is not mandatory.

These are just the typical prices. However, many companies offer discounts for group training. If you have six or more workers that require the 10675NAT training course, you may qualify for a group discount.

The ACT Building and Construction Industry Training Fund may allow some individuals to receive a partial refund. Individuals must apply to receive this refund, which is typically delivered after the completion of the course.

What Will You Learn by Completing the 10675NAT?

The primary purpose of the 10675NAT is for workers to learn how to identify asbestos. The course does not deal with the removal or encapsulation of the asbestos.

By the end of the course, participants should understand the hazards and potential health risks associated with asbestos. The main risk of asbestos exposure is lung damage, which is also called asbestosis. Asbestos exposure also increases the risk of lung cancer and is classified as a human carcinogen. The 10675NAT also covers the identification of asbestos. Participants also learn where asbestos is most likely to be found and the materials that commonly contain asbestos.

In Australia, asbestos was not banned until December 2003. However, asbestos has not been used in building materials for domestic properties since the 1980s. While asbestos is no longer used, it is still often found in domestic and commercial properties that were built prior to the ban. Asbestos was an inexpensive material that was used in a wide variety of construction materials. Older homes and buildings may contain asbestos in the insulation, tiles, wallboards, gutters, downspouts, flashing, plaster, cement, and vinyl flooring.

Asbestos may also be found in elevator equipment, including brake shoes. Electrical panel partitions, cooling towers, and ductwork are also areas where asbestos may be found in older properties.

The training course also explains the necessary safety procedures for addressing asbestos after it is detected. In most cases, the asbestos must be properly reported and dealt with by a qualified asbestos abatement or encapsulation company.

With the asbestos awareness training, PCBUs can ensure that a building site is safe for workers, contractors, visitors, and any other individuals who may need to occupy or visit the site.

What Accreditation Will You Get?

After completing the 10675NAT, an assessment is conducted to determine if you understood the information presented during the training course. If you pass this assessment, you receive a Nationally Recognised Statement of Attainment and an Evidence Card.

Asbestos awareness training is required before entering a building site. If you are an employer, you need to ensure that your workers receive access to this training. The 10675NAT is the current course approved in the ACT. While these courses are not available online, they are offered by qualified training organisations.

AlertForce recommend that you do the higher qualification CPCCDE3014A if you reside outside of Canberra as this gives you more flexibility. You can view our asbestos awareness and removal courses here.

The locations you didn’t know needed WHS training more than ever

Work health and safety can be challenging at the best of times. But working in remote environments adds a new dimension to those challenges as does the extreme climates and weather conditions of many remote locations. Work health and safety training is invaluable when it comes to being able to properly identify, assess and control the hazards and challenges associated with remote or isolated work and develop appropriate policies and systems so that businesses and workers can be on top of their WHS responsibilities and requirements.

AlertForce has a base in Darwin and the experience and resources to respond to the Northern Territory’s variety of developments. The construction sector continues to flourish in Darwin and with it the demand for training in manual handling, asbestos management, working at heights, HSR training and traffic control to name just a few. The consequences of PCBUs failing to meet their work health and safety obligations are serious. Earlier this year, for example, NT WorkSafe charged two companies and their respective directors when a worker fell and was seriously injured at a residential construction site. The regulator alleges that there were numerous failures by the employer and companies to comply with their legislated duties including a lack of due diligence, lack of fall or edge protection, failure to induct new employees, and failure to adequately supervise the site. The potential penalty for each company is as much as $1,500,000 and $300,000 for the company directors.

In another example, a manufacturing and building company in Darwin was charged by NT WorkSafe late last year with five breaches of the Work Health and Safety legislation for illegal asbestos removal work including giving the workers no training or appropriate safety equipment. A maximum penalty of $1,500,000 for a body corporate and $30,000 for each breach of the regulations would apply.

Darwin might still feel like a frontier town in many ways, but its remote location doesn’t exempt businesses operating there from their legal obligations when it comes to work health and safety.

Outside of Darwin in the remote indigenous communities of the Northern Territory, the challenges associated with work health and safety can be significant and complex. Consultation with communities about how projects should operate is crucial and many communities are endeavouring to involve their own people in working on infrastructure and development projects. AlertForce trainers are experienced in educating and training a diverse range of participants and will work with local councils and corporations to establish effective training programs that meet the needs of their particular communities.

The presence of asbestos in towns like Yuendemu, Barunga, Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, for example, presents all kinds of difficulties, not the least of which is the vast distances and huge costs of removing asbestos from such remote areas. Local councils and indigenous corporations will need to work together with government representatives, certified asbestos experts, community leaders and training providers like AlertForce to find the most efficient and effective ways to manage and remove asbestos. Members of such communities have long identified this an opportunity to train and employ locals to identify and remove asbestos on country. Education and training are important steps in empowering communities to take action around risks and issues which directly impact them, and asbestos training is an important part of this process.

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency’s 2017 Remote Australian Communities: The Asbestos Legacy report highlights successful local workforce development for asbestos removal in remote indigenous communities citing the Tiwi Regional Council and Tiwi Land council as a standout example of productive partnering to raise awareness of asbestos in remote communities and the Victoria Daly Regional Council in gaining its own asbestos removal licence.

Providing businesses and workers in remote parts of the country with high quality workplace health and safety training, not only ensures that PCBUs meet their legislated obligations and promotes workplace cultures where health and safety are seen as core values, it is a strategic enabler of economic growth.

Give us a call today to discuss ways in which AlertForce can meet the training requirements of your remote workplace projects. AlertForce is particularly excited to have the opportunity to work on the ground with indigenous trainees who can then use their skills to help build and maintain their communities.

Three types of WHS training that your local council should book today

We recently looked at Aon’s latest risk report for councils and local government. The report identified workplace health and safety as a substantial risk area for councils – in fact, it came in at number three on a list of ten top risks. Furthermore, it found that over a fifth of councils were not regularly auditing their workplace health and safety requirements.

Councils need to be at the top of their game when addressing workplace health and safety. Because of their role in the community and the fact that many of their employees are from the community they serve, councils are under a spotlight when it comes to workplace health and safety. There is a level of transparency required and expected of councils that mean taking short cuts will inevitably come back to bite the council on the you-know-what. It’s true that doing the right thing just because everyone is watching isn’t necessarily the best reason – but sometimes it’s the reason that spurs action. And action can be an effective way to ultimately create lasting change in a culture.

Aon’s risk report identified that cultivating an environment in which workplace health and safety is made an ongoing priority is one of the most effective ways for councils to mitigate risks. Ongoing training and assessment for councillors and employees demonstrates that worker wellbeing and safety is always top of mind. Senior management must demonstrate that they believe workplace health and safety training is:

  • an investment, not an expense;
  • a key performance indicator;
  • essential to the council’s ability to serve its community properly

AlertForce offers many different courses in workplace health and safety training. There are three which experience shows us would benefit local councils:

  • Asbestos awareness, assessment and removal
  • Traffic control
  • Strategic Incident Analysis Training

Asbestos Training

A quick glance at recent news will show that councils have an active and important role to play in the identification, assessment and removal of asbestos. Given the potential dangers associated with working with asbestos, high quality training is essential – not to mention legally required – for any council employee or contractor who is going to be working with or around asbestos or asbestos containing materials.  AlertForce offers a range of training covering asbestos awareness, Class A and B licences in asbestos removal, and supervising asbestos removal.

Traffic Control

Council road workers are a sight everyone is used to – they are a constant in so many communities. But complacency on the road – from workers or drivers – can lead to carelessness which can result in accidents. Make sure your council road workers are up to date with the best training on offer. AlertForce provides on site training that is practical and user-friendly. Yes, theory is important but without the ability to apply it correctly in real-world scenarios, it won’t be much good. Our traffic controller and traffic control planning implementation training is nationally recognised and will ensure that your workers are thoroughly prepared to operate safely on the roads.

 

Strategic Incident Analysis Training

Strategic Incident Analysis is at the very heart of developing a safe workplace environment. It is a set of strategies and protocols for figuring out why an incident happened, how to prevent it from happening again and how to continually improve workplace safety. Based on the principles of ICAM (Incident Cause Analysis Method), our training delivers material that is thorough, accessible and practical. SIA is not just for the most obviously hazardous workplaces like mines or construction sites. It applicable in any workplace and given the huge array of areas covered by council workers, it offers the most robust structure for creating a culture of workplace health and safety.

Even in the smallest communities, councils play an important role. The range of services they provide and the sheer variety of work environments they are involved in – aged care, roads and traffic, recreation, administration, recycling, waste removal, building – inevitably means that their workplace health and safety needs are complex and demanding. By placing health and safety at the very heart of their operations, councils will see the benefits not only to their workers but to the quality of services they deliver and to their bottom line. Providing education and training is not only a legislated requirement, it is the best way to do business.

Give us a call today so we can talk you through our training packages.

Why embracing RU OK Day is essential to workplace health and safety

RU OK Day is a national day of action to remind us all to ask the question “Are you OK?”. While the ultimate goal of the initiative is to make every day RU OK Day, this year the national day is being held on the 13th September and presents a great opportunity for us to remember that mental health is as much a workplace health and safety issue as working at heights and dealing with dangerous machinery. Work health and safety has traditionally focussed on physical risks but problems relating to psychological health in the workplace are significant and can be just as damaging.

What’s more, managing work-based risks to mental health in the workplace is a responsibility under the Work Health and Safety Act. The Act requires that workers and other persons be protected against harm to their health, safety and welfare and that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that that they eliminate or minimise such risks as far as is practicable.

Comcare reports that the majority of psychological injury claims are not due to big traumatic events. Rather, they are the result of the work environment and are classified as relating to work pressure or harassment and bullying. Other risks to mental health in the workplace can include:

  • Restructures and redundancies
  • Uncertainty around job security
  • Inappropriate or poorly implemented performance management and discipline processes
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Fatigue which can reduce emotional strength and resilience
  • Return to work processes following injury

Mental health issues can affect anyone in any industry though some industries do appear to have a higher rates of mental health distress. For example, recent reports commissioned by suicide prevention charity MATES in Construction show that the suicide rate for men in the industry is about double the rest of the male working population. A 2014 PWC report found that 25.1 percent of construction workers had experienced mental illness over the previous 12 months. The average rate for Australian men is approximately 18 percent.

There are a variety of stresses in the industry – not one single cause for these tragic statistics. Chris Lockwood, CEO of MATES in Construction explained to Vice Media that there are a variety of stresses in the industry, not just one single cause for these tragic statistics: “The work coming in blocks, long working hours in the industry, projects running behind time… higher drug use in the workforce. The combination of these factors, including the difficulty in having a health work-life balance, can create a spiral of problems and a dire predicament.”

RU OK Day is a reminder that sometimes asking the question of a friend or colleague or employee can make all the difference. The RU OK Day coach sheet available on their website explains why asking is so important. Asking if someone is OK can:

  • Provide the space or opportunity for a person in crisis to reach out
  • Let the person know that you have noticed them
  • Let the person know that you care
  • Let a person know they aren’t alone, despite what they might think

RU OK encourages us to listen without judgement and to employ the USA strategy – understand, support, act. Understand how the person is feeling, talk about ways in which you can support them or help them find support, agree on a plan of action to help them figure out their next steps.

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to mental health struggles which can make it even more difficult for workers to reach out for help. While the tide is turning on how we as a society approach mental health, for many sufferers it is a source of shame, embarrassment and confusion. By making it an integral part of a safe and healthy workplace environment and embracing initiatives like RU OK Day, employers and workers can help people not to suffer in silence.

We are all likely to suffer from challenges to our mental wellbeing at some point in our lives. Often work, or a combination of circumstances including work, will be a contributing factor so it is essential that workplaces have the resources and the willingness to destigmatise mental health issues and deal with them appropriately, effectively and compassionately.

You can visit the RO OK Day website here and please don’t hesitate to call us if you’d like to discuss ways in which AlertForce can help make your workplace healthy and safe for all.

On the edge: new report shows WHS is a major area of risk for local council.

Health and safety issues have been identified as a key risk for councils in Aon’s annual risk report on local government. In fact, health and safety ranks third on a list of ten, having jumped up from position five in 2017. Moreover, a fifth of councils were found to be not auditing their workplace health and safety requirements.

The report presents these findings as an opportunity for councils to manage their risks better by investing in best practise strategies and processes that promise greater protection. Some of these strategies involve quite simple steps that can have a big impact on reducing the human risk. And it’s no surprise that investing in quality workplace health and safety training is one such step. In making workplace health and safety a core value of local government work practices, councils are enacting a strategy that will serve them well financially, increase their productivity and ability to attract and retain staff, and see their reputation in and relationship with their community improve.

If workplace health and safety training is seen as an add-on, or an expense, or a set of boxes to be ticked, it simply will not work. “Every manager, every employee, every contractor needs to view their working day through a WHS lens,” says the report. Work health and safety won’t function successfully if it is just demanded from on high – it must percolate through the entire organisation so that a culture of safety and wellbeing can flourish.

The AON report recognises that smaller councils may struggle with resourcing more than their larger counterparts but notes that every council, like every business, is bound by legislation that requires it to keep employees, contractors and other workers safe from risk as much as is reasonably practicable.

By putting work health and safety on the back burner, councils risk the following:

  • Increased workplace incidents. Aon records that trips and falls account for nearly 24% of claims. Moreover, an ageing workforce can add additional concerns for work health and safety in councils. For example, older employees engaged in physically demanding jobs may become more prone to injury and older employees may be less engaged with digital communication methods like email. Councils must consider how their safety updates are being communicated to the whole demographic of their workforce.
  • Increased insurance premiums. The report shows that councils that proactively manage risks and employ best-practice claims management are viewed more favourably by insurers.
  • Low staff morale: “The relentless need to do more with less is having an impact on local government employees. Staff feel pressured to perform and undervalued, which risks lowering employee engagement and motivation as staff feel simply overwhelmed.”
  • Reputational issues. Given that council workers often live in the community they serve, a lack of care around their safety and wellbeing will resonate locally, reducing the council’s ability to attract new talent and undermining the confidence of their constituents.
  • Low productivity and poor service delivery. Poor employee engagement, low morale, and a culture which is unsupportive of training and education can stifle enthusiasm and productivity, leading to absenteeism and poor-quality delivery of council services.

Cultivating a working environment in which workplace health and safety is placed front and centre is the most effective way to mitigate these risks. By investing in education and training, councils demonstrate to their workers that their wellbeing is always top of mind. The ripple effects of that investment are dramatic and impact not only on a council’s bottom line, but on their ability to provide services to the communities they are elected to serve. Aon’s report suggests the following steps to create councils which thrive on rather than battle with workplace health and safety:

  • Ongoing training and assessment for councillors and employees – workplace health and safety must be practised at every level of management so that the culture is modelled by those at the top, not just demanded employees;
  • A consultative, holistic approach of workplace health and safety whereby employees are asked about the behaviours they are seeing in the workplace and how they would respond to scenarios and risks
  • Institute “near miss” reporting schemes to help identify and avoid injuries or accidents before they happen (refer to AlertForce’s Strategic Incident Analysis training).

Councils can be shining examples of how a culture that values workplace health and safety can serve its employees, its community and its bottom line as a business. So give a us a call today to discuss you council’s training needs and knock workplace health and safety off that list of risks!

Crime doesn’t pay: how asbestos training makes you the good guys every time

Safe assessment and removal of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials is no simple task. It requires proper training, careful planning and strict adherence to legal requirements. The penalties for failing to comply with those requirements can be substantial as some companies and individuals have discovered through their reckless flouting of the law and of public safety.

This month has seen the NSW Environmental Protection Authority commence prosecutions against a Sydney man who has been charged with three offences in relation to a property near Spencer on the Hawkesbury: land pollution (including asbestos), unlawfully transporting waste and using a property as a waste facility without authority. Each offence carries a maximum fine of $250,000. “The NSW EPA takes these types of matters seriously,” said the EPA’s Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford. “Our environmental laws are in place to help protect the environment and the community.”

In May we saw serial asbestos offender Dib Hanna gaoled on multiple charges relating to the illegal transportation and dumping of asbestos. He is the fist person in NSW to be imprisoned on such charges and was also ordered to pay to publicise his crimes in the press. The authorities were sending a message loud and clear to anyone considering flouting the rules when it comes to asbestos management.

In July this year, Dial A Dump Industries was fined $23,000 for failing to adequately cover asbestos waste at its Eastern Creek landfill in 2016 . Moreover – like Hanna – it was ordered to pay the $25,000 legal costs of the Environmental Protection Authority and to publicise its conviction in Inside Waste magazine. Another strong message from the EPA that they are not mucking around when it comes to punishing inadequate treatment of asbestos waste and will keep a close eye on known offenders like Dial A Dump.

Operators like Dial A Dump are experienced in the field and would be aware of what the requirements are. So why take such a risky shortcut? Was it the poor call of an overstretched team manager? An attempt by senior management to cut costs? Whatever the reason, it could have been prevented with more vigilant adherence to the rules regarding asbestos removal. When proper asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training is taken seriously by senior management, these kinds of work health and safety failures can be avoided. It’s not only larger organisations that are in the EPA’s sights. Individuals and small operators are, under the law, obliged to be just as thorough in the managing of asbestos waste.

And it’s not just the EPA you’ll have breathing down your neck if you mess with asbestos. Taking proper care with asbestos assessment and management and providing the necessary training to deal with it is a key responsibility of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) as defined by the Work Health and Safety Act. The WHS Act requires that, as far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and others are not to be put at risk from work carried out. Moreover, the PCBU is to ensure that workers are not to be exposed to airborne asbestos and that the asbestos exposure standard must not be exceeded. Officers, such as company directors, are responsible for carrying out due diligence to make sure such care is being taken which includes making sure the right kind of training and education is being provided to help eliminate or minimise those risks.

There are different levels of training required for different kinds of work involving asbestos. For example, a plumber or electrician may need to remove small amounts of non-friable asbestos in the course of their work on a property and are permitted to do so without a Class A or B licence – but they must be trained in the identification and safe handling of asbestos before doing so. Our nationally accredited Asbestos Awareness training course covers this requirement.

A Class A or B licence is mandatory for anyone removing friable asbestos or larger quantities of non-friable asbestos. Moreover, a licenced asbestos supervisor must be present or readily available for to oversee such work – we offer supervisor training here. The regulator must be notified of the works being carried out and asbestos waste must be disposed of at an authorised site.

Assessing, removing and disposing of asbestos waste is no walk in the park but with proper training, the wellbeing of workers and the community can be protected and your profits can stay in your pocket instead being lost as payment for fines. So be the good guys every time and get your asbestos training up to date.

Give us a call to discuss asbestos assessment, removal and supervision training packages today.

How training is the best way to get asbestos out of our news headlines

Another week, another round of asbestos-related news headlines. It just goes to show that asbestos and the damage it can cause continue to be a major source of concern. As long as asbestos still exists in buildings across the country, training to identify and remove it safely will be essential to businesses, local councils and homeowners.

The biggest headlines of the last several weeks came out of the US where a controversial and highly technical new rule has put the spotlight back on the way asbestos is managed in that country, one of the few developed countries that has not place an outright ban on asbestos. The US Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the new rule will place tighter regulations on the use of asbestos whereas its critics claim it will allow for wider use of asbestos.

Fortunately, in Australia we don’t have to worry about that kind of controversy given asbestos has been completely outlawed here since December 2003. In Australia it is illegal to import, store, supply, sell, install, use or re-use asbestos and asbestos-containing materials. That doesn’t mean, however, that asbestos-related risks are not still significant. Approximately one third of all Australian homes are likely to contain asbestos and if your home was built before 1990 then it is extremely likely to contain asbestos or asbestos-containing materials. Some of the areas you might find asbestos include:

  • Roofing and gutters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Walls
  • Vinyl, carpet and tile underlay
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Sheds
  • Splashbacks in wet areas
  • Telecommunications pits
  • Window putty
  • Expansion joints
  • Packing under beams
  • Concrete formwork

With the fervour for home renovation showing no signs of slowing down, it is essential that anyone dealing with asbestos in the home is properly trained and equipped to deal identify, manage and remove asbestos. That includes builders, tradies, contractors and the homeowners themselves. Proper asbestos awareness training will mean that anyone in contact with the substance during the course of renovations is alert to the risks and how best to mitigate them. AlertForce runs a range of asbestos awareness, assessment and removal training courses to suit all needs and levels of expertise.

Sometimes the presence of asbestos in a building creates a public risk such that the entire building must be demolished. We saw an unfortunate but necessary example of this recently in the NSW town of Holbrook where residents are saying a sad farewell to a much loved 1900s building containing loose-fill asbestos. The building has been purchased by Property NSW and the councillor of the Greater Hume local council are currently reviewing a DA by the Public Works Advisory to demolish the building. Colin Kane is the environment and planning director and, while acknowledging the heritage and aesthetic value of the building, has recommended the demolition be approved. “There is a public benefit in maintaining people’s health by fully demolishing the building… (and) it should take precedence over the loss of a building with aesthetic and heritage value,” he said.

Holbrook has benefited over the last two years from a community assistance package put into place to help residents whose homes were affected by loose-fill asbestos insulation. The Greater Hume community was “hit hard by this deadly product”, said Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean, and the extra support was going a long way to help. The local council has also pitched in with funds to help affected residents.

Where contaminated houses have been demolished and the land restored, the Great Hume local council has shown interest in purchasing the now safe allotments with some talk of health-related facilities in the making.

The Holbrook example shows not only the staggering impact that asbestos can have on a community and its residents but the way in which local council can take part in both assisting those residents and then helping revitalise land once affected by asbestos.

Local councils are an important part of any community’s on-going battle with ridding their neighbourhoods of asbestos and will benefit from ensuring their staff and contractors are properly training in the identification, assessment and removal of asbestos. In this way residents and local council can work together with contractors to ensure a safer, more viable community and to make the most of federal and state funding issued for that purpose.

Let’s work together to make asbestos news good news. Give us a call today to hear about our asbestos training options.

Why health and safety training should be the construction industry’s number one priority

The construction industry can be a dangerous one to work in and it has been identified as a national priority to reduce the number and rate of fatalities and serious claims by the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022. One of the key ways of ensuring that reduction takes place, is the provision of work health and safety training.

As well as being an industry filled with potential hazards, the industry is known to be one in which time pressures are constant and the demands to complete different phases of construction by particular deadlines are relentless. This combination of a hazardous industry and a highly competitive landscape can be disastrous for workplace health and safety if training is sidestepped or scrimped on in the name of saving costs or extending work hours. No one wins when safety comes second.

SafeWork Australia has identified these telling statistics in the construction industry:

  • Worker fatalities are relatively high with 3.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers.
  • Serious claims are high with 8.1 serious claims per million hours worked.
  • Workers aged 45-54 account for the highest proportion of worker fatalities and serious claims, followed by workers aged under 25 years.
  • Falls from a height accounted for the largest proportion of fatalities (30%), while muscular stress from lifting, carrying or putting down objects accounted for the highest proportion of serious claims (16%)

The construction industry accounts for approximately 9% of total employment with that figure expected to grow strongly – and above the national average – over the coming years. So the need for consistent, high quality training will only increase and the necessity for the industry to make workplace health and safety a core value of any undertaking will intensify.

While much workplace safety will seem like common sense, to dismiss it as such will ultimately endanger workers. Training and investment in making safety a daily priority is important not just for junior workers new to a site, but for more experienced workers who have a lot to contribute and will often themselves be facing the challenges of working with new equipment, new techniques and evolving technologies. The figures above show that both young and older workers experience a high rate of workplace accidents: safety is for everyone.

Remember, if you are a person or business conducting an undertaking (PCBU), then according to the Work Health and Safety Act, your duty of care involves:

  • Ensuring the health and safety of your workers and that they are not at risk from the work being carried out;
  • Providing and maintaining a safe work environment – including machinery, structures, substances and systems of work;
  • Provision of and access to adequate facilities for the welfare of workers;
  • Adequate supervision and monitoring of workers’ health and safety; and
  • “the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.” (Division 2, Part 19f)

Some of the hazards construction industry workers face include:

  • Falls from height
  • Falling objects
  • Exposure hazardous materials
  • Injuries from operating machinery
  • Motor vehicle injuries
  • Dust inhalation
  • Working in confined spaces

Most, if not all these hazards can be prevented or avoided by providing proper work health and safety training. The most obvious benefit of course is that training prevents injuries and fatalities. Other benefits of providing work health and safety training include:

  • Reduction of overall construction costs by reducing penalties and fines, compensation claims and associated administrative costs, and legal expenses
  • Higher productivity thanks to fewer injury-related absences and time spent managing turnover and new or temporary staff
  • Higher workplace morale which in turn can lead to higher productivity
  • More efficient and successful recruitment and retention of workers
  • A competitive edge thanks to a good health and safety record

When workplace health and safety is seen as a key performance indicator and a core company value, everyone wins. A robust and regular training program is key to any work health and safety framework so give AlertForce a call today to discuss making health and safety training front and centre to your construction industry projects. We provide health and safety training that addresses all the risks and hazards listed above.

Why tradies and training are a work health and safety match made in heaven

August is Australian Tradies National Health Month but as far as we are concerned, it’s Tradies Month every month of the year. Tradies and work health and safety training go hand in calloused hand – not because they don’t know what they’re doing, but because they work in some of the most hazardous workplaces in the country and deserve the absolute best training to keep themselves and their colleagues safe.

Tradies are the technicians and trades workers, labourers, and machinery drivers and operators that make up nearly one third of the country’s workforce. From your friendly local sparky to the crew in hard hats on the building site, tradies are working on jobs big and small across the nation. Given the nature of their work, it won’t come as a surprise that they are at risk of injury. But when you consider that they make up half of the serious workers compensation claims, well, that gives a pretty stark picture of the challenge they are up against when it comes to work health and safety and the need for training to help reduce those statistics.

Some of the work health and safety challenges that tradies can face include:

  • Working at heights
  • Working in confined spaces
  • Working around/in vehicles
  • Working with asbestos and other dangerous materials
  • Working with tools and machinery
  • Lifting, carrying and putting down objects
  • Repetitive movement or strain
  • Trips and falls
  • Fatigue and mental health

For tradies who are independent operators, it’s essential to stay on top of work health and safety skills as well as your trade expertise. One without the other is not much good and a safety trained tradie is a much better bet for jobs than an untrained one. Being able to present as a highly skilled tradesperson whose safety training is certified and up to date makes employment opportunities a whole lot more attractive. If you are an employer or a team leader, then you are also going to want people on the job who don’t put themselves or others at risk. Workplace injuries are bad for the injured worker, demoralising for the other staff, and can cause work delays and administrative headaches for the employer. Workplace health and safety training is small price to pay to eliminate these kinds of risks.

AlertForce offers a wide array of training options that will keep tradies on top of their safety game. Here are just three that experience shows us are essential:

Traffic Control Training

Work sites are inherently dangerous, largely because of the potentially dozens of moving parts operating at any given time. Effective traffic management in and around a work site can be the difference between control and chaos, between danger and safety. Tradies are often involved in the operation of machinery and vehicles on worksites and a tradie who is trained in traffic control has one more great skill to offer an employer and will be an invaluable resource on any worksite.

Check out our range of national certified Traffic Control training courses today. We offer on-site training that is practical, user-friendly and up to date.

 

Asbestos Awareness and Removal

Tradies work up and close and personal with a huge array of buildings and materials. For many more senior tradies, the horror of asbestos has been part of their whole professional lives. But for many, including younger tradies, asbestos is unfamiliar, hard to identify and not fully understood to be as dangerous as it is. Asbestos awareness and removal training will ensure that tradies put neither themselves, their colleagues, or the community at risk by teaching them how to recognise and safely plan for the removal of asbestos in a building.

Remote Area Training

AlertForce has the experience and the expertise to provide work health and safety training to tradies across the country and in Papua New Guinea. We provide training courses in the remote Northern Territory including to those young tradies looking to improve their skills and experience in remote indigenous communities. We believe that high quality training should be available no matter where you are and that all tradies deserve to be safe on the job. You can read more about our remote area training experience here.

Our message has and continues to be that work health and safety training is an investment, not an expense. Given the huge proportion of tradies that make up the Australian workforce and the risks they face on the job, training for tradies should be a no-brainer. Make Tradies Month really count by enrolling in training courses today. Give us a buzz and we can talk through your options.

Why asbestos training matters – subsidies or no subsidies

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) was established by the government in 2013 and has proposed that asbestos removal be funded by a tax on building materials. ASEA’s Chief Executive Officer believes that subsidies are needed for homeowners to be incentivised to take action to remove asbestos from the millions of homes across Australia that still contain it. Whether this proposal is developed and implemented remains to be seen. But either way, it shouldn’t fundamentally change your approach to asbestos awareness and removal. Diligence is key and can only be properly achieved via certified training programs that address asbestos awareness, identification and removal.

Here are a few salient facts to remind us why asbestos remains something to take very seriously:

  • Approximately one in three houses across Australia has asbestos containing materials in it
  • If your house was built before 1990 then you should assume it was built using asbestos until it can be confirmed otherwise by a licenced expert
  • Don’t assume that your real estate agent will be able to give accurate information about whether the property you wish to buy contains asbestos – they are not licensed experts
  • Approximately 700 die each year from mesothelioma
  • The overall number of asbestos-related deaths is around 4000 per year
  • Since 2014, asbestos-related disease claims due to exposure during home renovations have exceeded expectations and outstripped what were previous the main causes – mining and manufacturing

If incentives are introduced to homeowners to remove asbestos from their properties, then we’d hope that they were implemented and regulated in such a way as to avoid some of the disastrous outcomes of other government-incentivised schemes such as insulation and child care. Because one thing is for sure: if the subsidies do eventually get the go ahead, the market is likely to be flooded with dodgy operators looking to take advantage and many a homeowner will find themselves at risk of exposure or fines due to poorly executed work or illegally dumped asbestos.

When the ABC reported on ASEA’s proposal this month, many homeowners and would-be renovators may have thought to themselves that it could be worth holding off on renovations until such a time as they are subsidised. It’s impossible yet to say whether this is a good idea. What isn’t a good idea is sacrificing high quality training and diligence to the possibility of a cheaper job. Whether a reno on an asbestos-containing house become something that can be subsidised or not, asbestos awareness and removal training will be crucial for anyone involved in works on the house, including the homeowner.

If you’re a homeowner and you plan on having any kind of involvement with a renovation to your property, then you need to be fully aware of where asbestos could be hiding in your house, for example:

  • Roofing and gutters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Walls
  • Vinyl, carpet and tile underlay
  • Lining behind wall tiles
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Sheds
  • Splashbacks
  • Telecommunication pits
  • Window putty
  • Expansion joints
  • Packing under beams
  • Concrete form

Then it’s time to contact a licensed asbestos assessor who can do a detailed analysis of your property so you can plan your next steps. If you are going to remove asbestos, your best option is to get a licensed asbestos removalist to do the job. Most states will allow you to remove small amounts of certain ACMs from your house but have very strict rules about how it’s done and where it’s disposed of. For example, in NSW you can remove 10sqm of bonded asbestos from your home but you must follow the EPA guidelines meticulously in order to do so.

Either way, an asbestos awareness course is a good idea. AlertForce offers an online option which can be perfect for a homeowner who is just busting to give their property the Grand Designs treatments. For those wanting to take things a step further or wanting to employ a team they know is properly prepared for the task of identifying and removing asbestos, enrol in our nationally accredited asbestos awareness course and asbestos removal courses.

We’ll report back with any developments regarding the subsidies or other incentives for homeowners to remove asbestos and in the meantime,  we encourage you to stay safe and get training for anyone who may be exposed during the course of home renovations. Give us a call today to discuss your options.

Don’t just phone it in: 3 surprising work health and safety challenges telecoms companies need to be ready for

The telecoms industry is vast and it is competitive. While Telstra still dominates the national telecoms landscape, its market share will continue to decline as new operators leverage off consumer demand for more competitive rates. Opportunity within the industry is rich. But in their rush to find a wedge within the sector, telecoms operators will be tempted to cut corners in an attempt keep costs down. One of the areas most susceptible to cost cutting in any business is work health and safety precisely because it is so often seen as a cost rather than an investment. But it is one of the areas any business – least of all a telecoms company – cannot afford to risk a substandard approach to work health and safety.

With an ever-increasing array of providers to choose from, consumers and employees are in a powerful position to take their business or expertise elsewhere if their provider or employer is found to be careless with workers’ health and safety.

The telecoms industry has a range of general work health and safety needs that are common to many other workplaces, but it also has some diverse and specific work health and safety training requirements including:

  • radiofrequency radiation exposure
  • working with electricity
  • working at heights
  • manual handling
  • noise and vibration
  • plant and machinery
  • working in confined spaces

There are three other work health and safety challenges that telecoms companies must also be prepared to face. They are areas of training that may not spring obviously to mind for the telecoms industry, but they are essential nevertheless.

  1. Traffic control

Telecommunications operations – the NBN installation for example – will inevitably take place near roads. With open pits and manholes or live electrical wiring exposed during works, pedestrians and drivers need to be safely directed to ensure they are not at risk. Similarly, telecoms workers must be kept safe from traffic in the course of their operations. It’s this simple: traffic control training saves lives.

Book your traffic management course today to ensure worker and public safety while your workers are out and about conducting operations in trafficked areas. It’s three years since the RMS introduced a nationally recognised competency-based framework for traffic control training including a three year mandatory recertification – so if your workers are due for recertification, now is the time to get it done. We off courses in traffic control and implementing traffic control plans and our training is on-site, user friendly and efficient.

  1. Asbestos awareness training

Many a telecommunications workers will know what it’s like to crawl through basements, attics, under floors, and between walls to get access to or install lines. It can be physically demanding work in environments which can take you by surprise. And we are not talking about rats! Asbestos is still common in Australian homes built before 1990. Being aware of it is essential for any worker who might be in a position where they are in close contact with it and especially if they might be having to cut, sand, or drill it. Legislation requires that employers train any personnel who are working around asbestos to complete asbestos awareness training so that they have the skills and knowledge to identify asbestos. Many telecoms industry workers will be too young to remember when the tragedy of asbestos-related illness become front page news in this country, so it is essential that they are taught to take the risk of asbestos exposure seriously.

  1. Strategic Incident Analysis

Strategic Incident Analysis is at the core of creating a safe workplace. It is a set of strategies and protocol for figuring out:

  • Why an incident occurred;
  • how to make sure it doesn’t happen again;
  • how to anticipate and mitigate accidents; and,
  • how to continually improve the safety of any workplace.

 

If you’re thinking that incident analysis is only for hazardous workplaces like factory floors, building sites and the like, think again. Accidents can happen anywhere, and they can have a devastating impact on the workplace. Personnel involved in operations, maintenance and HSE (health, safety and environment) management can all benefit from SIA training, whether they are training to become a Lead Investigator or to build on their knowledge and skills as support staff.

With an increasing market share up for grabs and the jury very much in on the issue of work health and safety being good business, telecoms companies have the opportunity to lead the way on work health and safety initiatives in an increasingly digitised world where workplaces will face unique challenges associated with the changing face of technology. Don’t just phone it in. Make workplace health and safety a core value of the telecommunications industry by booking your training courses today.

6 minute read: the truth about traffic control training for NSW local councils

Time sure does fly by. So we shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that it’s been three years already since the NSW Roads and Maritime Services introduced a nationally-recognised competency-based framework for traffic control training. That was 1 July 2015 and given that legislation requires refresher training every three years then – yep, you guessed it – it’s time to get your traffic control training done and update your certification.

Local councils – that means you!

It is crucial that councils ensure their traffic controllers are properly certified and we urge local councils to enrol in Traffic Control and Traffic Plan Implementation training today so that works are not delayed or compromised by controllers whose certification has expired.

Councils use traffic control for a range of requirements including:

  • Worker and public safety around roadworks
  • Worker and public safety around construction sites
  • Worker and public safety during events

Traffic control and management in any of these contexts involves organising and supervising a variety of moving parts and the ability to identify risk, mitigate them, and adapt quickly and safely to changing conditions. It is so much more than casually swivelling a stop/slow bat from time to time!

On-site, user-friendly traffic control training

Effective council traffic controllers require high quality training that is accessible, user-friendly and unencumbered by unnecessary bureaucratic or administrative demands. Traffic controllers work very much in the real word – they are right in the midst of the action and training must focus on the skills they need to develop and the circumstances they might encounter. Here at AlertForce we are committed to training that is user-friendly where information is delivered efficiently and effectively. We conduct our traffic control training on site so that your workers get real world instruction in the context they will be applying it. If there was ever a time to get out of the classroom, it’s for traffic control training.

Recertification – not just ticking a box

While many councils might be tempted to view traffic control recertification as an inconvenient box-ticking exercise, we encourage it to be seen as an opportunity to add value to your team of council workers by providing high quality training that won’t just repeat stuff they already know but will introduce them to the very latest techniques and strategies in a fresh, new way. Traffic control training is an essential part of any council’s work health and safety framework and as such, it is an investment, not a cost.

Training, assessment and certification (or re-certification) can only be delivered by an RMS approved Registered Training Organisation (RTO) who can deliver recognised National Competency Based training. This ensures that trainees get the highest quality instruction and nationally recognised certification.

Listen up, local councils – update your worker recertification today with the following courses:

Traffic Control

  • Correctly direct road users using a stop/slow bat
  • Understand stopping sight distances
  • Maintain traffic incident reports and the relevant Traffic Control Plans for the site
  • Assess and respond to changes in conditions and environment e.g. weather conditions, increased traffic, road conditions
  • Implement risk assessments for personal safety
  • Communicate effectively using a range of devices and methods e.g. 2-way radios

Our Traffic Control Training includes the following nationally recognised units of competency:

  • RIIWHS201D Work safely and follow WHS policies and work procedures
  • RIICOM201D Communicate in the workplace
  • RIIWHS205D Control traffic with a stop/slow bat

 

Implement Traffic Control Plans

  • Identify and understand the safety implications of traffic control
  • Manage traffic control devices in accordance with the TCP
  • Communicate effectively using a range of devices including a two-way radio
  • Check, clean and store equipment
  • Select an appropriate TCP to suit the site conditions e.g. traffic volume, weather, road conditions, and adjust/adapt as needed
  • Assess a location, identify topographical landmarks and carry out associated risk control
  • Assess a TCP for any unexpected hazards or risks
  • Plan for emergencies
  • Understand speed, types of vehicle, traffic density, sight lines, environmental conditions and the way they inform or effect a TCP
  • Monitor traffic controllers

Our Traffic Control Training includes the following nationally recognised units of competency:

  • RIIWHS201D Work safely and follow WHS policies and work procedures
  • RIICOM201D Communicate in the workplace
  • RIIWHS302D Implement traffic management plan

AlertForce is currently offering recertification training at extremely competitive rates. This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of a terrific offer and get your council workers recertified in line with the legislation today. AlertForce is your one stop shop for traffic control training – no fuss, user-friendly, practical, up-to-date training that will see your council ready for any traffic control challenges it might face.

Contact us today to discuss arranging group training for your council workers.

Three reasons why workplace health and safety is good business

The limited view of workplace health and safety is that it begins and ends with making sure “wet floor” signs are in place or that workers are wearing helmets or that machinery undergoes monthly checks. Yes, these things are important. But work health and safety contributes in a whole variety of ways to the performance of an organisation. Any organisation which aims to excel when it comes to recruitment and retention, high productivity, reputation, and competitive edge must commit to a robust work health and safety framework which is integrated into every facet of the organisation.

Health and safety governance is as important as any other aspect of governance. It is core to an organisation’s overall risk management function and a key responsibility of directors.

KPMG Corporate Responsibility Reporting Survey, 2017

 

Recruitment and retention

An organisation’s attitude to workplace health and safety along with its implementation of work health and safety policies and procedures can directly impact on staff morale. A company that cuts corners when it comes to keeping its workers safe and healthy will have a harder time retaining those staff and attracting new staff. A company’s reputation for taking health and safety seriously makes it a desirable place to work and impacts significantly on its ability to recruit quality staff. Training and education are an essential component of any work health and safety program and workers whose skills are fostered and developed are more likely to build a long relationship with their employer and are more likely to be invested in their work in a way that contributes positively to productivity and staff morale.

Make your commitment to workplace health and safety – including dedicated training programs – a key component of your recruitment drives to attract the best staff available. A company that demonstrates such a commitment is a company that shows respect for its employees and their continued development.

  • Communicate workplace health and safety initiatives effectively to existing staff and during the recruitment process
  • Demonstrate commitment through the active participation of managers in the program
  • Celebrate achievements
  • Constantly work to identity barriers or enablers to workplace health and safety. Think about the kaizen approach
  • Make your workplace health and safety a key part of your company’s public profile

Work–life balance, health, and wellness are key recruitment priorities for the next generation of employees.

Joseline Sikorski, Certified Health Executive, President and CEO, Ontario Safety Association for Community and Healthcare

Productivity and performance

Safe and healthy workplaces are more productive. Research indicates that organisations investing in improved work health and safety initiatives are likely to see a positive return on that investment with businesses benefiting in a number of ways including:

  • Reduced workers compensation premiums
  • Reduced compliance premiums (e.g. Work Cover)
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Reduced costs associated with absenteeism and return-to-work processes
  • Reduced costs associated with staff turnover
  • Higher levels of productivity because of staff morale
  • More efficient work practises and lower operating costs
  • Improved brand perception and customer loyalty

While measuring performance and productivity in relation to workplace health and safety does present some challenges, there is a demonstrated link between a strong workplace health and safety culture and higher productivity, quality performance workplaces.

Competitive edge

An exemplary work health and safety record along with a demonstrated commitment to best practices is increasingly seen as key performance indicator in the business world and can give an organisation that all-important competitive edge when it comes to winning clients, contracts and tenders. A company that has an efficient, engaged staff, high levels of productivity, and low absenteeism is clearly a better bet than a company that suffers from low morale, high staff turn over, and a poor safety record. For example, in his article on the competitive advantages of occupational health and safety in port workplaces, Hassanzadeh explains that ports that have unsafe cargo handling practices will drive away potential clients in what is an increasingly competitive global market. Safe working port environments show higher productivity and yield higher profits than those with shoddy health and safety records.

With a growing ethical consumer movement and increased demand for transparency around worker safety, there has never been a more important time for organisations to meet their business and moral imperative to deliver on workplace health and safety.

More than ticking boxes

Workplace health and safety initiatives are often perceived by employers to be an expense rather than an investment. They are viewed as a box-ticking exercise – a way to avoid penalties but nothing more. Evidence, however, supports findings that a strong workplace health and safety framework with demonstrated engagement from management, results in better performance, higher productivity, and an improved reputation. With these qualities comes a significant competitive advantage. Organisations who ignore the moral and business imperative to implement a comprehensive workplace health and safety framework including a robust training program, do so at their peril.

I speak about health and safety often and take a visible leadership role. Along with encouraging our managers to walk the floor, I make safety the first agenda item and talk about the elements of a sustainable safety culture when I visit any of our locations.

Elyse Allan, President and CEO, GE Canada

Give us a call – we’d love to help you make workplace health and safety a priority today.

Why training is key to asbestos management in remote Northern Territory

Here at AlertForce, we love an opportunity to head north to Darwin. We’ve been running training courses in some of the more remote areas of the Northern Territory for a while now and it’s a great opportunity to see work health and safety in action in different environments and communities. The territory has some truly unique challenges when it comes to creating safe work environments – cyclones, humidity, blazing sun, huge distances just to name a few! In the Northern Territory businesses, local government, and indigenous corporations are going to require specialised expertise and targeted resources, including education and training programs, to responsibly and effectively manage asbestos.

Barunga

Exposed asbestos has been found on the outskirts of Barunga, a remote indigenous community about 400km south-east of Darwin. It looks as though the asbestos was dumped many years ago and finding the culprit now will be a long shot. The dangerous legacy of the dumped materials, however, remains and residents are concerned about the wellbeing of their community, especially of their children. Workers from the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics came to investigate the site in May this year along with an asbestos contractor. They are mapping the area and conducting tests on samples of material but in the meantime, residents continue to fret about the exposed waste and want to see it cleaned up and removed as soon as possible.

Tennant Creek

In 2017, residents of Northern Territory town Tennant Creek discovered that their children had been unknowingly playing in a rundown building containing asbestos. The fear now is that the children have been exposed and their health put at risk. Testing has since revealed asbestos in other demountable buildings in Tennant Creek and WorkSafe NT has been working with the Asbestos Disease Support Society to put adequate safety measures in place so that the buildings are sealed off.

Alice Springs

Patients and staff were exposed to potentially dangerous asbestos fibres during the installation of air-conditioning at Alice Springs Hospital last year. Both the Territory Opposition and the NT’s Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) both called on the Government to take urgent and direct action on asbestos in the Northern Territory with fears that many government owned buildings contain asbestos. CFMEU divisional branch secretary described it as an “ever growing… major health issue.”

Yuendumu

The residents of Yuendumu, 300km north-west of Alice Springs are concerned about legacy waste on their outskirts of their town where old dump sites are full of asbestos containing materials which put their community at risk.

In May last year, the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) found that, while asbestos is an issue in all parts of Australia, towns like Yuendumu face unique challenges in dealing with asbestos. For example, the cost of removing asbestos in remote towns is three times higher than for non-remote areas.

Who is responsible?

Asbestos control is now the responsibility of the Northern Territory Government after a motion was passed at the 2017 NT ALP conference to include the issue in the Public and Environmental Health Act. Given the considerable challenges faced by communities in the NT, local councils and indigenous corporations will need to work with government representatives, certified asbestos experts, and community leaders to find the most efficient and effective ways to manage and remove asbestos. As local Barunga resident Mr Bush says, there is an opportunity here to train and employ locals to identify and remove asbestos on country. “They should give us Indigenous people that’s living here a chance to do a course or go and do it through a small business so that we can all achive one goal,” said Mr Bush.

Education and training will be vital to any efforts to eradicate asbestos from remote communities. Considering the vast distances and huge costs associated with removing asbestos from remote areas, it seems to make sense that the communities themselves would be involved in asbestos management. Training community leaders to identify asbestos where it is present will keep residents and children safer while the logistics of removal are figured out.

AlertForce trainers are experienced in educating and training a diverse range of people and will work with local councils and corporations to establish effective training programs. Contact us today so we can work with you to manage the problem of asbestos in remote regions.

Get trained or get an expert – renovations and asbestos safety

Last month we saw serial asbestos dumper Dib Hanna jailed after a slew of offences relating to the illegal transport and dumping of asbestos. The gravity of the punishment – which includes Hanna having to pay for print advertisements that describe his crimes – not only suited the long list of crimes but served to act as a serious warning to anyone considering similarly reckless and dangerous behaviour.

Hopefully it will ultimately act as a deterrent, but this week’s headlines show that there are still people out there prepared to dice with the health of the community and the environment by illegally dumping asbestos.

SafeWork NSW has cautioned Newcastle and Hunter Valley renovators to be wary of a tradesman who is offering cheap, cash-only asbestos removal services. Minister for Better Regulation, Matt Kean, says: “I’m urging all property owners to be aware of an unlicensed trader in the region who is offering quick and cheap quotes for asbestos removal. We all know the devastating impact asbestos can have on a person’s health. So it’s absolutely critical this dangerous product is only handled by a licenced professional. If an operator offers to remove asbestos from your property for cash, do not engage them, and report them to SafeWork immediately.”

Given the extensive coverage and campaigning around asbestos safety over the last couple of decades, there are few excuses for renovators – residential or commercial – to not know that asbestos removal is a responsibility to be taken seriously. To flout the regulations is not only to put yourself and your community at risk but can result in criminal prosecution.

Now that’s probably enough finger wagging for the moment. Here’s a recap on some of the stuff you need to keep in mind if you’re a would-be renovator and have decided to give your home The Block treatment.

A renovating recap

  • There are two types of asbestos that you need to be aware of: Friable and non-friable asbestos. Best not to mess with either until you’ve consulted a licenced assessor. And if you’re not sure if asbestos is present at all, assume it is until you can be told otherwise by an expert. You won’t always be able to tell just by looking at something if it contains asbestos and asbestos can be found in a whole lot of unexpected places in houses. Get a licenced assessor to come and check it properly for you before you decide on your next move.
  • If you are just sealing or painting asbestos cement surfaces, then you can do this yourself – so long as you follow the right safety precautions. E.g. make sure your work space is ventilated at all times.
  • If you are undertaking any work that involves sanding, drilling, cutting etc then put your tools down and find yourself a licenced expert. That is the kind of work that will release asbestos fibres into the air and requires specialist attention. Even scraping, scrubbing and hosing can be dangerous.
  • In some states, including NSW, you can remove up to 10sqm of bonded asbestos as long as the strict guidelines around packaging and removal are followed. Anything more than that, and it’s time to hire a qualified asbestos removalist or get yourself trained and certified.
  • Make sure that any asbestos assessors or removalists you use are licenced. You can check your state or territory WorkSafe site to see whether their licence is current. You don’t have to take their word for it – make sure you ask to see their documentation and follow it up with the regulators. A new register will be put in place this year that shows whether a removalist had received any penalties.
  • If someone is offering a cash-only removal service, then steer clear of them. Asbestos removal is a highly regulated activity and those doing it properly will do it by the book.

Remember what is at stake:  workers exposed to asbestos during mining and product manufacturing were previously the main groups affected by mesothelioma. Since 2014, claims due to renovations have outstripped other causes, exceeding expectations and causing KPMG to raise its claim projections. Don’t be part of the third wave. Get trained or get an expert today.

What is kaizen and why is it essential to workplace health and safety?

Our Strategic Incident Analysis (SIA) training is based on the principles of Incident Cause Analysis Method (ICAM). It is a series of strategies for understanding why an incident occurred, how to prevent it from happening again and how to use the knowledge gained to continually improve workplace safety. It is this last aspect of SIA that concerns us today – the principle of continual improvement, or ‘kaizen’.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “change for the better” or “improvement”. Kaizen has been practised in Japanese business for over sixty years and integral to the word – if not to its literal translation – is the idea of continuous improvement. The principle of kaizen was made famous in the western world via a book on the subject by Masaaki Imai and has been most famously practised at Toyota. It is now used by businesses of all kinds around the world.

With its focus on always striving to make processes, procedures, and work environments safer, kaizen is central to any robust format of incident investigation. It is about looking at the individual processes as well as at the big picture, being alert to possibility and opportunity, and being committed to more than just ticking boxes and filing away an incident report once it’s finished. With kaizen, nothing really ever finishes. There is always possibility for more change – hence continuous improvement.

Other key features of kaizen:

  • It often involves small, inexpensive changes rather than huge overhauls
  • Changes must be monitored – not just implemented and left
  • It’s fluid – changes can be further adapted as required
  • It involves everyone in the workplace – from the CEO to the line workers
  • “every defect is a treasure” – that is, every mistake is a opportunity for improvement
  • It humanises the workplace – that is, it doesn’t focus on efficiency at the expense of worker wellbeing but recognises that wellbeing is essential to productivity.

Benefits of kaizen include:

  • More efficient processes and systems
  • High quality products and services
  • Better customer service
  • Improved workplace morale
  • Better employee engagement
  • Cleaner, safer workplaces

Kaizen and workplace safety

Kaizen connects powerfully to frameworks for workplace safety, such as Strategic Incident Analysis, in a number of important ways:

  • Kaizen empowers employees to participate in building a safe workplace. It gives workers the agency – indeed, the responsibility – to address safety issues immediately. Having an appropriately trained health and safety representative (HSR) and a health and safety committee (HSC) can be a useful way of developing an engaged and active workforce who feel like they have a voice when it comes to workplace safety issues.
  • Kaizen requires constant engagement. Results and data must be monitored and analysed so that changes can be made as required. Similarly, work health and safety is not a static thing – it is a constantly developing set of processes and generating of ideas that resonates perfectly with the concept of kaizen.
  • Kaizen works in conjunction with other methodologies that are essential to SIA i.e. the 5 whys technique and the swiss cheese model. Together these models seek to identify and address areas of weakness in a system and they depend on the involvement of everyone in the workplace, not just senior management.

Work health and safety training

Masaaki Imai believes that education and training for all employees is fundamental – he’s our kind of guy! One of the best ways to empower and engage employees is to make the conversation and action around creating a safe workplace everyone’s business and making that happen effectively involves quality training. Work health and safety training has a wide range of benefits, but in the context of kaizen and its role in SIA, there are two in particular we’d like to point out:

  1. Training demonstrates to employees that you take them seriously enough to invest in them
  2. Training shows employees that you value what they have to say about workplace health and safety

Engaging your workforce in an ongoing commitment to creating a safe workplace and training them to be alert to opportunities for continuous improvement i.e. kaizen, is key to our Strategic Incident Analysis course. Keen to know more? Give us a buzz today.

Illegal Dumping

Big news this month as Dib Hanna becomes the first person in NSW to be given a prison sentence under the 2014 anti-dumping laws described in the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation.

The crime

Hanna has a long history of brazenly dumping asbestos around Sydney and had, until now, got off with fines and a suspended prison sentence. This time, with the 2014 legislation well in place, he was not so fortunate.

Hanna had done a letter drop to various Sydney residents offering free clean topsoil, clay, crushed bitumen, shale and the use of an excavation machine.

What he actually ended up delivering to the properties was 461 tonnes of waste including pipe, rubble, terracotta, ash, wood, fibre cement sheeting and asbestos.

The punishment

After his extradition from Victoria, the NSW Land and Environment Court sentenced Dib Hanna to three years in prison with a non-parole period of two years and 3 months for one charge of illegal transport of waste and four counts of illegal dumping of waste.

In addition, Hanna has been ordered to clean up the waste, pay the legal costs of the NSW Land and Environment Court and make a series of newspaper advertisements about his crimes to publish as a deterrent to others.

Illegal dumping of asbestos puts the health and wellbeing of the community and the environment at risk and this penalty sends a strong message that it will not be tolerated.

The message

It won’t be news to anyone reading this that the illegal transportation and dumping of asbestos is a criminal act and a quick review of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation will reveal the slew of breaches Hanna made. But even those of us who work in the industry were pretty surprised to see someone jailed for these crimes. It is as serious a message from the Land and Environment Court regarding asbestos as we have seen – and we welcome it. Given his history, this has been a long time coming for Hanna, and anyone who knows what a horrendous blight asbestos can be on health and the environment will be cheering to see this serial dumper finally getting his just desserts.

What does it have to do with work health and safety?

Whether you are an individual or a PCBU, your responsibility to manage the handling, transport and removal of asbestos is a serious one and the example above shows us that the courts mean business when it comes to flouting laws around asbestos. So it has never been more important to have yours and/or your staffs’ training up to date and to ensure that whomever is conducting work on your behalf must be following the relevant rules. If you know the rules regarding asbestos management but the people who work for you don’t, then chances are things are going to go wrong at some point.

Homeowners – what’s worse: the health risk or the legal risk? Don’t take either!

Despite the success of asbestos awareness campaigns, home renovators continue to put themselves and their families at risk via exposure to asbestos. Home renovations shows like The Block have seen a surge in the popularity of the DIY approach to renovations and experts are concerned that we are to see more asbestos deaths related to home renovations. In 2016 the Public Health, Research and Practice Journal released a study that found about six in 10 mesothelioma sufferers had done major home renovations involving asbestos materials. The worry is that the trend will continue and even increase. In this light, Hanna’s reckless disregard for the wellbeing of the people he targeted is all the more horrifying.

Don’t risk it. Asbestos-related diseases are not only suffered by tradies and big company workers – homeowners are the third wave of potential victims. Know what to look for and how to deal with it safely but getting trained today.

If you still need a good reason to resist illegal dumping of potentially contaminated material in the process of your renovations, then check out the EPA’s latest set of fines issued to those who got busted. And as we now know, a fine could be the least of your worries.

Employers – safety or bust

The legislation couldn’t be clearer: your responsibility is to provide a safe working environment and reduce the risk of harm to health and wellbeing as much as possible. Your responsibility to the environment is equally important. Thanks to a robust asbestos awareness campaign, employers are now aware of their ethical and legal obligations to their workers. But when it comes to the environment and the greater community, breaches are still all too common. The penalty points are there in black and white, but perhaps it will take the example of someone like Dib Hanna to show that mismanagement of something as serious as asbestos will be met with something as serious as prison.

Getting work health and safety right in local government

Local government is a hugely diverse sector and covers a wide variety of roles. The work health and safety challenges that come with that scope and variety are considerable. But, with vigilance and a strong focus on high quality training, local government can be a leading example when it comes to robust work health and safety policies and practise.

Local government roles can include:

  • Community services
  • Aged care
  • Children’s services
  • Garbage collection and recycling
  • Road construction
  • Libraries
  • Maintenance of recreational areas e.g. sports ovals, parks, playgrounds
  • Public events
  • Administration

Some of the associated work health and safety risks include:

  • Dealing with hazardous waste
  • Working alone
  • Transporting people and equipment
  • Fatigue
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Working at heights
  • Manual handling
  • Road and vehicle safety
  • Working in confined spaces
  • Work-related stress
  • Workplace bullying
  • Public safety

This list is by no means comprehensive but gives some indication of the sheer quantity of work health and safety issues that a local government must be on top of at any given moment.

Staying on top of the legislation

Making sure that all work health and safety policies and procedures are compliant with the relevant legislation is essential to not only ensuring a safe environment for workers but for ensuring that local government departments are not unnecessarily involved in expensive and time-consuming legal action. Yes, workers compensation claims are a fact of working life, but with a strong framework in place and a commitment to work health and safety as a core value, such claims can be reduced or at least handled more efficiently.

Having a dedicated work health and safety advisor is recommended – i.e. someone who is completely across the legislation and any changes that come up and can communicate those changes so that policies and procedures reflect them.

Similarly, as is the case with any business, knowing your relevant industry bodies and maintaining membership with them can be an effective way to be kept in the loop about amendments to legislation and any other relevant updates.

Experience has shown us a few key areas upon which local government should focus:

Duty of care & duty to consult

If you are a person or business conducting an undertaking (PCBU) then you are responsible for the health and safety of those in your workplace, including visitors. That is your duty of care as laid out by the legislation. Local government must therefore be clear about:

  • When and where they are acting as a PCBU e.g. this could include someone occupying accommodation managed by a local council for the purposes of a work project
  • Who exactly is covered by the term “workers” – e.g. volunteers and visitors along with regular staff
  • What the duty of care entails e.g. the provision and maintenance of safe work systems, the provision of training and supervision, the monitoring of health of the workers

A PCBU also has a duty to consult which means there must be:

  • Consultation, cooperation and coordination between duty holders
  • Consultation with workers upon issues that are likely to affect them

There are strict rules about how and when consultation must occur and associated fines for failure to do so of up to $100,000.

We have seen time and time again in our work that communication is one of the cornerstones of an effective work health and safety framework and, like any business, local government must be aware of these obligations and act accordingly. communication is one of the cornerstones of an effective work health and safety framework.

Training

Part of the duty of care is, according the Act:

the provision of any information, training, instruction or supervision that is necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking.

The provision of quality training to local government workers is a responsibility that can tend to be overlooked but that local government must be vigilant in meeting. Given the pace at which work environments and tasks can change, it is crucial that local government workers are given up-to-date high-quality training in order to be able to carry out their jobs effectively and safely. Asbestos management continues to be an area in which local government finds itself involved and must address with exceptional care. Failure to meet its legal obligations when it comes to handling and disposing of asbestos can have serious consequences which not only impacts the integrity of health and safety systems, but can see managers liable for those failures.

Contact AlertForce today and make sure your local government department is ahead of the game instead of playing catch up when it comes to work health and safety.

Why work health and safety training is crucial in remote and developing economies

Distance and tough climates don’t stand between AlertForce trainers and our clients. It takes more than a bit of humidity and a few extra miles to stop us going from where we are needed! And we are proud of the relationships we have built up and the training programs we have developed in and around Darwin and in Papua New Guinea where long distances and tough climates are very much a way of life and where work health and safety training have never been more important.

How work health and safety training can contribute to economic growth in PNG

Papua New Guinea is the most populated of the Pacific Island countries. Like many developing economies, the large majority of its population work in farming with the remaining 15% or so working in the market economy. It has demonstrated strong economic growth over the last five years, but research shows that it continues to face a number of significant challenges including weakness in governance, infrastructure, human development, business development, public financial management, security and service delivery. The remote locations of the country’s mining operations present some extremely difficult hurdles to developing and maintaining effective work health and safety.

And yet a robust work health and safety framework accompanied by high quality training is crucial to continued economic growth. In fact, it can be argued that work health and safety is as much a strategic enabler to economic growth as infrastructure spending is. We all know some of the key benefits of work health and safety including increased productivity, increased workforce morale, reduced staff turnover, higher quality of work. In a developing economy, these benefits can take on particular significance given their relative newness and the positive impact they can have not just in a particular work place but on a whole community and economy.

This shift in making work health and safety a core value in any workplace can be a difficult one in emerging economies where many organisations see it as a luxurious add-on or just as a box to be ticked for compliance. Understanding that work health and safety initiatives – especially training programs – not only increase productivity but impact positively on the bottom line, is still something that is not always fully recognised. As Hital Meswani’s research shows, making work health and safety a key performance indicator for business and leveraging a good WHS record as a competitive advantage, is plain good business.

Meeting the work health and safety needs of Darwin and the remote Northern Territory

With its tropical climate and frontier vibe, Darwin can sometimes feel as much a foreign land as PNG does to an eastern seaboard city dweller. Which, of course, is one of the reasons we like going there so much! Through in a laidback atmosphere combined with a reputation for hard work when hard work is required, and Darwin is an always popular destination for our WHS trainers.

While some of Darwin’s recent major projects, like those connected to the Icthys LNG project, are nearing completion, other developments are taking off. For example, non-residential building approvals have increased substantially over the last couple of years and the associated developments will support the construction sector for a number of years to come.

This means there is demand for high quality training in the areas of manual handling, asbestos management, traffic control and HSR training – all areas in which AlertForce can deliver specialised training. In fact, no matter what your WHS or OHS Training needs may be, we facilitate training solutions effectively for your business.

Development projects – both large and small scale – are also taking place in the Territory’s remote indigenous communities where training programs need to be tailored to the specific needs of the populations of those communities. AlertForce is excited to have the opportunity to work on the ground with indigenous trainees who can then use their skills to go on and help build and maintain their communities. We also recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach is not always appropriate or useful. Where, for example, literacy rates may present a challenge to the standard delivery of training modules, our trainers employ a range of teaching strategies and techniques to ensure that the material is delivered effectively.

AlertForce is glad to be part of the move toward safer, more productive and more profitable workplaces in communities which have suffered from a lack of focus on this area. We relish the opportunity to work with clients from diverse backgrounds in a range of locations where trainees can take on skills that then feed back positively into their economies and environments.

Give us a buzz today about your remote location work health and safety needs.

Do robots wear high-vis? Future technologies and workplace health and safety

“Technology is a key driver of the future, because of its effects and how it will disrupt the way things are done.” Peter Gahan, Director of the Centre for Workplace Leadership

That new technologies are changing the way we live won’t come as news to anyone. After all technology saturates every aspect of our lives – home, leisure, exercise, travel, education, entertainment. It’s at work, however, that some of the most dramatic and far-reaching effects are being experienced. We are already seeing the impact of automated tasks, increased digitisation and a move toward a gig economy. But we need to prepare also for what’s on the horizon: major advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and cyber-physical systems.

These changes will inevitably affect the legislation around workplace health and safety as well as the reality of health and safety on the ground. Work Safety Australia has partnered with the CSIRO’s Data61 to produce a report that examines exactly what these changes and impacts will be and how we can prepare for them.

The report identifies six ‘mega trends’. Sounds serious, right? Well, it is. But it’s exciting too because of the opportunities those trends will create. Let’s take a look at them:

  1. The extending reach of automated systems and robotics

As the cost of these technologies decreases, their capabilities increase and with them, their ability to take over tasks that people have previously done.

  1. Increasing workplace stress and mental health issues

New technologies can both contribute to a rise in stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace and act as tools to help alleviate those conditions. It’s all in the way they are applied.

  1. Rising screen time, sedentary behaviour and chronic illness

Screen time has increased dramatically for both adults and children and, as manual jobs become more heavily automated, people’s jobs are more and more sedentary. The rise of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes must be considered in this context.

  1. Blurring the boundaries between work and home

Larger numbers of workers are entering into arrangements that allow them to work full or part time from home which can disrupt the more traditional boundaries between work and home life.

  1. The gig and entrepreneurial economy

The increase in freelance task-based work that can take place online sees a disruption to the traditional employment models.

  1. An ageing workforce

An ageing population makes for an ageing workplace and older workers are having to stay in jobs for longer.

Given these shifts and projected changes, we must ask ourselves whether our workplaces are ready from a health and safety perspective. Do work health and safety laws and codes of practice effectively cover, for example, freelancers who work in the ‘gig economy’? Are current health and safety frameworks able to accommodate the rise of automated systems and robotics in the workplace? What kind of new associated risks might there be to consider? What impact does technology in the workplace have on mental health and wellbeing and on a work/family balance? How can technologies be leveraged to build healthy work environments rather than undermine them?

While workplace scenarios are likely to be complex and informed by many factors, it’s not hard to guess at some of the ways in which technology now and in the future will impact the work health and safety frameworks of our workplaces in both positive and negative ways. For example:

Possible negative impacts Possible positive impacts
  • Older workers who have had less exposure to changing technology are likely to be at a disadvantage
  • Increased screen time and sedentary work can lead to a less active life and contribute to poor health and well being
  • Less division between work and family life can lead to stress
  • Many of the risks associated with AI and VR in the workplace are still unknown – what might be at stake?
  • Dangerous manual jobs can be done by automated systems and robots thus decreasing the exposure to risk of workers
  • Wearable sensor devices can help make workers safer
  • Workers can complete tasks remotely, allowing them a more flexible lifestyle
  • Data can be more efficiently and effectively sorted and analysed leading to more accurate information on issues of safety

 

These are just a few possibilities – the CSIRO report details numerous such aspects of the changing face of technology and safety in the workplace – but many of them can be addressed now and workplaces who are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace will be doing just that by being vigilant in the provision of high quality training and the building of an engaged and supported workforce who can anticipate and prepare for those changes together.

Our training courses at AlertForce always use the most current information, technology and techniques available and follow the most up to date legislation and codes of practise. Start getting ahead of the game today so you are ready for tomorrow. Give us a buzz to discuss our course options.

Local councils and asbestos management

Just like commercial businesses, local councils need exemplary training and education to develop a culture in which asbestos safety is taken seriously. Under the Work Health and Safety Act, a local council – and anyone delegated to conduct work on its behalf – is a ‘person or business conducting an undertaking’ (PBCU) and as such has a primary duty of care to ensure workers and others are not exposed to a risk to their health or safety. A senior manager in the council, for example, could be held personally liable for negligent actions that cause damage or injury to a person or property and it is therefore essential that local councils have a comprehensive policy in place to address all activities around the safe management and removal of asbestos. Training and education are the cornerstone of any such policy.

What are the obligations of local council when it comes to asbestos?

The ongoing legacy of asbestos use in Australia means that local council has a crucial role in working with government and communities to manage and remove asbestos safely and thoroughly.

In partnership with the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA), Local Government NSW (LGNSW) developed a Model Asbestos Policy (MAP) in 2012 which was reviewed and updated in 2015. The Model Asbestos Policy was developed so that local councils had a consistent and comprehensive template on which to base their own policies and which complied with the necessary Work Health and Safety legislation.

Local council has important obligations in two respects:

  1. To the residents and public who occupy the Local Government Area (LGA)
  2. To the workers in council workplaces

Those obligations include the following responsibilities:

  • Educating residents by providing access to information and advice on the:
    • Prohibition of the use and re-use of asbestos containing materials (ACM)
    • Requirements in relation to development, land management and waste management
    • Risks associated with exposure to asbestos
    • Safe management of ACMs
    • Safe removal and disposal of small quantities of ACMs
  • Managing land – the council is responsible to managing public land and must do so with appropriate care where that land is or may be contaminated by asbestos including naturally occurring asbestos
  • Managing waste when the Council is the appropriate regulatory authority including:
    • Issuing clean-up notices to address illegal storage or disposal of asbestos waste or after an emergency
    • Issuing prevention or clean-up notices where asbestos waste has been handled unsatisfactorily
    • Issuing penalty notices for improper transport of asbestos
    • Applying planning controls to dispose of asbestos waste on site and seeking advice from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA)
  • Operating or contracting a business to operate licensed landfill facilities that accept asbestos waste.

Local council is obliged to operate according to a wide range of legislation including, but not limited to:

  • Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 (NSW)
  • Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (NSW)
  • Local Government Act 1993 (NSW)

These responsibilities are clearly significant and wide ranging so having an asbestos management plan that is regularly updated and reviewed is key to ensuring that all obligations are met. Education and training of council staff – including those in senior positions – is the most effective way for councils to ensure they are meeting their responsibilities.

Unfortunately we have seen cases where training and education have been left by the wayside and a council’s relationship with the community has suffered as a result. Failure to notify workers of potential exposure, failure to develop and maintain an adequate asbestos management plan, and failure to adequately train employees can be disastrous for a local council but are breaches that can be relatively easily addressed with quality training. Creating a culture of responsibility and action within local council is an important way to make sure everyone knows how to do their bit to build as asbestos-aware environment. Recent cases have shown that this culture must be instilled at the most senior levels – if respect for legislated processes is not in place at the top of the council hierarchy, then it doesn’t stand a chance anywhere else.

There are plenty of good news stories as well. Our favourite recent one appeared in the Illawarra Mercury and reported Shellharbour City Council workers busting an illegal asbestos dumper who got embarrassingly bogged in the process of the committing the offence. Nice work, Shellharbour City Council!

If you are looking to train up new council workers or give senior managers an opportunity to brush up on their asbestos safety know-how, give us a buzz to discuss your training options today and save yourself a world of trouble tomorrow.

“But why?” Using the 5 Whys Method Effectively in Strategic Incident Analysis

You know how little kids have that tendency to ask “Why?” over and over again, and no matter how many times you answer them, they just keep saying “But why?”? It can be very cute and, let’ face it, a bit frustrating for mum and dad, but the thing is, those little kids are on to something. The more you ask “why?” the more likely you are to get to the bottom of something. And when you’re investigating the root cause of an incident, that is invaluable.

What kids do naturally in an effort to find out exactly what’s going on – and notice how they never settle for the first obvious answer – we grown ups need a methodology for. It’s called the 5 Why Method and is a key component of our new Strategic Incident Analysis (SIA) training, which is based on the principles of Incident Cause Analysis Method (ICAM).

A bit of background

Sakichi Toyoda developed the method in the 1930s and it came into popularity in the 70s. Toyoda was one of the founders of Toyota Industries – a company renowned for its “go see” philosophy which meant that decisions were made based on an understanding of what was happening on the shop floor, not in the vacuum of a boardroom. This close observation of systems and engagement with the people who have real, day-to-day experience with the processes in question, is at the root of the 5 Why method and has been a remarkably successful and much copied strategy.

How the 5 why method works

The 5 Why technique seems simple – and to an extent it is – but to yield the most useful results it needs to be applied properly. So no, you can’t get away with responding with an exasperated “because I say so, that’s why!” in the way you might to your five year old. Until there is sufficient evidence to support the root cause you end up revealing, you need to keep asking questions. In fact, then, your 5 whys might very well turn into 10 whys. Conversely, you might find the root cause after three whys. But always be wary of quick answers. The theory is that immediately obvious issues will always have underlying problems – the key is to keep peeling back the layers until the true root cause of an incident is discovered, not just the symptoms.

How to carry out the 5 why method

  • It is essential that you talk to the people involved in the incident. There’s no point trying to gather information and evidence without that interaction
  • Define the incident in a clear statement that doesn’t make reference to any possible causes
  • Ask why and keeping asking why until a verifiable root cause is identified
  • Identify corrective actions

For example:

A new site worker on the site slipped on a wet floor and fell over, injuring their wrist in the fall.

Why? They weren’t wearing non-slip boots

Why? They hadn’t been issued with correct safety gear

Why? They hadn’t had a safety induction

Why? There was no one to conduct the training

Why? Because there is only one person qualified to conduct the safety induction and they were off sick.

Root cause: Insufficient staff available to conduct safety training and inadequate process for ensuring that non-inducted workers are permitted on site.

Corrective strategy: train more workers to be able to give a safety induction and introduce a checklist to be completed before new worker is permitted on site.

The root cause is almost always going to point to a process, not an individual. Be cautious of any answer that blames a person or thing e.g. “The fall happened because Brad wasn’t in the office” or “The fall happened because the floors are wet after yesterday’s rain”. Those things might well be true but they don’t take you anywhere useful. The most effective counter measures are those that change processes, improve systems – the aim of the game is to always address the cause, not the symptoms.

Next time you’re investigating an incident, remember to get in touch with your inner kid and ask “why?” as many times as you need to until you get an answer you are satisfied with.

Keen to know more? Give us a call to discuss our new Strategic Incident Analysis training today.

What on earth does Swiss cheese have to do with work health and safety?

Good question. Let’s back up a bit so we can put it all in context. We have recently launched our new Strategic Incident Analysis (SIA) training here at AlertForce. SIA is a set of strategies for figuring out why a incident occurred, how to prevent it from happening again and how to use the lessons learned to continually improve workplace safety and mitigate risk in the future. Developed in consultation with experts in the field of incident root cause analysis and risk mitigation, our SIA course takes the principles of Incident Cause Analysis Method (ICAM) and delivers them in a fresh new, accessible and practical framework.

One of the key principles of ICAM is the Swiss Cheese Model developed by Professor James T. Reason. It’s got nothing to do with it being anyone’s favourite sandwich filling and everything to do with understanding how accident causation works in the context of risk management. This is – briefly – how it works:

  • Reason compares human systems to layers of swiss cheese
  • Each layer is a layer of defence against mistakes and failures
  • There are “holes” in each layer because no system is perfect, and humans are fallible, but if something gets through, it usually gets stopped by another layer of defence
  • Things go wrong when failures are able to get through every layer i.e. where the holes in each slice of Swiss cheese line up
  • This is what leads to workplace accidents and incidents

Ideally, when it comes to workplace safety, we want all our systems or layer of defence to be intact. In reality, however, all systems have weaknesses – the “holes” in the cheese. We put into place extra layers around those weaknesses but occasionally circumstances collide in such a way that all the weaknesses coincide and the whole defence structure is breached. When the holes momentarily align, the circumstances are in place for what Reason calls “a trajectory of accident opportunity.”

These failures in the defence layers arise from a combination of two factors:

  • Active failures
  • Latent conditions

Active failures are the unsafe acts of people connected to the system e.g. slips and fumbles, mistakes and lapses, violations of codes or procedures.

Latent conditions arise from flaws or frailties in the wider system e.g. decisions made by management or designers, problems within workplace culture, outdated policies and procedures. They are elements that can remain dormant in the system for a long time before coming to light when an incident occurs. Here’s an example:

  • A dump truck reverses into some scaffolding on a construction site causing damage to the vehicle and the structure and injuring a worker on the ground.
  • The active failure here is most likely the driver’s failure to adequately control the truck – perhaps the driver didn’t use a warning device, didn’t check the area before moving, and/or didn’t adequately communicate with workers and traffic control staff on the site.
  • Upon further investigation it is found that the driver was insufficiently trained to operate that kind of heavy vehicle but was under pressure from supervisors to get the job done by a certain time. The latent failure here then is management’s focus on productivity at the expense of training and safety and the workplace culture that meant the employee did not feel empowered to question the direction they were given.
  • The outcome could be a review of training standards, with more rigorous training put in place, and the implementation of updated safety protocols to ensure inexperienced workers are not charged with jobs they are not qualified to do.

This is a very simple example but one than illustrates the layers of responsibility involved and the importance of looking beyond the “who’s fault was that?” question and examining more deeply the larger factors at play in any accident. Addressing those latent conditions – we might think of them as the holes in the cheese that have been there so long we barely even register them anymore – is central to the continual improvement of safety in any workplace.

Once failures in the various layers of defence have been analysed and dealt with, your Swiss cheese will start looking a bit more like a block of good, solid parmesan.

Why traffic control training is more than holding up a sign

At AlertForce we know that one of the keys to successful training is making material accessible and practical. All the theory in the world won’t help you if you don’t know how to apply it in real world situations. And it doesn’t get more real world than traffic control. With potentially dozens of moving parts at any given time, effective traffic management in and around a work site can mean the difference between control and chaos. We can conduct training on site at your workplace so that you can see exactly how to put into practise the skills you learn to safely control traffic.

Why Nationally Recognised Training matters

In 2015 the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) introduced a Nationally Recognised Competency Qualification framework for all traffic control training to ensure:

  • Standards of competency that are recognised across Australia
  • A nationally consistent approach to and standard of traffic control training
  • Flexible training and assessment options
  • Easier recertification
  • Tailored training and assessments

Training, assessment and certification can only be delivered by an RMS approved Registered Training Organisation (RTO) – like AlertForce – who can deliver recognised National Competency Based training. This ensures that trainees get the highest quality instruction and nationally recognised certification.

Traffic Control – not just swivelling a sign

Learning how to be a safe and effective traffic controller is not just a matter of swivelling a stop/slow bat back and forth when you feel like it. Yes, it’s a good entry point for those wishing to take the first steps into traffic management, but just because it’s a starting point doesn’t mean it isn’t extremely valuable position. Construction, utility and other kinds of work sites are always potentially hazardous because of the intersection of vehicles or mobile plant with pedestrians and workers. Traffic controllers are therefore crucial to everyone’s safety. Our training will ensure that a traffic controller can:

  • Correctly direct road users using a stop/slow bat
  • Understand stopping sight distances
  • Maintain traffic incident reports and the relevant Traffic Control Plans for the site
  • Assess and respond to changes in conditions and environment e.g. weather conditions, increased traffic, road conditions
  • Implement risk assessments for personal safety
  • Communicate effectively using a range of devices and methods e.g. 2-way radios

Our Traffic Control Training includes the following nationally recognised units of competency:

  • RIIWHS201D Work safely and follow WHS policies and work procedures
  • RIICOM201D Communicate in the workplace
  • RIIWHS205D Control traffic with a stop/slow bat

 

 The next step: Implement Traffic Control Plans

This is the ideal course for those who already have experience as a Traffic Controller and are looking to further their skills in the area or for those who are required by their employer to set up and work with Traffic Control Plans at a work site. It requires a different skill set that builds on Traffic Controller knowledge. Our training will ensure that personnel in charge of implementing traffic control plans (TCPs):

  • Identify and understand the safety implications of traffic control
  • Manage traffic control devices in accordance with the TCP
  • Communicate effectively using a range of devices including a two-way radio
  • Check, clean and store equipment
  • Select an appropriate TCP to suit the site conditions e.g. traffic volume, weather, road conditions, and adjust/adapt as needed
  • Assess a location, identify topographical landmarks and carry out associated risk control
  • Assess a TCP for any unexpected hazards or risks
  • Plan for emergencies
  • Understand speed, types of vehicle, traffic density, sight lines, environmental conditions and the way they inform or effect a TCP
  • Monitor traffic controllers

Our Traffic Control Training includes the following nationally recognised units of competency:

  • RIIWHS201D Work safely and follow WHS policies and work procedures
  • RIICOM201D Communicate in the workplace
  • RIIWHS302D Implement traffic management plan

Identify, assess, adapt

Traffic control and management on a work site is about supervising and organising a whole lot of moving parts and the ability to identify and mitigate risk and adapt quickly and safely to changing conditions is an essential part of being involved in traffic control. We will take trainees through processes step by step and deliver information in a clear, accessible way that means they have the skills to not only perform their duties but to step up when the unexpected happens, as it inevitably does on work sites. High quality training leads to confident and competent personnel who can become integral to the safe functioning of a worksite. And that is invaluable.

Check out our training options here and give us a call today so that your work site is safer tomorrow.

What kind of asbestos training do I need my employees to do?

Negotiating the requirements – legal and ethical – around removal of asbestos can be a tricky business. As an employer, it’s important that you get a handle on what your obligations are and know exactly what training you and/or your employees need to complete. The training options can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Awareness
  • Removal
  • Assessment
  • Supervision

Before we go on to look at the different courses available, there’s one question that comes up from time to time that’s worth addressing: “I’ve done some asbestos training – can’t I just pass on the information to my employees?”

Nope. You’re probably an expert at your particular job. So are we. And our job is teaching nationally recognised courses in all areas of work health and safety. Asbestos management and removal requires special expertise and knowledge. You wouldn’t expect to be able to teach an employee any other skilled job (forklift driving, pipelaying, crane operation etc) in one afternoon over a cup of tea, so why would you expect it of asbestos removal? Get it done right the first time with comprehensive, nationally recognised training.

Asbestos Awareness Training

Who should do it?

Legislation requires that employers train any personnel who are working around asbestos to complete asbestos awareness training. This is not a course that teaches asbestos removal (over the 10m2 permitted in some states); it is a course that provides the skills and knowledge to identify asbestos.

Why should you do it?

Aside from the fact that is required by law, having employees who can identify asbestos is a key part of your organisation’s safety framework. The more people who can identify and be aware of it, the less risk there is of it being unwittingly damaged or made dangerous in the course of operations. It’s not about being paranoid, it’s about being sensible. And remember, many employees are likely to be too young to remember when the horrors of asbestos-related illnesses became front page news. This is a way to teach them how to take the risks surrounding asbestos seriously.

This course can be done online or, for groups of 15 or more, we can arrange onsite training.

CPCCDE3014A Remove non-friable asbestos and CPCCDE3015A Remove friable asbestos

Who should do it?

Legislation requires that all workers involved in removing non-friable or friable asbestos (click here for a recap on asbestos types) must have nationally recognised training to do so. As an employer, you must make this training available to anyone you are charging with the responsibility of removing asbestos or an employee who needs to update their training. Remember, those who are trained in the removal of non-friable or bonded asbestos, cannot be involved in the removal of friable asbestos. The two types of asbestos removal require specific knowledge and expertise – they are not interchangeable.

A CPCCOHS1001A Work safely in the construction industry or “white card” is a pre-requisite for both courses.

Why should you do it?

Again, it’s the law. Aside from that, as an employer it is your ethical, community, and environmental obligation to ensure that dangerous or potentially dangerous materials are safely disposed of. The fines for not following protocol are substantial as is the associated risk to your organisation’s reputation. Having workers who are properly trained in the safe removal of asbestos ensures a safe and more productive workplace.

CPCCBC4051A Supervise asbestos removal

Who should do it?

The individual who is going to direct the removal of any asbestos must be a licensed Asbestos Supervisor. You can do this course if you have a Class A or Class B asbestos removal license (see above courses) and are looking to develop the scope of your skills in the asbestos management and removal industry. The Asbestos Supervisor makes sure that all associated stakeholders – from employees to regulators – are informed as to any asbestos removal undertakings and are supplied with the necessary training and equipment. In addition, a Supervisor must mitigate risk, implement health and safety procedures and comply with all legislation regarding asbestos removal.

Why should you do it?

Because, like any other significant operation, the removal of asbestos requires careful and comprehensive planning, experienced and responsible direction, and a point of contact for all staff and stakeholders.

As with the two previous courses, a CPCCOHS1001A Work safely in the construction industry or “white card” is a pre-requisite for this course. A Nationally Recognised Statement of Attainment for CPCCBC4051A Supervise Asbestos Removal is issued to successful participants.

CPCCBC5014A Conduct Asbestos Assessment Associated with Removal

Who should do it?

An Asbestos Assessor is required to inspect and measure the levels of airborne asbestos fibres in a workplace. This course teaches the specialised skills and knowledge along with use of a range of measuring devices.

Why should you do it?

An Assessor has an essential role to play in gathering data about the presence of asbestos, planning for asbestos removal, and monitoring, documenting and evaluating data. At the end of the day, only one person can tell you whether a site is safe for reoccupation after asbestos removal and that is your Asbestos Assessor.

A Nationally Recognised Statement of Attainment for CPCCBC5014A Conduct Asbestos Assessment Associated with Removal is issued to successful participants.

If you have any questions about what kind of course you or your employees should be doing, give us a buzz – we will be more than happy to talk you through the options.

Eight questions to ask before removing asbestos from your property

Removing asbestos from your property is serious business. If you’re doing it yourself, then make sure you know what the legal requirements are and stick to them. If you’re getting in the experts, then have a good sense of what their obligations are so you have peace of mind that they are getting the job done safely. Here are a few key questions to ask before you undertake asbestos removal:

1. How can I tell if its asbestos?

You can’t tell if something contains asbestos just by looking at it. You can make a pretty good guess by taking into account the age of the house and the kind of material it is, but beyond that, specialised examination by an accredited expert is required. It’s best to err on the side of safety and assume that, if the material is likely to have been installed before 1990, then it will contain asbestos.

2. All asbestos is the same, right?

Nope. The three main types of asbestos used in a wide range of materials are:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blues asbestos – and widely regarded as the most potentially lethal)
  • Amosite (brown or grey asbestos)

But for the purposes of identifying asbestos containing materials in your property, the two categories you need to be aware of are:

  • Unbonded or friable asbestos which is where the raw mineral is used as lagging or insulation and easily gives off harmful fibres and dust;
  • Bonded or non-friable asbestos where asbestos is mixed with other materials like cement and is less likely to release fibres or break up.

If disrupted, however, bonded asbestos can still be dangerous. Once it’s broken up, it releases fibres into the air.

3. But if I’m not using power tools then I don’t have to worry, right?

Wrong. It’s not just drilling or sanding that you can’t do. There are a number of things you need to avoid doing around asbestos, including but not limited to:

  • Don’t use high pressure hoses as they can spread loose fibres or dust
  • Don’t drag one sheet of, say, asbestos fibro over another – same reason: it can spread fibres
  • Don’t walk around on asbestos cement roofs – if they’ve deteriorated there’s a danger of falling through
  • Don’t scrape or hand sand asbestos surfaces – again with the risk of spreading fibres

4. So is removing asbestos a job for me, or should I get the experts in?

If you’re just sealing or painting asbestos cement surfaces, then you can do this yourself using the usual safety precautions for that kind of work e.g. making sure there is adequate ventilation. If you are planning on doing any kind of work that might disrupt the asbestos fibres – i.e. sanding, drilling, cutting, significant house renovations – then it’s definitely a job for the experts because this is the kind of work that will release asbestos fibres into the air.

5. But can’t I remove small amounts of asbestos myself?

In NSW, yes, you can remove up to 10sqm of bonded asbestos but only by following extremely strict guidelines. Otherwise you must hire a qualified asbestos removalist or gain the appropriate training and certification yourself.

6. What kind of asbestos removal licences are there?

There are two types of removal licence and a licence to be an asbestos assessor.

A Class A licence allows you to remove both friable and bonded asbestos as well as asbestos contaminated debris or dust. A Class B licence allows you to remove non friable or bonded asbestos, like fibro sheets.

To be eligible for a removal licence you must have, among other conditions, a competent supervisor with industry experience.

7. How do I know if they are legit?

Ask to see the licence documents of your asbestos removalist before engaging them for work and make sure that all their workers have completed the appropriate training. Don’t be afraid to ask! It’s your property and your wellbeing and your money – so make sure you get the right people for the job. Check with your relevant Work Health and Safety body if you’re unsure and be aware that you can be fined for engaging a non-licenced removalist.

8. Do I have to let anyone else know?

Your licenced removalist is required to let the relevant state regulatory body know about any transport of asbestos before it happens. Again, you are entitled to ask your asbestos removalist if they have done so. If you’re doing some major demolitions, then it’s likely that you will have had to get council permission and this will have involved alerting your neighbours – they might want to make themselves scarce on the day that the asbestos is being removed. Likewise, you need to let any other tradespeople or visitors to the property know that asbestos is being managed so they can take the appropriate precautions.

Asbestos removal is no walk in the park. It requires careful preparation, planning and specialised training. If you’re looking for training options, give us a call so we can tell you about our accredited asbestos removal training courses.

DIY home renovations and asbestos – what would-be renovators need to know

In the era of Renovation Rescue, The Block, The Living Room and countless other home makeover TV shows, the DIY home renovation has never been more popular. In 2017’s March quarter alone, Australians spent $2.1 billion on alterations and additions to homes, and many of those renos would have started with the homeowner themselves wielding a sledgehammer through walls or knocking down old sheds.

Yes, homeowners are hurling themselves into renovations with enthusiastic abandon and while their intentions might be good, the results are often disastrous. And we’re not just talking about a wonky kitchen shelf or a badly tiled bathroom. Take a look in any city hospital emergency room for the array of DIY injuries that are on the rise – cuts at best, missing digits or limbs from inexpertly wielded tools and machinery at worst. Exposure to asbestos might be an invisible threat that doesn’t land you in emergency straight away like a severed finger will, but it can have even more sinister long-term effects. Which is why, as a homeowner, you need to be fully aware of what you’re getting into when it comes to renovating a home that contains asbestos so you can either get trained up yourself to remove asbestos safely, or make sure you know when it’s time to call the experts.

Asbestos in Australia – what every homeowner needs to know

Up until the mid-1980s, Australia had one of the highest uses per person of asbestos in the world. That’s right – we just couldn’t get enough of the stuff. So if your house was built before 1990, then chances are it has asbestos in it somewhere – in fact, around one third of all Australian houses contain asbestos. Asbestos was officially banned in Australia at the end of 2003.

As a homeowner looking at renovating your place, there are two types of asbestos containing materials (ACMS) that you need to be aware of:

  1. Non-friable asbestos is the type that has been mixed with other materials like cement. It is very common in buildings in Australia and if it gets damaged or broken i.e. if you take a jackhammer to it without proper preparation, it is likely to release asbestos fibres into the air. Not good.
  2. Friable asbestos is a substance that contains asbestos that crumbles or turns easily to powder, like insulation. Again, if you go ripping into the old insulation in your house without proper protection, those particles will come airborne. This is not only hazardous to you and anyone else working on your house, but irresponsible to the wider community.

Where is asbestos likely to be found in the home?

Asbestos was used extensively in building so there are lots of potential asbestos sites in your home. It might be found in any of the following:

  • Roofing and gutters
  • Gables and eaves
  • Walls
  • Vinyl, carpet and tile underlay
  • Lining behind wall tiles
  • Imitation brick cladding
  • Fencing
  • Sheds
  • Splashbacks
  • Telecommunication pits
  • Window putty
  • Expansion joints
  • Packing under beams
  • Concrete form

What you shouldn’t do

If you think you might have asbestos in your home (and it’s best to assume you do until an expert can give you a definitive answer), do not, under any circumstances, drill, sand, cut or saw it. In fact, don’t even scrub or scrape it. While it’s true that bonded asbestos material (the non-friable stuff) is often quite stable, once it’s damaged or messed with, it can become dangerous. And I think we’d all agree that a beautiful new kitchen or a shiny new bathroom is not worth the risk to your family’s health.

And another thing, don’t even think about trying to offload it on your nearest curb or a handy skip for a council pick up. Not unless you want to face thousands of dollars’ worth of fines and get run out of town by angry neighbours. Illegal dumping of asbestos is exactly that: illegal.

What you should do

Take a breath, put the sledgehammer down, and take a good look at your house. Click here for a useful guide to help you identify where ACMS might be found in your house. Then it’s time to contact a licensed asbestos assessor who can do a detailed analysis of your property so you can plan your next steps. If you are going to remove asbestos, your best option is to get a licensed asbestos removalist to do the job. Most states will allow you to remove small amounts of certain ACMs from your house but have very strict rules about how it’s done and where it’s disposed of. For example, in NSW you can remove 10sqm of bonded asbestos from your home but you must follow the EPA guidelines meticulously in order to do so.

If you’re keen to do the job yourself or plan on doing a lot of home renovating, then consider getting yourself properly trained up for asbestos removal. AlertForce offers a range of asbestos removal courses that, once completed, will allow you to get on with your renovating dreams safely and responsibly.

what is ICAM anyway?

We are excited to be introducing a terrific new training course here at AlertForce in May. Based on the ICAM model, our Incident Investigation training will offer the best, most clearly explained, accessible and practical training on incident investigation that you can get. Investigations that identify the causes of an incident and ultimately mitigate risk are good investigations and that’s what we are all about training you to provide.

So what is ICAM anyway?

Accidents happen. It’s a fact of life and a fact of work. Analysing them, learning from them, and ultimately reducing their occurrence is the best way to deal with them and ICAM is the most effective methodology for doing this.

ICAM stands for incident cause analysis method. It’s a safety initiative for use in a whole array of industries including aviation, road, mining, rail, security and health that was developed by the CEO of Safety Wise, Gerry Gibb, and draws on the work of Professor James Reason. You might be wondering what a psychologist has got to do with industrial safety. Well, Reason is an organisational psychologist with expertise in the area of human and organisational error. So yep, he knows his stuff when it comes to the human tendency to, well, stuff up.

ICAM is about going beyond the obvious or superficial reason for an accident or incident. Rather, it aims to identify the underlying factors that may have contributed to the incident and to the context in which they occurred. In this sense, it’s a holistic approach that takes into account any weaknesses that might be lying dormant with the organisation itself. ICAM takes into consideration things like organisational culture, training, communication and operating procedures. When you can nail down to this level, you can start to build a system that is more resilient and less likely to produce errors.

And

What is the role of an ICAM investigator?

It’s not quite like CSI and definitely not as glamorous, but an ICAM investigator takes their work just as seriously as Horatio Caine takes his grisly murder investigations and the questions they must answer in the course of an investigation are actually pretty similar. They boil down to:

  1. What happened?
  2. Why did it happen?
  3. What are we going to do about it?
  4. What have we learned that we can share?

These are known as Absent or Failed Defences.

The next step is to look at the Individual or Team Actions that contributed to the incident. These are the mistakes or violations of procedure that led to the accident and might involve something like an employee mishandling a piece of equipment or machinery.

Then you’re going to take a good look at the Task or Environmental Conditions that influenced the human and equipment performance. For example, was the staff member adequately trained for that particular task? Where they provided with the right tools? Were they under pressure to get the task finished faster than was reasonable?

The answers to these sorts of questions will inevitably lead you to look at contributing Organisational Factors which could include things like workplace culture, and management decisions. Often these organisational issues have been there, undetected until a perfect workplace storm reveals them.

Once you’ve got the root causes analysed, it’s time to get some recommendations in place. These might range from immediate improvements like issuing maintenance workers with non-slip shoes, to bigger picture learnings about communication between different departments or updated policies and procedures for a particular area of a workshop.

The ultimate aim of an incident investigation is not just to identify what happened in a particular incident, but to make a system more robust and less likely to promote or encourage situations where adverse situations can arise.

There’s no question then as to the benefit of incident investigation training to an organisation. The ability to thoroughly investigate workplace incidents should tie in with the rest of the organisation’s work health and safety measures. Having investigators who understand what needs to be done in the wake of a workplace incident is critical to contributing to providing a safe work environment.

Our new course in incident root cause analysis and risk mitigation at AlertForce will make the ICAM methodology accessible and easy to understand. ICAM is pretty dense stuff with a lot of theory to take in. And we know that there’s nothing worse than leaving a course feeling so overwhelmed that you can’t even remember what you learnt. Our course breaks down all the essential information you need to know into a format that will leave participants knowing that they have what it takes to undertake investigations thoroughly and effectively.

Our course will be up and running in May. If you’re keen to enrol or just want to find out more, give us a buzz and we can make sure you’re notified as soon as the course opens for applicants.

Reduce risk on construction sites with nationally accredited traffic control training

One of the major risks associated with construction sites is that posed by the coming and going of traffic of all kinds – trucks, diggers, cars, utes, lorries, cranes, forklifts, bikes – you name it, they’ve at some point rumbled on through a construction site. Add pedestrians and site workers to the mix and the potential for serious accidents is high. Commenting in the wake of a tragic accident on a road upgrade site in Adelaide, the CFMEU claimed that 2017 saw about one death per week on Australian construction sites. While not all of these were traffic-related incidents, the figure is a sobering reminder that when it comes to construction sites, work health and safety has never been more important.

Critical to minimising risk is the implementation of high quality training. You can’t just stick anyone in the middle of the road with a slow and stop sign and hope for the best. Like any other skill, traffic control is one that requires time and specific knowledge. If you’re the PCBU, then it’s your responsibility to make sure your staff are given that appropriate training. In fact, the PCBU on a construction site (and that might include the principle contractor) often has extra responsibilities when the business or undertaking involves carrying out high risk construction work. These can include:

  • Ensuring a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before commencing works; and
  • Preparing a Work Health and Safety (WHS) management plan for construction work costing $250,000 or more

AlertForce can provide on-site training for small groups that is nationally accredited under the Roads and Maritime Services Nationally Recognised Competency Qualification framework. Getting your training done on a live site is the most effective way to ensure your traffic controllers and associated workers know what they need to do.

So what are the major risks associated with traffic on and around construction sites?

SafeWork Australia has identified the following areas as high risk when it comes to traffic and construction sites:

  • The interaction of pedestrians and vehicles: simply put, the more you can keep people and vehicles apart from each other, the better. Keep pedestrian access and vehicle access separate.
  • Vehicle movement: if vehicles are moving, then they’re dangerous. Minimise movement on sites as much as possible and limit the number of vehicles operating at any one time.
  • Reversing vehicles: just as they are on a residential street, reversing vehicles can be a threat to safety on a construction site. Keep traffic flow one way where ever possible and get warning systems in place. You know the drill – flashing lights, warning alarms, dash cams, radios, the works. And if you don’t, then it’s time to give us a buzz.
  • Signs and visibility: high vis signage and uniforms are not just for decoration. Used effectively, they can be a very powerful way of alerting people to potential danger.

This is the short version. For a thorough analysis of the hazards on your site, refer to this checklist.

Is a traffic management plan necessary?

You bet. A traffic management plan is an essential part of your approach to work health and safety on a construction site. It should outline the business’s commitment to mitigating risk on the site and should have practical, enforceable controls that deliver a safe working environment. It might cover issues such as:

  • Pedestrian and traffic routes
  • Designated unloading areas
  • Requirements for special vehicles like cranes
  • Details of how often and where pedestrians and vehicles interact
  • The responsibilities of those controlling traffic on the site

In addition, the plan should consider how the construction site will change over time and must be adjusted as needed to account for those changes.

What does the traffic controller do?

A traffic controller on a construction site will have a range of duties depending on the work being done. They are likely to include:

  • Coordinating and setting up signage
  • Using stop/slow signage
  • Using radios to communicate
  • Interpreting plans and drawings
  • Maintaining a clean work environment
  • Communicating with drivers, pedestrians and visiting contractors about the safe movement of vehicles and mobile plant.

There’s no getting away from it – construction sites, by their very nature, are filled with potential hazards, not the least of which is the cross over of vehicles or mobile plant with pedestrians and workers. Traffic controllers – properly trained and certified – are therefore essential to the safe functioning of the construction site environment.

Get your people trained on a live site for the best experience under our nationally accredited courses. We only operate in small groups and our competitive rates make AlertForce your best choice for training. Give us a call today so we can work together to eliminate accidents from Australian construction sites.

What commercial property owners need to know about asbestos responsibilities Part 2

Last week we started looking at the obligations of a commercial property owner in regard to asbestos management in NSW, the ACT, the Northern Territory, South Australia and Tasmania. In this section we are going to check out the legislation on this issue in Western Australia and Victoria where there are some big differences.

Quick recap

Up until recently, owners of commercial buildings had the burden of responsibility for the management of asbestos. When the Federal Model Work Health & Safety legislation came into play and was implemented in most of the country, the onus of that responsibility was moved from the owner to the lessee or, to use the technical term, the person with management or control of a workplace.

This change, however, has not yet been implemented in Victoria and Western Australia where the legislation still states that the responsibility for minimising risk and ensuring the safety or a workplace still lies largely with owner of a commercial property.

As we mentioned last week, if your business operates in multiple states, this can mean significant differences in the way you will have to enact your organisation’s work health and safety regulations. And if you are a commercial property owner in Victoria and Western Australia, then you need to be aware of your legal duties under the relevant act – especially, say, if you have only previously owned properties in other states where those duties are quite different.

In Victoria

  • If you own a commercial property and lease or rent the building or part of the building to a business or businesses then you do have obligations under the OH&S Act 2004 and the associated 2007 regulations. To quote section 26 of the Act you must “ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that the workplaceand the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.”
  • Yes, you can delegate the responsibility for dealing with asbestos to a property manager but the legal buck, so to speak, ends with you. When it comes to health and safety, you, as the property owner, are ultimately responsible for making sure the workplaces in your property are safe. So make sure your property manager knows what they’re doing.

In Western Australia

Under the OS&H Act 1994 (yep, just to keep things confusing, they say OS&H rather than OH&S), your duties as a commercial property owner are very similar to those in Victoria. You can delegate some of your responsibilities, but the legal duties remain yours alone. You’ll need to do things including, but not limited to:

  • Identifying and labelling any asbestos in the building
  • Maintaining an asbestos register and making it available to the workplace
  • Ensuring that any contract or maintenance workers are made aware of the presence of any asbestos in the building
  • Making sure asbestos is removed in accordance the relevant Code of Practice

 

What about employers? Does that mean we are off the hook in Victoria and WA?

Absolutely not! While it’s likely that the Model legislation will be introduced in Victoria and Western Australia sometime in the future, be aware that in the meantime the existing legislation in those states does not in any way exempt employers from legal duties regarding maintaining a safe workplace. Yes, the owner of the building has certain obligations but yours as an employer are equally important and they are extensive. As an employer you must control the risk around exposure to asbestos in the workplace, identify asbestos, and control asbestos-related work. Just last year, the maximum penalty for a company in reckless breach of Victoria’s OH&S Act doubled to more than $3 million. Ouch.

As is so often the case with work health and safety issues, consultation is your best bet and building owners and employers are likely to be discussing many of these issues. Communication and cooperation will be key to getting the best and safest results. ­­­­

Remember, check your state legislation and/or get legal advice about exactly what your obligations are and be aware there are differences and inconsistencies between the states and territories. Unfortunately, we cannot yet assume that one law applies in all jurisdictions. When that day comes, our lives will be a little bit easier!

In the meantime, if you are looking for nationally accredited asbestos removal training courses, then check out AlertForce’s options here or get in touch to discuss what we can do for you.

What commercial property owners need to know about asbestos responsibilities Part 1

When it comes to commercial properties, just who is responsible for health and safety around asbestos? It’s an important question and one you want to make sure you have the right answer to. Unfortunately, it’s not an entirely straightforward one due to differences across the states. We are going to outline some of the basics around commercial properties and asbestos management here but to make sure you’re on top of the latest rules and regulations it’s always a good idea to check your state’s legislation. You can check out updates and amendments to your jurisdiction’s implementation of work health and safety laws here.

What are my responsibilities regarding asbestos management if I’m a commercial property owner?

In the past, owners of commercial buildings were largely responsible for the management of asbestos. This changed with the introduction Federal Model Work Health & Safety legislation which moved the onus of responsibility regarding asbestos on to the lessee.

Just to complicate matters and keep us all on our toes, the Federal Model Work Health & Safety legislation has not yet been implemented in every state with Victoria and Western Australia not having enacted these laws as part of their state legislation. With commerce being increasingly fluid and borders mattering less and less to businesses, this can make things tricky to say the least. If you’re confused about where you stand with your interstate businesses and WHS duties, get yourself some legal advice.

In the meantime, we’ll give you some information about what your obligations as a commercial property owner are likely to be if you live in NSW, Queensland and South Australia. Come back next week when we’ll look at Victoria and Western Australia.

In New South Wales, Queensland, ACT, Tasmania, Northern Territory and South Australia

Ok, let’s start with an of important definition. NSW’s Work Health & Safety Act 2011 defines a person with management or control of a workplace as: “a person conducting a business or undertaking to the extent that the business or undertaking involves the management or control, in whole or in part, of the workplace” (Section 20). The definition does not include someone who occupies a residence unless they are effectively running their business from that residence. Queensland, the ACT, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, and South Australia all have identical or very similar definitions.

If you’re a property owner but you have nothing to do with running the business that takes place on the property, then your obligations with regard to asbestos management will be greatly reduced from what they once were. However, you may still have some responsibilities pertaining to works carried out on the property and, in any case, you’ll want to be on top of any action or developments regarding asbestos so keeping communication open with the person in control of the workplace on these matters will be a good idea.

Perhaps, however you’re a property owner who also runs a business or undertaking on the premises and therefore has management and control of the workplace. If that’s the case – i.e. you own the property that you are running your business in – then you are the person with management or control of a workplace and as such have primary responsibility for the safe management of any asbestos in the building. Yours is the primary duty of care as set out in Section 19 of the NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory, ACT, and South Australian Acts, and this extends not just to your employees but to the health and safety of any person coming in and out of the workplace.

One of your main tasks will be the preparation and update of an asbestos register and an asbestos management plan. You can check out some templates here to get you started. The best way to get an understanding of the entirety of your obligations is to read your state’s Act. Go straight to the source because that will give you the most up to date information. It can take a little getting used to reading legislation but with practise you get used to it. And remember, while the states have a lot of similarities in their legislation, it’s best not to assume that one is the same as the other. Some differences do apply. For example, the laws around when a building was built with regard to whether a register and plan are required, vary across the states.  But the major differences are in the laws of Victoria and Western Australia and we will take a look at them next week.

In the meantime, feel free to check out the asbestos training we provide here at Alert Force and give us a buzz if you have any questions.

The who, what and why of HSRs and why HSR training is worth it

Health and Safety Representative (HSR) is a position that carries real and serious responsibility in the workplace. If you are a business owner, then don’t be tempted to treat the election and training of your HSR like a box-ticking exercise – there is too much at stake for that and ultimately you are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace.  And if you are an HSR, then make sure you are clear on your obligations, so you can carry out your duties properly.

If this is new territory for you, don’t worry, there’s plenty of great resources around to help you get sorted and we’re covering the essentials here, so you can get a good grasp on what being an HSR is all about. Likewise, if you’re a business owner, we will cover the fundamentals, so you know what you’re in for.

Either way, prepare yourself – there’s a bunch of acronyms coming your way! But they’ll be rolling off your tongue in no time. If you lose track, we’ve included a quick reference guide at the end of this article to remind you what stands for what.

So what is an HSR?

HSRs are elected to represent a ‘work group’ about health and safety in their workplace. Like most representative positions, this involves facilitating communication and plenty of it.  In the case of HSRs, that communication will be between workers and the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) on issues of workplace health and safety.

Just to be clear: it is not the role of the HSR to fix health and safety issues in the workplace. Rather it is their role to represent the interests of the workers in such matters.

Is having an HSR compulsory?

No, it isn’t. But if a worker requests an HSR then work groups must be assembled so that one can be elected. Then the PCBU consults with the HSR going forward. If an HSR or a group of five or more workers request the PCBU to establish a Health and Safety Committee (HSC) then the PCBU is obliged to make that happen.

The negotiations around organising work groups can themselves get a bit complicated. There’s a good explanation here of how that negotiation process can work and what needs to be done if disagreements arise.

In brief, then, it’s not mandatory to have an HSR (unless one is requested) but it can be a great idea for a PCBU to assign the position in any case so there is a means for employees and employers to communicate effectively about work health and safety issues. And can you bet that issues will arise.

What kinds of responsibilities does an HSR have?

Along with representing the interests of their work group, a health and safety representative monitors the health and safety of a workplace, investigates any complaints, and investigates any potential risks in the workplace. If an HSR has approved training, there are two important added powers they have:

  • They can direct unsafe work to stop if they have a reasonable belief that a worker or workers may be at risk; and,
  • They can issue a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) if they reasonably believe the Work Health and Safety Act has been breached.

HSR training is vital not just to ensure these two authorities, but so that the representative can thoroughly and effectively carry out their duties and learn how to best manage their relationship and communication with the PCBU. When it comes to work health and safety, everyone benefits from high quality training and from a relationship between the PCBU and workers that is open and positive.

What about the responsibilities of the PCBU to the HSR?

There are plenty and it’s worth knowing them in detail because the penalties for not complying with your duties to an HSR can be substantial. They vary slightly depending on the jurisdiction in which you are operating, but these are some of the major ones you need to be aware of:

  • To consult and communicate with the HSR on health and safety matters
  • To allow the HSR access to information regarding hazards and risks in the workplace
  • To permit access to any resources the HSR may need to carry out their function
  • To allow the HSR to undertake approved training
  • To allow a person assisting an HSR access to the workplace
  • To allow the HSR to accompany health and safety inspectors
  • To allow an HSR to accompany a worker in a meeting regarding health and safety issues

You can get into more of the nitty gritty of these duties here and we recommend you do – better to get yourself up to date now rather than when or if something goes wrong.

Training serves the best interests of everyone when it comes to work health and safety. Training is something your organisation will never regret. Not training is something your business is very likely to regret one day. So get organised now and feel free to drop us a line if you’re keen to talk about what options are available. AlertForce runs certified training courses nationally including for Comcare, NSW and Queensland jurisdictions. We’ll be happy to give you the low down.

Acronyms cheat sheet

HSR – Health and safety representative

HSC – Health and safety committee

WH&S – Work health and safety

PCBU – person conducting a business or undertaking

PIN – provisional improvement notice

Education and training key to safe management of asbestos

A new year starts, and a new wave of asbestos stories hit the headlines. Asbestos discovery and its safe removal continue to be a major issue – and sometimes a major expense when it’s badly handled – for councils, businesses, tradies and individuals. And with every new headline comes the reminder that education and training around identification and eradication of asbestos remains key to keeping people safe. Without the knowledge and the know-how, the stories will continue to be frustrating and tragic. But let’s set the tone by taking a look at a few recent happier stories:

Big fine for asbestos dumper caught red-handed

First up, three cheers for the NSW Environment Protection Authority officers who nabbed a man unloading about 10 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated soil at a property in Wallacia. The EPA officers just happened to be conducting a campaign to prevent illegal landfilling at the time and videoed the load being dumped. No surprises the tip truck driver didn’t want to stop for a chat but with his number plate now on video, it was easy to track him down. $7500 later, chances are he won’t be taking that risk again. Talk about wrong place, wrong time!

Oz Day honours for long time asbestos awareness campaigner

It was great to see asbestos crusader, Serafina Salucci receive a Member in the general division of the Order of Australia on in the recent Australia Day honours. Ms Salucci was diagnosed with mesothelioma 11 years ago and has worked tirelessly to raise awareness on the dangers of asbestos exposure. She played a key role in petitioning the Australian Government to set up the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency in 2013.

New asbestos safety campaign launched in Victoria to keep tradies smart and safe around asbestos

Just last week, WorkSafe Victoria has launched a campaign targeted at making tradies more alert to the presence and dangers of asbestos. While many tradies are aware of how dangerous asbestos can be, they don’t necessarily know how to identify it and because so many tradies are involved in drilling, sawing, sanding and demolition, they are particularly vulnerable to it.

These are all encouraging stories and strategies that demonstrate how fundamental education around safe asbestos handing and removal remains. All the good intentions in the world won’t make up for the dangers attached to unsafe removal of asbestos. And not knowing is not a good enough excuse – not given the huge media exposure and legislative changes that have occurred over the last couple of decades. This goes for individuals as well as businesses. When it comes to asbestos identification and removal, shortcuts are not an option. Get educated, get trained and do it right.

If you’re a homeowner

Just steady on before you go all DIY on your new “renovator’s dream” home. Just because you’ve seen a few episodes of The Block and Backyard Blitz doesn’t mean you should go wielding a sledgehammer straight away on that old shed down in the back yard or on the walls and ceilings in your soon-to-be dream home. If it was built or last renovated before the mid-1980s, then chances are it’s riddled with asbestos. And you won’t be able to tell just by looking. This handy guide will help you figure out what you might be dealing with and how to proceed.

If you’re a business

Think about what’s a stake. This is not the time to do things on the cheap. There are strict laws regarding management of asbestos in a workplace and if you’re the one in charge then chances you know your obligations under the Work & Health Safety Act 2017 are to ensure the health and safety of your workers. If asbestos has reared its ugly head in your workplace or you even suspect it might be present, then act now and get a team trained and ready to go.

If you’re a tradie

Don’t take the risk. Remember, just because you can’t see asbestos, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Again, if you’re dealing with a property built before the mid-1980s then in all likelihood asbestos will be present somewhere in the structure. Yes, it’s your employer’s responsibility to make sure you are properly informed, trained and supervised but it’s also your responsibility to take reasonable care of yourself and make sure you follow all procedures regarding identification and removal of asbestos.

Education and training is crucial to the responsible management of asbestos. If you’re keen to get your asbestos know-how on, then give us buzz so we can talk through what your asbestos education and training options are or take a look at what’s on offer here and do your bit to make sure the headlines stay positive.

How to affectively manage fatigue in your workplace

Fatigue is something we all experience from time to time. Its part of living in a modern world, but fatigue is more than feeling tired and worn out. In a work context, fatigue is a state of mental and physical exhaustion that reduces a person’s ability to perform their work safely and effectively.

There are a number of causes of fatigue including prolonged or intense mental or physical activity, sleep loss or a disruption of the internal body clock.

According to WorkSafe Australia signs of fatigue include:

  • tiredness even after sleep
  • reduced hand-eye coordination or slow reflexes
  • short term memory problems and an inability to concentrate
  • blurred vision or impaired visual perception
  • a need for extended sleep during days off work.

So what causes fatigue?

Fatigue can be caused by work related or non-work related factors or a combination of both. Work related causes of fatigue include excessively long shifts with not enough time to recover between shifts or blocks of shifts.

Most people are day-orientated meaning they are most alert and productive in the daytime and sleep at night. The circadian rhythms (the body clock) cause regular variations in individual body and mental functions, which are repeated approximately every 24 hours. These rhythms regulate sleeping patterns, body temperature, heart rate, hormone levels, digestion and many other functions.

These rhythms are also influence job performance and quality of sleep. Most of the body’s basic functions show maximum activity during the day and minimum activity at night, and it’s these body rhythms that affect the behaviour, alertness, reaction times and mental capacity of people to varying degrees. If these rhythms get interrupted and recovery as in sleep and rest is hard to come by fatigue can set in.

One industry affected by worker fatigue is the transport sector where drivers are pushed to capacity to deliver loads on time. The pressure of driving at night, long distances, not getting enough sleep and being awake for extended periods has a detrimental affect, not only the driver but on the safety of other drivers on the roads. The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) says a driver must not drive a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle on a road while impaired by fatigue. They suggest if you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of your business, you could be held legally liable for breaches of road transport laws even though you do not drive a heavy vehicle. In addition they say, corporate entities, directors, partners and managers are accountable for the actions of people under their control. This is the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ (COR).

The NHVR says each person in the COR must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the driver of a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle does not drive on a road while impaired by fatigue or breach road transport laws relating to fatigue. In addition to this, each person in the COR must take all reasonable steps to ensure a heavy vehicle driver can perform their duties without breaching road transport laws.

There are a number of problems that can occur from fatigue, which places workers at risk of serious injury in the workplace and under OHS laws in Australia the following must be adhered to in the workplace when it comes to fatigue:

  • alertness – workers must be alert while at their place of work especially if operating fixed or mobile plant including driving vehicles
  • undertaking critical tasks that require a high level of concentration
  • working night or shift work when a person would ordinarily be sleeping.
  • a person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers while they are at work, meaning if fatigue is identified as causing a risk to work health and safety, then suitable control measures should be implemented in consultation with workers to eliminate or minimise the risks.
  • workers also have a duty to take reasonable care for their own safety and health and that their acts or omissions don’t adversely affect the health or safety of others.
  • workers must also comply with any reasonable instructions and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to fatigue at the workplace,
  • workers must comply with the organisation’s policies and procedures relating to fatigue
  • understanding sleep, rest and recovery needs and obtaining adequate rest and sleep away from work
  • seeking medical advice and assistance if there are concerns about a health condition that affects sleep or causes fatigue
  • assessing fitness for work before commencing work
  • monitoring levels of alertness and concentration while you are at work
  • looking out for signs of fatigue with work colleagues and working in consultation with management and supervisors
  • talking to supervisors or managers if work is being impaired by fatigue that’s likely to create a health and safety risk e.g. because of a health condition, excessive work demands or personal circumstances
  • assessing fatigue levels after work and taking suitable commuting and accommodation options (e.g. avoiding driving if fatigued).

 

AlertForce is a recognised RTO and offers fatigue management courses in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Check our website for other states and territories. For more information on traffic control courses visit https://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/fatigue-management/

Is a safer, healthier workplace more productive?

Proper work health and safety practices aren't just a collection of rules to ignore at will. Implemented right, they're a surefire way to keep your employees, your organisation and your profits healthy – outcomes which should be the goal of any business owner. 

From working in confined spaces to handling asbestos, there are hundreds of risks involved in most modern occupations. With proper training and a mindful approach to minimising these, you and your employees can focus on doing what you do best and keeping your business running smoothly. 

Let's look a little closer at how better WHS can make your business more positive, and most importantly, more productive. 

Employee productivity

The healthiest employees in Australia are three times more productive than the least healthy.

A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. The old saying is apt here, as one unproductive and negative employee can have a massive effect on others and greatly affect the functioning of your business. 

The best method for avoiding this chain reaction is to keep your employees happy and healthy. A recent Medibank Private study proved this, finding that the healthiest employees in Australia are three times more productive than the least healthy. 

Work health and safety won't solve all of your problems, but if it's implemented as part of a comprehensive push to improve employee wellness, it could double or even triple your employees' productivity. As you'll know, more productive employees means a healthier business and a more attractive bottom line. 

Proper work health and safety measures make a happier, healthier, more productive business.
Proper work health and safety measures make a happier, healthier, more productive business.

Health and safety as a business decision

When people talk about health and safety, the focus is forever on employee wellbeing, and rightly so. But what about the real, quantifiable benefits to your business? Research from a recent Comcare study has found that a focus on employee health and wellbeing has the following results:

  • Decreases sick leave absenteeism by 25.3 per cent,
  • Decreases disability management costs by 24.2 per cent, and 
  • Saves you $5.81 for ever $1 investing in employee health and wellbeing. 

Those numbers are convincing by any measure, but that's not all. Poor employee health and safety measures are proven to increase presenteeism, or employees showing up at work when unwell. This phenomenon has been proven by Medibank to cost the Australian economy a staggering $34.1 billion dollars every year. 

On average, each Australian business loses 6.5 days of productivity annually per employee due to presenteeism – for a small business of 20 people, that's over 3 months of manpower. 

Give the right training

Each Australian business loses 6.5 days of productivity annually per employee due to presenteeism.

Your employees are your bread and butter, without them your business would quickly crumble. That's why taking care of their health and safety at work is of paramount importance, as only then can they do their jobs to a high level.

Whether you're working in confined spaces, controlling traffic or typing in an office, give your employees the knowledge to stay happy, healthy (and productive) at work with an Alertforce training course.

We're one of NSW's foremost training providers and all the courses we offer are nationally recognised, 100 per cent tax deductible, and of the highest quality. Get in touch today to find out how the right knowledge and training could improve your business' bottom line. 

Asbestos awareness is essential to the safety of Australians

A school in the Northern Territory recently evacuated part of its grounds due to the risk of asbestos exposure after infrastructure works were completed. Another report described an illegal dumping of a large amount of asbestos sheets outside a school where a number of children catch the bus. Meanwhile, Kingston Council in Melbourne is investigating a large deposit of asbestos-laced soil that was left at a public park. 

Above are the highlights of Australian asbestos reporting from two weeks at the end of March alone. These shocking stories are perhaps more frightening than alarming asbestos statistics, revealing the knowledge gap and the lack of care taken by the public when it comes to handling the deadly fibre. 

Here at Alertforce we're passionate about improving Australia's asbestos knowledge, in order to reduce the prevalence of horror stories like these. With better training, workers will know the risks of dumping asbestos, better identify the fibre and be able to handle it if they do. To help you make a start, here's our quick guide to identifying asbestos. 

Since 2003 it's been illegal to import of use any asbestos product in Australia.
Since 2003 it's been illegal to import or use any asbestos product in Australia.

Know the risk factors

The first step towards better identifying asbestos in the workplace is to know the most common risk factors. First, consider when was the property in question constructed? If it was built during the 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s there's a high chance that it contains asbestos, as the brown and blue fibres were widely used before their ban in the mid 1980s.

However, there's still a chance that your home contains asbestos if it was built more than ten years ago, as white asbestos was only banned in 2003, and it's likely that some tradespeople continued to use it after then. The takeaway here is to be on high alert if your home was built before 1990, and to be aware if it was built between 1990 and 2005.

Consider what was used to build your home. If there are concrete sheets, or corrugated concrete roofs in the structure, there's a high likelihood that they contain asbestos. 

Find and identify

Asbestos can be incredibly difficult to identify if you aren't trained in its identification and removal. It can be spotted in a number of areas around residential buildings: in pipe lagging, boiler insulation, cement sheets, bitumen-based water proofing, vinyl floor tiles and a number of other products. 

Older sheets of asbestos have a distinctive dimple pattern on them, while nails used to secure asbestos sheets often had flat, rather than pointed, tips. If there are aluminium joiners outside the building in question, these are also a dead giveaway that there's asbestos within. Some sheets may even have 'contains asbestos' warnings printed on them.

Knowing the common warning signs is helpful for those at risk of asbestos exposure at work. However, for the safety of you and everyone around you, it's essential that you receive asbestos removal training if you work in an at-risk profession such as plumbing or building.

No matter how hard you look, if you don't know the warning signs you may not be able to identify asbestos.
No matter how hard you look, if you don't have proper training you may not be able to identify asbestos.

Seek help if you're unsure

When working in a building that you suspect contains asbestos, you are legally allowed to remove 10 sqm of bonded fibre if you dispose of it properly. However, it's strongly recommended that if you're unsure of best practice, always seek help.

To make sure you're on the ball when it comes to identification and removal, enrol in a short asbestos removal course with one of NSW's most trusted training providers – Alertforce. Our courses are all nationally certified and of the highest quality, perfectly suited to help you fight back against the terrible effects of asbestos in Australia. 

How much money could better WHS training save your business?

One person was injured at work every minute during the year ending June 2014, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. While not all of these accidents resulted in claims, this shocking statistic reveals the staggering truth about the dangers in the workplace.

Could better work health and safety training have prevented the costs of accidents, and how can you cover all your bases when it comes to your business' safety?

Serious injury claims cost Australian businesses serious money.
Serious injury claims cost Australian businesses serious money.

How many claims are there per year?

During the period mentioned above, Australian workers made 106,565 serious accident and injury claims, with most of them made by males (67,765). The majority of total claims were made to cover the expenses of injury and musculoskeletal disorders (95,625) and the rest were made up of diseases caused by the workplace environment. The professions with the highest risk were:

  • Manufacturing with 11,255 claims,
  • Construction with 11,135, and
  • Transport, postal and warehousing with 8,280.

In 2014 there were roughly 2 million businesses trading in Australia, meaning that one in 20 experienced a serious claim by a worker during this period. That surprisingly high figure shows that each and every Australian business can benefit from reducing risks in the workplace with better health and safety training.

What could a claim cost you?

According to Safe Work Australia the average claim sits at above $8,000.

According to Safe Work Australia the average claim sits at above $8,000, a number that doesn't take into account the decrease in productivity and increased time off caused by workplace injuries.

In reality, the cost to your business of one serious accident could be in excess of $20,000 or more. That's enough to cause serious issues for smaller businesses operating with tight cash flow.

Cover all your bases with proper training

Don't leave your employees' safety and business success to chance. Invest in the proper work health and safety training to ensure that your employees are best equipped to create a safe and productive workplace.

Here at Alertforce we've been providing high quality, nationally recognised training courses for many years now. We would love to help you keep your workers safe, and your business running smoothly by educating and up-skilling your workers on any one of our numerous short courses. Enquire today.

Does better work health and safety practice improve your business’ bottom line?

Profit is the main yardstick for success for most businesses in Australia.However, it's important to remember that profitability and productivity are affected by countless different factors – work health and safety among them. 

We all know that a safer workplace is a more effective, productive and positive place to be. But is there any hard evidence that better work health and safety practice improves your bottom line? With the help of a 2014 Safe Work Australia report, we've had a closer look. 

Work health and safety could be affecting your bottom line more than you think.
Work health and safety could be affecting your bottom line more than you think.

The effects of poor WHS

Studies in Australia and throughout the world have left no doubt that poor work health and safety greatly affects a business' effectiveness. In their report, Safe Work Australia quotes a number of studies, which unequivocally found that an unsafe work places result in:

  • Lower productivity,
  • Poor competitiveness,
  • Reduced shareholder value, and
  • Greater public scrutiny.

There's no doubt that the above symptoms of poor work health and safety practice will hurt your business' bottom line. Even more startling is evidence from a 2005 Medibank study that found the healthiest employees in Australia were three times more productive than unhealthy employees. 

For those who must undertake potentially dangerous tasks, such as working in a confined space, a focus on good work health and safety practice becomes even more essential.

Economic loss from poor WHS

Injury and death in the workplace has an economic cost of $1.25 trillion a year, or 4 per cent of global GDP.

Providing an unsafe workplace is not only irresponsible and immoral, it's also extremely costly. An estimated 128,050 Australian workers made compensation claims for serious injuries in 2011 and 2012 – that's around 12.2 claims per 1,000 employees. 

If you've provided a workplace that's not up to standard, your insurance may not cover your loss and you may be responsible for paying for your employee's recovery. Not only that, but you'll have to cover your worker while they're off for an average of just over 12 weeks for serious claims. The resulting loss in productivity is difficult to quantify, but it's surely considerable.

What's even more sobering is the cost of workplace deaths, which are sadly all too common in Australia. International Labour Organisation data suggests that in total accidents, injury and death in the workplace has an economic cost of $1.25 trillion a year, or 4 per cent of global GDP. 

Safe Work Australia estimates that our national cost is closer to 5 per cent of our GDP, and that the cost per work-related death is between $11 million and $19 million. You – the employer – will bear a relatively small amount of that cost in the event of a workplace, but a small percent of $19 million could still be a massive sum.

Accidents in the workplace are often avoidable.
Accidents in the workplace are often avoidable.

Making your workplace better

It can be tough to measure the effects of better work health and safety, but it's abundantly clear that they're positive. Adopting good health and safety practice means better productivity, a more attractive bottom line and of course, happier employees.

This sets the foundations for a sustainable and successful business that serves the interests of employees, employers and stakeholders alike. For help getting your business' work health and safety practises up to standard, start with Alertforce.

We're one of NSW's most trusted training providers, offering a wide range of accredited short courses from asbestos awareness and removal, to combined spaces training and everything in between.

Get in touch today to find out what we can do for your business.

The silent killer’s past: A long history of asbestos

Asbestos, a material we now know as the silent killer, refers to a group naturally occurring fibres that can be found in large deposits under the earth. They are fine, durable and fire-retardant, making them ideal for a number of applications.

We now know the dangers that asbestos poses, but for over 6,000 years we used it for everything from insulating steam engines to keeping our homes warm. Let's look back at the long and bizarre history of asbestos, and take a moment to appreciate what proper work health and safety can do to minimise its effects.

The origins of asbestos

Asbestos deposits as old as 750,000 years have been discovered by archaeologists and it was used as early as 4,000 BC, as the wicks for candles. Fast forward around 1,000 years and Egyptian pharaohs were embalmed and buried in thick sheets of asbestos to help preserve their bodies. This practise continued and changed for thousands of years and was common in a number of cultures.

Asbestos was used for countless purposes throughout history.
Asbestos was used for countless purposes throughout history.

Closer to 400 BC, Ancient Greeks cremated bodies wrapped in Asbestos to keep their ashes from mixing with those of the fire. Historians say that this helped birth the word asbestos, deriving from ancient Greek term, sasbestos, meaning inextinguishable or unquenchable. 

Around 755 AD King Charlemagne of France used asbestos tablecloths during feasts to prevent fires that were often caused by intoxicated revellers knocking over candles. Asbestos continued to be used this way, as a useful novelty, until the late 1800s when the industrial revolution began. 

Asbestos in Australia

By the dawn of the 19th century, major Asbestos mines had opened in Canada and South Africa, America, Italy and Russia. total worldwide production increased to 30,000 tonnes annually. At this point the fibres were increasingly used in industrial and residential settings for fireproofing, soundproofing and insulation.

During this time asbestos mines starting popping up throughout the country, particularly in NSW and WA. The British Royal Commission raised concerns about its health effects after several deaths were caused by the fibre in factories throughout the UK, but nonetheless mining and use of asbestos continued at an unprecedented rate. 

By 1910 world production exceeded 100,000 tonnes, and homes around Australia were being built with asbestos throughout their structures. This use peaked in the 50s, 60s and 70s when it could be found in most homes built in Australia.

At long last: Asbestos ban

As the use of asbestos increased, so too did the health dangers we now know are associated with it. In 1935 reports started emerging on the effect of asbestos dust on the lungs of workers in the James Hardie factory in Perth.

Later on, health professionals and inspectors started warning the owners of a large blue asbestos mine in Wittenoom, Western Australia, that their workers were at great risk and would contract chest diseases within six months.

Asbestos was finally banned in Australia in 2003.
Asbestos was finally banned in Australia in 2003.

In the late 1980s asbestos victims were too many to ignore, as the death toll in the Wittenoom mine climbed past 500 and several other cases starting popping up nationwide. The Asbestos Disease Foundation of Australia and workers unions pressured state and national governments to act, until finally, in December 2003 the use of asbestos and all materials containing asbestos were banned nationwide. 

From here plans to safely dispose of asbestos were put into place nationwide. It's still present in thousands of industrial buildings and homes throughout Australia, but it appears that we are finally heading in the right direction and putting the dangers of asbestos behind us.

There's still so much work to do. If you or your employees work in at-risk professions, ensure that you have the best training available to ensure asbestos-related diseases remain a thing of the past.

Making Australian roads safer with traffic control training

The 10 years of Australian air travel up to 2014 caused fewer fatalities than an average six months on the roads in Australia. However, because roads are everywhere, we tend to forget the dangers it poses and slacken our work health and safety commitment as a result.

For those in the roadwork, traffic management and traffic control industries this can spell disaster and even death. With an eye to understanding the scale of the dangers involved and keeping traffic controllers safe at work, we have a closer look at road fatalities in Australia.

The road toll in Australia is trending upward.
The road toll in Australia is trending upward.

Death toll rises on Australian roads

Australia has a reasonably low road toll by international standards, but a worrying trend has emerged that may change that. From January 2015 through to December 2016, the road toll per month has risen from around 95 to almost 115, according to the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Happily, we saw a slight dip again in January, but this increase is still worrying to say the least. 

The risk to traffic controllers

Keeping your staff safe and your operation running smoothly should be the absolute priority.

A rising road toll may indicate that your average traffic controller's everyday job is becoming slightly more dangerous. Either way, statistics around road traffic controller deaths are alarming. A Safe Work Australia report on accidents involving trucks shows that road traffic controllers were at the top of the list when it came to workers killed in road accidents. 

Traffic controller fatalities aren't a subject on which detailed statistics are available, but the above fact proves that there is a safety problem in the profession. 

Get up-to-date, professional training

Keeping your staff safe and your operation running smoothly should be the absolute priority whenever traffic control is required. Proper work health and safety training is the key to this, as with the right knowledge and correct safety procedures in place, the likelihood of accidents can be severely reduced.

To get you and your staff started on the road towards a safer workplace, enrol online for Alertforce's Traffic Control Training Course. We offer nationally registered courses, a 30-day money back guarantee and a track record that includes over 10,000 happy customers. 

How to spot a confined workspace: WHS basics

Solid work health and safety (WHS) practice is imperative to the success of any organisation. An unsafe workplace puts employees at risk, compromises their ability to carry out everyday tasks and makes the company vulnerable to financial loss.

The first step towards making your workplace safer is identifying hazards. Seeing as confined spaces are present in so many Australian workplaces, let's have a look at how you can identify a space that qualifies and who's responsible for managing the risks involved. 

Spotting a confined space is the first step towards managing its risk.
Spotting a confined space is the first step towards managing risk.

What's the definition of a confined space?

SafeWork NSW offers a succinct definition of a confined space in their code of practice. The following are listed as identifiers of confined spaces:

  • The space is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person; 
  • Is, or is designed to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space; 
  • Is likely to be a risk to safety from an atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level; and
  • From airborne contaminants, including airborne gases, as well as dusts fire, explosion, or engulfment.

Identifying these spaces and putting procedures in place will make your workplace safer, and could even save someone's life. Only 15 per cent of workplaces that suffer confined space fatalities have confined spaces procedures in place, so taking the right steps will certainly make a difference.

Who has health and safety duties in these spaces?

Only 15 per cent of workplaces that suffer confined space fatalities have confined spaces procedures in place.

Knowing who's responsible for worker safety makes the process of confined spaces training and the introduction of procedures straightforward. According to SafeWork NSW the person who's conducting the business (i.e the owner, or CEO) has the primary duty under WHS law. This means that it's their responsibility to ensure procedures are in place, and that workers are adequately trained and safe. 

The officers or managers in a business are also obliged to excercise due diligence to ensure that their workspace complies with all relevant laws. Lastly the employee or the worker has the responsibility to take reasonable care, comply with safety instructions and of course follow any training they've had. 

As you can see, the responsibility for implementing proper work health and safety runs from the top to the bottom of any organisation. To protect your employees, your bottom line and your business, sign up for Alertforce's nationally recognised confined spaces training today. 

What could traffic control training do for you?

If you're considering a career in traffic management, work health and safety or road works, a traffic control training course could take your job prospects to the next level. It can be a tough industry to crack thanks to relatively high average pay and the abundance of work available, but the right training could make you a far more attractive applicant. 

In this article we have a look at how a traffic control course could help you in your job search, and in staying safe no matter what roads you're working on. 

The course

Alertforce offers a comprehensive Roads and Maritime Services approved training course ideal for most traffic control professionals. It's nationally recognised and includes two days of theory training and one day of practical training, as well as several assessments. 

Could your new career be in traffic control?
Could your new career be in traffic control?

The full course will cover working safely and following procedures, communication in the workplace, controlling traffic and implementing a traffic management plan. Alertforce stands by the quality of every course we deliver.

Our courses also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee and are generally 100 per cent tax deductible – a fact that will go far towards helping you to offset the costs involved. 

The pay

Due to the large amount of construction and roadwork projects underway in Australia at any given time, traffic controllers are generally in high demand. 

We can't guarantee you'll find a job after completing one of our traffic control courses, but we can promised that with this qualification you'll be considered a more attractive candidate.

Giving yourself an edge over the competition is always a good idea, no matter what profession you're working in. 

If you do manage to find a job, how much can you expect to be paid on average?

According to national job search site, adzuna, the average pay for their listed traffic controller positions sat at $62,814 at time time of writing. That's a lot of money after less than a week of training.

The job

Due to the large amount of construction and roadwork projects underway in Australia at any given time, traffic controllers are generally in high demand.

As a road safety worker, you'll be in charge of minimising risks with traffic movement, controlling traffic in a professional manner, managing traffic in emergencies and managing delays. This will include the use of a two-way radio, and working with a diverse and interesting range of people from all walks of life. 

If you're looking for the next step in your career, think outside the box and consider traffic control. Get in touch with Alertforce for more information, and to get the ball rolling on securing your new vocation. 

6 absolutely mind-boggling asbestos facts

Asbestos has been called the silent killer, and with good reason. A shocking amount of people have had their health compromised by exposure to this menacing fiber, and these numbers are only expected to increase.

With an eye to keeping you and your employees safe at work, and revealing the shocking scale of asbestos exposure in Australia, we've put together six mind-boggling asbestos facts.

1. Australia has one of the highest mesothelioma death rates in the world

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer that is thought to be caused mainly by exposure to asbestos. Shockingly, here in Australia we have the second highest death rate in the world behind only the UK – according to the Mesothelioma Centre, 10,000 people have died from the disease since the early 1980s.

Asbestos is a dangerous material that can be hard to spot.
Asbestos is a dangerous material that can be hard to spot.

The most recent statistics also show that 641 people died from mesothelioma in 2014 alone. These tragic facts show that the threat is very real here in Australia, and that knowing how to handle asbestos is essential for those working in at-risk professions, such as electricians, builders and plumbers.

2. In most mesothelioma cases there was exposure to asbestos

While it was never really in doubt, these statistics from the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health prove that mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Their data says that 88 per cent of mesothelioma cases reported exposure to asbestos at some point in their lives.

What's also worrying is that most cases seem to come from Australia's two most populous states – NSW and Victoria. There's not a shadow of a doubt that asbestos is dangerous, so it's essential to take steps to make sure you, your employees, and your colleagues are always safe.

3. Deaths are expected to increase

Sadly we haven't even seen the beginning of the shocking affects that asbestos exposure is going to have on Australia's public. The Mesothelioma Centre reports that deaths are expected to number around 25,000 from the illness over the next four decades.

That's 2.5 times the estimated deaths since 1980, and shows in some cases symptoms can be delayed by years or even decades.

4. 50 per cent of asbestos claims are against one company

Perhaps the most frightening of all asbestos facts is that it's estimated to be present in one of three Australian homes.

According to specialist law firm Henry Carus Associates, almost half of asbestos-related claims in Australia's history have been leveled at one organisation – James Hardie, an Australian building materials company.

This firm discovered asbestos early on and rose to become Australia's largest producer of the material. They owned mines throughout Australia and Zimbabwe to source raw products, and sold it to construction companies to install in thousands of buildings in Australia.

After court proceedings, the company has been mandated to pay 35 per cent of its operating income to ex-employees and claimants and expect to lose over $1.8 billion in the next 30 years.

If anything, this is a cautionary tale of the importance of protecting your employees as well as the potential ramifications of not doing so.

5. One in three homes contains asbestos

Perhaps the most frightening of all asbestos facts is that it's estimated to be present in one of three Australian homes. This means it could be in the walls of your home, or in one of the rental properties you own.

Correct work health and safety practices are essential in reducing the risks of asbestos exposure.
Correct work health and safety practices are essential in reducing the risks of asbestos exposure.

It's usually not dangerous if left untouched but it's essential that you ensure you take the necessary care if you do happen to disturb it. Make sure that any builders, electricians and other labourers that you hire know what they're doing before allowing them to work on your home as your safety could be at stake.

6. Most exposures occur in the workplace

It's not surprising that most exposures to asbestos occur in the workplace. We're not talking about office workers, but labourers who often disturb the structure of properties where asbestos may be hiding.

The Mesothelioma Centre describes the following professions as high risk – it's essential to ensure that you and your colleagues have had proper training in asbestos identification and handling if you are listed below:

  • Construction.
  • Carpentry.
  • Plumbing.
  • Electrical engineering.
  • Insulation workers.
  • Shipbuilding.

If you or your employees are not fully trained, the consequences could be dire. Keep yourself, your employees and your business safe by signing up to an Alertforce Asbestos removal course today.

4 simple ways to take the danger out of working in confined spaces

 

It’s always best to completely avoid entering confined spaces in the workplace, but the fact is sometimes that’s not possible. Whether you’re sliding underneath the floorboards to tighten a leaking pipe, or cleaning a tank, sometimes getting into a tight spot is unavoidable.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still be safe though. Every workplace that sends workers into these spaces should have a best practice policy and safety procedures that all employees are made aware of. That way you can minimise the chances of anything going wrong, but also react better in the event that something does.

To help make sure you and your workplace are safe for the rest of 2017, we’ve put together a few basic tips for working in confined spaces.

If your gear isn't up to scratch, accidents could happen.
If your gear isn’t up to scratch, accidents could happen.

1. Identify the risk first

If you’re not aware of the danger presented by entering a space, it’s impossible to mitigate any risks or prevent any accidents that may occur. The first step is always to be aware, and to make sure that all workers are too.

Safework Australia recommends asking the following questions when identifying the risks of entering a space:

  • Is the space partially enclosed?
  • Is the space not designed to be occupied by a person?
  • Is the space designed to be at normal atmospheric temperature while a person is inside?
  • Is the space likely to present risk from any of the following: Unsafe oxygen level, airborne contaminants or gases, engulfment by liquid or solid.

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be necessary to take precautions when entering the space. Read on for a few tips to make sure that you can do so safely.

2. Use the Buddy system

“One of the key planks in efforts to reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the workplace is adequate training in occupational health and safety.”

Many health and safety practitioners recommend using the buddy system when workers enter a confined space. It’s a simple system that requires a second worker to always be present when the first is working in such an area.

The buddy should always stay in contact with the worker, either visually or via phone or radio.

That way, if the worker breaths in an airborne contaminant, becomes stuck, or otherwise runs into trouble, the buddy can quickly assess the situation and either act to help or call emergency services.

3. Proper equipment

If the space you’re working in requires ventilators, harnesses, or any other such equipment, it’s essential that you inspect it before entering and maintain it to the highest standards. Nothing spells trouble when you’re stuck in a small space more then equipment failure.

Making equipment inspection mandatory before every entry, and performing company-wide inspections on a regular basis will help ensure that your gear can be relied upon. A few hours a month could be all it takes to avoid a disaster.

Are you aware of the risks of working in a confined space?
Are you aware of the risks of working in a confined space?

4. Correct training

In the Australian Social Trends report, the Australia Bureau of Statistics is very clear about the importance of training:

“One of the key planks in efforts to reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the workplace is adequate training in occupational health and safety.”

This is particularly true of workers operating in confined spaces, where the risks can be far more extreme, especially if they’re not correctly managed. Here at Alertforce we provide high quality, nationally recognised courses covering safety in confined spaces.

To ensure the safety of your workers and protect your business, register online today for a quick but comprehensive one-day course.

Who’s most at risk of asbestos related disease?

Your average Australian worker wont be able to easily spot asbestos. Perhaps that's why almost 10,000 Australians have succumbed to mesothelioma (a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos) since the 1980s.

If it's not properly identified, handled and disposed of,asbestos could affect you or your employees . To help make sure this doesn't happen, we've put together a list of professions most at risk of asbestos exposure, and provided an easy method to safeguard your workplace.

Are your workers clued in on asbestos?
Are your workers clued on on asbestos?

The professions most at risk of asbestos related disease

With the help of a 2014 Safe Work Australia report we've uncovered the professions that are most at risk of claiming compensation due to the effects of asbestos exposure. They are as follows:

  • Carpentry and joinery trades persons.
  • Construction and plumber's assistants.
  • Electricians.
  • Freight and furniture handlers.
  • Metal fitters and machinists.
  • Sea transport professionals.

Shockingly, 73 per cent of claims over asbestos related health issues came from tradespeople and related workers such as the ones listed above. If your business fits into any of these categories, or if you think you could be affected by asbestos, take action quickly to ensure that you and your workers remain safe.

How long does it take to be affected?

Shockingly, 73 per cent of claims over asbestos related health issues came from tradespeople.

It can take months, years or even decades for the healtheffects of asbestos to show. Less serious afflictions such as benign pleural disease show up after seven years, and require little more than regular check-ups to treat.

More serious diseases such as asbestosis or lung cancer are associated with heavier exposure to asbestos, and can arise between 10 and 20 years afterwards. Most ominous of all the asbestos afflictions is mesothelioma. This can be caused by light exposure to the material and can take up to 20 or 40 years to materialise.

Putting yourself and your employees at risk is simply not worth it and should be avoided at all costs.

Training can help to keep you and your workers safe

All it takes to protect yourself and your employees against asbestos exposure is the right training and knowledge. Here at Alertforce we offer a range of courses suitable for everyone from casual labourers to asbestos removal professionals.

All our courses are nationally recognised and of the highest quality – so book a course today to start protecting yourself and your employees against asbestos.

Five reasons confined spaces training is worth your time and money

 

Labourers in Australia will generally accept some level of danger in their work. A great deal of this risk often comes from working in places where humans aren’t intended to be – confined spaces which often have poor ventilation allowing hazardous atmospheres to quickly develop.

As a business owner, or a worker, it’s near impossible to make your workplace 100 per cent safe. But with confined spaces training, you can go a great way towards ensuring no nasty accidents occur at work. Here are five reasons why doing so is worth your time and money.

There's more than you may think to safety in confined spaces.
There’s more than you may think to safety in confined spaces.

1. It’s not just the worker’s responsibility

The onus for providing a safe workplace doesn’t just fall on the workers. When it comes to working in confined spaces, responsibility is spread across these four parties according to Safe Work Australia:

  • The person conducting the business or undertaking has the primary duty under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act to ensure the safety of workers.
  • The designers of equipment and structures have a responsibility to limit the need for entry into confined spaces.
  • Company directors and officials must exercise due diligence to ensure the company complies with WHS laws.
  • Workers must take reasonable care.

2. Your safety is at risk

The fact is, when working in certain environments, your life and wellbeing are at risk. Safe Work Australia’s statistics show that this is true, as tragically 14 people have already died in workplace accidents this year as of February 10.

Unfortunately accidents happen, and sometimes they’re unavoidable, but training staff on best work health and safety practices can help to reduce their likelihood.

3. Most accidents in confined spaces occur due to lack of training

A shocking 92 per cent of confined space fatalities in workplaces in Western Australia were due to inadequate training.

Another tragic fact is that most workplace deaths in confined spaces occur because of a lack of training and knowledge.

This information is from a Fire and Safety Australia report which states that a shocking 92 per cent of confined space fatalities in workplaces in Western Australia were due to inadequate training.

A staggering 90 per cent of these also listed ‘inadequate supervisor knowledge and supervision’ as a factor in the death. These are saddening figures that elucidate the importance of proper training and education in the workplace to keep workers safe.

4. Save money in the long run

As a business owner, your workers’ safety, and staying profitable should always be two of your most important priorities. Luckily they’re not mutually exclusive, and by taking great care to ensure that your workers operate in a safe environment, you’ll protect your profits.

Better workplace safety training could save you money.
Better workplace safety training could save you money.

Accidents cost money, in sick leave and even payouts and court costs if the worst happens. Avoid this completely by keeping your workers safe at all times by providing them with a compliant workplace and all the training necessary.

5. Give yourself peace of mind

The average business owner has a million and one things to do in a day. Cross worrying about your workers’ safety off the list by enrolling them in nationally recognised confined spaces training with Alert Force.

All of our courses are in line with the most recent legislation, and we can teach your employees all they need to know about safety in a confined space during a comprehensive one or two-day course.

Get in touch today to find out more about how we can make your workplace a safe one.

Which health and safety practices are often overlooked?

 

Good OHS practices have always been of paramount importance in the workplace. If they’re followed out to the letter, the chances of an accident or injury at work are lessened, but it’s when we become neglectful or overlook certain factors that problems may arise.

Here are three OHS practices that may not seem as pressing as the more obvious ones, but are no less important to keep a close eye on.

1. Correct lifting technique

Manual workers should be instructed on their very first day on the job how to correctly lift an object, no matter how large or small. Lifting with the bigger muscles of the legs, rather than the much weaker ones in the back, is a mantra drilled into employees from the start, so much so that workers may become desensitised to the advice – and not follow it.

One in three workplace injuries is caused by manual handling mistakes.

Additionally, workers may feel embarrassed about asking for help in lifting something that is far too heavy for one person, which can sometimes result in serious injury. According to the Victorian government’s Better Health Channel, one in three workplace injuries is caused by manual handling mistakes – so making sure correct technique is used is vital.

2. Staying hydrated at work

An article appearing in Safety Culture states that a worker who isn’t adequately hydrated is much more likely to improperly handle tools, chemicals or other workplace items – and be less aware of their surroundings.

A worker who isn’t adequately hydrated is much more likely to improperly handle tools, chemicals or other workplace items.

What’s more, a dehydrated employee is at much greater risk of heat stroke or cardiac complications, especially if working outside under the hot Australian sun. It’s not just the dehydrated employee who could fall victim to an injury or accident – if he or she is working in a team, those workers could be in danger, too. The classic 8×8 rule should apply here – eight 8oz glasses of water a day should provide ample hydration. That’s around 235 millilitres.

3. Work-related stress

A study carried out by the University of Wollongong found that 65.1 per cent of Australian employees reported that they were stressed to a ‘moderate to high’ level, and this largely silent condition can be the most dangerous unnoticed safety hazard of them all.

Any workplace can be a stressful one, including restaurants, building sites and offices.
Any workplace can be a stressful one, including restaurants, building sites and offices.

Many factors can contribute to workplace stress – an overly high workload, bullying bosses or the daily prospect of dealing with angry clients, and stress can often lead serious medical conditions, including depression. Hence, it’s important that employees are given every opportunity to talk through their issues, and seek professional help if need be.

Be sure to get in touch with the expert team at AlertForce to find out more about our range of accredited OHS courses.

The changing face of work health and safety requirements

Work Health and Safety is an industry in a constant state of flux as it reacts to changes in the business environment and Australian and state law. As a result, staying up to the minute on the current state of WHS in Australia can be challenging. Fall behind and you risk not complying with industry standards, and violating state laws – perhaps even endangering employees.

WHS practitioners also risk advising their clients or employers incorrectly, a mistake which could have high stakes in this industry! We've had a look at the state of change in the WHS industry, and explored the reasons why it's so essential to keep up to date with health and safety training courtesy of Alert Force. Read on to find out more.

WHS Harmonisation

Harmonisation is an initiative by Safe Work Australia that aims to standardise work health and safety legislation across all states and territories. The reason for this is obvious – with one simple and clear set of laws and guidelines instead of several, a national standard can be set simplifying WHS for both businesses and practitioners.

Are you up to date on the current state of WHS?
Are you up to date on the current state of WHS?

This will ensure that all Australian workers have a minimum standard of WHS no matter where they work. it will also simplify the operations of companies working across several territories as they will only have to adhere to one set of rules.

Safe at Work also proposes that harmonisation will make government provision of WHS regulation more efficient, while reducing the incidence of death, injury and disease in the work place. It's clear then that this initiative will be beneficial for you in the long run, but what does it mean right now?

Recent law changes

WHS may see rapid change across all states in the near future.

Most states have implemented some form of legislation to adhere to the harmonisation initiative. Changes are also expected soon in South Australia where a review is currently underway to assess WHS legislation in the state and adhere even closer to the Safe Work harmonisation model.

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Marie Boland commented on the model in a recent Safety Culture media release:

"The harmonised laws aim to provide workers with the same standard of health and safety protection regardless of whether they work – here in South Australia or interstate and regardless of the work they do."

Safework NSW also updated the following codes of practice in September in order to fit the SafeWork national model:

  • Hazardous manual tasks.
  • How to manage and control asbestos in the workplace.
  • How to safely remove asbestos.
  • Welding processes.
  • Managing electrical risks in the workplace.
  • Demolition work.

It's clear then that WHS may see rapid change across all states in the near future and that it's essential to keep your finger on the pulse to avoid missing a beat.

The codes of practice governing WHS have recently changed in NSW.
The codes of practice governing WHS have recently changed in NSW.

Make sure you're up to date

Considering the rate that these changes are being made, it's understandable that some businesses and WHS practitioners may have fallen behind. Alert Force provides an easy solution to this problem, offering a large selection of professionally taught WHS courses.

Practitioners can brush up on NSW and national legislation and gain industry qualification through the diploma in WHS. This is an essential qualification for those looking to establish a career in WHS and will include information on the legislation around health and safety.

Businesses can also improve their WHS compliance by sending key employees to complete short courses with Alert Force. We provide a number of courses, which could be the key to decreasing your businesses costs, avoiding fines and legal trouble and of course keeping your valued employees safe.

Asbestos in your Homes: A Hidden Danger to Sydney

A hidden danger to Sydney householders and tradespeople

Fatal Attraction

The presence of asbestos is unfortunately a common occurrence in many Sydney homes. The dangers of asbestos, material that potentially contains asbestos and the steps that you should be taking to deal with asbestos risks remain less well known among the general public. 

November is asbestos awareness month. ‘Get to know Asbestos this November’ aims to educate Australians about the dangers of asbestos in and around homes because Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world.

Asbestos, once claimed to be the world’s miracle fibre and named from the ancient Greek word for ”inextinguishable” is cheap, strong and flexible, making it the perfect material for more than 3000 products, including insulation, vinyl tiles, carpet underlay, brake linings, roof tiles and cement sheeting (fibro).

When asbestos fibres are mixed with other materials, it produces what is called an asbestos containing material. At the time, it was easily mined and then combined to produce these products, and Australia loved it.  Now, for good reason, it’s called the “Devils Dust”.

The do-it-yourself (DIY) home renovator phenomenon has exploded over the last 15 or so years presenting a new wave of asbestos related concerns. While there is a move for all home renovators to have their properties assessed prior to renovations, we are not quite there yet.

With Sydney’s love affair with renovations and DIY projects, there is an increased danger that asbestos will continue to claim and effect more lives, as unsuspecting tradespeople and homeowners replace floors, walls, ceilings and out-houses containing asbestos.

Asbestos and your Health

MesotheliomaBreathing in asbestos fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number of fibres inhaled, while the risk of lung cancer from inhaling asbestos fibres is also greater if you smoke.

People who suffer health problems from exposure to asbestos usually do not experience symptoms until many years later. Asbestos related diseases can take many years to develop. Most diseases will not become apparent for at least 10 years after exposure to asbestos and more commonly 15-20 years. Some diseases, such as mesothelioma, may take up to 40 or more years to develop.

Malignant mesothelioma is the most common of the asbestos-related diseases monitored in Australia. A total of 11,667 people were newly diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in Australia between 1982 and 2009, with men making up 85% of all cases. Since 2003, approximately 600 cases of newly diagnosed malignant mesothelioma cases have been reported each year.

A common story

The everyday humble redbrick house built in Sydney before 1987 may, without your knowledge, potentially contain asbestos. For instance, there could be asbestos cladding on the kitchen walls behind cupboards and tiles, asbestos in the fibro cement sheets on the walls of your shed, under the eaves, or in your drainage.

While you may very well be living with materials containing asbestos, your home may have a low health risk as the asbestos is “contained” (painted and sealed) and poses limited threat, unless disturbed.

It is important to recognise however, that any materials containing asbestos that has been exposed to fire or is weathered, smashed and crumbles, is known as Friable Asbestos, and must be inspected by a licensed assessor before any work commences as there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres.

Managing Asbestos – Do Not Disturb

Asbestos can release fibres into the air when disturbed. It is particularly prevalent during the renovation and demolition of buildings containing asbestos, and when there is any direct impact action on the asbestos material, such as drilling, cutting, brushing, grinding, sanding, breaking, smashing, blasting with water or compressed air.

It is not always possible to detect asbestos just by looking at it. The best way to identify asbestos is by having an inspection performed by a licensed asbestos assessor, who will be able to recommend safe ways of dealing with the risks and asbestos removal. If unsure whether a material contains asbestos, the law requires you to treat it as though it does.

Tradespeople and DIY’ers

If you find asbestos in your place of work or residence (or think you have), do not disturb it. Spray unpainted or exposed asbestos with a fine mist of wood glue (PVA glue) and water (10% PVA glue) and arrange an inspection.  Remember to wear an appropriate respirator (P2 or P3 rated respirator), as ordinary dust masks do not effectively prevent the inhalation of asbestos fibres.

Tradies and DIY’ers are generally unaware of the dangers of asbestos contamination and how to contain or remove asbestos properly. It is recommended before tradies and DIY’ers commence a renovation or demolition, that they appoint a competent asbestos assessor or hygienist to assess the property and complete an Asbestos Removal Control Plan.

For more information on safely managing asbestos, contact SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50.

You can find a licensed asbestos assessor, who undertakes air monitoring, clearance inspections, or issues clearance certificates for removal of asbestos, by selecting ‘Licensed asbestos assessor’ on the SafeWork NSW website. The cost of proactively doing something may prove to be lifesaving. 

If material contaminated with asbestos is to be removed, it must be sealed within a container, which is decontaminated and labelled to indicate the presence of the asbestos and disposed of at a licensed disposal facility as soon as is practicable. Asbestos waste must be disposed of at a landfill site that can lawfully receive this waste. Check with your local council or landfill operator first.

It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in domestic garbage bins.

It is also illegal to re-use, recycle or illegally dump asbestos products or asbestos contaminated waste. Further information on decontamination and asbestos waste disposal is available in the Code of Practice: How to Safely Remove Asbestos.

Education and Training

Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that are registered by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) and are an approved asbestos RTO’s provide nationally recognised asbestos education and training.  You can find a list of approved RTO’s on the SafeWork NSW website.

While asbestos awareness and removal courses are available to tradespeople and DIY’ers, the uptake is low. It is recommended all tradespersons and DIY’ers dealing with asbestos and renovations, complete a nationally recognised asbestos course.

More Information

Asbestos fibres may be present in a number of products found in the home. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos fibres. Where tradespeople and householders decide to undertake work where asbestos is, or may be present, a number of guides provide useful information to minimise the risk. These can be found as follows:

SafeWork NSW 13 10 50   www.safework.nsw.gov.au

Asbestos Education Committee www.asbestosawareness.com.au

Environment Protection Authority 13 15 55 www.environment.nsw.gov.au

4 ways better health and safety can improve your construction business

 

The construction industry has profited immensely from Australia’s property boom. Australian Industry Group research shows that it has grown to include over 330,000 businesses and now produces almost 8 per cent of our GDP.

In this time of prosperity the aim for your business should be to differentiate yourself from your competitors – which can be a difficult task with so many of them. The best place to start could be improving your work health and safety practice (WHS). Alert Force provides a number of short courses that will make sure your employees always follow best practice when on-site.

Here are just four examples of how better work health and safety could improve your business.

1. Reducing costs

Accidents at work cost money. Whether it’s in legal fees, medical bills, damage to equipment or just lost time, the amount can start to build if you’re not taking health and safety into account.

An injury at work could cost your business alot of money.

In fact, Safe Work Australia data reveals that there is on average 35 serious injury compensation claims in the construction industry every day. That’s almost 36,000 a year. If your employees aren’t following best health and safety practice on the work-site, they’re risking decreased productivity, cost to the business and of course personal injury.

Poor training is often the cause of this. To make sure that your business doesn’t suffer and that your employees know better enrol them in a short construction safety course with Alert force.

2. Improving employee retention

There is on average 35 serious injury compensation claims in the construction industry every day.

The results of last year’s Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) report on employee turnover showed the importance of employee retention in running a profitable business.

The average turnover of businesses surveyed was 16 per cent per annum, and over half believed that high turnover had a negative impact on the profits.

Keeping your employees happy is obviously key to retaining them. A prominent psychological theory ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ suggests that safety is one of the most important basic needs a work environment must satisfy.

Without it employees will be unhappy, turnover will be high and profits will suffer.

Interestingly, 31.67 per cent of those surveyed in the aforementioned AHRI report also said that offering training and development opportunities was the most effective method of decreasing employee turnover.

3. Avoid fines and legal action

In 2014 a Sydney construction company and it’s director were fined $425,000 and $85,500 respectively, for poor work health and safety practice. This sad case resulted in the death of a 54 year old brick layer and was the second largest WHS fine in NSW history.

The tragic loss of life far outweighed the fines in this case, but it’s an example that illustrates the financial impact that a WHS fine can have on your business. Ensuring your employees are always safe when they’re at work will not only reduce their chance of injury or death, but it will eliminate the chance of a hefty fine emptying your bank accounts.

A safe workplace is a productive workplace.
A safe workplace is a productive workplace.

4. Making a good impression

The benefits of being safe at work are many, but making a good impression on clients and the public has to be one of the best. With employees who are untrained in WHS best-practice, you can’t be sure that your clients wont catch them cutting corners unsafely or taking risks. This could result in complaints from your clients or start to establish a negative reputation for you and your firm.

In business reputation is everything, so don’t risk yours by not training your employees to be safe. Get in touch with Alert Force today to find out more about or WHS training courses and how they could benefit your business.

What does the Dreamworld tragedy mean for the future of the Australian theme park industry?

The recent tragedy at the Gold Coast's Dreamworld theme park, in which four people lost their lives on the Thunder River Rapids ride, has cast a stark spotlight on health and safety standards not only at Dreamworld, but at theme parks across Australia. Though the full details of the accident have not yet been fully disclosed, the incident has sent shock waves across the resort industry, with many doubting whether Dreamworld can fully recover.

Dreamworld isn't just any run-of-the-mill theme park. It's Australia's biggest, with many of the tallest and fastest rides in the country calling the resort home. During 2014, over 2 million thrill -seekers passed through the gates of sister parks Dreamworld, WhiteWater World and the SkyPoint Climb, with owner Ardent Leisure stating that the combined resorts earned a total of $100.1 million in 2014, an increase of 3.1 per cent from the year previous.

The Dreamworld incident has sent shock waves across the resort industry, with many doubting whether Dreamworld can fully recover.

An nightmare at Dreamworld

You'd be forgiven for thinking that such a profitable, high-profile theme park would have only the highest of safety standards in place. However, it appears that Dreamworld has missed the mark not only on this fatal occasion, but on several others, too.

Speaking to the Guardian Australia, Ben Swan, Queensland secretary of the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) said that there had been multiple concerns raised about the park over the past 18 months, none of which were addressed in any great detail. For example, a complaint lodged way back in October 2012 stated that several of the park's rides desperately needed attention, with rust notably visible and even falling into pools below.

Large leaks, cracks and chips were spotted on slides, with tape used to mask the damage. Perhaps even more alarmingly, Queensland licence stickers could be seen, which would be reassuring were they not out of date. This only raised questions as to when the rides were last professionally inspected.

Who's liable? 

It appears, then, as though the recent tragedy really was an accident waiting to happen. Indeed, a Brisbane lawyer has told ABC News that she believes that the Thunder River Rapids ride wasn't a freak occurrence. So, what was it?

"Cases like this generally aren't just freak accidents, it's generally a series of events or something has actually gone wrong to result in such a significant catastrophic event," said Alison Barrett.

"If Dreamworld is prosecuted, the highest penalty is up to $3 million for a corporation. So Dreamworld itself, and then the directors themselves can also be held personally liable and face up to five years in jail and other hefty penalties," she warned.

Dreamworld, though, have countered, stating that the ride underwent its mechanical and structural safety engineering inspection just one month ago.

The safety of theme park rides has been called into question after the Dreamworld tragedy.
The safety of theme park rides has been called into question after the Dreamworld tragedy.

What happens next?

Regardless of who or what was actually to blame for the deaths of four people at Dreamworld, the Queensland government has announced that it is in the process of launching a broad-ranging safety audit of all of the state's theme parks, beginning with Dreamworld itself. Additionally, the government is also preparing to launch a review of all WHS processes in the state.

"This is about protecting visitors to our theme parks and restoring public confidence in Queensland's prime tourism assets ahead of the busy Christmas holiday season," said Queensland Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace. All of Queensland's theme parks are set to be thoroughly inspected before the end of November. Though the true causes of what happened at Dreamworld have yet to be determined, it's sure to shake the industry to its core.

At AlertForce, courses in work health and safety have always been at the very core of our offering. To help prevent terrible tragedies such as the one at Dreamworld, the industry is going to need skilled, trained WHS professionals to ensure such an awful accident never occurs again. With a qualification from AlertForce, you can lend a hand in keeping the general public safe. Be sure to contact our expert team to find out more.

Why should you study the Diploma of Quality Auditing?

In every professional industry across Australia, quality audits are a vital tool for recording and addressing a broad range of factors. These could include ensuring that all legal responsibilities are adhered to, checking a firm's finances are in order, and confirming that stock take figures are accurate, amongst a raft of other tasks.

Indeed, a quality auditor requires a host of transferable skills needed to get the job done effectively – and to really make a mark on the field, they'll need the right qualifications under their belt. This is where AlertForce comes in: Our Diploma of Quality Auditing is specially designed for those looking to get ahead in this intriguing field. Here's what the course involves, and how it can benefit you.

Auditing essentials

It doesn't matter in which industry you're aiming to become an auditor, whether it's construction, education, finance or food. The core set of skills you'll need remain the same, which is why with a Diploma of Quality Auditing, you'll be putting yourself at the front of the queue when hunting for a job.  

With a Diploma of Quality Auditing, you'll be putting yourself at the front of the queue when hunting for a job.

Auditing isn't just about checking whether or not figures have been entered correctly – the profession delves far deeper than that. With the Diploma of Quality Auditing on your C.V., you'll be qualified in the very latest and greatest auditing methods, analysing current work health and safety standards, risk management and establishing action plans to iron out any problems that arise from the audit result.

You'll learn about the auditing process from start to finish, including how to begin and lead an audit, report on it, and manage any potential risk that could occur. Additionally, you'll discover how to manage people performance, encourage further improvement and how to maximise employee efficiency.

What to expect at AlertForce

When you enrol in the Diploma of Quality Auditing at AlertForce, you'll have the option of either learning on a face-to-face basis over a six-month duration, or logging into a webinar. It's even possible to mix up the two, depending upon your learning preferences. Regardless of which option you choose, your trainer will be sure to catch up with you on a weekly basis to find out how you are getting along. This is done via an online webinar.

Because the Diploma of Quality covers so much ground in its versatility, it's an excellent qualification to hold regardless of your experience. Perhaps you're looking to get your foot in the door within the world of auditing, or maybe you've built up several years of knowledge in the industry and would like to formalise your experience.

Do you have the keen eye it takes to become an auditor?
Do you have the keen eye it takes to become an auditor?

Indeed, at AlertForce, we realise that some of our students are at different knowledge and experience levels when they begins their courses, which is why we offer Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)

In short, RPL can allow you to complete the course more quickly, as you can potentially move through topics that you already have a good understanding of at a faster pace. Of course, this is of big benefit to those who already work in the industry and are looking to take the next step up the career ladder, so be sure to find out if you are eligible for RPL before you begin the course.

Money matters

If you're worried about how you can pay the course fees for the Diploma of Quality Auditing, don't be. As an accredited provider of a VET FEE-HELP approved course, you may be eligible to take advantage of this loan, which can cover the cost of the fee, or a portion of it, depending on how much you want to borrow. Don't let such things as money get in the way of your educational and professional development – once you have your qualification, you won't regret the possibilities and opportunities it grants you.

Be sure to contact the team at AlertForce to find out more about the Diploma of Quality Auditing.

What is VET FEE-HELP, and how can it assist you?

At AlertForce, we believe that money should never become a roadblock between a potential student and their education. Everyone deserves a shot at bettering their C.V. and in turn, their career prospects, which is why we're pleased to offer VET FEE-HELP on a number of our courses. This government initiative is designed to help more people follow and achieve their dreams in education. In this article, we're going to take a look at just what VET FEE-HELP is, whether or not you might be eligible, and a few other frequently asked questions about the scheme.

Just what is VET FEE-HELP?

In simple terms, VET FEE-HELP is a loan designed to help students pay for certain VET (Vocational Education and Training) courses. Unlike a traditional student loan, VET FEE-HELP can only be used to cover the cost of the course. This means that rent, food and other expenses must be paid for by other means.

You can use VET FEE-HELP to cover the entirety of your course fee, or just a portion of it.

However, VET FEE-HELP is still pretty flexible. You can use it to cover the entirety of your course fee, or just a portion of it, if you have a bit of cash stashed away and would prefer that route. Though there are certain limits with regards to how much you can borrow, in the majority of cases, most of the fee will be covered.  

Who is eligible for VET FEE-HELP?

Though VET FEE-HELP is not available to everyone, the government has ensured that it's relatively open to most, provided you meet certain criteria. First of all, you must be studying at an approved VET FEE-HELP provider, of which AlertForce is one. You'll also need to be an Australian citizen or hold a New Zealand Special Category Visa that meets long-term residency criteria. If you are in possession of the former, you must enrol in at least one unit of study towards your course, in Australia.

You're also eligible if you hold a permanent humanitarian visa and will be in Australia for the duration of your course. Additionally, you'll need to be studying an approved VET course, and must not have exceeded the FEE-HELP limit.

VET FEE-HELP is a great way to finance your course at AlertForce.
VET FEE-HELP is a great way to finance your course at AlertForce.

How much am I allowed to borrow?

As we head in 2017, the VET FEE-HELP limit has been raised by $1,490 to $100,879 for the majority of students, states the government's Study Assist website. You should always bear in mind, though, that this limit counts for a lifetime, and can never be reset or increased by making repayments as with other types of loan. The approved courses at AlertForce cost nowhere near in the six-figure region, so you should find that your VET FEE-HELP loan will easily cover the expense, leaving you to get on with the important stuff – getting that shiny qualification under your belt! 

With VET FEE-HELP, your repayments are calculated via the taxation system.

How do I pay back my loan?

Your VET FEE-HELP isn't the same as a loan you'd take out from a bank to buy a new car. With such a loan, you'd be paying back in monthly installments until the debt is settled. With VET FEE-HELP, your repayments are calculated via the taxation system, in that they are automatically deducted from your payslip once your earnings are above the compulsory repayment threshold. For the 2016/17 financial year, that threshold is $54,869, so until you earn more than this, you won't be paying a cent. The amount you repay each month will be determined by what you earn, from a minimum of 4 per cent, to a maximum of 8 per cent.  

Which AlertForce courses are VET FEE-HELP approved?

Two of our courses allow students to apply for a VET FEE-HELP loan: the Diploma of Work Health and Safety and the Diploma of Quality Auditing. You can find out more about our policies regarding VET FEE-HELP right here, or get in touch with our team for further guidance.   

Why the five-day Diploma of WHS isn’t worth your time

One of the most popular courses that AlertForce provides is the Diploma of Work Health and Safety. Lasting for a duration of six months, the Diploma of WHS teaches and hones the skills necessary to build a successful career in this important industry. As a broadly recognised, accredited qualification, the Diploma of WHS is a welcome addition to any professional's C.V., so much so that a truncated, five-day version of the course has been devised. 

As a broadly recognised, accredited qualification, the Diploma of WHS is a welcome addition to any professional's C.V.

However, we at AlertForce believe that this version of the course offers little value when compared to the six-month rendition, and there are a raft of reasons as to why. In this article, we're going to examine a few of them.  

1. It's nigh-on impossible to absorb all the necessary information in just five days 

On the full-length version of the course, there are a number of distinct modules that must be studied in order to gain a better understanding of the WHS world. These include managing and investigating WHS hazards, risks and incidents, learning about information systems and other safety measures and initiatives. Additionally, students will also discover how to develop, implement and maintain WHS management systems, amongst a host of other points.

As such, the six-month duration of the course allows enough time for students to take in the wealth of information coming their way, analysing and demonstrating their knowledge as they do so. On the five-day version, we don't believe that students have the necessary time to learn and absorb everything they need to. It's possible that tutors will be skirting over the facts and potentially missing out vital details. This spells bad news for both the students and the working world – if a WHS professional's skills are insufficient, he or she could be placing a lot of people at risk.

The full-length Diploma in WHS covers a wealth of topics in-depth, something the shorter course cannot.
The full-length Diploma in WHS covers a wealth of topics in-depth, something the shorter course cannot.

2. Registered training organisations should always have students' best interests at heart 

In these austere times, we know how financially squeezed many households, businesses and individuals really are. Therefore, it's only natural that students will be looking for the best deal when it comes to their education, and the shorter, intensive version of the Diploma in WHS simply doesn't offer good value. Priced at an average of $1,799, it's three times as expensive as the longer course, without offering a better outcome for the student.

We at AlertForce believe that all RTOs should have a duty of care towards their students, and not be purely financially motivated.

Sure, a student may get their qualification more quickly, but without having enough time to fully grasp the finer concepts of WHS, they'll come out poorer for the experience, both on a financial and educational level. To this end, we at AlertForce believe that all RTOs should have a duty of care towards their students, and not be purely financially motivated.

As a registered training organisation (RTO), AlertForce has always prided itself on delivering the finest possible education for its students, whilst at the same time offering value for money. We want our students to head out into the world of WHS equipped with the tools needed to succeed, and we don't think that the five-day Diploma of WHS will properly prepare them.

3. Though the certificate has the same name, it's not of the same quality 

Of course, the Diploma of WHS has the same name regardless of how it is taught. Even so, it's likely that a holder of this qualification will be asked, in an interview, whether they took the long or short version of the course, as this can have a big bearing on a potential employer's thinking. After all, WHS managers have a deep understanding of their industry, and they know what is quality, and what isn't.

Indeed, they are fully aware that the longer version of the Diploma of WHS course offers greater value and better prepares an individual for the world of work than does the shorter one. This puts applicants with the former in a far stronger position than those with the latter, so even if it does take you a little more time, the full version of the Diploma of WHS is by far the better option in the long run.

Managers value what the long course will teach you, and will understand that you've taken the time and effort to study in the greater detail that the extended time period allows. They will be more hesitant to employ a person that studied the five-day course, , knowing that they won't have had the time to study and digest the information properly. 

There is much to learn on the Diploma of WHS. Would you like to learn it all in five days?
There is much to learn on the Diploma of WHS. Would you like to learn it all in five days?

We can fully understand the appeal of the five-day diploma. Your certificate will be in the post within a short few weeks, and you can add it to your C.V. in preparation for that dream position. Certainly, it's time efficient, and must be very tempting for those looking for a quick fix. However, before you apply and hand over your hard-earned cash, remind yourself of this: if the five-day Diploma of WHS isn't valued by the industry, what's the overall point of having it under your belt?

Patience is a virtue, or so the old adage goes. If you have this virtue, your time and effort will be far better spent studying the full-length course, as this will stand you in much better stead when it comes to the rough-and tumble of the job market. Be sure to get in touch with the expert team at AlertForce to find out more about our courses – we look forward to hearing from you.

How is WHS in the agricultural industry shaping up?

No matter the industry, dangers in the workplace are always going to exist, especially those where insufficient WHS measures are in place. Even so, it's true that some sectors pose a greater risk than others, and agriculture is near the top of the danger tree, according to a new report published by Safe Work Australia.

Titled 'Work Health and Safety in the Agricultural Industry', the report lends an in-depth insight into injuries, fatalities and workers' compensation across the sector, with several worrying trends indicating that stricter WHS procedures need to be put into place to reverse some of the alarming statistics.

Farming figures

It's perhaps of little surprise that fatality rates in this industry are markedly higher than those recorded across other sectors, what with working at heights, heavy machinery, and uncertain terrain all contributing to the risk factor. Even so, there is some encouraging news – deaths are dwindling when examined over the long term, falling by almost a quarter (24 per cent) since 2003.

Fatality rates in this industry are markedly higher than those recorded across other sectors.

Additionally, the report also reveals that approximately three-quarters of deaths in the agriculture industry (76 per cent) involved vehicles, and around a third (32 per cent) of those who succumbed to fatal injuries were 65 years of age or older.

Such statistics may make for grim reading, but it also shows that there is much work to be done from a WHS perspective in this sector. At AlertForce, we offer a broad range of courses that can equip you with the tools needed to help improve WHS statistics in the agriculture industry. Whether you opt to study for the flagship Certificate IV in WHS, or one of our short courses such as fatigue management, each will lend you a greater insight into how to help prevent accidents and injuries in the workplace, agriculture or otherwise.

A focus on farming

Already, Safe Work Australia is attempting to do something about the damning statistics coming out of the agriculture industry. This October, inspectors from the New South Wales arm of the organisation are set to visit sheep and cattle farms across the state, as part of three-year initiative to improve safety standards in NSW.

Indeed, Safe Work Australia NSW granted some $18 million in safety rebates to farms statewide, and these visits are designed to see how efforts are coming along. Some 300 farmers are set to be surveyed in an effort to gain a better understanding of important safety factors, as well as to gain a snapshot of their ideas when it comes to safety on the farm.

"The visits and surveys are part of our efforts to develop sustainable improvements to safety, injury management, return to work and workers compensation so that rural workplaces are safer and more productive," said SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy.

Heavy, powerful machinery is used on a constant basis in the agricultural industry.
Heavy, powerful machinery is used on a constant basis in the agricultural industry.

"Farmers and farm workers have proven that they are well placed to develop work health and safety solutions and we want to learn how the project has helped them, as well as connect them with other products and services that can help them improve safety."

Why the stronger focus on New South Wales? Well, the agricultural industry remains one of NSW's riskiest sectors, with over 1,500 injuries recorded in the three years leading up to July 2010, costing some $41 million in compensation.

It just goes to show how much work there is still to do with regards to WHS not just in NSW, but the country over. Trained, qualified health and safety professionals will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, so get in touch with AlertForce today to help further your WHS career. 

3 reasons there will always be demand for health and safety professionals

Some 132 Australian employees have lost their lives at work so far this year, according to SafeWork Australia. Though this is six fewer deaths than at the same time in 2015, any number of preventable deaths is a stark reminder of the need for health and safety precautions in the workplace.

To help prevent accidents and injury in the workplace, health and safety laws are continually being put into place to ensure that Australia's employees can go about their day-to-day tasks with minimal risk. There are a myriad of reasons skilled, experienced health and safety professionals will always be in demand.

Accidents can happen just about anywhere, especially if insufficient WHS measures are in place.

1. There will always be WHS hazards to deal with

It doesn't matter whether it's a construction site, chemical laboratory or staid office: Accidents can happen just about anywhere, especially if insufficient WHS measures are in place. Different types of work present different types of hazards, such as the perils that can come with manual lifting, exposed electrical wires, toxic substances, working from heights and even trailing computer cables.

Indeed, back pain alone – often derived from incorrect sitting posture at a desk, or poor lifting form – is the most commonly recorded workplace injury. It's accountable for AU$4.8 billion in healthcare costs alone, with a quarter of those that suffer from it taking 10 or more days off in sick leave per year.

How can the risk of such injuries be minimised? It's deceptively simple. Systems of prevention are devised by WHS professionals, which helps prevent accidents from occurring in the first place. Stripped to a base level, many accidents in the workplace are preventable, requiring only the expertise, attention and care from a qualified professional to make the work-related arena as safe as possible. 

2. It's not only lives you'll be saving

During 2010/11, some 132,570 workers lodged compensation claims against their employer for a work-related injury or illness.

Of course, the core aim of WHS is to prevent injury and death in the workplace, but there are several other factors at play, too. Sound WHS principles in any given company can bolster business efficiency, especially when it comes to staff absence.

A 2014 SafeWork Australia study found that during 2010/11, some 132,570 workers lodged compensation claims against their employer for a work-related injury or illness. That's approximately 13.1 claims per 1,000 employees – compensation money and wages that could have been saved if the proper WHS procedures were in place.

Additionally, the same source states a quarter of serious claims needed the employee to take 12 or more weeks leave from work. Therefore, as well as compensating in the form of of sick pay and the claim itself, further expense would have been required to train another to fill the gap left by an extended absence.   

Construction sites will always need stringent WHS rules in place.
Construction sites will always need stringent WHS rules in place.

3. The threat of asbestos remains

The scourge of asbestos continues to loom large. Because Australia was one of the highest users of the deadly substance for over 50 years, it still remains in many homes around the country – potentially one-third of them, according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency. Therefore, discoveries of long-forgotten asbestos in Australia are common, meaning that there is a permanent need for asbestos awareness in the workplace to combat this constant threat.

Additionally, asbestos still finds its way into the country under the radar via imports from countries where the substance is not banned, meaning that trained assessment and removal professionals will be required for years to come. The battle against asbestos looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, and eradicating the dangerous substance for good is a long term target for Australia – and with trained, knowledgeable people in place, it can be done.

Australia will always have the need for Health and Safety professionals. At AlertForce, we offer a raft of WHS courses for those looking to get ahead in the health and safety industry. Be sure to get in contact with us to find out more.

Will we ever see the end of asbestos?

Despite the many dangers that surround asbestos, it wasn't until the final day of December 2003 that the substance was completely banned in Australia. This means that the deadly mineral still exists in many homes and buildings around the country, so asbestos training remains a vital part of many a professional's repertoire. Due to its versatility and low cost, Australia imported some 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos into the country between 1930 and 1983, and the substance found its way into one third of Aussie houses during that time, according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA). 

Australia imported some 1.5 million tonnes of asbestos into the country between 1930 and 1983.

Unfortunately, as we know all too well in these enlightened modern times, asbestos is a highly hazardous substance. Those that worked with it on a day-to-day basis were at a serious risk of a range of lung conditions (due to asbestos fibres' persistence, which refers to the amount of time they'll stay in someone's lungs). This prolonged irritation of the lungs can feasibly lead to the development of tumours and an aggressive cancer known as mesothelioma, an illness which has accounted for more than 10,000 Australian deaths since the mid-1980s, states The Mesothelioma Centre. 

Why is asbestos still arriving in Australia?

Despite the fact that asbestos is now completely banned in Australia, it continues to be imported into the country, according to the Asbestos Industry Association (AIA), only adding to an already big problem. The AIA stated that asbestos was found in a cement compound which arrived from China, despite the presence of a certificate stating that they were free of the substance:

"Importers are accepting these goods in good faith and they're relying on the documentation from overseas stating these products are asbestos-free," said AIA president Michael Shepherd to the ABC.

"From what we know, customs are checking less than 5 per cent of all products that come into Australia, so it's very difficult to identify which products are coming in and which products do contain asbestos."

Asbestos continues to find its way into Australia, despite a complete ban in 2003.
Asbestos continues to find its way into Australia, despite a complete ban in 2003.

An enduring problem

In light of these revelations, the ASEA was granted an extra AU$3.4 million over two years as part of the 2016/17 Budget. Following this, the ASEA stated in its Annual Operational Plan that it would cooperate with a broad range of government arms to monitor the threat of asbestos. That's great news, but because asbestos is completely banned in Australia doesn't mean it is everywhere else. Far from it, in fact.

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China. It's the latter that is causing the most concern, seeing as China is easily Australia's most lucrative trading partner.  

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China.

Worryingly, in a report produced by KGH Border Service, a company partnered with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, it was implied that imported asbestos is a problem too difficult to effectively police, especially as much of the substance crossing our borders originates in China.

Alarmingly, the report states that even though asbestos has been proven to be danger to public health and safety, it's still a cheap and effective material, suitable for a range of uses.

That may be so, but it's also widely known that asbestos is a lethal substance, responsible for the deaths of thousands. At AlertForce, we don't believe that any substance as deadly as asbestos should ever see the light of day again in Australia. Nevertheless, it's a problem that won't be going away for the foreseeable future, so be sure to get in touch with AlertForce to arrange your asbestos training today.

A student’s view: The Certificate IV in WHS

When it comes to getting ahead in the world of workplace health and safety (WHS), it's no secret that having the relevant, desired qualifications on your CV will stand you in better stead. With a Certificate IV in WHS under your belt, you'll be setting yourself up for an enriching career in the sector, as many who have studied at AlertForce will attest to. To illustrate this point further, we caught up with Yanet Ochoa, a former student of ours who completed the Certificate IV in WHS with flying colours. 

The Certificate IV in WHS is a vital qualification in any professional's CV
The Certificate IV in WHS is a vital qualification in any professional's CV

As a newcomer to Australia, Yanet was keen to expand on existing skills learned in her native country. She completed her course in mid-2016, choosing the Certificate IV in WHS to formalise her experience via an accredited, recognised certificate. She realised that to get ahead in the industry, it was necessary for her to gain the qualifications that would enable her to get her foot in the proverbial door. Even though Yanet had built up a fair bit of experience in her previous job overseas, she had no formal certificates to prove her worth.

Therefore, a course in WHS was the natural choice for Yanet to take things to the next level, so we were keen to hear her thoughts on how things are going since she finished up. Let's take a look at what she had to say.

Why did you choose to to study for a Certificate IV in WHS?

"At the time I saw the course advertised, I was actively looking for a job. Of course, I wanted to start work straightaway, but most of the roles I found required formal qualifications, which at the time I didn't have. I had worked in health and safety during my previous job, but aside from the experience I had there was no certificate to back me up. WHS has always been of interest to me, and I know that it is of paramount importance in every workplace around Australia today. I figured that with a recognised qualification in WHS, it would make things a lot easier with regards to securing a job."

"I figured that with a recognised qualification in WHS, it would make things a lot easier with regards to securing a job."

Yanet's words just go to show how important it is to gain the qualifications necessary to put yourself at the front of the queue when looking for employment in WHS. In this competitive industry, having as much weight on your CV as possible is a must, and with a Certificate IV in WHS from AlertForce, you're on the right path.

Why did you choose AlertForce as your training provider?

"There are a lot of training providers out there, but you simply must use the better ones. AlertForce is accredited, and has an outstanding reputation within the industry. I did a little more research online, and it was this reputation and accreditation that sold it to me. From my very first day it was excellent – very high standards, and I knew immediately that I had made the right choice." 

At AlertForce, we've always strived to provide the very finest in WHS and OHS compliance training. Whether online, face-to-face, or a mixture of the two, when you enrol in an AlertForce course you know that you'll be coming out the other side with a qualification to be proud of. As a registered provider, our courses are meticulously crafted to ensure that students receive a deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter – as they have done on countless occasions. 

The Certificate IV in WHS includes a weekly online webinar, for extra guidance and support.
The Certificate IV in WHS includes a weekly online webinar, for extra guidance and support.

How did you find the course?

"The course was excellent – not only did we learn how best create a safe working environment in a range of sectors, we also studied specific legislation, were taught about educational WHS tools and how to work safely on a day-to-day basis."

"The teacher at AlertForce was very, very good. Directly to the point, understanding and very helpful."

"Even though I was pretty busy at the time, I still found that I had enough time to read, learn and study everything that I needed to. I found the course intriguing, and it was especially interesting to find out about Australia's WHS/OHS standards that are already in place. Creative thinking and innovative solutions were also strongly encouraged, because it is so important to spread this knowledge, as there are so many managers, owners and employees out there that just don't know their responsibilities when it comes to WHS. With a Certificate IV in WHS from AlertForce, we're perfectly placed to spread this knowledge."

"The teacher at AlertForce was very, very good. Directly to the point, understanding and very helpful – it made working through the course a whole lot easier." 

We deliver the Certificate IV in WHS as a series of five two-day courses over six sessions. Additionally, you'll have a weekly online webinar with your trainer, who'll provide invaluable support and advice. Students have up to one year to complete the course, but this can often be shorter depending upon experience and other factors – how quickly you finish is up to you. The Certificate IV in WHS is often seen as the perfect qualification for people looking to make their mark in WHS, or as an excellent way to formalise your experience if you're already working in it.

Would you say that having the Certificate IV in WHS has improved your career prospects?

"Yes, definitely! When looking for a job, I found a lot, but most of them required a qualification. The Certificate IV in WHS sets you up perfectly for a career in the sector, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to build a career in this industry."

The Certificate IV in WHS is one of AlertForce's most popular courses, meaning that spaces are limited. Get in touch with us to book your spot, as Yanet did, today!

How to land a health and safety job in the current climate

WHS. It’s an acronym that many of us see every day, but few pay attention to – but we should. Workplace health and safety protocols remain a big priority for businesses, schools, hospitals and all manner of facilities the length and breadth of Australia, and it’s easy to see why.

Despite the best efforts of trained WHS professionals, workplace accidents, injuries and other preventable incidents continue to occur in workplaces across Australia. Indeed, Safe Work Australia states that one in 25 Aussie employees were injured at work in 2015, according to its annual Key Work Health and Safety Statistics report. These injuries have occurred in all manner of different industries, with varying degrees of severity, which is why demand for WHS professionals remains high. Let’s take a look at how to land that perfect WHS role, wherever you are in Australia.

Thinking outside the box can really help your chances of landing a WHS job.Thinking outside the box can really help your chances of landing a WHS job.

The realities of the job market 

Of course, ever since the global financial crisis hit in 2008,  there have been job shortages all across Australia. The workplace health and safety sector is no different, and we understand that it can seem very difficult to get a career in WHS. Perseverance is key, though, and thinking outside the box when looking for employment can also really help. Keep at it and, with a qualification from AlertForce and a positive, can-do attitude, you’ll set yourself on the right path. It’s important to remember that, even in times of job shortages, there will always be a need for skilled, qualified WHS professionals, so don’t let your head drop.

Whether you choose to learn on a face-to-face or online basis, AlertForce have a broad of WHS courses for you to choose from.

The first step: Get qualified

You wouldn’t prepare a sumptuous meal without the requisite ingredients, nor would you attempt to fix a leaking pipe without the proper tools. The same philosophy applies to getting a job in WHS – it pays to be prepared.

This means laying the initial groundwork before you begin the application process, and there’s no better place to begin than with a qualification from AlertForce. Whether you choose to learn on a face-to-face or online basis, AlertForce have a broad of WHS courses for you to choose from. To really put yourself at the front of the queue, though, you should strongly consider enrolling in the Certificate IV in WHS, Diploma in WHS, or the Diploma in Quality Auditing.

Whichever of these certificates you have safely under your belt, you can rest assured it will put your name near the top of the list when you enter the WHS job market. You’ll enjoy the benefits that come with being taught by experienced industry leaders – each of our students are provided with a mentor to guide them through the finer points of their course, so from beginning to end, you’ll always have someone to turn to.

What’s more, AlertForce can proudly boast a 97 per cent completion rate, and we don’t shy away from going the extra mile. As such, our students not only finish their course, they come out of it the other side bursting with WHS knowledge and eager to start their careers.

Workplace accidents occur every day in Australia - which is why demand for OHS professionals is on the rise.Workplace accidents occur every day in Australia – which is why demand for OHS professionals is on the rise.

What are my chances of landing a job?

With a qualification from AlertForce safely in the bank, Australia really is your oyster when it comes to career opportunities in WHS. Things may seem a little difficult right now, but data released by the Australian government states that the job market in this industry is set to expand exponentially over the coming decade. That’s right – some 17 per cent more WHS professionals are projected to be employed in Australia in 2018 than there were in 2013, illustrating just how in demand WHS employees are.

Some 17 per cent more WHS professionals are projected to be employed in Australia in 2018 than there were in 2013, illustrating just how in demand WHS employees are.

The same source states that, as of November 2015, approximately 24,000 people were employed in the industry. This means that there are likely to be positions in every state in Australia, across a broad range of fields, so you’ll be able to pick and choose which industry to specialise in. To get a snapshot of the areas in big demand across Australia, as well as how much you can expect to take home, it is a good idea to browse  job vacancies sites where you’ll see positions such as:

  • OHS Support Officer – AU$60,000.
  • Return to work (RTW) Coordinator – $87,500.
  • OHS Consultant – $125,000.
  • Compliance Manager – $128,000.
  • RTW National Manager – $148,000.

Of course, there are a raft of other WHS jobs that you can get your teeth into. What you choose to do is completely up to you.

An alternative way to the top

There are other pathways into the WHS work arena that differ from the traditional routes. For example, you may have your heart set on a career as a senior asbestos removal specialist. Of course, the money at this level is a lot better than it would be for an entry-level position, but to reach the very top, you have to start somewhere – and that’s often a little further down the ladder. After following a course in asbestos removal, you could well land an entry-level job in this field. Stick with it and, with hard work and dedication, advancement and pay rises are only a matter of time away.

Perseverance and a positive attitude will help you find your dream career.Perseverance and a positive attitude will help you find your dream career.

There are many jobs with a big link to WHS that require licensing – for example, operating a forklift, or a role in traffic control. Though these might seem very minor industries, they actually represent a golden opportunity to get your foot in the door of the WHS house. By starting here, you’ll gain a wealth of experience and, as companies much prefer to promote internally, you’re in with a far better shot of working your way up.

State of the nation

In a recent article, we talked about how the building boom in New South Wales was causing WHS professionals to be in great demand. This still rings true today, and as the country’s most populous state with the biggest city, it’s where you’ll find the most job opportunities. Our article on the situation can tell you more, but to really put yourself on the fast-track to a rewarding WHS career, NSW is the place to be.

Data released by the Australian government states that the job market in this industry is set to expand exponentially over the coming decade.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of Queensland. The famous mining state is experiencing something of a downturn at present, meaning that cutbacks are having to be made. This means that any new vacancies are hotly contested, lowering your chances of landing a role. Of course, the mining industry is one that is always going to need WHS professionals, and should it recover, there’s every chance that there will be a big call for such workers in the future.

How can you improve your chances in the current climate?

After the financial crisis of 2008 unemployment rose across Australia, very few industries were unaffected. Even so, the market has been steadily recovering, with the unemployment rate standing at 5.6 per cent as of August 2016, according to Trading Economics. This is the lowest jobless rate since 2013, so things are certainly starting to look up. Though the green shoots of recovery are now apparent, giving yourself the best opportunity of finding work in the current climate is still an absolute priority.

This could mean meticulously tailoring your CV and cover letter for each specific job – there are few things that an employer finds more off-putting than a a blanket application that has obviously been used elsewhere. Additionally, showing your potential employer that you’re serious about your application will also go a very long way in what can be a competitive, selective atmosphere. Unpaid voluntary work in your chosen field, researching your employer and making use of AlertForce’s wealth of industry contacts will all stand you in excellent stead when you submit that application – as will attitude and a keen eye for that hidden gem of a job opportunity.

How to boost your earning potential

We’ve already talked about how having a nationally recognised qualification on your CV can vastly improve your chances of finding employment in the health and safety sector, but did you know that holding formal qualifications can also mean you’ll have more earning power than someone non-certified? To illustrate this, payments analysts PayScale found that safety officers who lacked formal qualifications were rarely paid more than $100,000, but those with the relevant certificates had earning potential of up to $150,000 – that’s a difference not to be sniffed at!

Be sure to get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team to get your WHS career off to a flying start!

Why the WestConnex furore highlights the need for more WHS professionals

Any motorist who lives and works in the Sydney area has surely heard of the WestConnex motorway scheme. In short, it's a project that entails widening and extending the M4 Western Motorway, adding a new section to the M5 South Western, and creating a new inner bypass of the Sydney CBD that will join the M4 and M5. Such an ambitious project doesn't come cheap, with the cost looking to hit AU$16.8 billion, and the scheme itself has been labelled as the largest transport project in the city since the Harbour Bridge was built.

However, the cost of the project, as well as a raft of other issues, has seen the WestConnex motorway scheme mired in controversy, and now an alarming new development has come to light – the alleged presence of asbestos in the road base of the new motorway.

A riddled road?

News agencies across the country are reporting that a former employee of Sydney excavation company, Moits, was supplying road base riddled with asbestos for use on the WestConnex project. Of course, such claims are highly serious, and so SafeWork NSW have now got involved. They are currently investigating Moits' practices at the recycling plant, with the end goal of figuring out whether or not WestConnex is being built with contaminated products.

Moits, though, is denying the allegations, stating that it unequivocally does not, and never will recycle anything that contains asbestos. Going forwards, Moits has stated that they will give their full cooperation to regulatory authorities such as SafeWork NSW to show them just how safe their work processes are – and that the wellbeing of the firm's employees is not in doubt. So how did these allegations actually come about?

Has asbestos really found its way into a new multi-billion dollar motorway?
Has asbestos really found its way into a new multi-billion dollar motorway?

A serious allegation

The ex-employee in question, Daniel McIntyre, worked for Moits as a weighbridge operator, as well as a quality control trainee, at a rock and dirt recycling plant in western Sydney. Part of the facility's main operations involves taking receipt of demolition waste from Sydney's various building sites, which is then crushed and given a new lease of life as road base.

It was Mr McIntyre's job to lead a team of staff in hunting through piles of rubble to discard anything that could not be put through. His team were allegedly given just 10 minutes to sift through each 30-tonne load – a small timeframe for such an undertaking.

Moits does not have the necessary licensing to receive anything that contains asbestos, but Mr McIntyre states that he and his team would regularly find sections of broken asbestos sheeting – every day, in fact.   

"On some days it was quite clean, we'd maybe get four or five pieces, on other days you could have we'd pick out maybe 20 pieces. We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible," said Mr McIntyre to ABC.

"We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible."

A new lease of life

When Mr McIntyre noted that the road base was headed for the WestConnex project, as well as other construction sites all over Sydney, he called for a meeting with his management, and was promptly fired for 'being a troublemaker', he alleges. 

"My concerns are that people there are being put at risk. And my concerns are that there is asbestos that's free floating that's being crushed and it's dust and it's being sent out into businesses and homes and other places in Sydney and it poses a potential risk to the public," Mr McIntyre concluded.

Whether or not these claims turn out to be true or not, it just goes to show that asbestos remains a big problem across Australia. Hence, there remains a strong need for asbestos removal professionals the nation over, so be sure to get in touch with the team at AlertForce to gain your formal qualifications.

Why a workplace accident needn’t destroy your business operations

Unfortunately, workplace accidents occur every day across Australia. These range from the very minor, such as cutting your hand on a protruding nail, right through to the major – a fall from a ladder, or electrocution due to exposed wires. These incidents can occur in any workplace, from agriculture and construction, to manufacturing and mining. Though many workplace accidents can be prevented through proper workplace health and safety training, should something happen, it can have a notable effect on employees.

These incidents can occur in any workplace, from agriculture and construction, to manufacture and mining.

Say that one of your employees incurred a small injury and had to go to an emergency department for treatment. He or she may have to take a few days off work. Your establishment is given the all-clear by investigating authorities, but even so, the remainder of your employees are a little apprehensive to get on with their work. Of course, this is completely understandable – we wouldn't be human if we weren't a little nervous re-entering the scene of an accident, no matter how small. 

The issue, then, lies in helping your employees return to previous levels of productivity, and this is by no means easy. Let's take a look at how you can best support your team through a potentially difficult time, and return things to normal as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is critical incident stress management? 

One of the most effective ways to deal with the aftermath of an accident or an incident where injury could occur is a technique known as critical incident stress management (CISM). The method is described by Good Therapy as a style of crisis intervention designed to help support people who may have been involved in, or were affected by, traumatic events of any severity. Of course, workplace incidents can affect employees in a variety of different ways, and CISM uses a step-by-step plan to deliver a viable solution to the problem. Though there are several different methods utilised in CISM, there are a few which are highly relevant in the workplace – here are a two of the most applicable.

Talking about a workplace accident  is one of the first steps on the road to recovery.
Talking about a workplace accident is one of the first steps on the road to recovery.

– Defusing

According to the Victorian government's Better Health Channel, 'defusing' is carried out by an employee trained in workplace health and safety immediately after an event has taken place, with the intention of drawing a line under it and lending instant personal support. The key aim of defusing a situation is to stabilise workers, and give them every opportunity to talk over their concerns. This defusing process should happen no more than 12 hours after the incident has taken place. An open dialogue is encouraged, and after defusing has happened, a later debrief can be set up for those that require further care.

– Debriefing

'Debriefing' takes the defusing part of the process to the next level. It would normally take place a few days (up to a week or so) after the incident has taken place. This method takes the form of what initially appears to be a counselling session, though it isn't strictly as such – rather, it's a voluntary discussion designed to put the event in sharp perspective. Therefore, workers can gain a little clarity about just what has gone on, helping them come up with a plan for recovery.

Of course, it is imperative that managers and business owners understand that everybody's mind operates in a unique fashion, That huge, burly, bearded man, seemingly so fearless, could be visibly shaken up and might need an extended amount of time away from the workplace, whereas someone usually timid in demeanour may be keen to get back to work. You never can tell.

In any case, it's important that your staff, especially ones in a position of authority, are fully clued up when it comes to emergency management. At AlertForce, our range of courses can help prepare your employees for any eventuality, so get in touch with us to find out more today. 

3 reasons why WHS professionals should still be concerned about asbestos

Asbestos. The mere mention of it has the power to send a shiver down any WHS professional's spine. For decades, the mineral was used in the construction of houses, office buildings and barns, due to its flexibility, strength, resistance to fire and a whole host of other agreeable factors. Subsequently, asbestos was used everywhere – school roofs, home attics, ships, cement, and even in car brakes. It wasn't until the tail-end of the 20th century that the world began to realise asbestos was a hugely dangerous substance, but a lot of damage had already been done. Asbestos was found to cause scarring of the lungs and a condition known as mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer.

Today, the use of asbestos is banned in Australia - but its harmful effects remain.
Today, the use of asbestos is banned in Australia – but its harmful effects remain.

Because of the perceived versatility of asbestos, Australia used the harmful mineral by the truckload. According to the Australian government's Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA), some 1.5 million tons of the stuff were imported into the country between 1930 and 1983, and it was extensively mined for in the land Down Under, too. Few countries used more asbestos than we Australians, before it was effectively banned.

Asbestos still presents a very real danger to employees and the general public the length and breadth of the country.

Today, asbestos is all too often dismissed as yesterday's problem, something that doesn't affect us any longer. However, this way of thinking itself is outdated, as asbestos still presents a very real danger to employees and the general public the length and breadth of the country. Let's look at why.

1. Asbestos still exists in buildings across Australia

We've already talked about the extensive use of asbestos in Australia across the 20th century. Therefore, a great number of houses, schools and tower blocks built before the mid-1980s were almost certain to contain at least some level of the stuff, with those built after 1990 less likely to be contaminated. Concerted efforts were made to remove asbestos from as many of Australia's buildings as possible, but even so, it was nigh-on impossible to get rid of it all.

As such, the discovery of asbestos occurs with some regularity in Australia. Forgotten attics, neglected barns, and even some older schools are commonly found to be contaminated, with the ASEA stating that one-third of all Aussie buildings are thought to have been affected. Oftentimes, asbestos will lay undisturbed for years at a time, and is discovered only via accident or in the event of a natural disaster such as a cyclone or bushfire – then it becomes a big problem.  

It wasn't until 2003 that all forms of the mineral were completely banned in this country.

2. Asbestos exists across many different industries

Even though asbestos came under official regulation in the 1970s, it wasn't until 2003 that all forms of the mineral were completely banned in this country. Of course, by then the damage had been largely done. Employees across a whole host of industries were affected, especially those working in construction, carpentry, plumbing and electrical engineering. Indeed, The Mesothelioma Centre found that those working in construction or carpentry are at the biggest risk of asbestos exposure. Harrowingly, one in 10 carpenters born before 1950 are expected to die of asbestos-related cancer, meaning that WHS professionals with proper asbestos training are an absolute must, and remain in strong demand.   

3. It's dangerously dismissed as an old problem

We've already mentioned how short-sighted it is to shrug off asbestos as a problem of the yesteryear, as if it's smallpox. The truth, though, is that asbestos continues to affect people to this very day, and will long into the future. The Mesothelioma Centre states that a staggering 25,000 people will succumb to the condition over the next 40 years, with the disease toll actually rising over time. This shows that asbestos exposure, though perhaps not as widespread as it was in the past, continues to have an effect – especially when new cases of asbestos contamination are discovered almost by the day.  

To find out more about AlertForce's Asbestos Awareness Training, Assessment & Removal courses, be sure to get in touch with our expert team today.

Top 3 reasons investing in training is worth your while

Without training, professional development is near impossible. At its core, training provides the resources for growth as a modern day worker. Investing in the continued development of your team is an investment in the future of your organisation as a whole. Study after study highlights the benefits of employee development initiatives.

Yet, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, a lack of proper training initiatives across businesses plays a key role in the current employee retention problem. In a survey of over 1,200 young professionals, with an average age of 30, respondents cited a lack of employee-development efforts as a major reason for leaving a position.

Employees want to work for businesses that invest in their development.
Employees want to work for businesses that invest in their development.

The researchers found a major disconnect between what employees wanted in terms of training initiatives and what their employers offered. While on-the-job development was highly available, there was a reported lack of formal development – including industry-based training.

Perhaps the most important finding here is just how bad these young professionals want training. They crave the opportunity to develop professionally within their given field. When you pair this desire with the considerable organisational benefits of investing in employee training – the case for professional development within your business becomes crystal clear. Let's take a closer look at why training investments are worth your while:

1. Training drives engagement

Across industries and continents, there exists a considerable problem with employee engagement. Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report found that only 13 per cent of employees across the world are engaged in their current position.

Learning and professional development opportunities are the key to driving engagement.

When staff members are better engaged, the organisation as a whole reaps the benefits. According to Gallup, organisations leading the charge in employee engagement also performed 22 per cent better in terms of profitability and 21 per cent higher in productivity compared to businesses with low engagement levels.

So, where does training fall in the engagement equation? In an interview with CIO, Jason Weingarten, CEO of Yello, explained that learning and professional development opportunities are the key to driving engagement, especially with the largest demographic in the workforce today: millennials.

"Millennials are concerned with investing their energy and their time in organisations that will reciprocate," noted Weingarten. "They want to make sure they're growing inside their organisations and that they have a path to continue to do so. The fact that our survey found that salary isn't as key for them wasn't honestly much of a surprise to us; they're more concerned with working well with teams of their friends, making a positive impact on the world and having a promising path to growth is really important."

2. Training improves job satisfaction

Training initiatives go beyond engagement, they can even help improve the overall satisfaction of your team. In a survey of 1,000 working professionals by Bridge, a cloud learning management solutions platform, continuous learning and training opportunities ranked number one on the list of most important factors contributing to overall job satisfaction.

Development opportunities for your employees show them that you are committed to their growth thus increasing levels of overall satisfaction.

When training is supported, job satisfaction improves.
When training is supported, job satisfaction improves.

"In our survey, the majority of employees say continuous learning was important or very important to their job satisfaction.They cared about their growth and wanted these training opportunities," says Jeff Weber, senior vice president of people and places at Bridge, in an interview with CIO.

"And 53 percent of respondents say they're very likely or likely to leave their job because there are insufficient learning and professional growth opportunities. This is a major message to companies that if you're not sufficiently providing ways for workers to learn and grow."

3. Improve your training, improve your bottom line

At the end of the day, training your team is all about improving your core business functions. Not only does it help with engagement and satisfaction, it ultimately delivers a better experience to your customers. When you have a highly skilled workforce, you have a highly functional company – it's as simple as that.

Supporting employee development begins with investing in training for your team.

Supporting employee development begins with investing in training for your team. In such a fast-paced business world, leaders that fail to dedicate resources to the skill advancement of their employees risk falling behind.

Here at AlertForce we are committed to the professional development of workplace health and safety teams across Australia. We provide our students with comprehensive training with personal mentorship and flexibility. Whether you opt for our face-to-face courses or our online training, you will be provided with personal support from one our experienced AlertForce mentors to help you every step of the way.

Leaders looking to invest in their team are in good hands with AlertForce. With a 97 per cent student completion rate and high levels of student support, we have got your employees covered. To learn more about what AlertForce can offer you, contact one of our reps today!

4 ways to strengthen your business’s WHS culture

Having a strong workplace health and safety culture is critical for any successful business. In the past, we've discussed the benefits in terms of brand value, financial savings and overall liability protection.

But what steps can you take to ensure your organisation is truly committed to WHS practices? Let's take a look at a few key ways leaders can initiate a stronger work health and safety culture in their business.

1. Understand the expectations

For leaders, the first step to optimal WHS conditions involves gaining a complete understanding of what is required by them by law. In Australia, WHS legislation mandates that all employers provide: 

  • safe premises
  • safe machinery and materials
  • safe systems of work
  • information, instruction, training and supervision
  • a suitable working environment and facilities
  • insurance and workers compensation for your employees

While the intricacies of legal obligations vary from business to business, these are the general standards for most operating organisations. Leaders should be mindful of these criteria when creating WHS policies.

2. Assess your current state

Once leaders have studied the requirements for workplace health and safety, it is time to take stock of where their organisation stands. Are you succeeding in some areas and failing in others?

Conduct a thorough inspection of your workplace and take note of what needs improvement. Get your employees involved by asking them what they think needs to change in terms of WHS. A qualified health and safety professional should be involved in this assessment, as they are better equipped to identify hazards or problems in your current environment.

Conduct a thorough assessment of your workplace to determine any safety problems.
Conduct a thorough assessment of your workplace to determine any safety problems.

3. Create a plan

Every organisation should have a clearly defined safety policy in place. If you don't already have one, it is time to create one. If you do, there is always room for improvement. Take what you learned from your workplace assessment and address the pitfalls in your policy.

Make sure this document is readily available to your entire team. A plan that isn't thoroughly communicated is useless so make sure everyone is aware of policy changes and updates.

Every organisation should have a clearly defined safety policy in place.

4. Invest in your team

Arguably the best way to improve your office WHS culture is to invest in your team. AlertForce offers a variety of courses for professionals looking to improve and solidify their WHS skills.

Whether your dedicated WHS officer wants to finally get certified or an ambitious employee wants to take the initiative and begin their journey into WHS, we offer a comprehensive learning environment for all skill levels.

How to use LinkedIn to supercharge your career in health and safety

While LinkedIn may not be viewed as the most glamorous social media site out there, it certainly holds the most value for professionals at every stage of their career.

Whether you are looking to jump start your career in work health and safety or you are trying to build your current professional network, creating a solid LinkedIn profile can be the boost you need to supercharge your health and safety career.

Create a stronger network

LinkedIn's obvious appeal has to do with the opportunity to network. Professionals can search through a database of millions of people with varying positions across industries. This opens up a whole new level of networking potential.

However, independent LinkedIn consultant Victoria Ipri says there should be a limit to which connections you accept. Instead of accepting every pending invitation, be thoughtful in your selection to create a truly strong network.

"You should keep it to people in your industry who you think could be of assistance, and to people you know and have done work with before," explained Ipri.

LinkedIn can be a critical tool to help you keep up with past professional connections.

Maintain and nurture your relationships

The same way Facebook may be used to keep up with old friends or family members that have moved away, LinkedIn can be a critical tool to help you keep up with past professional connections.

Just because you relocated to a new city for a new position doesn't mean you can't leverage the advice or connections of your old boss. Keep in touch with your past colleagues via LinkedIn and maybe they can help you out somewhere down the road.

Find your next new job

LinkedIn truly is a land of professional possibilities. Whether you are actively seeking a new job or not, your LinkedIn profile can open up the door to exciting new opportunities.

According to a 2015 Recruiter Nation survey, 87 per cent of recruiters actively search LinkedIn for new prospects. Keep the door open to new career opportunities by creating a profile.

Show off your skills

For health and safety professionals, LinkedIn can be a great tool for finding exciting new opportunities or gaining a better understanding of what skills are most important in the industry.

Your profile can create a professional portrait for recruiters, with areas on LinkedIn dedicated to special skills, past experience and even professional certifications.

With LinkedIn global networking is in the palm of your hand.
With LinkedIn global networking is in the palm of your hand.

Perhaps one of the best additions to your LinkedIn profile would be a WHS qualification. In an increasingly competitive job market these kinds of certifications can prove your skills to potential new employers.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a course with AlertForce today!

Top 4 skills you need for a career in health and safety

Whether you’re fresh out of school and looking to start your career path or a little further down the track but need a change of scenery, it’s not always easy to know where to start. Setting your sights on a role in the work, health and safety industry is one thing, but do you actually know what your potential employers will be looking for once you start sending out CVs and turning up for interviews?

Aside from the relevant qualifications, such as Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety (WHS) or better a Diploma of WHS, you’ll need to know what type of skills are most attractive to potential employers and how you can go about building on them as your career grows. To give you a bit context and offer something to set your sights on, we’ve prepared the top four skills that you’ll need to develop to succeed in Australia’s growing health and safety industry.

  • Communication skills – Be able to get your point across through multiple mediums, both in person and on digital platforms.
  • Be patient – Getting everyone’s agreement on new processes or policies will take time.
  • Grow relationships – Try to maintain genuine connections with all members of an organisation.
  • Have an eye for detail – The more you notice, the bigger the difference you’ll make.

1. You need to be able to talk the talk

For a health and safety strategy to be effective, it needs to be one that works to unite all employees under a common cause. In these cases, it would be up to you to as a health and safety officer to communicate the various goals and objectives to your colleagues.

There are many dimensions to communicating well in the workplace.

There are many dimensions to communicating well in any role in the workplace, but many of these take on an even greater importance if you’re responsible for keeping people safe. You need to be aware of how to make yourself heard and understood across the range of mediums used to communicate in modern business. From face-to-face meetings and presentations to emails and instructional booklets, it’s essential that you know how to get a message across both verbally and with the written word.

Interestingly, Skills Australia found that a significant proportion of people around the country still struggle to communicate effectively in the workplace. This is where specific training courses and a concerted effort to improve skills can help you better ready yourself for a high-paying career in health and safety.

2. Patience will get you far

While it’s often described as a virtue rather than a skill, this doesn’t make it any less applicable to the current health and safety landscape. As a health and safety officer, you’ll be in charge of communicating with a range of stakeholders, most of whom will have their own concerns or agendas that you’ll have to take on board.

For example, the people on the factory floor are going to have different demands and motivations in comparison to managers and leaders. Working out these differences and coming to an agreement when rolling out new training regimes or policies will require you to have a combination of effective communication skills and a knack for being patient. It might take time to get things done, but staying patient and ensuring everyone is on board will have a positive effect on the business in the long-term.

3. Build relationships with your colleagues

You can probably see a theme developing here. The four skills you need to succeed as a health and safety professional all build on one another. By increasing your proficiency in one of these five dimensions, you’re naturally getting closer to mastering another as well.

Being able to build and maintain relationships with colleagues of all levels, whether superiors or peers, is dependant on your ability to communicate well and exhibit patience with difficult situations or discussions.

As a health and safety officer, you’re an important conduit between management and the employees charged with getting work done. By having a good relationship with the higher-ups, you’re able to influence and provide feedback on any new initiatives they may be looking to roll out. If you’ve also built meaningful relationships with the rest of the staff, you’ll be a respected and trusted point of contact when they need to air any concerns they may have.

You need much more than the right equipment to make a difference in health and safety.You need much more than the right equipment to make a difference in health and safety.

4. Sweat the small stuff

As a member of an organisation’s health and safety team, everything you do or don’t notice has an impact on the way the business functions and how people do their job. In this respect, it’s actually important to sweat the small stuff. Have an eye for detail, look for things throughout the factory, office or wherever you work that may need a bit of extra attention.

Whether it’s a health and safety related task that’s impacting productivity, or a behaviour that isn’t minimising risk as well as it could, spotting it early is better than dealing with the consequences once it’s too late.

Of course, these four skills are just a few to get you started thinking about what you might need to develop to make a difference in the industry. To learn more, and to ensure your abilities are recognised by future employers, contact the team at AlertForce and find out what our OHS training courses can do for your career development.

3 reasons a WHS qualification just makes sense

In an increasingly competitive job landscape, more and more professionals are looking to stand out from the crowd. For health and safety professionals, one of the best ways to enhance your workplace marketability is by securing a certification or qualification in your industry.

By taking an online course and validating your skills, and learning some new ones along the way, you can not only solidify your spot in your current position but open up opportunities for future career advancements – including a bigger paycheck.

Crunching the numbers

According to a 2015 survey conducted by a variety of US organisations including the the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, workers with certifications in safety earned nearly $22,000 USD more than those without certifications. For health and safety professionals, certifications accounted for an increased salary of over $30,000 USD. 

"The results from this industry survey highlight the positive impact that having a license or credential can have on an individuals' professional development and overall compensation," said American Industrial Hygiene Association Executive Director, Peter J. O'Neil.

Getting the relevant certifications could result in a bigger payoff for WHS professionals.
Getting the relevant certifications could result in a bigger payoff for WHS professionals.

Though these numbers are from a US study, Australian health and safety professionals follow a similar trend, with certifications generally being associated with higher positions and higher paychecks

PayScale, the world's largest database for professional salaries, shows an uncertified safety officer's reaching a maximum of $91,699 whereas a certified safety professional can see salaries as high as $150,000.

Looking beyond the numbers: The value of online certifications

While the promise of a higher salary is certainly enticing, the benefits go beyond the paycheck. And when professionals choose to seek out these qualifications through an online medium, the ease of completion makes getting certified even more enticing.

Let's take a look at a few reasons why an online WHS qualification just makes sense.

The benefits of a WHS certification go beyond the paycheck.

1. Cost and time conscious: As a professional, your time is most likely stretched thin. Online certification provides thorough training in a way that is mindful not only to your busy schedule but also your wallet, explained Huffington Post contributor Tomas Laurinavicius.

2. Validation of skills: Certifications provide a recognised validation of your skills. While you may have experience to back the claims on your CV, a certification or qualification course can help prove to employers that you have a specific set of skills which have been tested by clear industry standards.

3. Innate proof of ambition: A professional that seeks out qualifications or certifications in their field exudes an admirable sense of ambition. Getting a certifications proves you are serious about your career path and are willing to the onus to advance your knowledge. This translates impressively to employers and peers in the professional environment.

Health and safety professionals with the relevant qualifications can enjoy increased employed recognition, a flexible learning environment and a gratifying validation of skills.

You'd be hard-pressed to find reasons a qualification wouldn't make sense for your professional advancement.

Take the relevant steps to advance your WHS career by seeking out certifications
Take the relevant steps to advance your WHS career by seeking out certifications.

Getting a qualification with AlertForce

Online courses are a great tool for professionals, yet you shouldn't just pick any provider. In order to reap the full value of online qualifications you need more than just a static course. AlertForce prides itself on providing all its students with a mentor to help see them through the duration of their learning experience.

With a 97 per cent completion rate, we help ensure our clients not only finish their course but get the most they can from the materials. To get started on your qualification today, sign up for one of the many AlertForce courses today!

Top 10 Job Roles on SEEK for Qualified Health and Safety Professionals

The landscape for Health and Safety professionals continues to be promising. Future employment growth in the WHS field is predicted to be strong over the next five years, according to the Australian Government, and earnings for employees in this industry remain above average.

With demand growing and full-time work offering competitive salaries, now is a great time to invest in either advancing or jump-starting your WHS career with the relevant qualifications. Obtaining a Quality HSR Training Certification or better yet a Diploma of Quality Auditing can help improve your prospects for a promotion or even a starting job.

According to Paul McDonald, senior executive director at recruiting firm Robert Half, organisations across industries appreciate the formal recognition of skill that comes with certifications or qualifications.

"Keeping your skills up to date is vital to career advancement, and acquiring a general or industry-specific certification is one way to do so," explained Mr McDonald. "Employers often support ongoing development because they benefit from well-educated, highly skilled professionals who are current with trends and able to apply what they've learned to business needs."

Securing a diploma in various OHS skills can significantly improve your career prospects.
Securing a diploma in various WHS skills can significantly improve your career prospects.

What jobs are available to qualified WHS professionals?

Many people look to SEEK, the world's largest online employment marketplace, when pursuing new job opportunities. As such, we decided to pinpoint the top 10 job roles advertised on the site for qualified WHS professionals. The entries were as follows:

  1. Senior Safety Advisor
  2. WHS Leader
  3. Injury Management Advisor
  4. OH&S Officer
  5. National HSE Manager
  6. Project Safety Officer
  7. HSE Advisor
  8. Safety Systems Officer
  9. Senior Manager OHS&E
  10. Executive Director, Health and Safety

This list gives a taste of the spectrum of jobs available to WHS professionals with the relevant credentials. Working in this field allows for mobility across industries as many WHS workers are employed in fields spanning from manufacturing to government services.

While the salaries on SEEK are not always displayed, the range for the above jobs spans from $50,000 to nearly $300,000 annually – showing the true potential for earnings in the field. Whether you are starting off at the beginning of this scale or the middle, qualifications provide professionals with the skills necessary to climb to the top-end of these earnings.

The professional value of WHS qualifications

WHS professionals, as a whole, are generally above average when it comes to securing various educational attainments in their fields.

On average, 38.5 per cent of WHS workers have an advanced diploma, compared to 10.5 per cent across all other occupations. Yet, only 14.8 per cent have Certificate III or IV qualifications. This means there is a serious opportunity for professionals to gain a leg up in their industry by investing in the relevant qualifications. 

Investing in qualifications can set you up on the path to a more fulfilling professional life.
Investing in qualifications can set you up on the path to a more fulfilling professional life.

The underlying message beneath this is that the more qualified you are, the better chances you will have of advancing your career.

For professionals hoping to break into the WHS field, training courses can provide them with the necessary requisites to land an interview and begin their career. For seasoned professionals, upskilling allows for the chance to take on bigger positions at more senior levels with higher salaries as well.

Investing in qualifications really translates to investing in yourself and your professional advancement.

To learn more about a variety of relevant certifications for your WHS professional future, check out what AlertForce has to offer today!

Understanding the importance of workplace health and safety

 

Health and safety are two words people tend to take rather seriously – and understandably so. They play a vital role in your well-being and overall quality of life. When it comes to the business world, health and safety protocol should be at the top of any executive priority list. These processes are just as important as sales and marketing to the successes and failures of any company.

Regardless of industry, the possibility of accidents are always present. Some fields of work present more potential than others but the bottom line is that there need to be distinct protocols in place for workplace health and safety. This can be accomplished by investing in certification courses for your current WHS staff members.

Need for skilled WHS workers illuminated by high incident rate

The need for skilled WHS professionals is only compounded by the alarming rate of workplace injury across Australia. According to Safe Work Australia’s Key Work Health and Safety Statistics for 2015, 1 in 25 Australians suffered from work-related injuries last year.

These incidents predominantly occurred in the workplace (91 per cent) but notably also took place while travelling on business (4 per cent), when travelling to or from work (2 per cent) and during lunchtime or break activities (2 per cent).

The industries most susceptible to fatalities while on the job were:

  • Transport, postal and warehousing
  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

These four industries accounted for just over 70 per cent of all workplace fatalities in 2015.

Health and safety policies are critical to a successful business environment. Health and safety policies are critical to a successful business environment.

The benefits of exceptional WHS

The obvious benefit of outstanding workplace health and safety protocols is the protecting of your employees. When organisations have clearly articulated and well understood WHS processes in place, their staff members are less likely to fall victim to workplace injuries. As a result, your business can be protected from the potential liabilities and costs associated with incidents that occur on-site.

But safety and legal responsibility aren’t the only benefits associated with well-executed WHS processes. They can enhance brand value, improve employee loyalty, decrease business disruptions and promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these benefits:

Enhanced brand value: Branding plays an important role in customer perception. A company that promotes safe workplace conditions is inherently perceived as socially responsible by consumers and potential clientele – a value that increasingly translates to profitability. A study by the Bank of Finland examined the impact of corporate social responsibility on a company’s stock value between 1990-2004.

Organisations that were placed on a list of socially responsible companies saw a market value increase of around 2 per cent. Those who were removed from the list saw their stock value drop by an average of 3 per cent. Companies with exceptional WHS standards and procedures have the potential to not only enhance their brand image but improve profitability as well.

Workplace catastrophes can cause businesses to come to a screeching halt.

Decreased business disruptions: Workplace catastrophes can cause businesses to come to a screeching halt. Whether it be temporarily losing a worker to an injury or having to suspend production processes in light of potential dangers with current protocol, a lack of WHS procedures can cost your business time and money.

Investing in WHS skill advancements

Whether it be preventing costly legal fees or enhancing your overall company image, good WHS policies clearly play a vital role in an organisation’s well-being. As such, it is critical to invest in the development of your health and safety employees.

AlertForce can offer current health and safety professionals with formal qualifications in WHS practises. Our Certificate IV Work Health and Safety course enables employees to become certified by nationally recognised standards.

Our team of dedicated trainers provide a more personal approach to certification by supporting their students via weekly online webinar catch ups. To learn more about how AlertForce can help advance the skill sets of your health and safety staffers, check out the course today!

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3 great reasons to consider furthering your career in health and safety

Some of the most important decisions you will ever make concern the career path you find most interesting. What you study in school, and the qualifications you seek once you leave can have a major bearing on your future. As scary as that may sound. it's really anything but.

The idea that your first job out of school or university dictates the rest of your career is out-of-date and irrelevant. Now, it's incredibly common for people to shift not just jobs, but whole careers multiple times throughout their working lives. It's a trend that's mostly applicable to the millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000. So, if you're part of this generation and feel like you need to try something new, why not move into the health and safety industry with a diploma in WHS

Why is it now acceptable to change careers?

If you're feeling guilty for wanting to investigate the opportunities in a new industry after just a few years in your current role – don't, you aren't the only one. According to a study from Deloitte, around two-thirds of millennials have expressed a desire to leave their current role by the year 2020.  

Don't feel guilty about wanting to change careers – you aren't alone.

This doesn't mean that two-thirds of this generation hate their jobs, however, but there is a greater focus on ongoing learning and personal development. If a certain job, organisation or industry doesn't provide opportunities for people to grow professionally, they're likely to start looking elsewhere. The same survey also found that this was the second-most cited reason for people exploring new avenues. A slim majority (51 per cent of people) looked for a role that aligns with their desire to grow personally and professionally. 

Measuring the demand for health and safety employees 

Put simply, health and safety professionals are a necessity for most organisations out there. Whether it's one that operates in the mines or a manufacturing business set up in a massive warehouse, they need people who complete WHS courses to guide other employees.

Essentially, these qualifications give you the opportunity to make a real difference within an organisation, from running training sessions to auditing existing processes. Due to how influential these roles are to the running of a business, Hays reported there is significant demand for capable professionals to fill vacancies.

According to the organisation, while the industry as a whole is experiencing a need for these professionals, there are a couple of positions in particular that are in even higher demand. They are: 

  • Health and safety consultants – With some states and territories experiencing legislative changes, organisations are looking for consultants to ensure they react appropriately. 
  • Lead auditors – For health and safety campaigns to work in a business, they need to be built on plans and processes that support worker safety. Auditors have an important role in ensuring these are up to standard. 

These are just two examples of currently in-demand WHS jobs that rely on people with the right qualifications. If you're committed to changing careers, choosing one with certified demand for new people is an important consideration. 

Online courses mean you can study for a new career when it suits you.
Online and face-to-face courses mean you can study for your new career as it suits you.

Join a world-renowned safety culture

The way a country governs its health and safety laws and regulations is important. However, it's likely that you've never thought about the way another country views Australia's commitment to keeping workers safe. While we may take the system for granted, other countries appear to hold it in pretty high esteem. Take our neighbours across the ditch, for example. 

New Zealand recently went through a major restructuring of its health and safety guidelines, with its Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reporting that the new model was directly based on ours. 

So, if you want a career change that offers in-demand jobs in an industry that is recognised internationally for positive reasons, get in touch with AlertForce today to ensure you get a qualification that will put you on the right track. 

How to ask for pay rise after getting a Work Health and Safety qualification

No one likes talking about wages or salary with their boss. After all, as you work with a company throughout the years, there's no doubt you become more valuable to an organisation. Convincing your boss of this fact, however, is another matter entirely. 

What if we had a solution for you? Instead of relying just on tenure and examples of your hard work, what if you could formalise your experience and value in qualification? With health and safety training leading to a Certificate IV in WHS, for example, there's a way to grow you skill set and legitimise your case for a pay rise.

Essentially, a qualification gives weight to your cause. However, this still doesn't mean the conversation is an easy one. If you're a bit nervous about broaching the subject, don't be, here's what you need to know. 

1. Back your argument up with facts

Whether you're a great salesperson or not, there are a number of ways to add credence to the point you're trying to make. When asking for a pay rise from your boss, simply winging it and hoping for the best is not the answer. 

Can your prove that you're worth a pay rise?

While it's likely your boss knows you're a great employee and offer a positive contribution to the workplace, they'll often need further proof that you're worth further investment from them. It's not necessarily that they don't want to pay you more, but more that you need to provide tangible proof where necessary. 

Instead of simply reminding your boss of times you displayed certain skills or competencies, a diploma in WHS or similar qualification shows that not only have you completed these tasks in the past, but that you have the knowledge to keep performing them and other responsibilities in the future. It's also important proof that you're committed to the role. 

2. Understand the demand for WHS professionals

Competent WHS professionals are integral to the success of organisations across a number of industries. As such, qualified candidates are constantly in demand across the country. As Hays Australia reported, this is especially true for lead auditors. As an auditor, you'd be responsible for managing everything from operational practices to the legislation that concerns your business most. 

By being aware of the high demand for quality auditors, you can make a much stronger case that supports your role in the business. Simply put, you need to know that not only are you valuable to your current place of work, but also that it wouldn't be hard for you to find a similar role either with a competing company or in a whole new industry. 

This doesn't mean, however, that you should walk in and threaten to leave if you don't get your way, as this will only create tension. Talking about money with your employer can be hard enough without adding extra conflict. Instead, simply keep it in the back of your mind so you know how much you're worth to your boss. 

What makes you eligible for a pay rise?
What makes you eligible for a pay rise?

3. Be loyal and work hard 

It sounds self explanatory, but it's often something that many people forget when they're talking to their boss about the future. Your eligibility for an increase in pay depends as much on what you've done in the past as it does on your new qualification. 

Think of a diploma in WHS or other related qualification as the icing on a cake made from hard work and loyalty. You need to have a strong foundation to build your argument on, and then seal the deal with details of your health and safety training qualification. 

To find out more about why these qualifications are so valuable to people and employers, get in touch with our team today. 

NSW building boom will demand more health and safety professionals

For a bustling city of millions like Sydney, infrastructure expansion and development is key to make it inhabitable. As the city and the rest of the state continues to grow, more roads, hospitals and buildings will be necessary to avoid overcrowding and uncomfortable conditions for commuters and workers. 

As developers and contractors rush to profit on the city's potential, it's not just work on the frontline that will be in demand. For the plethora of planned expansions and projects to go ahead smoothly and profitably, it will depend on the actions and planning of health and safety professionals. If you're looking to get the jump on an industry that's about to see a rapid increase in demand, it's worth having a look at what a certificate or diploma in WHS can offer you. 

The sky's the limit in central Sydney

Sydney's CBD is NSW's economic hub, so it's a centre of ongoing expansion and job creation that will see more and more people make their way into the city for both work and leisure activities. With the Australian Bureau of Statistics predicting that Sydney will be the first Australian city to hit a population of 5 million, these projects are now even more important. 

Sydney will be the first Australian city to hit a population of 5 million.

However, CBDs aren't just for business, they're often an important cultural hub too. This is why the Central City Planning Strategy has conditions in place to ensure that any new high rises don't overshadow public spaces like Prince Alfred Park, Harmony Park and the proposed public square by the Town Hall. 

The plan's focus on building up rather than out is where the demand for health and safety professionals will really be evident. Not only are these buildings set to reach new heights, the construction sites will be located on one of the country's busiest cities, so having the right skills for the job will be essential. 

Currently, the height limit for buildings in the CBD is 235 metres, an enforcement that could need to evolve as developers look to build up rather than out. It's suggested that the new limit may be 310 metres – one metre higher than the Sydney Tower. However, any developer wanting to build above a height of 55 metres will need to dedicate half of the space to "office, retail, cultural or other uses", the Sydney Morning Herald reported. 

It's not all about the central city

The focus on major tower developments and high-profile projects in Sydney's CBD will create significant competition in the region. While people who have WHS qualifications will be in demand either way, it's always reassuring to know there are multiple opportunities on the horizon. 

Currently, Western Sydney is the focus of a major plan to upgrade and improve roads in the areas. It's a long-term investment too, expected to cost $3.6 billion and be completed over the course of 10 years. Naturally, as the project expands across the region's roads, capable WHS staff will be essential to keep both workers and the surrounding traffic same. 

Sydney will continue to grow in the coming years.
Sydney will continue to grow in the coming years.

The intended road and highway upgrades will link to yet another major project as well. For the planned airport set to be built at Badgerys Creek to be at its most effective, it will need to be supported by a capable road network that makes it easy for people and freight to get to and from their destination. 

As with the central city projects described above, the billions of dollars worth of projects being rolled out over the next few years will create a sustained need for WHS professionals. Without the right people with the right qualifications, these jobs can't go ahead. 

To find out what you need to make a difference, contact the team at Alertforce today. 

Smart & Skilled: How to get subsidised training in NSW to enhance your career

We all have certain goals and aspirations for our careers, but sometimes it’s not always easy for us to find a course or career that suits our needs. One of the most common barriers for people looking to further their education is money. Tertiary qualifications aren’t cheap, and for some people other course or alternative training options are out of their reach.

Thankfully, there is a solution. If you live in NSW and have been putting your health and safety training ambitions on hold, there may be a better way. The state’s Smart and Skilled program offers training subsidies for people around the state based on specific criteria. What does this mean for you? Your training could be fee free!

There are just a few things to keep in mind, including:

  • Eligibility – You need to find out if you’re able to make the most of the program, which will depend on traits such as your age and whether or not you’re still at school.
  • Course availability – Is the course you’re interested in actually available? Furthermore, will it lead to the career you’ve set your sights on?
  • Training provider – Which organisation will actually meet your needs and give you the best start possible?

What makes someone eligible for the Smart and Skilled training program?

Unlike some other programs or courses you may be looking at the eligibility guidelines for, Smart and Skilled training are actually pretty simple. The state government’s website for the initiative even offers a tool you can fill out to get a quick and easy answer. However, before you do that, it’s also worth running through some of the basic requirements so you have an idea of what to expect.

First and foremost, you need to be at least 15 years old and must have left school. If you’re not sure about starting an apprenticeship yet, then a diploma in WHS can be a great way to begin preparing for the workforce.

If you've left school, the Smart and Skilled program could be for you. If you’ve left school, the Smart and Skilled program could be for you.

There’s also a range of conditions concerning your living arrangements. If you live and work in the state, that’s the first step, but you also need to be either an Australian citizen or permanent resident, the holder of a humanitarian visa or even a New Zealand citizen. Since the program isn’t too restrictive on who can and can’t apply, it’s a fairly open and straightforward way to get access to cheap yet also high-quality education.

Better yet, being an apprentice or trainee won’t stop you from applying. If the qualification you have your eye on supports the focus of your apprenticeship, you may be able to secure funding for a supporting course, such as a Certificate IV in Work Health & Safety.

What courses are actually available?

The Smart and Skilled program offers people a range of qualifications to choose from, including courses in work health and safety. The initiative pairs you with a training provider too, ensuring everything is taken care of. Most importantly however, the initiative only offers courses that are integral to the state’s economy and expected to offer tangible job opportunities.

A Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety will get your foot in the door. 

These offerings include the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety, a course that’s perfect whether you’re new to the industry or looking to formalise the experience you’ve gathered so far. If you’re aiming for a career as a WHS professional, this is the course that will get your foot in the door, and it’s essential to take it on through an experienced provider.

To find out more about how AlertForce can set you up for a career in the health and safety industry, get in touch with the team today.

Mesothelioma in Australia

The use of asbestos products in Australia came to a halt more than a decade ago, but the threat of asbestos exposure — and asbestos-related disease — continues to thrive.

The danger remains real. It’s not going away anytime soon.

An estimated 700 Australians still are dying annually from malignant mesothelioma, the rare and aggressive cancer caused by exposure to toxic asbestos fibers. Twice as many will die each year from asbestos-related lung cancer.

The National Strategic Plan for Asbestos Management and Awareness was a step in the right direction. Its goal is the elimination of all asbestos-related disease, but it will require increased vigilance and many, many more years before that goal is reached.

Australia once had the highest reported per capita rate of mesothelioma in the world. Although it no longer has that distinction, it takes decades to significantly change course with asbestos.

Asbestos was once used in Australia so extensively that it became ubiquitous. The abuse and misuse of the naturally occurring mineral left more than one generation at risk of exposure.

It was once coveted for its versatility, affordability and heat resistant capabilities with almost anything. It was used so extensively with no regard for its long-term toxicity, or the damage it could do.

It still lingers today most everywhere, becoming more dangerous as it ages and becomes more brittle. Experts estimate a third of the homes and commercial structures in Australia — most of those built before 1980 — still contain asbestos products.

Any remodeling, renovation or demolition of those structures sends the asbestos fibers airborne, where they can unknowingly be inhaled or ingested.

Asbestos is in the plumbing and electrical circuits, the walls, floors and ceilings. Although those involved in new construction are not at risk anymore, those same tradesmen working on older structures are very much at risk. Anything that is cut, drilled or punctured releases the microscopic fibers.

The long latency periods (20-50 years) between exposure and diagnosis also means those who worked in various industries many years ago still could be threatened today.

Experts are expecting as many as 25,000 more Australians to die from mesothelioma in the next 40 years, despite the cleanup efforts being made today.

The professions most at risk include:

  • Shipbuilders and ship renovators
  • Military, especially U.S. Navy
  • Construction workers of different trades
  • Factory workers
  • Insulation workers and technicians
  • Railroad workers

Asbestos is no longer mined here. It is no longer imported. Consumption peaked in the 1970’s, although it use remained strong in the manufacturing industry for another decade. Most states and territories banned it in the 1980s, but the national ban of the product did not begin until 2003.

The cleanup has been an arduous process. Asbestos remains a part of the Australian legacy. Many asbestos-containing products, including gaskets and friction materials, millboard, cord, yard and cement articles were imported until the early 2000s. They remain in place today.

Unfortunately, the prognosis for most being diagnosed with mesothelioma is not good. It typically comes with a 6-12 month life expectancy. Although mesothelioma takes decades to develop within a person, it metastasizes quickly once it has taken hold in the lining around the lungs or abdomen.

If diagnosed early, though, the prognosis is considerably better because of advancements in therapy. A multidisciplinary approach that includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy has allowed survivors to live two, three, four or more years.

There are now immunotherapy and gene therapy drugs being tested in clinical trials. They have shown tremendous progress, encouraging doctors to believe that mesothelioma will one day be treated as a chronic disease that someone can live with, instead of a death sentence.

The key to treatment is finding a specialty center with experience in treating it. Because mesothelioma is a rare cancer, many oncologists rarely see it, and don’t know the best ways of treating it.

The Bernie Banton Centre at Concord Hospital (Sydney, New South Wales), the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (Western Australia) and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Melbourne, Victoria) are three of the top specialty facilities.

More information about clinical trials can be found at research facilities like the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, the Australasian Lung Cancer Trials Group and the National Center for Asbestos Related Disease (NCARD).

The National Strategic Plan wants to eliminate all risks of asbestos disease in Australia by 2030. The plan includes improvement in research, identification, removal, awareness and international leadership as it pushes for a worldwide ban of asbestos.

Until then, staying safe from asbestos disease is the goal. Vigilance is the key.

Tim Povtak is a content writer for The Mesothelioma Center and MesotheliomaPrognosis.com, an informational source for mesothelioma patients and families.

SWATting up on traffic safety

In 2004 WorkSafe Victoria instigated a Safety for Workers and Traffic Campaign (SWAT) designed to increase the level of safety for roadside workers.  Recently WorkSafe Victoria informed a seminar of OHS professionals that this traffic management program will be relaunched in the next year’s business plan and in conjunction with VicRoads.  As such it is worth re-examining the original plan

In response to a spate of roadside worker deaths, in October 2004, the then Minister for WorkSafe, Rob Hulls (pictured right, at the launch), announced

“A state-wide blitz to improve the safety of roadside workers and reduce the number of roadside deaths”.

Hulls stated in a media release

“Victorian road users have been too casual for too long in their attitude to the safety of road workers and too often, the results have been deadly. Since the beginning of last year [2003], eight people have died in work-related roadside deaths and WorkSafe reports at least two serious injuries a month. Last year was the worst for work-related roadside deaths in half a decade with five people tragically killed and this year three people have already tragically died.”

Inspectors were going to emphasise the following issues:

  • Traffic control measures including safety barriers and ensuring safe distances between vehicles and workers;
    • Appropriate training for roadside workers and supervisors;
    • Advance warning of roadside works;
    • Sufficient hazard warnings and signage at roadside worksites;
    • High visibility clothing and safety gear.

These measures seem standard in 2016 but were inconsistently applied in 2004.  Traffic Management Plans were often rudimentary and not applied to all roadside worksites.  Truck-mounted attenuators were not around and the technology associated with Variable Message Signs (VMS) was rudimentary.

According to WorkSafe Victoria’s Annual Report for 2005 700 roadside worksites were visited by inspectors as part of the six-month blitz.

VicRoads’ Road Design Note 06-04 of November 2015 illustrates the large range of road safety and worker safety measures that are now in place on Australian roads, including truck-mounted attenuators, jersey barriers and gawk screens.    Few of these measures were in place in 2004.

The original SWAT program was to have a team of 40 Inspectors dedicated to the program with additional training on the issues for the whole of the WorkSafe inspectorate.  The inspection strategy of WorkSafe has changed over that time and removed Inspector specialists.  However, over the last twelve months WorkSafe Victoria has reinstated its specialist building and construction industry inspectorate under which the original SWAT program operated.

Over the last decade road authorities have also matured and accepted that construction and infrastructure projects must be integrated into the management of traffic flows rather than an activity that is done by others and that must not impact on traffic.  In July 2015, VicRoads issued A Guide to Working Within the Road Reserve. Essentially this guide is about the need to talk about what works are to be undertaken and to talk with the right people, to gain the right approvals. – essential WHS requirements.

The application of the Safety for Workers and Traffic Campaign (SWAT) to the modern roadside worksite is likely to be more complex as the duties and roles of the traffic controller has become a highly technical role due to the broadened safety duties of looking after the safety of themselves, their fellow workers, motorists and other road users as well as minimising traffic movement impacts.  Traffic controllers are also beholden to two regulators WorkSafe and VicRoads.

However, road construction companies and utilities companies who often need to work in an emergency have also matured in their approach to traffic management.  Larger projects have additional safety inspection resources with specialists in traffic management.  Traffic management plans are very responsive to the dynamic construction sites and are scrutinised by more stakeholders now than previously.

Traffic management is no longer simply a man with a stick; it is becoming a profession in its own right.  Government regulators have increased their safety expectations substantially over the last decade and companies that need to work on roads and in road reserves have broader safety obligations.  There is a limit to the effectiveness of engineering control measures, as outlined in the VicRoads Guide mentioned above.  Engineering needs to be supported by training traffic management personnel who can implement the control measures but also “fill the gaps” that fixed controls cannot cover.

It is from this understanding that road management authorities issue various Standards, guides and handbooks, but it is also why companies like AlertForce provide training courses that are responsive to the changing legislative and regulatory expectations and changing technologies.

It is important to have safe worksites all the time but even more so when WorkSafe Victoria and VicRoads reintroduces the SWAT inspection campaign in the next year or so.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised Traffic Management courses, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/

Is Asbestos Training any good?

Recently the Asbestos Safety & Eradication Agency (ASEA) completed a report based on an “Analysis of existing training materials used by organisations in the utilities sector”.  The report followed an investigation of asbestos training materials undertaken by the former OHS manager of the Australian Workers’ Union, Dr Yossi Berger.  Berger applied a specific list of criteria to the training materials which in many ways can be applied to all WHS training:

  • Accurate, effective and practical information, successfully communicated, complete and uncompromising
  • Teaching must go beyond the presentation of facts
  • Awareness that does not normalise risk
  • Development of emotional wisdom and protective unease
  • Fostering of an ability to query and withstand workplace pressures …
  • Historical examples of downplaying the serious health effects of exposure to asbestos
  • Precautionary principle
  • Emphases, demonstrations and explanations of safer work practices
  • Identification and use of correct tools and procedures
  • Knowledge of licencing and identification and communication of potential issues

The ASEA report found that asbestos training providers were quiet on the precautionary principle.  Asbestos is one of those materials that was used or installed in Australia decades ago so the handling of the material in construction is no longer a concern.   However, it occurs commonly in demolition – a process that already presents a high risk but is even a higher risk as it is a process that many want done quickly so it doesn’t impede whatever is being built on.  The focus in what is going to happen rather than what is happening at the moment.

asbestosIn terms of regular safety training the precautionary principle should receive move attention or is seen as more relevant because it prepares the student for avoiding hazards through job design, work task planning and resource management.

The report found that the criterion concerning fostering of an ability to query and withstand workplace pressures … was “least represented and almost completely absent across all reviewed materials”.

The report offered no reason for this absence yet the ability to question work practices and pressures is an essential element of the WHS obligation to consult and is often described as a workplace right to refuse work when one considers the task unsafe to perform.  

This absence is also strange given that the training materials are from an asbestos course and that awareness of the health risks of asbestos is generally high in the community.  Perhaps trainers relied on this high level of awareness to skip or downplay this unit.

A similar approach by the WHS trainers assessed may have applied to the poor representation of “historical examples of downplaying the serious health effects of exposure to asbestos”.  Given that Australia remains in the middle of projected span of asbestos-related disease fatalities it is important that the historical context of asbestos use be covered in asbestos training.  

The assumption that “everyone knows the risks of asbestos” is false given that Australia has a healthy rate of immigration with many coming from countries where WHS awareness is low.  Only a generation ago in Australia, asbestos was still being promoted as a suitable building material.  This is still the case in many countries and Australian asbestos training should be reiterating the seriousness and consequences of the mishandling of asbestos and asbestos-contaminated materials.

Part of the ASEA project was the development of a model unit of competency to “recognise and respond to asbestos risk in the utilities sector.  The unit of competency includes these four elements

  1. “Recognise asbestos hazards.
  2. Implement basic asbestos hazard controls.
  3. Contribute to an empowering safety culture.
  4. Comply with regulations and workplace procedures.”

The ASEA report found

  • “Elements 1, 2, 4 were addressed, to varying degrees, across most of the supplied training material.
  • Element 3 was rarely, if ever, addressed in the supplied material.”

The need to establish and maintain a “safety culture” has become a mantra for the WHS profession as it is accepted that a safety culture plays a crucial role in establishing a workplace where safety is advocated and that project and site managers display a commitment to WHS through appropriate leadership actions.

Trainers may have struggled with this element as even the WHS profession continues to argue about the existence of a “safety culture”.  However, the element is really a new way of discussing consultation, hazard assessment, safety management, investigation, preparation, resourcing and skill levels.  Perhaps the training element was rarely addressed because asbestos handling is often seen as a blue-collar activity where safety culture concerns more white-collar and supervisory activities.  Regardless, if the element exists in the unit of competency, it should be taught and to the best possible level.

The ASERA/Asbestos Awareness report concludes by acknowledging “…there is some great material being used” but also states that there are “some significant holes” in the training materials.  Holes in any WHS training material is of great concern but when training is on an issue like asbestos, such concerns should be very high.  As the Government continues to review asbestos training, it is time for employers and employees to not simply choose a training provider on trust but to inquire further about the trainer’s competency and whether the training materials being used are the best they can be.  Safety training should never be a waste of money and should always decrease workplace risks.

 

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised Asbestos Removal courses, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

Increased OHS penalties, mental health and suicide prevention

On March 9 2016, Victoria’s Industrial Relations Minister, Robin Scott, introduced a Bill to Parliament that increased an OHS penalty to $3,000,000 but also clarified the roles of WHS assessors and those conducting WHS training.

According to the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum, the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 allows for rules to be made concerning licensing, registration, qualifications, permits or certificates of competency, the authorisation of persons as trainers and the examination of applicants for licences, permits or certificates of competency.  The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007, prescribes requirements for the types of licences relevant to high risk work.

The Bill amends the legislation so that under the Occupational Health and Safety Act people can be authorised as both trainers and assessors.

The achievement of competency is a crucial element of any safety management system and any training that provides skills competencies should be of a high integrity.  Specifying who is the skills trainer, the instructor, and who is the assessor or examiner is an important part of ensure that integrity.

The Minister’s Bill is a technical amendment to existing safety laws that tidies up the situation but also indicates that Government is not ignorant of workplace skills training needs and processes.

Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing

Lately there has been an upsurge in attention to workplace mental health and the significance of a mentally healthy workplace in business productivity but also work health and safety.  This movement, largely from the public health advocates, is changing the way that WHS is being considered in many workplaces and this is flowing into WHS training.

Training courses provide the necessary skills and competencies to do a job safely and properly.  But those skills need to be applied within different workplaces, with different safety strategies and different corporate priorities.  Work does not occur in a vacuum and skills need to be adjusted, or the application of those skills need to be adjusted to fit those safety strategies.  And those strategies are going to be couched in terms of wellness, wellbeing and mental health.

Some companies are going to be assessing workers on their fitness and capacity to work.  If you are grossly overweight but still able to perform the job satisfactorily and apply the right set of skills, this may not be enough anymore.  Companies may expect you to lose weight or undergo medical and fitness assessments, even though weight and fitness may not be essential elements for you to do your job without creating harm.

The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022 developed by Safe Work Australia states one of the national visions is:

“promoting worker health, wellbeing and capacity to work,” (page 5)

It goes on to say that:

“Workers’ general health and wellbeing are strongly influenced by their health and safety at work. Well-designed work can improve worker health.” (page 10)

WHS professionals would interpret this statement as retuning to the basic ways work is undertaken and includes the reason for doing the job a certain way as well as the working conditions in which the task is performed an d whether the workplace fosters mental health rather than ill-health.  Few employers are willing to investigate the way work is done to this extent as it could disrupt the production process and seriously threaten the business case for the business, particularly if that business has operated for some time.

Companies are applying a big picture approach to work health and safety which includes wellness and workplace mental health but the focus remains almost entirely on the physical and mental capacities of the worker instead of the conditions in which they work.  Both the individual and the organisational factors need to be assessed to work safely

Suicide Prevention

Although some wellbeing advocates talk about gyms and yoghurt, there are mental stresses in the construction and mining sectors that are real and can be addressed.  According to Mates in Construction:

“Construction workers are twice as likely as others in the community to take their own lives”

“For a construction worker, you’re six times more likely to suicide than to die as a consequence of a workplace incident. If you’re under 24 that gets elevated to 10 times.”

Suicide is a real risk in the construction sector due to many factors such as the fluctuating work opportunities, the uneven work hours and isolation from home and family.

There are an increasing number of organisations who can provide assistance to those who are having suicidal thoughts – Mates in Construction is one, Lifeline is another.  Many companies have access to employee assistance programs that are available to employees and contractors.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised WHS training, go to https://alertforce.com.au/

WHS Training is More than Just Training

Training in work health and safety (WHS) is very important as should be, any training. But students are not often advised how to make the best of their WHS training.

Individuals undertake training because they have a need to improve their skills, to gain new ones or to polish the existing skills and qualifications.  This may have resulted from a training needs analysis conducted by the employer; it could have resulted from a WHS audit that identified workers undertaking tasks for which they were not, or insufficiently, qualified.  It may also be because an employer is diligent in the administration their training register and accept that using competent and suitably qualified personnel is a crucial element of achieving and maintaining compliance with WHS laws.

Regardless of the motivation, the individual attends classes to learn.

Most students will leave their training course with a sense of satisfaction in passing the exams, be they theoretical or practical.  Passing a training course is an endorsement that you have the skills to do a job safely.  But having the skills is not the same as applying them.

When returning to work it is important that supervisors know how things have improved.  They need to be reassured that the student has the skills AND the knowledge to use them properly.  This will vary, dependent on the type of training undertaken but it is useful to discuss these skills with your supervisor who is likely to have had the same skills for much longer.  This experience is an important element in reinforcing or tempering the enthusiasm one may feel.

Students want to please their employers and their supervisors and show that the training investment was not wasted.  But the enthusiasm can sometimes be applied in the wrong context.  For instance, in relation to working at heights training that may involve an Elevated Work Platform (EWP), a newly qualified student will want to get into the EWP to show their new skills but also to familiarise themselves with the type of EWP used on site.  

But skills should never be applied without being aware of the work environment in which the article of plant is to be used.  There are important safety protocols that still need to be applied regardless of the skills the worker has.  EWPs often require spotters who supervise the horizontal movement of the plant, but in light of some recent fatalities, just as importantly, look at the vertical movement of the EWP, watching out for canopies, electrical wires, ceilings and other obstacles at height.

Similarly, working at heights training would qualify someone to work at height but the company, and maybe the client, will still have significant safety protocols that need to be followed.  Any supervisors of heights work would continue to be uncertain of the training the student has received until the employed has showed both that they have the appropriate skills and they know how to use those skills appropriately.  Any supervisor that did not have this perspective would be likely to be breaching their WHS duty of care.

As well making sure that supervisors know that the training has been successful, there is an administrative process that should be undertaken.  Employees need to make sure that the qualifications are entered on the company’s training register.  This is a list of employees, the training qualifications held and the expiry date of that training certification.  Not only because, hopefully, the employer has paid for the training, the employer needs to be able to show that they are using only competent people to do specific work tasks, such as working at height, or operating an EWP.

Individuals, particularly in construction it seems, often maintain their own “register” of tickets.  Whether this is a small folder containing all the relevant training, induction and identification cards or a tobacco tin or a small Tupperware container, does not matter. The importance is that the certifications are readily available where one is working – not in the ute, or back in the lunch shed but in one’s tool box or shirt pocket.  These certifications can be called for by many people who visit the site and who need to be assured that contractors are operating to the commitments they made that won them the contract.

Students are justifiably proud of the qualifications they have achieved but these qualifications also have a legislative compliance role for employers.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised WHS training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/

Asbestos in Australia

Until around the mid-1980s, Australia had one of the highest rates of asbestos-related illnesses (per capita) in the world. Although the mineral was once touted for its affordability, ease of use, and resistance to heat fire, millions of people worldwide have developed toxic, life-threatening illnesses after coming into contact with asbestos.

Asbestos in Australia

Numerous asbestos mines sit in Australia, which made it easy for businesses to extract it and sell it to a myriad of businesses. Mining reached its heights in Australia from the 1930s throughout the 1960s, especially in the town of Wittenoom. As more studies developed about the dangers of asbestos, Australia began regulating laws on banning the mineral in the 1960s, starting with blue asbestos. In the mid-1980s, brown asbestos was banned, followed by white asbestos in the 2000s.

Prior to its ban, asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used to build most homes in Australia. Over a third of the homes in Australia to this day contain asbestos. The toxic mineral was also used on a number of job sites, including textile mills, repair facilities, manufacturing plants, power plants, and more.

Although it’s been years since asbestos was used prominently, people are still dying from its toxic effects. The Australian Mesothelioma Registry reports that there were 614 asbestos-related deaths in 2014 alone. This number is expected to grow and reach its peak around 2021. According to Professor Peto of the University of Melbourne, both Australia and the UK have the highest incidences of asbestos-related deaths in the world. In fact, Peto predicts that asbestos deaths will reach to around 25,000 within the next 40 years. He stated that,

“The hazards in manufacturing, lagging and shipbuilding were recognised, but the much larger workforce in construction went on being heavily exposed with no effective regulation at all. Australian builders, particularly carpenters, often had to cut asbestos cement board with power tools, which caused very high dust levels.”

The following occupations have the highest risk of developing asbestos-related diseases:

  •      Railroad workers
  •      Military
  •      Factory and plant workers
  •      Construction workers
  •      Plumbers
  •      Shipbuilders
  •      Insulation installers and technicians

How Does Asbestos Cause Toxic Illnesses?

Asbestos fibres are thin, odourless, and undetectable to the human eye. When these tiny fibres become airborne, they are easily inhaled and/or ingested as they permeate through the air.

Once asbestos fibres are ingested or inhaled, it’s impossible for the body to dispel of them all. Over time, the fibres attach to the surrounding areas of major organs and start irritate organ linings. Eventually, these irritations turn into life-threatening illnesses such as asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer, or malignant mesothelioma.

What Can Be Done About Asbestos Exposure?

With the high amount of mesothelioma cases popping up due to negligent exposure to asbestos, many victims of the lethal mineral have opted to file lawsuits against asbestos manufacturers and other companies responsible for providing ACMs to job sites. As more and more people become aware of just how dangerous asbestos is, these lawsuits are projected to grow significantly.

In the meantime, workers, as well as people who live in older homes, should always practice caution and safety. If your work around asbestos, make sure to always:

  •      Wear protective gear, such as a HEPA-filtered face mask and protective coveralls
  •      Enroll in asbestos awareness training courses (employers are required to provide training to employees who work around asbestos)
  •      Do not bring home any tools or clothing that came into contact with asbestos

If you live in an older home,

  •      Do not allow your children to play around old furnaces or in attics
  •      Do not attempt to repair old appliances yourself until your home has been inspected for asbestos
  •      Never start a renovation project without having your home checked for asbestos first

If you think you may have come into contact with asbestos, it’s extremely important to get routine medical checkups. Detecting asbestos-related diseases as early as possible offers the best chances of successful treatment.

Special thanks to Tara Connor for writing this article. For more information please visit MesotheliomaLawyerCenter.org

For more information on Asbestos Removal Training Courses please visit: http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

Everyone’s looking at traffic management

It is common to start an article about traffic management training with a summary of the latest traffic controller death. But AlertForce has been reporting on these deaths for some time and the fact that controlling traffic is a high risk occupation is without doubt.

Expectations of some construction and infrastructure projects are expanding some of the tasks of the traffic controller that can change the types of risks faced and the context of the work. Also as the Work Health and Safety laws settle in, in most Australian States, traffic management is receiving increased attention from project clients; many of these clients are State governments.

 

Site Access

The classic traffic controller is the flagmen, the Stop/Slow traffic controllers. These continue to be an integral control measure in reducing potential harm to workers but construction site and infrastructure projects are also employing traffic controllers to manage site access. They are more than gatekeepers and require a strong understanding of what is occurring on the construction site, so that they can, amongst other tasks, check and verify a legitimate delivery, ensure that the worksite is not clogged with deliveries or ensure that a visitor does not drive aimlessly around site.

site access

Sometimes the physical site access has not been designed as well as it could have been and fails to anticipated the width, length or height of the plant or materials being delivered. This is particularly the case on construction sites that can change rapidly. Temporary or poorly-planned site access can increase the risk to the traffic controller who is usually required to get close to the vehicle in order to communicate with the driver. There have been several instances of traffic controllers being driven over, usually resulting in injuries to their lower limbs.

Traffic controllers should attend prestarts so that they understand the reasons behind traffic types, traffic volumes and any recent public or site concerns that may affect their duties. Perhaps more importantly, attending a prestart allows the traffic controller to raise any issues with site access or deliveries, for instance, that may have been unsafe or dangerous. These issues can often be resolved at the prestart and reduce the risks for the rest of the day or longer.

Controlling site access is not without its own risks. Truck drivers can be as impatient as any car driver and can be irate at having to be kept waiting, in line or even turned away – such is the authority of the traffic controller.

Client Demands

Recently one major Victorian infrastructure project provided additional training about traffic management to its safety advisers. This was undertaken as part of the Client’s OHS due diligence obligations as the Client had identified a hole in the advisers’ knowledge about traffic management and traffic controllers.

In the past such knowledge may have been picked up by a safety person on the job but more likely traffic plans and management were not looked at closely. The existence of a traffic management plan, no matter how poor, was often enough to satisfy a site walk.

Skilling up safety advisers increased attention to traffic management plans and controller activities. Many controllers are not comfortable with this level of attention but the safety adviser’s role is expanding beyond the limits of a construction site or project and they are entitled, under the WHS

laws they are encouraged, to inspect all of the safety documents and work processes related with that work site. Site safety walks are more likely to include traffic management than in the past.

This additional level of scrutiny requires traffic management plans to be accurate and to be part of, or linked to, the overall site safety management plans. It requires traffic controllers to be active participants in the prestarts, toolboxes and other consultative mechanisms on any project.

The obligations of traffic controllers and managers have not changed greatly – plans have to meet strict guidelines and codes, controllers need to set out their traffic control equipment in prescribed ways. But Work Health and Safety is changing and traffic controllers are becoming less invisible to the safety planning and auditing processes as project managers and, often government, clients are improving their understanding and scrutiny of traffic management.

Traffic controllers need to maintain their training and skills to the best standard that they can but they also must see themselves as part of the construction project and be involved in the decisions that may affect them or increase their risk.

To be accredited as traffic controller, a person must complete an approved Traffic Controller Training Course. The course must be delivered through a registered training organisation (RTO) approved by the relevant State Regulator.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised traffic control NSW training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/

Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency comments on Asbestos Training

The Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency released several case studies into best practice management of asbestos risk.  Two case studies describe the approach taken by Ergon Energy, who aims to be a workplace that is free of asbestos by 2027. Asbestos Training provides an important role to play.

Ergon Energy realised that it needed to get an accurate measure of the asbestos risks to its company so it established a single point of contact for asbestos issues across all of its divisions.  This avoided any asbestos issues falling through any cracks in the occupational health and safety management system.  Companies in some construction and infrastructure projects have similarly established a safety team to address a single hazard, such as a gas pipeline, that travels through various sections of an infrastructure project.

The company coordinated, through the Asbestos Manager Wayne Cullen, an audit of all of its sites built prior to 2004.  The company also assessed all of its customers including around 540,000 residential properties that contained a customer-owned switchboard.

Ergon Energy built an asbestos register that is available in hard copy and online that is updated immediately after any work involving Asbestos Contaminated Materials (ACM). The register allows for annual audits of high risk sites and 3 yearly visits to sites of moderate risk, as well as supporting the use of Quick Response (QR) codes to reduce paperwork on site.

Ergon strictly applied the Hierarchy of Controls is determining how to address asbestos risks emphasizing the higher orders of control.  Some construction companies describe this as focusing on “above the line” controls, that is, to investigate the “hard” controls rather than relying on the “soft” controls of administrative processes of PPE.  Ergon Energy’s Wayne Cullen said that

“It can be perceived as an expensive approach in implementing hard controls. Some companies tend to rely solely on Soft Controls because of this potential cost factor and because they are so much easier to implement.”

However, the company believes that the higher control measures are more effective in reducing risk of exposure and are actually more cost effective in the long term.

The geography of Ergon Energy’s home state of Queensland meant that it requires its asbestos removalists to be qualified to an ‘A class’ licence even though most work only requires a ‘B class’ licence).  Cullen explains the need for this higher level of qualification through an example:

“The biggest problem for Ergon Energy is distance and remote locations. The major cost is derived from the mobilisation of suitable qualified contractor teams. In these smaller towns [out west and in the islands of the Torres Strait] there are a limited number of qualified personnel, so they have to come from the larger cities along the coast. In one case, a crew was sent out to a sub-station to remove a large quantity of bonded asbestos. However, after commencing the task, it was identified that friable asbestos was present and had to be removed [which requires an ‘A class’ licence]. Ergon Energy had to stop the job, demobilise that crew and get another qualified crew out to the site. This resulted in a huge cost to the business.”

This requirement of a higher level of competence and control than is strictly required also extends to PPE.  Ergon Energy has replaced traditional P2 respirators with Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPR) for teams working with Silva link fuses on electricity poles, many of which contain friable asbestos. According to Ergon’s best practice case study, unlike P2 masks which require the person to be clean shaven to ensure a proper seal, PAPRs consist of a hood that goes over the person’s head and a pump that generates a constant positive air pressure, preventing any chance of airborne asbestos fibres being inhaled.

These safety changes are supported by engaging with staff about safety and explaining the process behind safety decisions, keeping paperwork as simple as possible, and making sure that additional and expert safety advice is readily available, regardless of the remoteness of the location.

The two case studies from Ergon Energy recommend these processes for satisfy contemporary safety expectations around asbestos removal:

  • “There has to be someone in the organisation who is held accountable for asbestos safety. If it’s not part of someone’s day job, it won’t happen.
  • If you don’t have the support of senior management, the unions and staff in the field, it’s a hard, if not impossible task.
  • You need middle managers who are willing to promote a safety culture.
  • While there may be great costs involved initially, higher levels of control (i.e. elimination and isolation):
    • are much more effective in reducing risk of exposure to asbestos fibres
    • remove the need for ongoing costly and time consuming safety practices
    • often make it easier for employees to follow procedures
    • provide evidence that protects the organisation from any claims of risk to public health and safety.
  • Give staff ownership of the processes – include them in the decisions around safe work practices and tell them the benefits
  • Keep talking about it, so that it’s not just flavour of the month and then drops away
  • You need strong leaders that keep driving the practice and leading by example – that’s especially important for young apprentices and new starters because they see that it’s normal practice
  • People are more likely to change their behaviour when they understand the consequences – you and your staff need to understand ‘the why’
  • Make the message personal – help staff and management to understand where asbestos is in their own workplace or home and what exposure could mean to them and their families.”

Alertforce has a range of training courses on asbestos awareness, assessment and removal at http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

Rail Safety Around the Country

It may seem obvious to state that not all industries are the same.  A lot of safety knowledge is transferable from industry to industry but some is not.  As the health of industries rise and fall in Australia, workers are also taking their safety assumptions with them to new sectors, and this can increase the risk of injury and illness.  This is particularly the case with the construction of rail infrastructure which is increasing, particularly, in Australia’s Eastern States.

Just as civil construction is increasing in some capital cities so is the construction of new rail and light rail infrastructure.  Rail infrastructure has remained insular for decades with “train people” believing there is something special about their industry.  In some ways they are right as the operation of public transport has operated under its own legislation and “Book of Rules” which has paralleled but remained separate from occupational health and safety laws.  But those barriers are being eroded as the rail transport sector comes under more regulatory scrutiny through the Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator and State safety bodies, and rail safety is being measured by OHS metrics. The safety journey experienced by New South Wales’ RailCorp is an obvious illustration of this change.

Rail infrastructure is in the process of a transition from a foxed view of safety to a more inclusive one but remains based on concepts and operations that are unique.  There are different words for structures, tools, plant and equipment, incident notifications and other standard workplace items and activities.  For instance, a set of personal protective clothing prescribed in one State will not be allowed in another State.  Some rail operators require hardhats to be worn, others do not. This inconsistency creates problems for those workers entering this sector for the first time and from other industry sectors, such as mining and manufacturing.

Many of the construction activities will feel familiar because building a railway station remains construction but the fact that trains may be continually running through the worksite introduces a substantial new hazard.  And because the end user is often partly owned by the government, the project is under a lot more scrutiny than the standard construction project.  There are more stakeholders and many of them want to be more engaged with the construction project than they have in the past.

This is a set of circumstances that the usual construction training has not addressed.  Construction Induction training is very generic and, for working in the rail environment, is usually supplemented by awareness training.  This training provides a basic understanding of the rail corridor and its contents.  It discusses the rail structures, overhead power systems, rail signals and, perhaps most importantly, a system of safety protection unique to the railway called Rail Safety.  All of this introduces the non-rail worker into the rail safety world.  It is intended to help workers transition from a generic construction work environment into a very different one – an environment where familiar construction activities are undertaken but with different terminologies, different levels of supervision, and different accountabilities.

Drugs and Alcohol

One of the most obvious differences of working in rail construction is that the obligation to be free of alcohol and drugs while at work is reinforced by random drug and alcohol testing.  There have been moves to introduce such a safety measure in the regular construction after years of trade union resistance.  Rail construction has had this requirement for many years and a mandatory drug and alcohol test is part of the certification process to work within the rail corridor.

Construction companies take this obligation seriously and have even sent workers offsite after they were having after-work drinks from the back of the ute in the site car park.

Positive test results are often reported up-the line to safety regulators and government clients and are seen as serious safety management failures.

There is no “dummies’ guide to working in the rail construction” and there probably never will be as each State’s rail network is slightly different and tramwork is different from light-rail even within the same States.  This places a great significance on safety training as the main method of increasing your OHS knowledge as it relates to rail infrastructure.  As with most safety training, the quality of courses varies between providers.  So to be able to be the most attractive supplier of safe workers in rail infrastructure, dealing with a reliable and reputable rails safety training provider is crucial.

Do wellness programs work?

Wellness programs are now found in many workplaces.

But do they improve wellness or work health and safety (WHS), both in the short term and with longer term sustainability?

“The jury is still out”, according to Julie Armour from Sydney-based risk management consultancy Working Armour.

Ms Armour says a recent review of the financial reports of Australia’s top publically listed companies by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) found many companies now run workplace programs to “improve” employee mental health and wellbeing i.e. wellness programs.

Missing in these reports, however, was clear evidence the programs work, either from employee health – or a work health and safety (WHS) point of view, Ms Armour said.

According to the report, financial companies reported on enabling flexible workplaces, providing development opportunities, employee assistance programs (EAPs) and well-being initiatives – but only one in five disclosed absence rates.

Mining companies provided wellbeing programs and employee assistance programs (EAPs) but less than a third reported turnover rates, only 4% reported absence rates, and none reported on overtime worked, she said.

This was in addition to almost 20% of the top 100 publicly listed companies not publicly reporting on WHS.

“It almost seems like a stab in the dark; we are doing a whole lot of stuff which may cost a significant amount of money – but we have no idea if it works,” Ms Armour said.

“How do you know if you are making good investment choices when companies only report on the initiatives but not on the results?

“And how do you know such programs achieve any actual improvement? For all we know, we could be simply feathering the nests of a vast array of consulting companies profiting from the recent media hyped wave of interest in these areas. Equally we could be missing out on understanding which of these programs are most successful in improving indicators and saving money.”

Ms Armour said this was particular important in times of tightening WHS budgets. “If you are cutting your WHS budget at the same time as increasing your wellness budget, the question needs to be asked; why? There are clear monetary benefits to improving WHS – the benefits of wellness programs are less clear and we may be putting resources into areas which are less risk. We also may be ignoring opportunities for holistic expenditure where elements of both can be addressed at the same time.”

Ms Armour said there was a pressing need for companies embarking on wellness programs to identify objectives prior to starting – and accurately measure the results.

“Why spend significant amounts of money in an untargeted scattergun approach if you are not measuring for change?”

Ms Armour said when employers do attempt to measure their wellbeing indices they should invest in forms of objective measurements rather than the self-reported survey response alone.

They should identify the impact of wellbeing programs on other relevant workplace measures, such as utilisation of EAPs, employee satisfaction levels, staff turnover rates, absenteeism, or overtime worked.

Ms Armour said speakers at the Informa Workplace Wellness Conference in Sydney at the end of July 2015 identified a number of barriers to workers improving their general health and wellbeing.

These included long work hours and commute times, job insecurity, and the impact of physical work on their bodies. “It would seem that all the money spent on wellbeing initiatives could be a waste if there is no measurement of the impact of such programs on these barriers.”

Wellness program developers need to also not confuse popular programs with actual changes in wellness or WHS metrics, Ms Armour says.

“A Lend Lease example is reported where a financial workshop educating employees on superannuation and wills was its most ‘popular’ wellbeing initiative. Other parts of the wellness programs included cooking demonstrations, highlighting bad health habits, one-on-one health coaching, flu shots, cancer awareness, suicide intervention and mental health first aid.

A 12-month follow up survey found that 90-100% of the survey respondents had ‘benefitted’ from these wellness initiatives, but it was not clear how they benefitted or even how many of those involved in the programs responded to the survey.

They did indicate that they reduced their total recordable injury frequency rate (TRIFR) by half but the relevance to the wellbeing programs was not clear. They suggested that wellness programs contributed to a ‘happier and more productive’ business, without demonstrating exactly how this was determined or measured in an objective way that did not rely solely on self-reported feedback surveys.

“No one is suggesting such programs shouldn’t be conducted,” Ms Armour said. “But if you are going to spend money on them make sure you establish a baseline need, ensure the expenditure matches the degree of risk in the workplace and that you can measure if programs actually create any change in the workplace rather than just a number of superlative motherhood statements.

“Rather than manual handling consultations for example why not focus on ensuring the use of higher order controls at the design and planning phase of these types of tasks then follow up by measuring whether improved practices have been achieved. We know that talking about risk and being aware does not necessarily change behaviour! We know we shouldn’t speed when we drive but is that enough to slow us down?”

Dangerous, difficult and ‘sometimes appalling’: road management in spotlight

Working conditions in the traffic management industry are dangerous, difficult and “sometimes appalling”, according to the Workplace Rights Ombudsman’s Workplace Report on the Contract Traffic Control Industry Queensland.

Highlighting the high fatality rate and importance of traffic training courses, the report calls for among other things, all site supervisors and potential site supervisors are to be familiar with their safety obligations with respect to traffic control.

Separate fatality and injury statistics are not officially collected for the traffic management industry.

However, Australian Safety and Compensation Council (now Safe Work Australia) figures reveal 37 workers and seven bystanders were killed in work-related road and transport incidents notified to OHS authorities across Australia in 2007-08.

WorkSafe Victoria figures, meanwhile, reveal nine people were killed at roadside worksites in 2004 and 2005.

In such a dangerous industry, failure to follow strict work health and safety protocols for traffic management is tantamount to negligence, transport union the Australian Workers Union (Victoria) warns.

 

Union fact sheet

Collating the figures into a safety Fact Sheet for traffic management workers, the Australian Workers Union (Victoria) has for a number of years now been promoting a public campaign to improve work health and safety for traffic management workers, using the message ‘Slow Down @ Road Works – Speed Kills’.

The Fact Sheet notes a person hit by a car travelling at 50km/h has an 80% chance of being killed, but this drops to 20-30% if hit at 40 km/h. The risk of a crash causing casualties is doubled by every 5km/h travelled over the limit in a 60km/h zone (Transport Accident Commission).

The AWU says about 5,000 workers are employed by more than 100 traffic management companies in Victoria to control the flow of cars and other vehicles at road works or during special events. Most traffic management workers are casuals or labour hire employees for sub-contractors.

Despite the dangerous nature of the work, 25% of roadside worksites in Victoria were not compliant with safety standards when visited by WorkSafe Iinspectors during the Safety for Workers and Traffic (SWAT) Campaign in 2004-06, the Fact Sheet notes.

 

SWA draft code

Workplace injuries and fatalities are frequently linked with vehicles moving in and around workplaces, reversing, loading and unloading, Safe Work Australia’s warns.

Workers on foot are particularly at risk from moving vehicles. SWA says the safest way to protect pedestrians is to eliminate the hazard, which means removing the use of all vehicles including powered mobile plant or removing all pedestrians from traffic areas. This could be achieved by designing the layout of the workplace to eliminate the interaction of pedestrians and vehicles.

Where this is not reasonably practicable, the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This can be achieved by careful planning and by controlling vehicle operations and pedestrian movements at the workplace. This includes loading/unloading activities.

SWA’s draft guide for employers Traffic Management: Construction Work says the key issues to consider for managing traffic at a construction workplace include:

  • keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart, including on site and when vehicles enter and exit the workplace
  • minimising vehicle movements
  • the risks of vehicles reversing
  • visibility of vehicles and pedestrians
  • traffic signs
  • developing a traffic management plan.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons at the workplace are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. This duty includes implementing measures to control the risks of persons being injured due to the movement of powered mobile plant at the workplace. A PCBU also has a duty to provide any information, training and instruction that is necessary to protect persons from risks to their health and safety.

A PCBU involved in carrying out high risk construction work must ensure that a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before the work commences.

High risk construction work includes construction work that is carried out in an area at a workplace in which there is any movement of powered mobile plant.

The SWMS must identify the high risk construction work, specify associated hazards, describe measures to control risks and how these will be implemented. The PCBU must put in place arrangements for ensuring that high risk construction work is carried out in accordance with its SWMS.

A principal contractor for a construction project (where the value of the construction work is $250,000 or more) also has duties that include managing health and safety risks associated with traffic in the vicinity of the workplace that may be affected by construction work carried out in connection with the construction project. This includes preparing a WHS management plan for the workplace.

The WHS management plan sets out the arrangements to manage the risks associated with more complex construction projects, and in particular this relates to the interaction and co-ordination of a number of contractors and subcontractors.

Further information on the preparation of SWMS and WHS management plans is available in the Code of Practice: Construction Work.

Information instruction and training

Under the WHS laws a PCBU must provide workers and others at the workplace with adequate information, training and instruction. A PCBU must also ensure that construction induction training is provided to workers.

All workers need to know and understand the traffic rules, site safety policies and procedures for the workplace. Instructions should be provided to visitors before their visit, if possible.

External drivers should be aware of the site’s traffic safety procedures, any restrictions on vehicle size or type and where they are to make the delivery prior to attending the workplace.

Any site-specific health and safety rules and the arrangements for ensuring that all persons at the workplace are informed of these rules must be included in the WHS management plan.

Other persons at the workplace, so far as they’re able, must comply with any reasonable instruction that is given by the PCBU. They must also take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that they do not adversely affect the health and safety of others.

Keeping pedestrians and vehicles apart

The following actions will help keep pedestrians and vehicles apart both on site and when vehicles enter or exit the workplace:

  • provide separate traffic routes for pedestrians and vehicles
  • secure the areas where vehicles and powered mobile plant are being used, for example pedestrian barriers or traffic control barricades
  • provide separate clearly marked pedestrian walkways that take a direct route where possible
  • where walkways cross roadways, provide a clearly signed and lit crossing point where drivers and pedestrians can see each other clearly
  • when exiting the site, make sure drivers driving out onto public roads can see both ways along the footway before they move on to it
  • do not block walkways so that pedestrians have to step onto the vehicle route
  • create ‘no go’ zones for powered mobile plant (e.g. pedestrian-only areas around tearooms, amenities and entrances)
  • designate specific parking areas for workers’ and visitors’ vehicles outside the construction zone’.

Minimising vehicle movements

Good planning can help to minimise vehicle movement around a workplace.

To limit the number of vehicles at a workplace:

  • provide vehicle parking for workers and visitors away from the work area
  • control entry to the work area
  • plan storage areas so that delivery vehicles do not have to cross the site.

Where multiple items of powered mobile plant are being operated around the workplace, a person with the necessary training or qualifications should direct the plant:

  • when operating in close proximity to each other
  • when reversing
  • where persons are on the ground
  • in other situations as indicated by a risk assessment.

 

Vehicles reversing

The need for vehicles to reverse should be avoided where possible as reversing is a major cause of fatal accidents.

One-way systems can reduce the risk, especially in storage areas. A turning circle could be installed so that vehicles can turn without reversing.

Where it is necessary for vehicles to reverse:

  • use reversing sensors, reversing cameras and mirrors and warning devices such as reversing alarms
  • ensure drivers have another person to direct them before reversing if they cannot see clearly behind. The driver should maintain visual contact with the person directing them and signallers should wear high visibility clothing
  • ensure workers and other people are familiar with reversing areas and reversing areas are clearly marked
  • ensure operational plant movements are alerted to workers including swing radius, articulation points and overhead load movement.

 

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To help reduce traffic risk on construction sites, AlertForce has released a new traffic training course for employers.

The Nationally Recognised Traffic Control Training NSW course reflects the latest nationally recognised competency qualification framework for traffic control training introduced by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) on July 1, 2015.

Heavy-industry employers urged to ratchet up workplace health and safety training

Training both workers and senior managers, including board members, in best-practice approaches to workplace health and safety (WHS) must remain a priority if heavy industry is to further reduce workplace fatalities.

The manufacturing industry has the highest average incidence and frequency rate of serious workers’ compensation claims for the five-year period from 2004–05 to 2008–09 compared to other industries, latest Safe Work Australia figures reveal (Work Health and Safety Perceptions: Manufacturing Industry, February 2015).

In 2011-12 (provisional national workers’ compensation data), the incidence rate of serious workers’ compensation claims for manufacturing was 18.4 per 1000 workers, which was 1.6 times the rate of all industries (11.4 per 1000 workers).

 

Positive signs

Despite these seemingly gloomy figures, manufacturing’s performance in regard to injuries and fatalities has improved in recent times.

From a peak of 2.83 fatalities per 100,000 workers in 2008, the fatality incidence rate fell dramatically to 1.87 (2012) and 1.07 (2013) – with the 2013 figure lower than the historically “safer” sector of administrative and support services.

Whether that trend is repeated in the next set of SWA’s Work Related Traumatic Fatalities Australia figures, due out in two months, remains to be seen.

Regardless, for an industry with a long history of serous claims, training workers, line managers and senior management in best practice approaches to WHS must remain a key priority for employers if the industry is to continue to improve its performance, AlertForce believes.

 

Machinery incidents remain a concern

Of the four industries with the highest number of fatalities in the 10 years between 2003 and 2013 – transport, postal and warehousing (664), agriculture, forestry and fishing (629), construction (402) and manufacturing (244), manufacturing is the only one where

the proportion of fatalities due to a vehicle collision in the manufacturing industry is relatively low (23% compared with 41% nationally).

However, manufacturing has higher proportions of hit by falling object (16%), trapped by objects (which includes being trapped between stationary and moving objects and being trapped by moving machinery or equipment [19%]), and being hit by moving objects (16%) than in the other industries profiled.

These mechanisms account for between 8% and 12% of worker fatalities nationally.

 

Key findings

The most common self-reported exposures in the manufacturing industry were exposure to airborne hazards, noise and vibration, SWA’s Work Related Traumatic Fatalities Australia 2013 figures reveal.

Most workers with exposure to noise were provided with some type of control.

However, about one in seven workers with exposure to airborne hazards and vibration were not provided with any control measure for these hazards.

According to the majority of workers and employers in manufacturing, work health and safety activities such as using personal protective equipment, identifying health and safety risks and removing hazards are undertaken ‘most of the time’ or ‘always’.

More than 80% of manufacturing employers reported that they provide health and safety training, have a work health and safety policy, have procedures for reporting work-related injuries and ill health and procedures for controlling hazards. Generally, a higher proportion of manufacturing employers reported undertaking these activities compared to employers in other priority industries. However, small manufacturing businesses were usually less likely to undertake these activities compared to large manufacturing businesses.

 

Areas for improvement

A few areas for improvement for control measures for specific hazards were identified in a separate SWA’s survey, National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance (NHEWS).

A considerable proportion (14%) of workers who reported exposure to airborne hazards and 14% of workers who were exposed to vibration reported that no control measures were provided for these hazards.

However, despite its high rate of work-related injury and illness, the industry appears to be doing well in terms of general work health and safety activities, SWA reports. The vast majority of workers reported undertaking work health and safety activities such as using PPE provided and making work practices safe. More employers reported that their workplace undertake a specific activity compared to workers, suggesting that there is a slight mismatch between employers and workers on how consistently these work health and safety activities are undertaken.

The largest discrepancy was for discussing health and safety concerns in the workplace. Almost all (99%) employers reported this compared to 73% of workers SWA’s WHS Perceptions Survey.

 

Training on the up

In terms of health and safety training, the manufacturing industry is doing well, SWA reports. SWA’s 2012 WHS Perceptions Survey of Employers showed that a large majority of employers in manufacturing (87%) provided health and safety training to their workers in the last 12 months. The proportion is 71% among employers in other priority industries.

SWA’s Regulatory Burden Survey 2013 also showed the high rate of internal and external staff training among manufacturing businesses. However, both surveys indicated that small businesses were less likely to provide health and safety training compared to medium and large businesses. Increased capacity and support for small businesses to provide health and safety training and undertake other compliance activities is needed, SWA says.

Other areas that could be targeted for improvement in health and safety activities include inclusion of contractors in health and safety induction training if required and addressing bullying and fatigue.

In general, manufacturing employers and workers believed that they have the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and others at work. Both groups also had positive perceptions about management actions to improve health and safety and safety communication in the workplace. There was an expectation by employers that workers will follow safety rules in their workplace and most workers reported following organisational rules on work health and safety.

However, at least one in five workers and employers accepted risk taking if there is time pressure. More research is needed to better understand risk-taking behaviours in this industry, SWA says.

 

 

Further information can be found at: http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/statistics/work-related-fatalities/pages/workrelatedtraumaticinjuryfatalities.

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/publications/pages/manufacturing-industry

Tougher liability laws see board and senior executives train up on WHS responsibilities

Early reluctance by boards and senior executives to acknowledge personal liability for company workplace health and safety (WHS) breaches has been replaced with acceptance and realisation they must be safety literate, a new report suggests.

The new ‘officer’s duty’ under the harmonised WHS Act is designed to make boardrooms, and those working closely with them, ensure their businesses have appropriate WHS systems that are adequately resourced and have adequate processes.

Reporting on the duty, Corrs Chamber Westgarth’s Workplace Relations Employment, Workplace and Safety Law: Mid-Year Review 2015 warns a recent decision of the Supreme Court of NSW (Perilya Limited v Nash [2015], NSWSC706, 5/6/15) opens a new door for WHS regulators to hold boards and executives accountable.

The case demonstrates that WHS regulators are seeking, and are entitled to seek, information created for board use (as long as the information does not attract legal professional privilege).

Further, the WHS regulator’s power to seek “board material” is not limited to documents that specifically refer to safety matters, as the court held that the absence of safety information in documents may prove that a WHS duty has been breached.

Corrs says board members and senior executives need to be ‘safety literate’ so they can sign off, on an informed basis, on safety initiatives and robustly interrogate their executives about safety – in much the same way that they must be financially literate in order to sign off on financial matters.

Who is an officer?

Meantime, difficulty in identifying “officers” has meant those that sit on the cusp of the officer’s definition tend to be asked by their organisations to comply with the officer’s duty, Corrs warns.

There are some concerns that the question of who is an officer will be relevant if the regulator is considering a prosecution. In order to deal with this issue, some commentators have suggested the WHS Act be amended to provide that a person, who would not otherwise be an officer under the WHS laws, does not make themselves an officer simply by complying with the officer’s duty.

“Generally, our clients suggest an acceptance of officer liability in the form set out in the WHS Act and a belief that the due diligence provisions have created an increased focus on health and safety with the potential to achieve improved outcomes in the workplace,” the Corrs report says.

“There is strong support amongst some part of the business community for the six-part ‘explanation of due diligence’ as set out in section 27(5) of the WHS Act. However, it should be noted that the Business Council of Australia wants the officer laws to be more aligned with those that apply in Victoria and in particular notes that in Victoria, officers are only liable for WHS breaches if the body corporate contravenes the legislation.”

The increased awareness of the ‘officer’s duty’ and the personal liability that flows from it has also meant boards and senior executives are casting a more critical eye over how they are affected by their partners in business.

Harmonisation has ‘significant’ prosecution impact

The Corrs report notes the harmonised WHS Act has had a “significant” prosecution impact, with defendants (particularly in NSW) now having options other than entering into a plea agreement. Under the Act, “defences are available again”, the report says.

Corrs says prosecutions stalled in most model jurisdictions about six months prior to the commencement of the model laws and did not restart “with any vigour” until 12-18 months after the model laws commenced. During that period the dominant approach taken by WHS regulators was one of “advise and persuade”.

“Prosecution action has recommenced with some vigour, although few decisions have been made under the WHS Act. However, those that have been made signal that at least in NSW, we will see a radical departure from earlier WHS judicial approaches and this will have significant impacts for prosecutors and defendants,” its report said.

In NSW, WHS prosecutions are now primarily heard in the District Court of NSW. In the first defended hearing to be determined WorkCover v Patrick Container Ports (February, 2014), Justice James Curtis considered the fatal injury of an employee who was aware of the relevant risk and the safe work method procedure he was required to adopt – but didn’t apply it. The employee had significant amounts of methamphetamine in his system at the relevant time.

WorkCover alleged a range of workplace risks against Patrick Container Ports that largely related to a lack of documented systems. Justice Curtis found that the employee had been trained about the safe procedure and his non-compliance with it would not have been changed if a documented process had been in place.

Corrs said the case signalled that the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant did not take all steps reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of its workers. This means that defendants now have options other than reaching agreement on a plea; defences exist and should be pursued where appropriate. Further, defendants should have increased bargaining power when discussing potential plea agreements.

Boundary tests

A pipeline of prosecutions is currently underway to test some of the boundaries of the ‘officer’s duty’, Corrs report says. Chief among them is will the officers of large companies be prosecuted for breach of the officer’s duty or will it tend to be prosecuted when the officer has been working close to the ‘coalface’?

Under predecessor OHS legislation, the officers of small organisations tended to be prosecuted and they were generally ‘hands on’ in the relevant operation (this led to the suggestion that there was defacto immunity for large company directors).

Corrs said the new officer’s duty was designed to make boardrooms and those working closely with them, ensure that their companies had appropriate WHS systems that were adequately resourced and had adequate processes.

Another important matter is can a company be an officer of another company under the WHS Act?

“For example can a holding or parent company be an officer for a subsidiary or operating company in circumstances where they fulfil aspects of the definition of an officer, such as being a person (albeit an unnatural person) making or participating in decisions which affect the whole or a substantial part of the company’s business?,” the report says.

With officer’s duty front and centre in the harmonised legislation, boards and senior executives will be watching with interest.

Enforceable undertakings: why they are important for WHS

On July 25, 2013, dairy company Norco Cooperative Ltd breached work health and safety laws after a NSW worker was trapped inside a garbage compactor whilst attempting to re-position loose tie strings.

The worker reached into the machine through the bottom door to release the string and was caught between the closed top door and the compacting feet as they rose up. He suffered a compensable injury to his head, but later returned to work on full duties.

After consultation with WorkCover NSW, Norco this year (2015) agreed to an enforceable undertaking for a breach of Section 19(1) of the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) i.e. duty of care.

Activities Norco agreed to undertake included:

  • conducting executive work health and safety workshops,
  • developing online work health and safety and human resources induction modules for staff,
  • implementing a human resources information system with work health and safety and training modules,
  • updating and publishing Managing Dairy Farm Safety farmer resources,
  • developing a two part Farm Safety for Children video, and
  • committing to establishing and maintaining an accredited work health and safety management system and third party audits of this system.

This undertaking has a total expenditure of $221,636. WorkCover NSW accepted the undertaking because the alleged contravention did not appear to be a section 31 reckless conduct (category 1) offence. Such offences preclude the proposed undertaking from being accepted.

In accepting enforceable undertakings by companies under the mirror WHS legislation, regulatory authorities such as WorkCover NSW first note the nature of the alleged contravention and the actions taken by the company in response to the incident before agreeing to an undertaking.

They also take into account the strategies proposed in the undertaking were assessed as likely to deliver long term sustainable safety improvements in the workplace, industry and community. Any legal proceedings in connection with the alleged offence are dismissed once the undertaking is accepted and completed.

In NSW, the undertaking addresses the requirements contained within the Enforceable Undertakings – Guidelines for Proposing a WHS Undertaking.

First for SA

Meantime, in a first for South Australia, an employer has negotiated an enforceable undertaking in lieu of a prosecution under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) (the WHS Act). Workplace lawyer Luke Holland from Sparke Helmore Lawyers said the safety regulator had been “true to its word” in offering an alternative to the courtroom, witnesses and hefty fines.

Of note was the lower level of investment (than other jurisdictions) accepted by SafeWork SA in enforceable undertakings, “which is perhaps reflective of the smaller South Australian economy”, Holland said.

What is an enforceable undertaking?

Holland says the purpose of an enforceable undertaking is to improve health and safety standards at the workplace, as well as for the wider community and industry. While a prosecution may fail to significantly change the behaviour of a workplace, an undertaking ensures that substantial improvements are made.

Although there are benefits to avoiding a prosecution (and the potentially significant penalty), enforceable undertakings can involve immense costs that could potentially be greater that the penalty’s value, he says. Nevertheless, undertakings are desirable because all costs determined go straight back into the workplace and community, ensuring future compliance and avoiding further contraventions of the Act.

Holland says possible strategies that may be proposed in an enforceable undertaking include:

  • implementation of special training programs to address the needs of workers, supervisors and management,
  • publicity regarding the alleged breach,
  • industry-wide awareness programs,
  • donations to not-for-profit organisations that focus on WHS, and
  • any other strategies that extend beyond compliance with the Act and provide a benefit to workers, the community and/or the industry.

The first SA enforceable undertaking

Holland outlines SA’s first enforceable undertaking as follows:

“On May 11, 2015, Adelaide Resource Recovery Pty Ltd (ARR), a recycling company, agreed to spend approximately $241,900 on safety initiatives set out in an enforceable undertaking. It was alleged that ARR had committed a category 2 offence in exposing an individual to a risk of death, or serious injury or illness, by failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers. As a body corporate, ARR faced a maximum penalty of $1,500,000.

On May 24, 2013, an employee of ARR was inspecting the mechanisms of a conveyer machine. The employee was observing the mechanisms driving the rotating shafts within the machine from a maintenance platform. The safety procedure required the mechanism to be isolated before inspection, but the employee did not do this. During his observations, the employee dropped a torch he was holding. When he reached out to grab the falling torch, his glove caught in the mechanism and his thumb was pinched. As a result the employee’s thumb was severed approximately 1 cm from the tip.

Before the incident, ARR had safety protocols, procedures, training systems, induction systems and safe work method statements in place. However, the machine involved in the incident was inadequately guarded, as it had been removed to allow for frequent maintenance.

It was noted in the enforceable undertaking that ARR had no previous convictions and that its services and products played an important role in South Australia’s recycling industry. ARR ensured the injured worker received immediate medical treatment and promptly complied with all notices issued by SafeWork SA.

As a result of the contravention, ARR spent approximately $215,050 on rectifying any deficiencies in health and safety at its workplace, including installing appropriate guarding to the machine, upgrading lighting in the area, hiring an additional construction and demolition shed supervisor, and employing a site safety supervisor. ARR also made several mandatory commitments including:

  • committing that the behaviour leading to the alleged contravention had ceased and would not reoccur,
  • committing to ongoing effective management of WHS risks,
  • committing to disseminate information about the undertaking to relevant parties,
  • committing to participating constructively in all compliance monitoring activities of the undertaking,
  • retaining the additional construction and demolition shed supervisor, and ensuring they conduct spot audits, site safety walks and revising the  Safe Work Method Statements in consultation with workers,
  • retaining the site safety supervisor,
  • publishing a safety hazard alert for its industry on the importance of adequate guarding,
  • having a representative speak at a forum conducted by SafeWork SA,
  • assisting in running a training program conducted by Mission Australia, and
  • paying SafeWork SA’s costs associated with the undertaking.

What does this mean for employers?

It is important to note that SafeWork SA, like a number of other jurisdictions, will only consider an undertaking proposed by the alleged offender and will not propose it themselves. Undertakings will not be accepted for a Category 1 offence or where the alleged contravention has resulted in a fatality or serious injury and there is a suggestion that the offender has been reckless under the Act. There is no power to compel jurisdictions to accept a proposed undertaking,  it is at their discretion whether or not they will proceed with prosecution.

Holland says there are penalties for not complying with an enforceable undertaking. In SA, SafeWork SA can apply to the court for an order to enforce compliance, with the maximum penalty for a body corporate being $250,000 and $50,000 for an individual.

More information on harmonised WHS laws, including enforceable undertakings, is available in AlertForce’s OHS Harmonisation Courses.

Senate inquiry urges overhaul of the VET FEE-HELP system

A Labor-chaired senate inquiry committee has called for an overhaul of the vocational education and training fee help (VET FEE-HELP) system, claiming existing safeguards aren’t working.

In a report to Federal Parliament this month (October 2015), the Education and Employment References Committee said there was evidence of “rampant abuse, accelerating costs, and doubling of bad debt”.

The committee said more effective ways were needed to control costs of courses for students under VET FEE-HELP, by either instituting a lower and separate loan limit or a cap on student loan amounts.

It wants the government to conduct a further review of the scheme, “so that only providers with the highest reputation for quality have unfettered access to the scheme”. The government should mandate minimum entry standards of year 12 completion or equivalent for access to VET FEE-HELP loans for diploma level courses and above, it said.

The inquiry’s two Coalition Senators defended the government’s record and opposed the call for a further review, saying in a minority report “a number of reviews, including this one, have already been held or are pending”.

“While there is more work to be done, the prompt response of the government so far to the issues raised during this inquiry is addressing the behaviour of unscrupulous VET FEE-HELP providers, protecting vulnerable students from bearing the cost of a lifetime of debt and aims to restore the integrity of Australia’s VET sector,” the minority report said.

The full committee report noted calls by some stakeholders to lower the repayment threshold to $30,000 or $40,000. However it said asking lower income earners to pay for the failure of government to properly regulate the operations of VET FEE-HELP – and for the rampant and unethical misbehaviour of some private providers – fails both the practical and ethical test.

“The committee recommends that urgent and concerted efforts are made to further raise awareness of the rights of students and existing standards relating to providers in the VET sector. This effort should focus on advocacy groups dealing with the most vulnerable members of the community, including the long-term unemployed or disadvantaged, migrants and people with disabilities.”

Under its recommendations, the Department of Education and Training (DDET) and the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) would be asked to conduct a “concerted and urgent blitz” of all providers to ensure that they are consistently complying with the national standards, especially those relating to student recruitment.

The blitz would be aimed at defending the interests of students, enforcing adherence to Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) volume of learning standards and removing non-compliant registered training organisations (RTOs) as VET FEE-HELP providers.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would be encouraged to launch prosecutions against providers engaged or benefiting from fraud and take steps to recover monies lost. In addition, ASQA would be given powers to directly regulate brokers or marketing agents in the VET sector, and to protect students.

The committee recommended the government “caps or otherwise regulates” the level of brokerage fees paid for VET FEE-HELP students to maximum amount of 15 per cent the amount of the loan.

The government was further urged to apply, in consultation with industry and quality providers, minimum hours standards to VET FEE-HELP eligible courses.

“ASQA should be given powers to take swift and strong action against RTOs found to be providing inadequate training to their students. Closer scrutiny would be applied to the early childhood and aged care training sectors, given the concerns noted in this report. The committee further recommends ASQA improve its processes to enable it to more swiftly share information with other levels of government, regulators, government departments and law enforcement agencies.”

Under the committee’s recommendations, DEET would have to approve any instances of RTOS subcontracting out components of their VET FEE-HELP eligible training to non-registered third parties.

An Ombudsman focused on domestic students in the VET sector should be created, and the position industry-funded.

The committee said there was evidence of a “massive transfer of public wealth” from the Commonwealth and state government – and taxpayers – to private individuals “as a result of rushed rollout of demand driven entitlement schemes, particularly in Victoria and by the Commonwealth through VET FEE-HELP”.

There was a clear contrast between the actions of the Commonwealth government and that of the Victorian government, it said.

“In Victoria, the new government has acted to clean up a VET sector in crisis in that state, with the withdrawal of 8,000 qualifications and the naming and shaming of providers.”

The report will go to government for consideration.

Other reviews into VET already held or pending include:
• The Government-appointed a VET Reform Working Group, made up of representatives of students, consumer advocates, employers and providers.
• A performance audit of VET FEE-HELP be included in the Australian National Audit Office’s (ANAO) 2015-2016 work program.
• A VET Training and Assessment Working Group to consider options to strengthen the quality of training and assessment outcomes so as to maintain student and employer confidence in VET qualifications.

The Federal Government has announced it will review VET FEE-HELP in 2016-17.
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AlertForce offers a wide range of compliance training courses for industry. For more details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

TAFE: is it still relevant?

Faced with reduced funding from the Federal Government, cash-strapped state governments are looking at alternative models for workplace training.

In this new environment, questions are being asked whether government instrumentalities such as TAFE remain relevant.

In South Australia, ABC Online reports 500 job will be axed in the SA TAFE sector over the next four years, with the closure of some campuses “not ruled out”. It comes at the same time as figures suggesting TAFE courses in SA cost up to two and a half times more to run than private training courses.

On June 23, 2015, the Sydney Morning Herald reported a massive 83,000 drop in TAFE enrolments in NSW in the three years since 2012.

In Western Australia, meantime, the West Australian reports the number of students studying at TAFE in WA plummeted by nearly 9,000 between 2013 and 2014. WA Department of Training and Workforce data shows that 8,800 fewer students were attending TAFE by the end of last year, compared with the same time in 2013.

Based on the figures, TAFE is in trouble. Cash-strapped states and territories are increasingly looking for alternatives to infrastructure-heavy government bodies. Channelling the public purse to registered training organisations (RTOs) could be the answer.

Why are TAFE numbers falling?
With TAFE numbers in freefall, the obvious question is: Why?

Faced with mounting costs and uncertain Federal Government funding, states in recent years have opened TAFE to private competition. The long-term benefit for governments is obvious – reduced infrastructure costs, as increased responsibility for education is placed on private providers.

Opening VET to the private sector had its genesis in Victoria under the former Brumby Labor government, SMH reports. The private providers were paid according to their course enrolments and the number of hours taught.

The privatisation push, however, has not been without problems, with some training providers accused of rorting the system. Eligibility was tightened in a revised model picked up by NSW and launched this year.

Dissent in the ranks
Not everyone agrees TAFE’s fate is sealed. Federal secretary for TAFE at the Australian Education Union Pat Forward is a former member of the National Skills Standards Council (now the Australian Industry and Skills Committee) that sets down the standards VET providers must meet before they can be registered.

In a statement on June 25, 2015, Forward welcomed Federal Labor‘s announcement it would guarantee a “proportion” of vocational education funding to TAFE if elected to government.
“Unfortunately what we have seen from governments is the pursuit of a privatisation agenda, that on any measure, has been an abject failure,” Forward said.

“We have seen the proliferation of unscrupulous operators looking to cash in by charging exorbitant fees for poor quality training. This broken system is leaving students the victims: without the skills they need to get secure jobs and saddled with huge debts they will struggle to pay off.”

Forward’s model proposes limiting the proportion of government funding tendered to the private sector to 30 per cent “to ensure TAFEs retain their capacity to provide quality training to all Australians who need it”.

“We also need immediate action to regulate fees in the VET sector, and to more closely control the massive growth in student debt through VET Fee Help.
“Standards must be improved urgently, including minimum hours for courses, a ban on contracting out training to unregistered third parties, and further restrictions on how private providers are able to market themselves.”

RTOs defend position
While unions say too much government education money is going to private providers, registered training organisations (RTOs) claim the opposite.

Training and workplace development consultant Mark Jones says governments in some states have been busy clawing back money for TAFE at the expense of private providers.
In South Australia, this includes providing subsidised training places to TAFE.

While the government has denied propping up TAFE at the expense of private providers, employer body Business SA says giving TAFE the monopoly of subsidised training places “will not only severely damage private training providers, but it will also significantly harm job creation, trainees and business, particularly small business”.

“It would appear that the real reason for the State Government’s decision is to prop up TAFE after it reduced TAFE’s budget and workforce,” its spokesperson says.

“But in doing so it appears that the government is not concerned that private sector training providers will shed hundreds of jobs with some facing closure of their business.”

Business SA said the adverse impact of the TAFE monopoly was much wider than just private sector training providers.

“Business, and in particular small business, may not be able to obtain the training they need, nor afford it, given that TAFE is not equipped to provide some of the training and is typically more than twice as expensive as private providers.

Business SA said there would be widespread adverse impacts across many critical industries including agribusiness, mining, retail, tourism, food and beverage manufacturing, building and construction and civil construction.

“No one is saying that TAFE should not exist but private training providers, businesses and just as importantly jobs should not be the sacrificial lambs to ensure TAFE’s survival.”
With numbers at TAFE collages falling, and RTOs moving into their space, the future of TAFE may have already been decided. Looking forward, governments appear to be looking to a largely private model.

AlertForce believes closer consultation with all the stakeholders is needed, regardless of which way governments go.

AlertForce provides a range of work health and safety training courses for industry. For more details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

Taking fatigue management to the next level: trucking shows the way

In September 2015, the first operator was accredited under the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) livestock transport fatigue management scheme (LTFMS) to provide flexible work arrangements that save time, lives and money.

Goondiwindi owner driver Pat Mulligan currently subcontracts to a large livestock transport business and welcomes the flexibility that the scheme provides his operations.

“The scheme will be of great benefit during busy work periods as the livestock industry continues to function outside of a traditional working week.

“The majority of my work involves travelling long distances in outback regions over a variety of road surfaces. This flexibility helps me transport the livestock to their destination in one trip, rather than pull up short to have a seven hour break with the cattle on board, which can affect the welfare of the animals”, Mr Mulligan said.

The NHVR launched the Livestock Transport Fatigue Management Scheme on 1 July 2015 to provide new opportunities for operators and drivers who become accredited with the NHVR.
NHVR says the scheme is a response to the growing need to marry safety with job flexibility.

Among other things, the LTFMS allows operators to apply for AFM accreditation to work up to 14 hours on a day, as part of a fortnightly cycle with ‘risk off-setting’ restrictions around driving between midnight and 4am and more frequent stops for welfare checking.

The scheme provides livestock transport operators with a template to manage their work and rest hours in a way that is suitable to the unique demands they face.

NHVR says the main causes of fatigue are not enough sleep, driving at night (when you should be asleep) and working or being awake for a long time, it says.

National heavy vehicle driver fatigue laws apply to fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles.

A fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle is:
• a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of over 12t
• a combination when the total of the GVM is over 12t
• buses with a GVM over 4.5t fitted to carry more than 12 adults (including the driver)
• a truck, or a combination including a truck, with a GVM of over 12t with a machine or implement attached.

Some heavy vehicles are not classed as fatigue-regulated heavy vehicles. These include trams, motor vehicles modified to primarily operate as a machine or implement (plant such as agricultural machinery, bulldozers, tractors, etc.) and motor homes specifically modified for residential purposes (not just built with a sleeper berth).

The laws cover all aspects of work and rest relating to heavy vehicles including:
• work and rest hours
• recording work and rest times
• fatigue management exemptions
• Chain of responsibility obligations.

At the heart of the laws for fatigue management is a primary duty – a driver must not drive a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle on a road while impaired by fatigue. Drivers may be impaired by fatigue even when complying with work and rest limits.

Chain of responsibility
Under existing transport legislation, If you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of your business, you could be held legally liable for breaches of road transport laws even though you do not drive a heavy vehicle. In addition, corporate entities, directors, partners and managers are accountable for the actions of people under their control. This is the ‘chain of responsibility’ (COR).

Each person in the COR must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the driver of a fatigue-regulated heavy vehicle does not drive on a road while impaired by fatigue or breach road transport laws relating to fatigue.

In addition to this, each person in the COR must take all reasonable steps to ensure a heavy vehicle driver can perform his or her duties without breaching road transport laws.
See the Chain of responsiblity for more information.

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AlertForce is a leader in fatigue management training. If you are in trucking, freight management, mining, manufacturing or rail, AlertForce has customised courses that can help your business (see http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/fatigue-management/#course-content).

Who is protecting the protectors? Traffic controllers under the gun

A string of serious safety incidents involving traffic controllers has critics calling for an overhaul of legislative and safety protections, including traffic control training and planning.

In the most recent incident, Queensland detectives are investigating after two projectiles were fired at a traffic controller at a roadworks site on the Bruce Highway at Burpengary on September 22, 2015.

Police report the 45-year-old Sippy Downs man was sitting in a parked vehicle southbound, just after the Uhlmann Road exit, when a white sedan pulled up beside him around 9.40pm.

The front seat passenger, a male wearing a balaclava, pointed a handgun at the man and fired two rounds before the vehicle sped off.

The man managed to duck for cover and the projectiles travelled through the open front windows of the car, passing out of the vehicle and into bushland.

There was no information when this report was compiled whether the incident was a targeted attack.

The incident comes just two weeks after a 50-year-old traffic controller was struck and killed by a car southwest of Brisbane.

Shooting latest in long line of injury risks

While the shooting is far from typical, it joins a long list of occupational hazards faced by traffic controllers.

As previously reported by AlertForce, traffic controllers face an unacceptably high risk of being injured or killed on the job. A 10-year study by Safe Work Australia of truck-related fatalities put incidents involving traffic controller at the head of a list of fatalities involving “workers on foot”.

In Queensland, WorkCover Queensland figures for 2013/14 reveal more than 230 injury claims a year from traffic controllers in Queensland, costing $2.6m a year. More than 50% of injured workers were aged between 40 and 60 years old.

Costs up but days off work falling
Speaking to a Traffic Management Association of Queensland (TMAQ) meeting in Cairns in 2014, WorkCover Queensland customer advisor Pablo Aviles said total claims costs for the industry have continued to rise since 2011.

“This means that there’s more work to be done to prevent injuries and ensure safer work environments,” Aviles said.

“On the plus side, we have seen an ongoing reduction in the average days to an injured worker’s first return to work. In 2009-10, in traffic control services, the average number of days it took an injured worker to get back to work was 33.7, and it is now 19.2.

“This can help reduce the costs of claims, which can have a positive impact on premium rates.
“Similarly, the percentage of injured workers who are able to stay at work, often on a suitable duties plan, during their rehabilitation has improved from 36 per cent in 2009-10 to 50.4 per cent in 2013-14.”

‘Driver aggression’ the big problem
Driver aggression remains the biggest concern for traffic controllers, according to a 2012 survey by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland (CARRS-Q).

Reporting on the survey in its July 2013 newsletter, the Traffic Management Association of Queensland said driver aggression was followed by ‘working close to traffic and machinery’, ‘setting up signage’, ‘working on high speed roads’, ‘working during rain’ and ‘reduced visibility’ (during night, dawn and dusk)

The common types of incidents reported involved vehicles driving into cordoned off work areas, hitting traffic controllers, rear ending other vehicles as they approached roadworks, and reversing incidents involving work vehicles and machinery.

Many workers cited driver errors, such as violating speed limits, distracted driving, and ignoring signage and traffic controllers’ instructions as the main causes of the incidents.

While some believed that existing safety measures were effective, many argued there was room for improvement. Speed control through increased enforcement, increased public awareness, and driver education and licensing initiatives targeted to safety near roadworks were mentioned as potential improvement measures.

The researchers are currently measuring river speeds through roadwork sites.

Later phases of the research involve interviewing drivers regarding what influences their behaviour, and trialling new safety initiatives.

In Queensland and other states, regulators have moved to tighten controls around training delivery in the industry.

Recent Queensland Department of Transport and Main initiatives include:
• a state-wide review of speed signage at roadwork sites to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, compliance and consistency in the determination and placement of reduced speed zones at roadwork sites,
• increasing industry awareness of its responsibilities for ensuring road worker safety following the introduction of the Code of Practice for Traffic Management for Construction or Maintenance Work in 2008, and
• increasing public awareness through a range of activities stemming from the Workplace Rights Ombudsman’report in 2009.
To be accredited as traffic controller in Queensland, a person must complete a Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) Approved Traffic Controller Training Course. The course must be delivered through a registered training organisation (RTO) approved by TMR to deliver the course.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised traffic control NSW training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/

Work health and safety at a glance: seven key elements explained

The national harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act 2011 requires a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure the health and safety of workers it engages – or whose work it influences or directs.

The following summary prepared by employer body the Australian Industry Group looks at seven key elements of the Act.

Duty of care
A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure the health and safety of all persons at its business, including visitors, are not put at risk by the activities of the business.

This “duty of care” specifically includes looking at the work environment; work systems; plant and structures used; substances used, handled or stored; as well as providing adequate information, instruction, training and supervision for work to be carried out safely. Access to facilities for the welfare of workers is also required.

“Ensuring health and safety” is defined as eliminating risks so far as is reasonably practicable, or if that is not possible, minimising the risks.

“Reasonably practicable” is defined as what could reasonably be done at the time to ensure health and safety, taking into account:
• The likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring and the degree of harm it could cause;
• What the business knows or ought to know about the hazard or risk and the available and suitable ways of eliminating or minimising it; and
• After assessing the above, the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk.

Specific obligations relating to risks or industries are detailed in the WHS regulations and employers must comply with them.

Codes of practice provide practical guidance on compliance. Employers should follow a code of practice unless they can show an alternative way of meeting their obligations that is at least as safe. This allows some flexibility but deviating from a code is not something you should do lightly or without good advice.

There is a specific code of practice setting out a systematic approach to managing risks. The regulations and that code both refer to the “hierarchy of controls” as part of that systematic approach.

The hierarchy is eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable; if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, minimize the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by doing one or more of the following: substitution, isolation and engineering controls.; if a risk then remains, minimise the remaining risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing administrative controls (eg, safe work instructions, supervision, signage and training); and if a risk then remains, minimize the remaining risk so far as is reasonable practicable by ensuring the provision and use of suitable personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you control a workplace that is used by others, say by renting out a factory space, you have some WHS duties as well, set out in section 20 of the WHS Act.

Meaning of workers
Because so much work is now done in businesses by people who are not direct employees, WHS defines worker very broadly to include employees; contractors; sub-contractors; employees of contractors or sub-contractors; outworkers; employees of labour hire companies; and volunteers.

Clearly those workers who are direct employees may well work for another business, which would also be a PCBU with the same duty to protect its workers. How you should interact with those other PCBUs to jointly look after those workers, and how responsibility is apportioned between you and the other PCBU is set out in the next section, Obligation to consult … with other duty holders.

Workers and other persons at a workplace, such as visitors, also have duties under the WHS law. These duties do not in any way take away from the PCBU’s responsibilities covered in Duty of care. The worker duties are very similar to duties under current law.

Businesses should make sure their workers understand the nature of these duties and should not tolerate material breaches of them without taking the matter up with the worker in an appropriate way consistent with workplace relations laws. They are an important part of the behaviour that makes workplaces safe.

Obligations to consult, cooperate and coordinate with other duty holders
WHS laws clearly identifies that more than one person can have the same duty.

For example, a labour hire company and a host of employers both hold the duty to ensure the health and safety of a labour hire worker placed with the host employer.

Both are PCBUs with the same duty towards the labour hire worker. The following principle (in section 16 of the Act) outlines how these duties interact: If more than one person has a duty for the same matter, each person:
• Retains responsibility for their own duty;
• Must discharge that duty to the extent that they have the capacity to influence or control the matter or would have had that capacity but for an agreement or arrangement purporting to limit or remove that capacity.

In order to support this concept, section 46 of the Act requires duty holders to consult, cooperate and coordinate, so far as is reasonably practicable, with all other persons who have a duty in relation to that matter. So the labour hire company and the host each has a duty to consult with each other, cooperate and coordinate their efforts to keep this worker safe.

A business that has a duty to consult, cooperate and coordinate with another business over the safety of a worker must do so until it runs up against the actual limits of its influence or control. It will be very dangerous for a business to argue that it didn’t try to consult, or did so only superficially because it assumed it had no influence or control.

Obligations to consult with workers
The overarching worker consultation obligation is outlined in section 47 of the WHS Act. A PCBU must, so far as is reasonable practicable, consult with workers who carry out work for the PCBU and are, or are likely to be, directly affected by health and safety matter.

Consultation is required whenever the PCBU is identifying risks and how to control them; making decisions about the adequacy of facilities; proposing changes that may affect health and safety; or making decisions about procedures that relate to health and safety (section 49).

Section 48 of the Act requires relevant information about the matter must be shared with workers; and workers must be given the opportunity to express their views and raise work health and safety issues; and contribute to the decision-making process. If the workers consulted are represented by a health and safety representative, that person must be involved in the consultation.

Consultation extends to all workers whose health and safety may be affected by your actions or decisions, including contractors and labour hire employees.

Upstream duty holders
The WHS Act and regulations establish obligations on businesses who design plant or structures (section 22), manufacture plant, substances or structures (section 23), import plant, substances or structures (section 24), supply plant, substances or structures (section 25), and install, construct or commission plant or structures (section 26).

These upstream duty holders have obligations to eliminate and minimise the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, associated with their plant, substances or structures; and to provide the necessary information to enable them to be used safely. The obligations relating to the design of and also the health and safety of those constructing them.

In relation to supplying plant, the obligations extend to those who sell second hand plant. Upstream duties have been established to focus on eliminating or minimising risks at their source. It is much easier to deal with a health and safety issue during the design phase than to try and retrofit a solution once the plant, substance or structure is in use in the workplace.

Right of entry
Legislation in most states and territories has, for many years, included a right for union officials who hold appropriate permits to enter a workplace to inquire into a suspected breach of safety law.

In a few states, these same people have also had a right to enter the workplace to consult or advise workers or to assist a health and safety representative.

The WHS laws establish a right to enter for both purposes. Other provisions in the Act and Regulations establish other circumstances where a union may become involved in the workplace.

When the rights of entry powers are being exercised, the union must comply with any WHS or other legislated requirement that applies to the workplace if requested by the PCBU or person with management of the workplace; and must not delay, hinder or obstruct any person or disrupt work at the workplace. The business cannot refuse or unduly delay a permit holder entitled to enter the workplace.

Due diligence
WHS makes it clear that where duties are held by an organisation (such as a company), there is an obligation on the officers of the organisation to exercise due diligence to ensure that the organisation complies with those duties (section 27).

In other words, those who make decisions about how a company is run have their own individual obligation to contribute to it being run in compliance with the safety laws.

AlertForce offers OHS harmonisation courses for industry. For more details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course.

Are you driving your workers’ mad?

The high incidence of workers’ compensation claims for psychological injury in Australia remains an ongoing concern for workplace health and safety (WHS) professionals.

In recognition of Mental Health Week, the ABC’s Mental As program and National Safe Work Month, AlertForce this month devotes a number of its news articles to exploring WHS programs for workers with mental health issues.

Today’s article looks specifically at wellness programs.

Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield in the UK Kathryn Ecclestone notes educational settings have become a prime policy site for psychological well-being training (now transmogrifying as “character education”).

More generally, “behavioural economics, neuroscience and various strands of psychology now combine to generate government measures of citizens’ subjective well-being, myriad devices to capture, monitor and respond to mass sentiment are used by corporations such as British Airways, Facebook and Google, and there is a huge rise in behavioural and psychological disorders and treatments,” Prof Ecclestone notes.

“Behind it all lurks deep pessimism about the declining mental health of western workers.”
Dr Ecclestone’s comments were made in a critique of William Davies’ The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being on the UK Times Higher Education website.

Workplace psych injuries are particularly relevant for employers because they involve longer periods of time away from work and higher medical, legal and other payments than most injuries.

Responding to workplace psych injury is not the only cost for business, the July 2015 Corrs Workplace Relations Employment Workplace and Safety Law: Mid-Year Review notes.

“Changes in the labour force mean that four out of every five jobs in Australia are in the services sector and the delivery of services is usually in person. This means that happy workers are good for business,” the review says.

The Corrs report notes the model WHS Act taken up by most states and territories imposes an obligation on a person undertaking a business or undertaking (PCBU) to ensure that they take all steps reasonably practicable to ensure both the physical and psychological health of their workers.

WHS regulations generally require business to apply a risk management approach to psychological risk. “This means that businesses have a duty and responsibility under the WHS Act to proactively manage risks, which includes a comprehensive and systematic approach to identifying, assessing, controlling and monitoring risks to the psychological health of their workers and to ensure that they don’t expose others to relevant risks arising from work performed in their business,” Corrs report says.

Corrs says “significant” assistance is available from the WHS Regulators’ websites in relation to how to conduct a risk assessment in relation to psychosocial hazard. However it says business is struggling to convert those risk assessments into effective action.

“Many are turning to leaders in the field such as Canada which has produced the standard known as ‘Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace”,” the report says . “This is a detailed and voluntary standard that specifies requirements for a systematic approach to develop and enable psychologically safe and healthy workplaces, the integration of a psychological health and safety management system into the way the organisation manages its business and the promotion of psychological wellness as opposed to focusing only on preventing psychological injury arising from working conditions.”

The WHS Regulators now recognise workplace bullying as a WHS risk and have introduced guidance material and campaigns, and increased interventions in this area. However, WHS prosecutions in relation to these issues are not common yet. Corrs says “it remains to be seen” if the WHS Regulators and inspectors will be sufficiently resourced to respond effectively to workplace psychological risks. “Certainly, the WorkCover NSW 2010–2015 corporate plan states ‘Research indicates job stress and other work-related psychosocial hazards are emerging as leading contributors to the burden of workplace illness and injury’.

There is little doubt that workplace psychosocial risk is an emerging WHS issue requiring a systematic response from business, Corrs says.

Damages on rise
The rapid rise of psych injuries is not the only worrying trend for employers noted in the Corrs report. In its second annual review of workplace safety laws, Corrs says a Full Federal Court decision signals an important shift in the approach of Australian courts to the assessment of damages in sexual harassment cases. The Full Court awarded $130,000 in damages to Oracle’s former consulting manager for sexual harassment by a male sales representative. The company was held vicariously liable for the sales representative’s conduct. The Full Court found that the trial judge’s award of $18,000 damages did not reflect ‘prevailing community standards’.

A five-member FWC Full Bench, meantime, has upheld an appeal by DP World against a first instance decision that constrained its ability to conduct urine tests as part of a new drug and alcohol (D&A) policy. The case involved interpretation of DP World’s enterprise agreement provision that referred to the policy’s random D&A testing regime and swab/oral testing method. Under its new national policy, which replaced site-specific policies, DP World tried to introduce a follow-up urine test when an employee had a positive swab test. The Full Bench determined that the agreement, and the circumstances of DP World’s operations, did not preclude urine testing for a second or confirmatory test. The decision is one of a number of FWC decisions in the past year that have largely supported employer rights to administer D&A tests under applicable workplace policies, and to discipline or dismiss employees who breach such policies.

The Corrs report also looks at the “myth” of ‘harmonised’ workplace health and safety legislation. It says harmonisation is the most significant step to date to relieve the regulatory headaches businesses experience operating across states. However, it was not designed to deliver a national approach to the regulation of WHS and “has not done so”. “The adoption of the model laws in six of the eight WHS jurisdictions has given business little relief from the WHS regulatory bureaucracy because WHS laws remain different in each jurisdiction. Victoria and WA have not adopted the model WHS laws and within the so-called ‘harmonised jurisdiction’ the model laws have been varied to accommodate local pressures – this means that over time, each state and territory will become increasingly divergent.”

Require WHS training to better identify WHS risk factors? Go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

Reference sources for this article: http://www.corrs.com.au/assets/thinking/downloads/Corrs-Employment-Workplace-Safety-Law-Mid-Year-Review-July-2015.pdf

https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/the-happiness-industry-how-the-government-and-big-business-sold-us-well-being-by-william-davies/2020063.article

To claim or not to claim: government releases easy guide to work disease

The Federal Government has moved to end confusion in the work health and safety market over what is and isn’t an occupational disease (including lung cancer due to asbestos exposure) by publishing an up-to-date “deemed-diseases” list.

Safe Work Australia’s (SWA) Deemed Diseases In Australia report lists diseases and associated work-related exposures to streamline identification and compensation of work-related disease in Australia.

The list provides information to help anyone involved in the prevention or compensation of occupational disease. Among other things, it will assist registered training organisations, including AlertForce, educate workers on WHS best practice in at risk occupations.

SWA chief executive officer Michelle Baxter said most Australian jurisdictions had special provisions in their workers’ compensation legislation deeming certain specified occupational diseases as being caused by specified work-related activities.

“In many cases, these lists have not been updated since they were introduced and therefore do not include some diseases for which there is now strong evidence of a causal link to work-related exposures.”

Ms Baxter said the Deemed Diseases in Australia report was the result of a “thorough review of the latest scientific evidence on the causal link between diseases and occupational exposure, by an independent consultant in epidemiology and occupational medicine, Professor Tim Driscoll”.

“While the report was developed primarily for use by jurisdictions, SWA agreed to publish the report as it provides useful evidence-based information for anyone involved in the prevention or compensation of occupational disease.”

The project involved consultation via the representative membership of SWA. SWA agreed that impact assessments and public consultation are more appropriately undertaken by those jurisdictions considering revising their own deemed diseases lists.

The effect of the deemed diseases list is to reverse the onus of proof. A worker with the disease who has been exposed to the relevant exposure in the course of their work is assumed to have developed that disease because of the exposure unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. Diseases that are not included on the list can still be the subject of a workers’ compensation claim through the normal approach, where the reverse onus of proof would not apply. The deemed diseases approach simplifies relevant claims on the assumption that there is a high likelihood that the disease has arisen as a result of work-related exposures.

The deemed diseases lists in use in Australia are not commonly used as the basis for claims. There are probably several reasons for this, particularly that the lists are not up to date and are not well structured to facilitate claims to be made under deemed diseases legislation. As a result of these issues, SWA undertook a project in 2013 to develop an up-to-date Australian list, based on the latest scientific evidence.

The criteria used to determine which diseases and associated exposures should be included on the list were:
1. Strong causal link between the disease and occupation exposure.
2. Clear diagnostic criteria.
3. The disease comprises a considerable proportion of the cases of that disease in the overall population or in an identifiable subset of the population.

Not every disease that is known to be caused by work should be included on a Deemed Disease list. Where the disease is very common in the community but only rarely caused by work, it would usually be inappropriate to include the disease on the List because the vast majority of cases would be expected to be due to non-work exposures. To include every disease that has ever been shown to be caused by an exposure that occurred in connection to occupation would make the List very unwieldy and not be consistent with the Deemed Diseases approach.

Equally, it would not be appropriate to only include diseases in which occupational exposures were the majority cause. Lung cancer is a good example. Lung cancer is known to be caused by exposure to asbestos, and the most common circumstance in which asbestos exposure occurs is through work. However, the most common cause of lung cancer in the community is smoking. Excluding lung cancer from consideration because the main cause is non-occupational would mean that many people whose cancer is actually caused by occupational exposure to asbestos will find it much more difficult to receive appropriate compensation for their illness. In many instances, people may have had several exposures,

There are some infections that are likely to usually or commonly result from work-related exposures. These are good candidates for inclusion on the list, because it is likely that any individual case would have arisen due to work-related exposures in the at-risk occupations. Leptospirosis is an example of this sort of infection. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic infection caused by a range of small organisms called leptospira. The main occupational source of infection is the urine of infected animals. Persons who appear particularly at increased risk of leptospirosis include farmers (especially dairy farmers), abattoir workers, forestry workers, hunters, veterinarians, plumbers, sewer worker and transport operators. It is recommended that leptospirosis in high-risk workers be included on the list.

For other infections, the majority of cases will occur not in relation to occupational exposure, which means the infection is not appropriate to include for workers in general. However, for some specific working groups, most cases of the infection in question will be due to occupational exposure, so the infection in that work group could be reasonably included on the list. Tuberculosis in health care workers is a good example. Infections where there is not a strong relationship between the infectious disease and a particular occupational group, but where occupationally-related cases do occur sporadically, are not recommended for inclusion on the list.

AlertForce offers training in asbestos awareness training, assessment and removal (http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/), and dealing with hazardous materials and substances (http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/hazardous-materials/)

Asbestos Awareness Training, Assessment & Removal Courses

Mining employers opt for online training to reduce costs

Online training is proving cost-effective in the coal industry, as the industry explores less expensive ways to present government-mandated mining courses.

This is reflected in latest training offerings from AlertForce, one of Australia’s largest work health and safety (WHS) training providers.

Chief executive officer Mr Brendan Torazzi said falling coal prices had seen a greater focus on cost-efficient online induction/WHS training for new employees.

“The advantages of doing theory training online include working at your own pace; there is no travel involved and there are other cost savings for employers such as the initial cost of the course,” Mr Torazzi said.

AlertForce has taken up the challenge by providing its latest induction course for new employees in Queensland’s coal industry in an online-only format.

“The online program is comprehensive and in most ways more detailed than face-to-face training,” Mr Torazzi said. “The introductory price also represents a significant discount to current face-to-face offerings – important for coal producers faced with a fluctuating coal price and rising costs. Practical skills are validated by a supervisor on the job.”

Mr Torazzi said induction training is compulsory in the Qld coal industry under Qld Govt legislation. Under the legislation, coal industry employers are required to provide refresher training every five years – with the initial 2011 start date expiring this year.

New laws raise WHS bar

Mr Torazzi said the Qld Govt introduced ‘Recognised Standard 11: Training in Coal Mines’ in 2011 to raise the basic level of training and safety in Queensland coalmines.

AlertForce has decided to offer refresher coal surface training this year in an online format following the success of a similar AlertForce offering to NBN Co workers employed on the national broadband network.

The NBN Co Safety and Awareness induction training course is a mandatory requirement under NBN Co-imposed training requirements for any person working on the national infrastructure project. While face-to-face training is offered for the NBN Safety and Awareness program, the marketplace for the training is completed “95% online”, Mr Torazzi said.

AlertForce’s GI Coal Surface Standard 11 training, meantime, is based upon materials produced by Energy Skills Queensland.

Requirements for the Qld course are:

  • Broadband access
  • Speak and write fluently in English
  • Complete Perform CPR training or higher qualification
  • For existing workers in the mining industry, a copy of your CV and qualifications

New entrants need to complete the mandatory practical skills assessment / workplace experience logbook on the job.

On successful completion of the Standard 11 course, participants receive a certificate of completion and a GI Card that allows them to access Qld mine sites.

Once the logbook is returned, a statement of attainment is issued covering the following nationally recognised units:

  • Communicate in the workplace (RIICOM201D)
  • Apply initial response first aid (RIIERR205D)
  • Respond to local emergencies and incidents (RIIERR302D)
  • Comply with site work processes/procedures (RIIGOV201D)
  • Work safely and follow WHS policies and procedures (RIIWHS201D)
  • Conduct local risk control (RIIRIS201D)

Mr Torazzi says “practical “skills are addressed in the online course by requiring participants to keep a logbook demonstrating successful implementation of their training.


Valued professionals

Mr Torazzi said AlertForce induction training treats new employees as “valued” professionals, building a strong early relationship between the company and the worker.

“They introduce new employees to the right people (top to bottom),” Mr Torazzi said.

“They also provide the employee with essential company history, customer, product and organisation information,” he said.

Mr Torazzi said an ideal induction course should explain:

  • how employee can access supplies and equipment,
  • where to get help to get the job done,
  • basic duties and responsibilities, and performance standards;
plus how one job relates to another,
  • employment terms and working conditions.,
  • company policy, rules and regulations, traditions and how things are done; and
  • the company’s commitment to work health and safety;
community, environment and sustainability.

The induction training should be capable of being used by all types of employees, contractors and casuals and for re-induction of existing staff.

Advantages of training

Mr Torazzi said the advantages of properly implemented induction training included:

  • consistent messaging to staff,
  • increased staff efficiency,
  • fast return on investment for new staff
,
  • a reduction in incidents and injuries
,
  • saving up to 50% on face-to-face training costs,
  • increased talent retention,
  • mapping to nationally recognised credentials,
  • improved safety culture,
  • reduction in staff errors on the job, and
  • better staff alignment to company values.

For more details about AlertForce’s coal mining and NBN Co induction training courses, go to either GI Coal Surface Standard 11 Training at http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/standard-11-training-generic-coal-induction-queensland/ or NBN Co Safety and Awareness induction courses at http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-nbn-safety-awareness-course/.

Apprenticeships under pressure: industry body calls for urgent changes

Apprenticeships are under pressure, with latest figures revealing falling numbers, high injury rates, fatigue management problems and a shift in training priorities.

The Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) said a combination of the end of the mining boom, fewer manufacturing and engineering jobs, currency movements, and “relatively high unemployment” had hurt the apprenticeship sector.

The situation had been exacerbated by decisions by governments to prioritise funding (incentives, user choice) away from traineeships.

“ACPET believes these government policy and funding decisions need to be reviewed as a matter of priority,” ACPET’s submission to the Inquiry into vocational education and training in New South Wales says.

Safety an issue

A shift in government training priorities is not the only issue facing the sector, with latest WorkSafe Australia figures revealing workers aged under 25 years (young workers) account for 20% of work- related injuries experienced by all Australian workers.

The 2009-10 figures reveal an injury rate of 66.1 work-related injuries per 1000 workers – 18% higher than the rate for workers aged 25 years and over (older workers: 56.2 injuries per 1000 workers). While young male workers had higher incidence rates of work-related injury than their female counterparts, on a ‘per hour’ basis young female workers had a frequency rate of injury 13% higher than young male workers.

This corresponds to an injury rate of 66.1 work-related injuries per 1000 workers – 18% higher than the rate for workers aged 25 years and over (older workers: 56.2 injuries per 1000 workers).

While young male workers had higher incidence rates of work-related injury than their female counterparts, on a ‘per hour’ basis young female workers had a frequency rate of injury 13% higher than young male workers.

Young shift workers working on a full time basis had substantially higher incidence rates of work-related injury than their non-shift working counterparts, suggesting fatigue management may be an issue.

When hours worked were considered, young female part time shift workers had the highest frequency rate of work-related injury compared to their young male and older worker counterparts.

ACPET calls for govt reforms

The combination of changed government priorities and pressures on the sector has prompted ACPET to call for a review of government policy covering apprenticeships.

ACPET said there was no truth in speculation students and employers were dissatisfied with the training provided – or that quality was declining as a result of recent VET reforms. Rather survey data indicated a “very-high” level of satisfaction.

ACPET said National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) 2014 student data indicated 88.9 % of graduates in NSW were satisfied with the overall quality of training, compared to 87.6% nationally. The “high levels” of satisfaction had been maintained over the past decade, its submission says.

For employers, the most recent NCVER data (2013) indicated those in NSW had similar engagement with the accredited training system as those nationally (52.9% compared to 51.9%).

Nationally, employer satisfaction levels since 2005 had risen and fallen in line with their use of the accredited VET system, which itself “broadly tracks” economic circumstances

In terms of ‘voting with their feet’, 45.3% of employers nationally used private training providers as their main provider of nationally recognised training compared to 16.7% for TAFE and 22.7% for professional or industry organisations.

ACPET said the growth in contestability in VET over the past 20 years, accompanied by the increase in number and diversity of providers, has had a marked impact on the affordability and accessibility of VET as private providers.

The greater efficiency (and flexibility) of private provision was highlighted in a report by Professional Fellow at Victoria University Peter Noonan in an August 2014 article in online publication, The Conversation, the submission argues. Put simply, new delivery strategies that harness technology and adopt greater flexibility in regard to facilities and staffing are underpinning private provider efficiencies that are enabling more affordable and accessible VET without compromising quality or outcomes. High cost does not necessarily equal quality nor does low cost necessarily mean lack of quality.”

“It was noted above that NSW has the lowest proportion of contestable VET funding of any state and territory. ACPET analysis indicates this approach has had a significant adverse impact on the cost of delivering VET services.

The 2014 NCVER student outcome survey indicated those receiving training through government-funded private providers were more likely to be employed after training compared to TAFE graduates (79% vs. 74%). Of those not employed before training, a lower proportion of government-funded TAFE graduates were employed after training compared to those from private providers, at 42.3% and 47.2% respectively in 2014.

“While there has been some criticism that training packages do not meet industry demand, they do enable the flexibility for providers to tailor delivery resources and strategies to the needs of students and industry alike. It is also important to acknowledge that while VET training is closely aligned to the needs of the workforce only some 40% of graduates work in the field of their study. The portability and flexibility of VET qualifications, therefore, is important in maximising ongoing employment opportunities and responding to changing workforce needs.”

At the same time ACPET acknowledges that training packages do not (and cannot) meet all the skill needs of the workforce or students. Many ACPET members have developed and deliver accredited courses that respond to niche labour market, student and employer needs. They are integral to a flexible, responsive VET sector.

“In summary, the contracting arrangements have mismanaged the allocation of training places and excluded some markets altogether (eg, foundation skills). It has resulted in large increases in student contributions for some programs, the halving of the number of registered training organisations delivering government-funded training compared to previous arrangements. ACPET members have reported the misalignment of provider capacity and contract locations, contract caps that make delivery not viable and contracts not being awarded to high-quality providers with strong long-standing industry links.”

This flawed approach to allocating training places, including by region, has led to a very slow take-up of training places. If not remedied, it is likely to cause significant long-term damage for students, industry and providers.”

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AlertForce offers a range of training courses in fatigue management. For details, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/fatigue-management/.

Confronting sexual harassment: an employer’s guide

Managers and supervisors must ensure that everybody in the workplace is free from sexual harassment. The following article explores those responsibilities and what to do if harassment occurs.

Despite being outlawed for more than 25 years, sexual harassment remains a problem in Australian workplaces, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) concedes. In fact, nearly one in five complaints received by the AHRC under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Commonwealth) relate to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment comes at a considerable cost, both to affected individuals and to business, AHRA says. It is important that employers take active steps to prevent sexual harassment and respond effectively when it occurs, its Sexual Harassment: Know where the line is report says.

What is sexual harassment?
AHRC’s report says sexual harassment is defined in the Sex Discrimination Act as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or conduct of a sexual nature in relation to the person harassed in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated”.

Tackling violence, harassment and bullying and building community understanding and respect for human rights are two of the AHRC’s priority areas.

Sexual harassment is also one of five priority areas for action contained in the commission’s Gender Equality Blueprint 2010.

Employers and unions, meantime, are doing their bit to defeat discrimination, joining with the cmn in a tripartite partnership called the Know Where the Line Is . The national awareness raising strategy is a combined effort by the cmn, employer body the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to prevent and reduce the harm of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

Sexual harassment prevalence surveys
While falling, harassment rates still remain unacceptably high, latest AHRA figure suggest. Since 2002, the cmn has conducted national sexual harassment phone surveys every five years. The aim of these surveys is to provide robust evidence on the prevalence, nature and extent of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

The cmn’s third sexual harassment survey, conducted in 2012, found that approximately one in five (21%) people over the age of 15 years experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in the previous five year period. It also found that sexual harassment continues to affect more women than men. Thirty-three per cent (33%) of women have been sexually harassed since the age of 15, compared to fewer than 9% of men.

An earlier cmn survey, conducted in 2008, found that 22% of females and 5% of males had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace at some time, compared to 28% of females and 7% of males in 2003.

It also found a lack of understanding as to what sexual harassment is. Around one in five (22%) respondents who said they had not experienced sexual harassment then went on to report having experienced behaviours that may in fact amount to sexual harassment under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth).

Bystander approaches
In July 2012 the cmn released a new research paper, Encourage. Support. Act!: Bystander approaches to sexual harassment in the workplace, which is a comprehensive examination of the way bystander intervention can be applied to addressing sexual harassment in workplaces. Bystanders are individuals who observe sexual harassment firsthand, or are subsequently informed of the incident.

Written by Associate Professor Paula McDonald from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and Dr Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong, Encourage. Support. Act examines the role bystander intervention strategies are already playing in other areas such as whistle blowing, racial harassment, workplace bullying and anti-violence.

Amendments to the Act
In June 2013, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Act 2013 (Cth) extended the list of circumstances to be taken into account when assessing whether or not sexual harassment has occurred, AHRA says.

Specifically, the Act replaced “marital status, sexual preference” from the existing list of circumstances in section 28A(1A)(a) of the Sex Discrimination Act with the following circumstances: “sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status”.

The amendment to section 28A(1A)(a) recognises that a person’s “sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status” may influence whether or not a reasonable person “would have anticipated the possibility that the person harassed would be offended, humiliated or intimidated”.

AlertForce response
AlertForce has responded to the incidence of sex harassment in Australian workplaces by offering convenient and cost effective sex discrimination training to employers, in the form of an online module Prevention of Sexual Harassment. The course can be scheduled wherever and whenever it suits managers and staff. The courses are carried out swiftly and simply, making it easy to meet responsibilities while keeping the business moving.

The Prevention of Sexual Harassment training covers compliance requirements under Equal Employment Opportunity, Sexual Harassment Prevention and/or anti workplace bullying legislation and codes of practice.

Anti-bullying
While treated in its own right through various codes of practice, workplace bullying often features in sexual harassment matters. It is best dealt with by taking steps to prevent it from occurring and responding quickly if it does occur, Safe Work Australia’s (SWA’s) Dealing with Workplace Bullying guide recommends.

The longer the bullying behaviour continues, the more difficult it is to address and the harder it becomes to repair working relationships, the guide says. The guide provides information for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage the risks of workplace bullying as part of meeting their duties under the work health and safety laws.

It includes advice on what workplace bullying is, how it can be prevented and how to respond to allegations that may arise.

Meantime, in one of the first of its type, the Fair Work Commission in August 2015 issued a “stop- bullying” order that was not first determined by consent.

Thomson Reuter’s industrial relations news title Workforce reports the subject of the order was directed not to contact two former workers at a related real estate business for two years, after his former employer conceded the ex-property manager’s conduct towards the workers could be bullying.
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For more specific details and training, see AlertForce’s Sexual Harassment module.

WorkSafe advises caution when dealing with trainers that aren’t RTOs

WorkSafe Western Australia has warned employees undertaking workplace training with companies that aren’t registered training organisations (RTOs) they may not receive their work licence.

The warning this month (September, 2015) follows its investigation into a non-registered training provider, A & J Training and Assessing.

WorkSafe director of business services Robyn Parker explained that A & J could not issue a Statement of Attainment a worker would require for a High Risk Work Licence to be issued.

“WorkSafe has recently received a number of queries about this particular trainer, and we need to warn the public that they may not receive the service they pay for if they deal with A & J,” Ms Parker said.

“A & J can deliver the training, but they are not a RTO and so cannot themselves issue valid Statements of Attainment.

“Statements of Attainment issued by A & J will not be accepted by WorkSafe, and as a consequence, a High Risk Work Licence will not be issued.”

Ms Parker said A & J would also contravene consumer laws if a licence applicant paid them for a service but did not receive the goods he or she had paid for.

ASQA defends its track record
Federal regulatory body Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), meantime, has rejected any suggestion it failed to investigate and take appropriate action in relation to concerns regarding the quality of vocational training and assessment.

In a June 2015 statement, ASQA said it had conducted almost 4,700 audits of the training and assessment activities of RTOs since its establishment in July 2011.

It has issued 470 notices of intention to cancel or suspend RTO registration; and made 218 decisions to cancel or suspend registration and 141 decisions to refuse reregistration of existing RTOs, affecting in total 261 different RTOs.

At the Senate Estimates hearing of 3 June 2015, questions were asked comparing ASQA’s actions in relation to the Vocation-Ltd owned RTOs taken by the Victorian regulator. In particular, the situation regarding the recall or cancellation of qualifications was raised.

ASQA said the policy framework for Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) system was based on the regulation of RTOs, rather than the regulation of each individual learner. The wholesale cancellation of qualifications has not been a feature of the VET system.

“The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator (NVR) Act provisions assume cancellation is a specific response to particular circumstances and, if based on a concern that an individual’s actual competencies do not meet the certified competencies awarded to the individual, this would be preceded by an individual reassessment of the person’s actual competencies,” ASQA said.

Vocation-owned RTOs has “been on ASQA’s radar” since last year and all of its operating RTOs regulated by ASQA have been subject to extensive audit and regulatory scrutiny, it said.

Employers and workers concerned about the bona fides of their training provider should contact the ASQA. ASQA publishes information about regulatory decisions it makes to suspend, cancel or impose conditions on RTOs that don’t meet its standards (see http://www.asqa.gov.au/about/regulatory-decisions/asqa-decisions.html).

About 200 providers were on the list when AlertForce compiled this story.

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AlertForce is a registered training organisation (RTO) providing WHS compliance and diploma training for employers. For more details, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

For details on the WorkSafe WA alert, go to: https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/announcements/worksafe-advises-caution-when-dealing-trainer-j-training-and-assessing

For details on the ASQA list, go to
http://www.asqa.gov.au/about/regulatory-decisions/asqa-decisions.html

For ASQA’s response to the Senate estimate’s hearing, go to www.asqa.gov.au/verve/_resources/MR_Statement_regarding_regulation_of_the_training_sector.pdf

Deaths and injury highlight importance of traffic control training

The death of two workers in separate heavy vehicle incidents and the hospitalisation of a 17-year old girl pinned under a utility reaffirm the importance of traffic control training and planning when working around motor vehicles.

Sydney security company MSS Security Pty Ltd (MSS) has been fined $150,000 by the NSW District Court following a 2011 incident that saw a 21-year-old male guard struck and killed by a cement truck. The truck was entering the Cement Australia manufacturing plant at Kandos in Central West NSW.

The guard was an employee of a company contracted to undertake work for MSS. MSS was found guilty of a breach of section 8(2) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000 for failing to ensure the safety of a person who was not an employee.

SafeWork NSW had alleged there was a risk of the guard being struck by a vehicle as he was monitoring the entry of trucks into the site. MSS Security should have installed a no-go zone and required the use of radios for drivers and guards to communicate with each other, it said.

Student pinned under ute
Police, meanwhile, are investigating after a teenage girl, believed to be a student, was hit by a utility vehicle at Moss Vale TAFE in NSW on September 15, 2015.

Emergency services were called to the education facility on Kirkham Road, after reports a utility had run over a woman.

Officers from The Hume Local Area Command attended and found a 17-year-old girl trapped under a Toyota Hilux.

She was extracted before being airlifted to Liverpool Hospital in a serious but stable condition.

The driver, a 55-year-old man, was breath tested at the location with a negative result.

Investigators have been told that the girl and man were doing work on the utility, when the driver moved the Toyota forward hitting the girl.

Investigations are continuing, with the assistance of SafeWork NSW.

Worker crushed by front end loader
In March 2015, a Melbourne waste recycling company was convicted and fined $450,000 over the death of an employee who was struck by the bucket of a 20-tonne front end loader.

Resource Recovery Victoria Pty Ltd (RRV) pleaded guilty in the County Court of Victoria to two offences under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 for failing to provide a safe system of work and failing to provide information, instruction or training.

The court heard that RRV operated a waste recycling depot in Braeside in which dump trucks, heavy machinery, smaller vehicles and staff on foot all worked in close proximity to each other.

On 4 October 2013, an employee was driving a small sweeper vehicle in an open air shed used for dumping and sorting waste materials. Another employee was also in the shed, operating a 20-tonne Hitachi front end loader to move dirt and bricks up a small ramp into a hopper.

The court heard that after the front end loader emptied a load of material into the hopper, the operator reversed the machine back down the ramp and lowered its bucket to about one metre above ground level.

Just after the machine began to move forward, the operator felt a bump on the bucket. When he reversed, he saw his colleague slumped in the sweeper vehicle with fatal injuries.

The court was told that the depot was a busy workplace with trucks dumping materials, heavy excavators and front end loaders sorting and clearing materials, and staff on foot all working in close proximity to each other.

While new employees were given safety pamphlets to read, the court heard there was no written induction at the site and training was informal and “on the job”.

The court was also told that:
• There were no documented procedures for traffic management at the time of the incident. Instead, employees relied on common sense.
• There were no signs or lines in the yard area to determine where trucks, frontend loaders or the company’s street sweepers could or couldn’t go, nor were there alarms, lights or barriers.
• Training in relation to all the machines used in the depot was verbal.
• There had been a number of injuries and near misses involving employees and machines over recent years that had not been reported.

Executive director of health and safety Len Neist said the company had failed in its responsibilities to keep workers safe.

“A comprehensive – and communicated – traffic management plan is critical in workplaces where employees are required to work in close proximity to heavy machinery and vehicles. Simply hoping workers will stay away from heavy machinery is just not good enough,” Mr Neist said.

“All employers must ensure workers are properly inducted to their worksite and competently trained on how to use the equipment they’re operating. Expecting workers to just learn on the job is fraught with peril.

The tragic circumstances of this matter and the failings of RRV to keep its workers safe should serve as a reminder to all employers to put the upmost importance on workplace safety.”
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AlertForce offers a range of training courses on traffic control. For details, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/traffic-management-course/

Further information on work health and safety for remote and isolated work is available at www.safework.nsw.gov.au or by calling 13 10 50.

Landmark decisions shed new light on ‘officer’ role after truck driver electrocuted

The industrial court has shed important new light on the obligation under the Work Health and Safety Act for officers to exercise due diligence.

In its latest newsletter, Harmers Workplace Lawyers reports the ACT Industrial Court held in McKie v Muni Al-Hasani, Kenoss Contractors Pty Ltd (in liq) [2015] ACTIC 1 that a senior project manager, Mr Al-Hasani, was not required to exercise the due diligence obligation because his position did not meet the threshold required for an “officer” under the WHS laws.

This is because he did not make, or participate in making, decisions that affected the whole, or a substantial part of, the business of Kenoss Contractors Pty Ltd (Kenoss).

Criminal proceedings were brought against Mr Al-Hasani concerning the fatality of a truck driver whose truck struck live power lines. Specifically, it was alleged that Mr Al-Hasani did not implement adequate measures to address the risk posed by live overhead electric cables.

Senior project officer ‘not an officer’
In citing High Court authority, HWL said the court focused on having regard to the role of the individual in the wider corporational structure as a whole.

To that end, the court found that although Mr Al-Hasani, amongst other things, had operational responsibility for the implementation of specific contracts, participated in management meetings, liaised with customers, engaged with safety management plans, managed the performance of the projects team and monitored the progress of projects, his role did not rise to the level of an officer under the WHS laws.

Rather, the court determined that:
• although Mr Al-Hassani sat close to the top of the structure, the management structure was flat and no evidence was presented to demonstrate that he made or participated in making decisions that affected, at the very least, a substantial part of the business;
• Mr Al-Hassani did not commit corporate funds, did not sign off on tenders for particular work and was not responsible for hiring and firing employees; and
• no evidence was presented that he had direction over the contracts Kenoss pursued or that he attended board meetings or met any of Kenoss’ legal obligations, such as ASIC returns or establishing quality assurance compliance.

Importantly, the Kenoss business was not limited to construction work but extended to a development business, over which Mr Al-Hassani had no control over.

HWL says the case is a “useful reminder” that not all managers will be determined by the court as an officer under the WHS laws.

Notwithstanding this, each case depends on its individual circumstances and regard must therefore be had to the particular employee’s role and whether they, in fact, participate in making decisions that affect a substantial part of the business as a whole.

In light of this decision, all types of managers should carefully consider what active steps they are taking to discharge their due diligence obligation and what further steps (if any) should be taken, HWL says.

Additionally, employers should also review their corporate management frameworks to ensure the officers in their organisation are appropriately identified and are of their due diligence duties.

Record $1.1m fine for transport fatality
Arising out of the same set of facts, the ACT Industrial Magistrates Court imposed a $1.1 million fine on Kenoss for failing to ensure the safety of the driver in breach of section 32 of the harmonised WHS Act, HWL notes.

The maximum fine the court can award for a breach of section 32 is $1.5 million. This is the highest fine recorded for a single safety offence in Australian history.

The court had not released the full decision when this report was compiled, but it has been reported in the media that Kenoss’ circumstances were unique as, for example, its safety officer had no qualifications for his role, it attempted to hinder the investigation into the fatality and it lacked a systematic approach to safety, HWL said.

In a separate report on the earlier ruling on whether Al-Hasani was an officer, law firm Clyde and Co said the court found Mr Al-Hasani’s role reflected an operational one with only “speculative” evidence that the role went beyond this.

“Accordingly, the learned magistrate was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he had a large enough level of control or influence in Kenoss Contractors to be classified as one of its officers,” Clyde and Co’s Insight newsletter reports.

As the charges were dismissed on this threshold issue, it was not necessary for the court to consider whether Al-Hasani breached the due diligence obligation imposed on officers, it said. “Interestingly, however, we understand the learned Magistrate found he had breached his duty as an employee of Kenoss Contractors but as he had not been charged with any offence as an employee this could not be taken any further.”
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AlertForce offers a range of compliance training courses to help employers and workers better understand their obligations under the new harmonised laws.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised OHS harmonisation courses, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course/

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised traffic control NSW training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/

Harmers Workplace Lawyers can assist organisations and their officers to ensure their obligations are appropriately exercised, including by conducting due diligence training sessions and assisting in the preparation of due diligence frameworks.

The war on asbestos: cost implications of alleged ‘unsafe’ removal

In Sydney last month (August 2015) inner west residents blocked WestConnex Delivery Authority trucks from entering the authority’s Alexandria dump site, after claiming to have witnessed unsafe asbestos removal practices.

“For days in high winds we’ve watched WestConnex trucks leaving the asbestos dump full of this killer product, and trucks are only half covered,” WestConnex Action Group spokesperson Janet Dandy-Ward said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the group told AlertForce the protest saw the site shut down for a day, with cost implications for the authority.

WestConnex defends actions
In response, WestConnex referred AlertForce to a general statement claiming the authority fully complied with legislative requirements governing safe removal of asbestos.

Residents had staged an early morning blockade at the Alexandria Landfill, which has been acquired by WestConnex.

Work to remove asbestos at the site is part of WestConnex’s planned delivery of new undergrounds M4 toll road. The action group claimed work at the dump site had not obtained the necessary clearance from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duty-of-care obligations
While the merits of the claims and counter claims remained unclear when this article was compiled, the cost implications of the blocking of work on the site show the downside for employers of any perceived failure to follow safe removal procedures.

Until recently asbestos training of significant quality has not been readily available to those pursuing a career in asbestos management and removal.

However, the current duty of care principle under the Work Health and Safety Act requires people in the workplace be aware of the consequences of their actions. These people include employers, employees, manufacturers, and suppliers.

A number of registered training organisations, including AlertForce, now provide training both for asbestos removal – and more general training in recognition of asbestos in the workplace.

After completing AlertForce asbestos “awareness” training, for example, workers are able to recognise and avoid harmful and dangerous situations.

Who needs asbestos training?
With asbestos present in many Australian buildings, it is important for a wide range of individuals to undertake some form of asbestos awareness course.

From construction workers to plumbers, any person who may come into contact with asbestos products can benefit from training.

Asbestos removal is also a prominent industry in Australia, with WHS standards requiring individuals in this field to hold official qualifications.

When materials containing asbestos are present, or even suspected in the workplace, only personnel with nationally recognised training are qualified to safely manage or remove it.

With strict regulations and requirements regarding training and qualifications, those hoping to enter a career in asbestos removal need to ensure they have the correct competencies in place. To comply with WHS standards and laws, the level of asbestos removal training accesses will dictate how you can participate in this vital and growing industry.

Alternatively, the asbestos awareness course is a program designed for individuals who may be required to work in locations potentially contaminated with asbestos, but will have no direct, intentional contact with the material; this includes builders, renovators and other related occupations.

Any employer who believes their workforce could benefit from the ability to identify asbestos should provide workers with asbestos awareness training. This will ensure that individuals can identify and respond to potential asbestos in the workplace.

What asbestos courses are offered by AlertForce?

AlertForce offers a range of vital asbestos assessment and awareness training programs, designed to meet the requirements of your industry and occupation. Whether you’re considering a career in asbestos removal, or simply want to formalise your skills and knowledge, AlertForce has an asbestos awareness and removal course to suit.

This introductory asbestos awareness training program can be completed online and gives individuals a fast and effective method for boosting their workplace health and safety.

By increasing your knowledge and awareness of asbestos products, you should be able to identify and address asbestos in the workplace. However, as asbestos awareness program does not give individuals the qualifications needed to remove asbestos.

Before asbestos removal can be completed, a competent person must conduct an assessment of the area and the process. To ensure removal procedures have the best possible chance of success without exposure, individuals working in this role need to have completed asbestos assessment training.

The nationally recognised qualification offered by AlertForce is Conduct Asbestos Assessment Associated with Removal CPCCBC5014A
For a career in asbestos management and removal, individuals need to undertake the relevant training. Depending on the level accessed, students will be able to work on relevant asbestos removal tasks.

The asbestos removal courses provided by AlertForce include Remove Non-Friable Asbestos (Class B) CPCCDE3014A (prerequisite for supervise asbestos removal); Remove Friable Asbestos (Class A) CPCCDE3015A; and Supervise asbestos removal CPCCBC4051A.

For more details about AlertForce’s asbestos awareness training, assessment and removal courses, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

Employers need to take a more ‘proactive’ approach to near misses: SWA report

How aware are workers and businesses of factors in the workplace that may impact work health and safety (WHS)?

A July 2015 report Mindfulness of WHS in the Workplace by Safe Work Australia (SWA) looks at mindfulness among both businesses and workers when it comes to WHS.

“Mindfulness” is the conscious awareness of factors that affect health and safety in the workplace.

Overall the report found “generally high” levels of mindfulness across worker groups in terms of what businesses count on, sensitivity to operations and preoccupation with failure.

Small and medium business employers (88% and 87%) were slightly more likely to agree that everyone feels accountable for safety than employers in large businesses (73%).

Almost all large business employers agreed that their business spends time identifying how their activities could potentially harm their workers, compared to 85% of medium business employers and 71% of small business employers.

Not enough focus on prevention
A continuing area of concern reaffirmed in the latest report was a tendency by businesses to approach WHS prevention reactively (such as treating a near miss as useful information) rather than proactively (such as spending time to actively look for possible failures).

The favouring of a reactive approach to WHS incidents by Australian businesses is potentially an important insight into the ways in which Australian businesses manage work health and safety.

The report suggested this may be due to businesses not having the resources available to proactively assess their workplace for potential threats to safety (preventing incidents before they can happen), or this may simply not be a priority for businesses.

A proactive approach to WHS does however appear to be undertaken within those priority industries that have relatively high inherent injury risk (such as construction), suggesting that potentially catastrophic events may be proactively mitigated where they are most likely to occur.

Workers’ compensation claims data show that the construction and manufacturing industries had the greatest decrease in incidence rates of the priority industries over the period 2000-01 to 2011-12, with transport, postal and warehousing also experiencing a substantial decrease (Safe Work Australia, 2014).

Generally, taking a largely proactive approach indicates a good level of mindfulness with regard to preoccupation with failure of work health and safety in the culture of these workplaces.

Differences were present according to industry and occupation groups across worker types.

Employers operating in the health care and social assistance industry, for example, tended to have the lowest levels of mindfulness in terms of what they count on in their business, preoccupation with failure and sensitivity to operations compared to the other priority industries. Sole traders working as labourers displayed high levels of mindfulness across the three measures.

While businesses and workers all had high levels of agreement that when something unexpected occurs they always try to figure out why things didn’t go as expected, agreement was much lower for businesses actively looking for failures and trying to understand them.

Employers in manufacturing, transport, postal and warehousing and construction did appear to support both proactive and reactive approaches to work health and safety failures, with sole traders in the manufacturing industry also supporting both approaches. Workers in these industries tended to favour the reactive approach.

Sensitivity to operations
When it comes to sensitivity to operations in the workplace, employers operating in the accommodation and food services; transport, postal and warehousing and construction industries displayed consistently high levels of mindfulness with regard to sensitivity to operations in their workplace (see Figure 1).

Untitled

Figure 1: Employer sensitivity to operations by industry
Employers had a higher level of agreement “the business actively looks for failures of all sizes and tries to understand them” (65 per cent) compared to workers and sole traders (57 per cent each). Workers were less likely to agree that “workers are rewarded if they report potential trouble spots” (24 per cent workers and 35 per cent employers).

Sole traders had slightly lower levels of mindfulness overall while workers had slightly higher levels when it comes to preoccupation with failure. Workers had a much higher level of agreement (75%), with the exception of “the business often updates our procedures after experiencing a near miss” than employers and sole traders (61% and 55% respectively). Employers also had a slightly higher level of agreement for the business actively looking for failures of all sizes and tries to understand them (65%) compared to workers and sole traders (57% each).

Employers and workers had almost identical agreement with workers being encouraged to report significant mistakes even if others do not notice a mistake has been made (85% each) and workers are encouraged to talk to superiors about problems (87% employers and 88% workers).

Workers were slightly less likely to agree that managers actively seek out bad news (31%) compared to employers (37%) and less likely to agree that workers are rewarded if they report potential trouble spots (24% workers and 35% employers). This indicates that while workers are encouraged to look for and report potential problems they perceive that employers are less concerned with this.

Sensitivity to operations
Employers tended to be more mindful in terms of sensitivity to operations than sole traders when it came to constantly monitoring workloads and reducing them when they become excessive (77% and 60%) and having access to a range of solutions whenever unexpected surprises crop up (80% and 61%).

This may be related to businesses having greater resources available to be able to deal with these situations. Both groups had similarly high levels of agreement that on a day-to-day basis there is always someone who is paying attention to what is happening (85% sole traders and 91% employers).

Across the three measures of mindfulness
While there are generally high levels of mindfulness among all groups, another study undertaken by SWA has shown that the top two perceived causes of injury nominated by employers, sole traders and workers were ‘the worker being careless’ and ‘just not thinking’ (Safe Work Australia, 2015).

In another study it was found that over 20% of sole traders and workers and just under 20% of employers agreed that they regarded risks as unavoidable in their workplace (Safe Work Australia, 2014a).

One explanation for these seemingly divergent findings is positive bias associated with responding to the mindfulness items within the survey (i.e. wanting to promote a good impression by agreeing with items when this may not be the case in reality).

Another explanation could be that while employers, sole traders and workers are generally quite mindful of work health and safety in their workplaces, they occasionally experienced failures in attention which lead to incidents occurring, or perhaps as a result of inherent risks existing in their workplaces from the nature of the work or the way in which it or the workplace is designed.

SWA says further research into the impediments to practical application of these general high levels of WHS awareness on a day-to-day basis to prevent workplace incidents and injuries would enable the establishment of an evidence base of the impact of conscious awareness of WHS on workplace incidents and injuries.

Health care figures a concern
SWA says the comparatively low levels of mindfulness observed for employers within the health care and social assistance industry “is of concern.” However, the findings could reflect that the work health and safety policies and procedures used in these workplaces did not allow for the regular assessment of potential failures or the updating of policies and procedures following a near miss. In addition, the positions held by workers in the industry may not allow for workers to solve unexpected problems or a range of solutions to be available if something unexpected occurred.

Workers’ compensation claims data show that the health care and social assistance industry had the highest number of serious claims in 2012-13 (preliminary) of all industries, and that there has been a 29% increase in the number of serious claims over the period 2000-01 to 2011-12 (Safe Work Australia, 2014b).

Investigation into work health and safety mindfulness in the health care and social assistance industry, such as the system of work health and safety used and the nature and application of relevant policies and procedures used, may shed further light on patterns of workplace injury and illness in the industry.

SWA said the finding that sole traders working as labourers had high levels of agreement across the three measures of mindfulness indicated that this ‘hands on’ occupation group appeared more mindful of work health and safety in their workplace due to the inherent risk associated with their work or the greater potential consequences of failures. This finding is also in line with labourers having the highest level of agreement that they never accept risk taking even if the work schedule is tight compared to other occupation groups (Safe Work Australia, 2014a).

The study suggests that high levels of mindfulness with regards to work health and safety, and specifically taking a more proactive approach towards risk management, may be contributing to recent reductions in accidents and injuries within the workplaces. However, this requires confirmation through further empirical study, SWA says.

AlertForce offers a range of courses to help businesses better target their WHS approach – and more actively look for system failures. They include Communicating Safety in the Office, Leadership Skills for Supervisors, Managing Hazards and Risk (Construction Safety) and Risk Management Safety Essentials Course.

Swans star praised for disclosing mental health condition

AlertForce has praised Sydney Swans star Lance Franklin’s decision to publicly disclose his mental health condition as an “important step forward” in recognising depression and anxiety in the workplace.

On September 8, The Swans released a statement confirming Franklin suffered from a mental health condition.

It said Franklin had been ruled out of Saturday’s qualifying final against Fremantle to take time away from the club to address his condition.

AlertForce chief executive officer Brendan Torazzi said Franklin’s stand in publicly acknowledging his condition would go a long way to encouraging others to seek help

Mr Torazzi said many workplaces now recognised the importance of early identification and treatment of depression in workers by offering support programs.

“Lance Franklin’s stand will encourage others to follow suit; we fully support his decision.”

Sydney Swans has previously worked with Beyond Blue on programs to promote acceptance and treatment of depression. In August 2015 it was the chosen charity for the Hawthorn clash at ANZ.

Franklin’s decision to go public comes at the same time as the release of a Beyond Blue training program targeting depression in the workplace.

The Mental Health in the Workplace program was successfully piloted by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) last month. It aims to help delegates reach out to workers who may be experiencing depression or anxiety.

The program includes a 90-minute session that teaches union delegates how to recognise the signs and symptoms of a mental health condition, the relationship between the workplace and mental health – and what to do if they are concerned about one of their members.

Beyond Blue developed the free program to address issues originally raised by the CFMEU’s fellow union Australian Workers Union (AWU), such as lack of awareness of depression and anxiety, and stigma. Delegates were often confused about how to approach a worker, what their role should be in providing support, and how they could support them.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the free resource, designed to fit into the existing training that unions already provide for delegates, provide delegates with the additional skill and confidence to have conversations about mental health with frontline workers.
“The toolbox kit is an easy way to equip delegates with the skills to improve workplace mental health at a grass roots level,” she said.

CFMEU forest products spokesperson Alex Millar said the program had been well received by delegates and would be included in training programs where appropriate.
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures suggest mental health conditions are common among working-age Australians, with 45 per cent of Australians aged between 16-85 years experiencing a mental health condition at some point in their lifetime.

However, a survey by Beyond Blue partner Heads Up reveals workplaces are not meeting their expectations when it comes to support programs. Only 52% of employees believe their workplace is mentally healthy compared to 76% for physical safety.

Only five in ten (56%) believe their most senior leader values mental health.
The survey found employees who believe their workplace is mentally unhealthy are unlikely to disclose they are experiencing a mental health condition, seek support from HR/management, or offer support to a colleague with a mental health condition.

Heads Up said the workplace was a relevant and an appropriate setting to promote and support the health and mental health of workers for several reasons, including:
• ease of access to a large number of people
• existing infrastructures (eg, communication channels, supportive environment)
• opportunity to tailor interventions to support the needs of specific groups of employees (eg, shift workers) and within particular industries
• cost-efficiency relative to clinical or community-based

The Swans, meantime, have thrown their full support behind Franklin. General manager of football Tom Harley said the club was doing everything possible to support him. “The timeframe on his return is unclear at this stage. We will continue to monitor his condition.”

Anyone seeking counselling or help with mental health issues can contact www.beyondblue.org.au or call 1300 224 636. The Heads Up resources are available at: www.headsup.org.au/toolboxtalkunions
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AlertForce offers a range of work health and training (WHS) courses for industry. For more details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

Workers turn to training courses as first port of call for WHS information

Australian workers turn to training courses as their first source of work health and safety (WHS) information, a new survey reveals.

The Safe Work Australia survey reports the three main sources used by Australian businesses in 2014 to get information about WHS requirements were government documents and publications (33 per cent), the media (32 per cent) and employer/industry associations (31 per cent).

Conversely, the most common source for Australian workers was training courses (39 per cent) followed by the media (29 per cent). For health and safety representatives and WHS professionals the most common sources were government Acts/regulations and publications (42 per cent) and employer/industry associations (38 per cent).

The media was the most used source of WHS information for employers and sole traders operating in the agriculture, forestry and fishing and accommodation and food services industries.

Employer/industry associations were the most used source of WHS information for employers and sole traders operating in the manufacturing (42 per cent), construction (44 per cent), road freight transport (43 per cent) and health care and social assistance (58 per cent) industries.

In 2012 the most common source was the media.

Dissemination channels

Workers were provided with information or notified about WHS policies and procedures during a walk around the workplace alone or with other managers (68 per cent), through informal communication with workers (54 per cent) and during meetings on work health and safety with management and through notice boards (35 per cent each). Thirty seven per cent of businesses indicated they informed workers through other means.

Across the priority industries for sole traders the media and experience/doing the job itself tended to be common sources of learning about work health and safety. For employers in priority industries there was a great deal of variation in how they learnt about work health and safety.

Industry pamphlets and newsletters, the media and the internet were commonly utilised. Across the priority industries the most common source of learning about WHS for workers was training courses.

Training courses have been a popular source of learning about WHS for workers overall over the past 10 years. The media has consistently been an important source of WHS information for all worker groups (excluding CEOs in 2001). Since 2010, the internet has become an increasingly popular method of learning about WHS.

Importantly, 24% of manufacturing employers indicated they gave no information regarding WHS policies and procedures to their workers, followed by 18% in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 17% in road freight transport.

In 2012 employers most commonly provided to their workers or workers obtained work health and safety information during a walk around the workplace either alone or with managers and through informal communication with work mates about WHS.

Employers commonly provided information about WHS part-time/casual workers and full-time workers. One third of employers indicated that they provided WHS information to contractors/ sub-contractors.

Employers operating in construction and transport, postal and warehousing were more likely to provide information to contractors/ subcontractors and to apprentices/trainees than employers operating in the other priority industries.

These surveys include responses from 1052 employers, 520 sole traders and 1311 workers (2012) and 706 sole traders and 1644 employers (2014).

The data were weighted to produce national estimates of the number of businesses and workers in Australia that hold particular attitudes and perceptions about work health and safety.

Sole traders relied slightly more on the media and internet (28% and 26%) than government documents and publications (24%). For employing businesses, small business employers used government documents and publications (41%), employer/industry associations (40%) and the media (37%) with employers in medium and large businesses using government documents and publications (53% and 69%), employer/ industry associations (46% and 70%) but used the internet (39% and 47%) rather than the media.

Of some concern, 19% of sole traders indicated no sources are used to get information about WHS.

Medium and large business employers tended to learn about WHS from somewhat different sources. Half of medium business employers learnt from employer/industry associations followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters and experience/doing the job itself (38% and 33%, respectively). Almost half of large business employers also learnt about work health and safety information from employer/industry associations, followed by government Acts/ regulations and publications (43%) as well as training courses and government health and safety inspectorates (33% each).

In agriculture, forestry and fishing the information about WHS was learnt from Industry pamphlets/ newsletters (45%), media (41%) and experience/doing the job itself (39%).

In manufacturing half of employers indicated that they learnt about WHS from the media, followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters (39%), experience/doing the job itself and training courses (39% each).

In construction, half of employers learnt about WHS from employer/industry associations followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters (41%) and health and safety representatives (37%).

Over half (59%) of employers in accommodation and food services learnt from experience/ doing the job, followed by posters/ signs/ notices (42%) and industry pamphlets/ newsletters (39%).

In transport, postal and warehousing employers reported learning something about WHS from the internet, supervisors/ managers and experience/doing the job itself (38%, 37% and 32%, respectively).

In health care and social assistance employers most commonly learnt about WHS from the internet (41%), industry pamphlets (38%) and the media (35%).

AlertForce provides a range of WHS training courses for employers and workers. For details, go to www.alertforce.com.au

Safety regulator or insurer? NSW moves to end ‘conflict of interest’

AlertForce has welcomed reforms designed to end a conflict of interest in the NSW Government’s dual role as work health and safety (WHS) regulator and insurer.

Under structural reforms introduced by the government on September 1, 2015, three discrete agencies have been created to better manage and deliver the state’s WHS and workers’ compensation insurance services.

As part of the reforms, WorkCover NSW has been replaced by three separate organisations including:
• SafeWork NSW – the independent work health and safety regulator

• State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) – the independent insurance regulator

• Insurance & Care NSW – a single customer-focused insurance and care service provider.

NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation Victor Dominello said the new system would “iron out” the differences between the various interests that have affected the system in the past.

“These changes mark the end of the inherent conflict of interest that has existed in NSW between the operation and regulation of insurance,” Mr Dominello said.

“They allow a better focus on getting regulation right and improving workplace safety.”

Improved benefits
Key among the reforms is the winding back of 2012 changes to the workers’ compensation scheme that resulted in the slashing of medical benefits to injured workers, including those who had lost limbs or hearing in work incidents.

Benefits were cut in response to a $4.1 billion deficit in the WorkCover scheme, which is now in surplus.

Under a $1 billion benefit enhancements program, injured workers will now have access to additional assistance to get back to work or to continue their lives.

The benefit enhancements include:
• Cover will be extended for certain classes of prostheses and aids as well as home and vehicle modifications, from retirement age to life, regardless of the level of permanent impairment.

• The cap for medical expenses, currently 12 months from when weekly payments stop (or date of injury where no weekly payments were made) will double to two years after weekly payments cease for those with up to 10% permanent impairment and increase to five years after weekly payments cease for those with 11-20% permanent impairment.

• The maximum lump sum compensation payable for injury resulting in greater than 10% permanent impairment will be more than doubled – from $220,000 to $560,000.

• If you have more than 21% permanent impairment and have some work capacity, you will no longer have to work more than 15 hours per week to get weekly payments after 130 weeks (2.5years).

• If you have 21% or greater permanent impairment medical expenses will be payable for life.

• If you have more than 30% permanent impairment you will receive an increased minimum benefit of $788 per week which will be indexed to CPI, providing a safety net for those with lower weekly wages at the time of their injury (particularly for younger workers with highest needs).

• All injured workers who return to work with a new employer will get ‘return to work assistance of up to $1,000 to assist with the transition.

• Education and retraining grants of up to $8,000 will be provided for workers who have been receiving weekly benefits for 78 weeks (18 months) or more to improve the opportunity to return to work.

• Families of deceased workers will have access to an increased death benefit of $750,000 – up substantially from the current $524,000.

• The maximum amount that will be payable for funeral expenses of a deceased worker will increase from $9,000 to $15,000.

In addition to enhanced benefits for workers, businesses will receive five-20 per cent discounts for maintaining safe work places and helping injured employees return to work.

Implications for AlertForce and clients
Approval, accreditation and agreements for registered training organisations (RTOs) will continue to operate under NSW Work Health and Safety legislation, which is now administered by SafeWork NSW.

Over the coming months WorkCover NSW forms will be re-branded as SafeWork NSW. Until then, AlertForce will continue to use all WorkCover NSW branded forms including applications, Statements of Training (SOTs) and Notices of Satisfactory Assessment (NSAs).

All business as usual enquiries to SafeWork NSW for RTOs can continue via phone 13 10 50 or email thirdparty@workcover.nsw.gov.au.

AlertForce will amend the branding of its website over the coming months from WorkCover NSW to SafeWork NSW, when referring to approvals or WHS training.

What this means for SafeWork NSW

The new SafeWork NSW continues to offer the full range of WHS services across NSW.

Its inspectorate continues to provide advice, as well as undertake compliance and enforcement activities and conduct investigations.

Existing partnerships, sponsorships, agreements and memorandum of understanding will remain in place.

Authorised training and assessment providers will continue to provide critical services to its customers on SafeWork NSW’s behalf.

For further information, assistance and advice continues to be available via the SafeWork NSW website (www.safework.nsw.gov.au) and customer service centre (13 10 50).
http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course/

AlertForce offers nationally recognised WHS harmonisation training courses covering the NSW WHS Act. Go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course/

Fatigue: how to assess the invisible threat

Basic fatigue management is essential for combatting human error incidents in the workplace, a work health and safety conference has heard.

Within mining operations, for example, fatigue is a leading contributor in 60-70 percent of human error incidents, according to Caterpillar Safety Services’ Asia Pacific regional manager Brett Haskins.

Speaking at Queensland Resources Council’s Queensland Mining Industry Health and Safety Conference last month (August 2015), Mr. Haskins said fatigue undermines productivity and performance targets, impacts financial results and damages business reputations.

The impact isn’t all negative. It also provides an opportunity to better understand operator performance, positively impact risk mitigation, make efficiency gains, drive cost control and improve the overall health and wellness of our employees.

“One thing that I have learned over the years through multiple change management and continuous improvement systems is to first assess (define and measure) the current state of any operation, before developing an improvement plan that helps reach the desired state,” Mr. Haskins said.

Opportunities among the threats
Mr. Haskins said the ability to accurately assess fatigue represented a clear opportunity. Using custom-designed Six Sigma practices, Caterpillar Inc. built a comprehensive safety product suite that included a fatigue and distraction risk assessment – a holistic employee fatigue and distraction measurement tool that provides real-time visibility to an ongoing risk.

Over the past decade many technologies have emerged in the fatigue space ranging from in-cab camera systems and devices needing to be worn by an operator, to computer software scheduling systems, he said.

When used as stand-alone technologies, these tools can provide valuable improvement data. Together, the technologies can capture the entire picture.

“During the assessment period it’s important to consider the use of a range of technologies in order to clearly define the volume of the problem. For example, an in-cab camera system detecting operator alertness will provide the number of fatigue and distraction events occurring, but it doesn’t provide any data on that same operator’s sleep quality. Similarly, telematics data provides ample information about how the equipment is operating, but provides very little information about the control module (the operator).”

Caterpillar, Inc. uses a combination of products to provide a holistic view of operator and fleet performance. The product suite includes:
• Cat Smartband (a scientifically validated wrist worn technology that captures the quantity and quality of sleep for the wearer, which is then used to calculate an effectiveness score).

• Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Tool (a fatigue modelling software that identifies areas of fatigue risk in schedule and roster design utilising individual and group sleep data to generate minute-by-minute performance predictions).

• Driver Safety System (an in-cab camera system that detects fatigue and distraction events).

• Equipment Telematics (“black box” type technology used to transmit vital equipment and operation data to improve usage and product life . A fatigue and distraction risk assessment analyses the combined data from each of these technologies to bring visibility to the current state of operations, employee effectiveness and risk. It monitors events through the use of an instantaneous in-cab alarm and seat vibration system. The accompanying 24/7 monitoring system also supports a fatigue intervention plan for each detected event and customised reports to be used for analysis and continuous improvement. The technology provides an accurate measuring system for determining the success of your overall fatigue risk management system. In addition, the availability of real-time data enables the changing out of any operators who are at risk of accidents and injuries due to their fatigued state.
Since its development the Driver Safety System has monitored more than 8 million hours and driven more than 101million kilometres in mining vehicles; 2641kms driven while operators were fatigued. The system has detected more than 1.5M distraction events in these same mining vehicles.

“During the assessment process we strongly encourage cross checking and referencing equipment telematics, tyre and incident data from your machines. Integrating these data sets with fatigue and distraction events provides even more tangible information to define the current reality,” Mr. Haskins said.

Once a fatigue and distraction risk assessment is undertaken, employers have specific and verifiable data from which to build an improvement plan.

Combining real-time intervention technologies, operator performance-related data and engaging in operator consultation creates an integrated and comprehensive improvement plan for the business, he said.

In working with employees to optimise policies, procedures, training and schedules rosters, an ongoing fatigue risk management system will facilitate a culture of continuous improvement driven by data analytics for a sustainable future.

Queensland Resources Council (QRC) chief executive Michael Roche, meantime, told the conference there was “no room for complacency” when it comes to safety, regardless of operating circumstances.

“When it comes to improving the industry’s safety culture and leadership, better management of vehicle and mobile equipment safety and addressing fitness for work challenges (such as impacts from drugs and alcohol), a collaborative rather than competitive approach is what is needed,’ Mr Roche said.

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AlertForce is a leader in fatigue management training. AlertForce has customised courses in transport, mining, manufacturing and rail that can help your business (see http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/fatigue-management/#course-content).

WHS a priority in new NBN contracts

Work health and safety (WHS) is a key component of NBN’s (formerly NBN Co’s) new NBN jobs contracting model with the Australian construction industry.

The performance-based contracts aim to increase significantly the quality and speed of the rollout to homes and businesses in the fixed-line “footprint” that will make up the vast majority of connections to the NBN network.

The terms, which include adherence to safe work practice, represent a marked departure from the old commercial model which guaranteed large volumes of work to suppliers in specified states and regions regardless of performance but also placed upon them a high administrative burden and no competition for that work.

Instead, the new contracts offer flexible volume commitments, competition between delivery partners, and pricing based on outcomes rather than inputs.

AlertForce plays a part
AlertForce is playing its part in nbn’s heightened focus on WHS by providing mandatory online WHS induction training to NBN employees. AlertForce is the sole provider of online WHS training to NBN.

NBN CEO Bill Morrow said the performance of construction partners, the quality of their work and their adherence to safe work practices would determine how much additional work they will receive.

“We have worked closely with the industry to reduce the complexity of our contracts to make them easier to administer and to reward good work as we gear up to accelerate the rollout.”
The first of the new contracts were signed in June 2015 with construction partners Downer, Transfield, Visionstream, Fulton Hogan and WBHO.

Together the new contracts will cover around 4 million homes and businesses that are scheduled to be connected with fibre to the node, fibre to the building or fibre to the premises. Contracts with additional suppliers are also being negotiated and nearing conclusion.

NBN has a goal of ensuring that all homes, businesses and communities across Australia can access high speed broadband by 2020, including 8 million premises connected to the NBN network.

Strong focus on training
The new contracts come at the same time as NBN announces a significant recruitment and training drive to support the accelerated connection of homes to the NBN network by 2020.

The current construction workforce is expected to double to 9,000, with NBN committing nearly $40 million for training and awareness campaigns to help attract an extra 4,500 workers into the industry.

“To bring high speed broadband to Australians faster, our delivery partners will need a bigger pool of trained, skilled workers,” NBN CEO Bill Morrow said. “Flexible career options will be explored by construction partners to attract late-stage career workers looking to balance their hours with lifestyle and family.

Roles in coaching and training for new industry entrants will harness their experience and provide valuable expertise to younger workers setting out in the industry.NBN also aims to attract school leavers and workers rolling off other construction jobs, building a range of training and re-skilling programs with tailored career paths.

Workforce to double
The intention is to expand the industry’s workforce to meet construction and activation requirements. Long-term opportunities will also be created as the network moves into ongoing operations and maintenance.
“To those with telco experience, there are options to use your skills or become a teacher and coach for the next generation of workers,” Mr Morrow said.

“To those thinking about what course or career to pursue, our partners are developing options that will include training and real job opportunities on the NBN network over the long term.”

The occupations needed to meet nbn’s requirements include telco copper cable jointers, telco linesworkers, cablers, telco technicians and electrical linesworkers.
NBN is signing agreements with a number of training organisations, comprising TAFEs and registered training organisations, with providers in every major rollout region across the country. Further, a national NBN skills register will also be established to help record worker accreditations across the network.

“Both the rapid roll out plan and the multi-technology mix means we need more people in our united partnership to connect eight million happy homes by 2020,” Mr Morrow said.

“Together we aim to bring high speed broadband to Australians to bridge the digital divide and create new opportunities for business, health, education and entertainment.”

Satellite launch
NBN’s first satellite, meantime, is expected to launch from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana soon, followed by the expected commercial availability of its wholesale Long Term Satellite Service (LTSS) in 2016.
The LTSS will deliver wholesale broadband speeds of up to 25 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload.

More than one million premises can now order fast broadband services via the NBN network – about one in 10 homes. Nearly half a million homes are already connected and enjoying the benefits.

Mr Morrow said the fast broadband delivered via the NBN network can provide a range of benefits for Australians such as opportunities to work from home, access to online education tools and options for on-demand entertainment.

For more information on AlertForce’s Mandatory NBN Safety and Awareness Course/Training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-nbn-safety-awareness-course/

Australia’s asbestos disease rate continues to outstrip world

Latest figures reveal Australia’s rate of asbestos-induced mesothelioma continues to outstrip the rest of the world.

Reaffirming the importance of asbestos removal training, the Safe Work Australia (SWA) report reveals an incidence rate of a 2.2 per 100,000 person-years, compared with the global average of 1.2.

The Mesothelioma in Australia: Incidence (1982 to 2013) and Mortality (1997 to 2012) report, released in May 2015, is based on statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR).

The AMR figures reveal the incidence rate for Victoria and NSW in 2013 was 1.8, but in WA it was 3.9. Age at diagnosis ranged from 27-96, but most people were aged 70-84. Men were more likely to be diagnosed in their 70s, while the incidence for women was more evenly spread across age groups.

About 60% of people who participated in research had possible or probable exposure through work, the report says.

The highest incidence was for tradespeople, particularly those in construction and the metal and mechanical trades.

So what is mesothelioma?
Mesothelioma is a fatal cancer that typically occurs 20 to 40 years after exposure to asbestos, although exposure does not always result in the disease, the SWA report reveals.

Mesothelioma of the pleura (a cancer affecting the protective lining of the lungs and chest cavity) is the most common form of mesothelioma in Australia and has accounted for approximately 93% of cases since 1982.

Mesothelioma of the peritoneum (a cancer affecting the abdominal lining) is less common and has accounted for approximately 6% of cases since 1982. The figures in the SWA report included all forms of mesothelioma.

History in Australia
In Australia, more chrysotile (white asbestos) than amphibole (blue and brown) asbestos was mined until 1939, the SWA report reveals. New South Wales, the first jurisdiction to mine asbestos, produced the largest amount of chrysotile until 1983, as well as smaller quantities of amphibole until 1949.

With the commencement of mining in Wittenoom in Western Australia in 1937, crocidolite (blue asbestos) dominated production until the closure of the mine in 1966. The main sources of raw asbestos imports were from Canada (chrysotile) and South Africa (crocidolite and amosite—brown asbestos). Consumption peaked around 1975 at approximately 70 000 tonnes per year.

In addition to imports of asbestos fibre, Australia also imported many manufactured asbestos products, including asbestos-containing cement articles, yarn, cord and fabric, joint and millboard, friction materials and gaskets. The main sources of supply were the United Kingdom (UK), the United States of America (USA), the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan.

With the closure of the crocidolite mine at Wittenoom, Australian asbestos production and exports declined. Imports of chrysotile also started to decline. Over 60% of all production and 90% of all consumption of asbestos in Australia occurred in the asbestos cement manufacturing industry, the SWA report confirms.

From around 1940 to the late 1960s, all three types of asbestos were used in this industry. The use of crocidolite began to be phased out from 1967, while amosite was used until the mid-1980s. Much of the industry output remains today in the form of “fibro” houses and water and sewerage piping.

By 1954, Australia was fourth in the western world in gross consumption of asbestos cement products, after the USA, UK and France, and first on a per capita basis. After World War II to 1954, 70 000 asbestos cement houses were built in New South Wales (52% of all houses built in Australia). In the past, exposure to asbestos was very high in some industries and occupations. It was as high as 150 fibres per millilitre of air (f/ml) in asbestos pulverisors and disintegrators in the asbestos cement industry and up to 600 f/ml among baggers at Wittenoom.

Regulation introduced in ‘70s
The use of asbestos products has been regulated in Australia since the late 1970s. A series of regulations adopted in the late 1970s and early 1980s by various jurisdictions imposed exposure limits of 0.1 f/ml for crocidolite and amosite and 0.1–1.0 f/ml for chrysotile.

In July 2003, a revised national exposure standard for chrysotile asbestos of 0.1 f/ml was declared by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. The prohibition of all forms of asbestos was adopted simultaneously under regulations in each Australian jurisdiction and by Australian Customs on 31 December 2003.

The prohibition bans the use of asbestos, but does not require the removal of asbestos products that were in place as at 31 December 2003. Therefore, some asbestos products are still present and need regulation to ensure their management or removal does not result in asbestos exposure.

Small decline since 2011 peak

In 2011, 690 new cases of mesothelioma were diagnosed in Australia. The preliminary number of diagnoses for 2013 is 575. The number of new mesothelioma cases has increased in most years since 1982, when national data first became available, and peaked at 690 in 2011.

The age-standardised incidence rate of mesothelioma increased from 1.1 new cases per 100 000 population in 1983 to a peak of 3.2 in 2010.

The rate fell to 2.8 new cases per 100 000 population in 2011. In 2011, the highest age-specific incidence rate of new mesothelioma cases occurred among males aged 85 years and above (49.9 cases per 100 000 population aged 85 years and above).

Deaths due to mesothelioma.

In 2012, 638 deaths were attributed to mesothelioma. The number of deaths resulting from mesothelioma increased between 1997 and 2012 and reached a peak of 638 in 2012.

In 2012, the age-standardised mortality rate for mesothelioma was 2.5 deaths per 100 000 population. The age-standardised mortality rate remained relatively stable over the 16 years for which data are available and ranged between a minimum of 2.1 deaths per 100 000 population in 1999 and a maximum of 2.7 in 2001.

The model work health and safety laws adopted by the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania provide a consistent framework for the minimisation of asbestos exposure, the removal of asbestos and the management of remaining asbestos materials in workplaces.

What resources are available to deal with asbestos?
A national model code of practice, How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace, is available on the Safe Work Australia website to provide businesses with practical guidance on how to manage risks associated with asbestos and asbestos-containing material in the workplace.

The Commonwealth Government established the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) to focus on asbestos-related issues at a national level. Along with developing a national strategic plan aimed at preventing asbestos exposure and eradicating asbestos-related diseases in Australia, the ASEA also undertakes research and awareness activities, including an examination of current disposal infrastructure and a study of community awareness and attitudes to asbestos.

For more details on AlertForce asbestos awareness training assessment and removal courses, go to www.alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/

Two fatalities at freight hub highlight importance of WHS traffic control training

Two fatalities within six weeks at a freight depot highlight the importance of  traffic control planning and training.

Earlier this month (August, 2015), a collision between a truck and forklift at Crawfords Freightlines in Sandgate, NSW sparked a confrontation between two workers, with one killed in the fight that followed.

In July a maintenance worker died while at work for Crawfords after a tyre on a forklift he was repairing failed.

The company says it is working with regulatory authority WorkCover NSW and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to improve safety at the yard.

A Crawfords spokesperson told AlertForce it was currently in the process of improving road markings and signage on site, in accordance with a Workcover NSW directive.

The earlier fatality, which involved a local tyre centre worker not employed by Crawfords, who died whilst carrying out maintenance on a Crawfords forklift, was the result of a “failure in procedures”, not a faulty tyre, the company said.

The man’s employer was issued with an improvement notice over the earlier incident in relation to training and instruction. No improvement notices were issued against Crawfords Freightlines in regard to the earlier incident, the spokesperson said.

 

TWU investigates yard safety

The TWU’s Newcastle secretary Mick Forbes, meantime, said the union was doing its own investigation of procedures and upgrades at the yard.

“Last year their (Crawfords’) timber exporting business was shut down by the EPA over the [alleged] improper use of the toxic fumigant methyl bromide,” Mr Forbes said.

“The last thing we want is another tragic incident involving transport workers, dangerous chemicals or explosives – we need the authorities to get in there and clean things up for the safety of the entire community,” Mr Forbes said.

Crawford’s Freightlines, meantime, has conducted an on-site inspection of its Sandgate head office with representatives from the union.

Crawfords managing director Peter Crawford said the company was committed

to strict workplace safety procedures in its loading and unloading areas.

“We reiterated that our company complies with relevant WHS Act and WHS Regulations as part of our day to day operations. For example, we undergo regular auditing by WorkCover NSW and our clients, including the Downer Group, Dyno Nobel and Orica, to ensure we meet the vigorous requirements needed to store and handle hazardous materials.”

Mr Crawford said the company was always working with WorkCover NSW to ensure best practice workplace regimes.

A WorkCover NSW spokesperson confirmed WorkCover issued one traffic management notice to Crawfords Freightlines in regards to the collision that lead to fight and subsequent fatality on August 4.

“The incident on 4 July involved a contractor. This was a different entity to Crawfords Freightlines,” its spokesperson confirmed.

 

WorkCover releases safety video

In an acknowledgement of the risks transport hubs pose to worker health and safety, WorkCover has released a new safety alert video addressing loading and unloading flatbed trucks and trailers.

The video establishes how an experienced truck driver fell two metres and sustained fatal injuries because fall protection was not in place.

The footage outlines a series of simple safety steps to prevent falls – number one being to remain on the ground during unloading and loading.

Executive director of WorkCover’s work health and safety division Peter Dunphy said there were a number of ways to do this, including pre-configuring the load or using load restraints.

“But if working from the ground is a no-go, then a safe way to access and work upon the trailer must be provided, and this can be anything from guard rails and work platforms to retractable ladders or steps with handrails.”

Mr Dunphy said the typical transport industry model involved several businesses, which often meant complex arrangements with loading and unloading freight.

Australia-wide, 15 transport workers died between 2003 and 2012 after falling from their trucks. Most trucks were flatbed types with no guard rails or other fall protection devices.

About 20% of injuries in NSW’s road freight transport industry are caused by falls, with almost 900 workers lodging workers compensation claims for fall-related injuries over two years prior to April 2014.

 

AlertForce provides traffic control training

AlertForce, meantime, is doing its bit to reduce transport-related injuries and fatalities through nationally qualified competency training in traffic control.

The training meets the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) nationally recognised competency qualification framework for all traffic control training, which was introduced on July 1, 2015

The introduction of a national framework is based on an Austroads research report Traffic Control at Worksites – Training and Accreditation, which recommends a set of standards, skill sets and units of competency for traffic controllers

The traffic controller qualification for workers who are required to setup traffic control guidance schemes (TCGS) in accordance with approved traffic management plans (ie, yellow card qualification), for example, assesses among other things the following knowledge and skills:

• Understand and make changes to a TCGS to suite the specific road environment

• Adapt behaviours to the work site

• Know the basic function of the TCGS

• Adapt to all WHS and operational requirements

• Follow organisational and legislative WHS policies and work procedures

• Use the site/location assessment, distinguish topographical landmarks and carry out authorised risk control

• Conduct an onsite check of a TCGS to identify any unexpected risks/hazards

• Able to interpret plans, that is, must be aware of the distance and measuring devices of the method

• Plan for emergencies that may arise.

For more details on AlertForce’s nationally recognised traffic control NSW training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/

For WorkCover’s safety alert on loading flatbed trucks, go to http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/news/safety-alert/falls-from-flatbed-trucks-and-trailers-safety-alert

What is good work design?: a 10-point guide

Good work is healthy and safe work, where the workplace health and safety hazards and risks are eliminated or minimised “so far as is reasonably practicable”, Safe Work Australia’s (SWA’s) new handbook Principles of Good Work Design (PGWD) argues.

Good work is also where the work design optimises human performance, job satisfaction and productivity.

So how do you ensure ‘good’ work design and how do you assess its value?

Before any new project, PGWD says job designers MUST consider:

The work:
• how work is performed, including the physical, mental and emotional demands of the tasks and activities;
• the task duration, frequency, and complexity; and
• the context and systems of work.

The physical working environment:
• the plant, equipment, materials and substances used; and
• the vehicles, buildings, structures that are workplaces.

The workers:
• physical, emotional and mental capacities and needs.

Failure to do so can result in “poor risk management and lost opportunities to innovate and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work”, PGWD warns.

Key principles
So what are the vital ingredients you NEED to employ to ensure ‘good’ work design? The handbook lists 10 key reasons/principles, listed under three subheadings: why, what and how.

The Why principles

The Why section is split into three principles, as follows:

1: Good work design gives the highest level of protection ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’
PGWD argues eliminating or minimising hazards at the source before risks are introduced in the workplace is a very effective way of providing the highest level of protection. Doing so reduces the risk of injuries, claims and expense. Where that is not reasonably practicable, then the design process should minimise hazards and risks through the selection and use of appropriate control measures.

2. Good work design enhances health and wellbeing
Good work design optimises worker function and improves participation enabling workers to have more productive working lives. Effective design aims to prevent harm, but it can also positively enhance the health and wellbeing of workers for example, satisfying work and positive social interactions can help improve people’s physical and mental health. As a general guide, the healthiest workers have been found to be three times more productive than the least healthy (see PDF file). It therefore makes good business sense for work design to support people’s health and wellbeing.

3: Good work design enhances business success and productivity
Good work design prevents deaths, injuries and illnesses and their associated costs, improves worker motivation and engagement and in the long-term improves business productivity. Well-designed work fosters innovation, quality and efficiencies through effective and continuous improvement. Well-designed work helps manage risks to business sustainability and profitability by making work processes more efficient and effective and by improving product and service quality. Designing-out problems before they arise is generally cheaper than making changes after the resulting event, for example by avoiding expensive retrofitting of workplace controls.

The WHAT principles

4: Good work design addresses physical, biomechanical, cognitive and psychosocial characteristics of work, together with the needs and capabilities of the people involved
Good work design addresses the different hazards associated with work eg, chemical, biological and plant hazards, hazardous manual tasks and aspects of work that can impact on mental health. Work characteristics should be systematically considered when work is designed, redesigned or the hazards and risks are assessed. These work characteristics should be considered in combination and one characteristic should not be considered in isolation. Good work design creates jobs and tasks that accommodate the abilities and vulnerabilities of workers so far as reasonably practicable. Hazards and risks associated with tasks are identified and controlled during good work design processes and they should be considered in combination with all hazards and risks in the workplace.

5: Good work design considers the business needs, context and work environment.
Good work design is ‘fit for purpose’ and should reflect the needs of the organisation including owners, managers, workers and clients. Every workplace is different so approaches need to be context specific. What is good for one situation cannot be assumed to be good for another, so off-the-shelf solutions may not always suit every situation. The work environment is broad and includes: the physical structures, plant and technology, work layout, organisational design and culture, human resource systems, work health and safety processes and information/control systems. The work environment includes the physical structures, plant, and technology. Planning for relocations, refurbishments or when introducing new engineering systems are ideal opportunities for businesses to improve their work designs and avoid foreseeable risks. However, all businesses must eliminate or minimise their work health and safety risks so far as reasonably practicable.

6: Good work design is applied along the supply chain and across the operational lifecycle.
Good work design should be applied along the supply chain in the design, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal of goods and the supply of services. Work design is relevant at all stages of the operational life cycle, from start-up, routine operations, maintenance, downsizing and cessation of business operations. New initiatives, technologies and change in organisations have implications for work design and should be considered. Businesses in the supply chain can have significant influence over their supply chain partners’ work health and safety through the way they design the work. Health and safety risks can be created at any point along the supply chain, for example, loading and unloading causing time pressure for the transport business. These can be prevented if businesses work with their supply chain partners to understand how contractual arrangements affect health and safety.

The HOW principles

7: Engage decision makers and leaders
Work design or redesign is most effective when there is a high level of visible commitment, practical support and engagement by decision makers. Demonstrating the long-term benefits of investing in good work design helps engage decision makers and leaders. Practical support for good work design includes allocation of appropriate time and resources to undertake effective work design or redesign processes.Leaders can support good work design by ensuring the principles are appropriately included or applied. Good work design, especially for complex issues will require adequate time and resources to consider and appropriately manage organisational and/or technological change. Like all business change, research shows leader commitment to upfront planning helps ensure better outcomes.

8: Actively involve the people who do the work, including those in the supply chain and networks
Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must consult with their workers and others likely to be affected by work in accordance with the work health and safety laws. Supply chain stakeholders should be consulted as they have local expertise about the work and can help improve work design for upstream and downstream participants. Consultation should promote the sharing of relevant information and provide opportunities for workers to express their views, raise issues and contribute to decision making where possible. Effective consultation and co-operation of all involved with open lines of communication, will ultimately give the best outcomes. Consulting with those who do the work not only makes good sense, it is required under the WHS laws. Workers have knowledge about their own job and often have suggestions on how to solve a specific problem. Discussing design options with them will help promote their ownership of the changes. See Code of practice on consultation.

9: Identify hazards, assess and control risks, and seek continuous improvement
A systematic risk management approach should be applied in every workplace. Designing good work is part of the business processes and not a one-off event. Sustainability in the long-term requires that designs or redesigns are continually monitored and adjusted to adapt to changes in the workplace so as to ensure feedback is provided and that new information is used to improve design. Good work design should systematically apply the risk management approach to the workplace hazards and risks. Typically good work design will involve ongoing discussions with all stakeholders to keep refining the design options. Each stage in the good work design process should have decision points for review of options and to consult further if these are not acceptable. This allows for flexibility to quickly respond to unanticipated and adverse outcomes.

10: Learn from experts, evidence, and experience
Continuous improvement in work design and hence work health and safety requires ongoing collaboration between the various experts involved in the work design process. Various people with specific skills and expertise may need to be consulted in the design stage to fill any knowledge gaps. It is important to recognise the strengths and limitations of a single expert’s knowledge. Near misses, injuries and illnesses are important sources of information about poor design. Most work design processes will require collaboration and cooperation between internal and sometimes external experts. Internal advice can be sought from workers, line managers, technical support and maintenance staff, engineers, ICT systems designers, work health and safety advisors and human resource personnel. Depending on the design issue, external experts may be required such as architects, engineers, ergonomists, occupational hygienists and psychologists.

PGWD says the 10 principles are deliberately “high level “and broadly applicable across the range of Australian businesses and workplaces. Applied appropriately, they can help support better WHS outcomes and business productivity.

AlertForce offers a number of WHS compliance courses for employers. For details go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/

Online training to soar as NBN Co doubles workforce

AlertForce predicts online training in Australia will soar under NBN job plans to speed up the rollout of the national broadband network by doubling its construction workforce.

Announcing “one of Australia’s largest training initiatives” on August 3, 2015, Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said nbn™ (NBN Co) would work with delivery partners to recruit and train an additional 4,500 workers. This will see the current project construction workforce doubled, with 9,000 workers employed at the peak of the rollout.

Mr Turnbull said nbn™ had identified “skills shortages and would work with delivery partners to ensure that trained workers have jobs after their training and stay on working in the project and the telecoms industry as the project proceeds”.

The scheme will target school leavers and people in the industry who require retraining.

“This is one of the largest infrastructure projects in Australia’s history and it’s certainly the most complex,” Mr Turnbull said. “It’s vital we have enough people to roll out the network as we increase the pace of the rollout.”

Welcoming the initiative, AlertForce chief executive officer Brendan Torazzi said AlertForce was “ideally positioned” to help NBN Co train its new workforce.

AlertForce is the sole provider of online safety induction training to nbn™. A mandatory requirement for nbn™ employees, induction training requires employees to demonstrate practical safety skills and knowledge of the NBN.

“Economies provided by the expanded workforce and online technology reduce the need for face-to- face training and allow us to provide even better efficiency and value for NBN Co,” Mr Torazzi said.

Mr Torazzi said there has been a shift from traditional face-to-face induction training to online in recent years, as employers seek more cost-effective ways to train employees.

In the price-challenged coal industry, for example, falling coal prices have seen mining employers turn to more cost-efficient online induction training for new employees.

“The advantages of doing theory training online include working at your own pace; there is no travel involved and there are other cost savings for employers such as the initial cost of the course.” In the case of the coal industry course, workers are required to keep a logbook demonstrating practical application of the skills learnt.

As part of its plan to speed up delivery of the NBN, nbn™ will work with training organisations to deliver relevant programs, while delivery partners will be responsible for providing on-the-job training. The nbn™ will also establish a skills register to ensure workers are retained in the industry. nbn™ aims to accelerate connection of eight million homes to the NBN network by 2020.

___________________________________________________________________________

For more information on AlertForce’s Mandatory NBN Safety and Awareness Course/Training, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-nbn-safety-awareness-course/ .

WHS and IR legislation: traps and pitfalls

Even the most experienced workers, managers and lawyers sometimes get it wrong when interpreting obligations under workplace health and safety (WHS) and industrial relations (IR) legislation. The following cases highlight the value of training and certification for all employees.

In one of the first defended hearing in the NSW District Court, (WorkCover v Patrick Container Ports 17 February 2014), Judge Jim Curtis considered the fatal injury of an employee who was aware of the relevant risk and the safe work method procedure he was required to adopt – but didn’t apply it.

The employee had significant amounts of methamphetamine in his system at the relevant time.

WorkCover NSW alleged a range of workplace risks against Patrick Container Ports that largely related to a lack of documented systems. Judge Curtis found that the employee had been trained about the safe procedure and his non-compliance with it would not have been changed if a documented process had been in place.

Reporting on the case in its July 2015 mid-year employment, safety and law review, law firm Corrs says the case signalled that the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant did not take all steps reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of its workers. This means that defendants now have options other than reaching agreement on a plea; defences exist and should be pursued where appropriate.

Further, defendants should have increased bargaining power when discussing potential plea agreements, it reports.

Safety raised in sham contract allegation

WHS laws are not the only ones creating confusion for workers and management alike. In an industrial dispute with a strong safety angle, Anglo Metallurgical Coal Pty Ltd has come under fire from mining union the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) for introducing what the union claimed were “sham” employment arrangements at the company’s open cut mine near Biloela in Central Queensland.

At the heart of the dispute: the company’s decision to add ‘supervisor’ to the job description of three new open cut examiner (OCE) positions responsible for undertaking safety inspections at the mine.

The union claimed the dual job role breached existing job descriptions and payment arrangements laid down in the enterprise agreement, by extending the OCE role to new duties without consultation. Further, adding supervisor responsibilities to the OCE’s principle role – looking after mine safety – posed its own safety risks, it claimed.

Anglo disagreed, arguing the new position was not a “sham substitute” for a pre-existing OCE position filled either by a contractor or an employed OCE, but rather a new position. The result was the enterprise agreement did not apply to a person employed in the new position, it argued.

Federal Court Justice John Logan agreed, finding a “quality which a person holding an OCE/supervisor position had to have in order to be appointed to that position was supervisory skills”. The position was new and not a substitute for a pre-existing OCE position filled either by a contractor or an employed OCE; and not covered by the enterprise agreement, Judge Logan found.

Drug testing under scrutiny

Misunderstandings when it comes to interpreting legislation are not unique, with WHS a frequent cause of dispute between employers and unions.

The Federal Fair Work Commission’s myriad responsibilities include dealing with general protection disputes that involve the exercise of a WHS right, disputes over clauses in an agreement related to WHS and termination of employment that may involve a WHS issue.

In a more recent FWC full bench decision affirmed by a full court of the Federal Court and reported by Corrs in its midyear review, the court upheld a decision to overturn the reinstatement of a ferry master who failed a drug test after crashing a ferry into a pylon.

The ferry master did not declare his use of marijuana for pain relief on the day prior to the incident. When he returned a positive reading, he was suspended and then dismissed for breaching the employer’s ‘zero tolerance’ drug and alcohol policy, Corrs reported.

In its decision, the full bench was dismissive of the mitigating factors identified first by the FWC. These included the absence of a link between the drug use and the accident and the fact that there was no substantial damage to the vessel.

The full court held that the full bench did not commit any jurisdictional error when it intervened to correct the erroneous reliance upon those mitigating factors. It rightly identified errors in the original decision-making process and in the order of reinstatement.

The full court’s decision is significant because it confirms that the FWC has the discretion to judge whether a dismissal is unfair and what remedy should be awarded – with limited scope for a challenge based on jurisdictional error, Corrs said.

It is also likely to make employers more certain about disciplinary action or dismissal clauses in their drug and alcohol policies, even when there is no evidence of employee impairment.

Dismissal a minefield

At the coalface, employers are under increased pressure to meet onerous new compliance requirements when it comes to workplace dismissal.

But lower courts sometimes get it wrong when interpreting this obligation.

The Full Federal Court recently overturned a Federal Circuit Court decision to reinstate a government lawyer dismissed for misconduct while suffering from anxiety and depression. The dismissal followed the lawyer’s repeated failure to adhere to directions. These arose from his absenteeism and poor performance, including him missing court hearings, Corrs reports.

In the Federal Circuit Court the lawyer succeeded with the argument that he was dismissed due to mental disability, which is prohibited under the Fair Work Act, section 351(1). On appeal, the Full Federal Court applied the High Court’s Barclay and BHP Coal decisions and held that there was no evidence to support the trial judge’s conclusion that the manager, responsible for the lawyer’s dismissal, should have linked the lawyer’s misconduct to mental illness.

The Full Court said: “It is possible for there to be a close association between the proscribed reason and the conduct which gives rise to adverse action and for the decision maker to satisfy the Court that no proscribed reason actuated the adverse action”. The manager had not, therefore, acted for a proscribed reason in breach of Part 3-1 of the FW Act.

Require training in WHS legislation? Go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/ohs-harmonisation-course/ for latest WHS Harmonisation courses.  

Reference sources for this article:

WHS or OHS – which is it?

In January 2012, new work health and safety (WHS) laws commenced in most states and territories to harmonise occupational health and safety (OH&S) laws across Australia.

With it came a change in terminology. Bar the two states yet to introduce harmonised laws – Victoria and Western Australia- ‘work’ health and safety’ replaced ‘occupational’ health and safety in the legislation.

The style bible for bureaucrats – the Federal Government style manual – now lists work health and safety (WHS) as the recommended term for authors, editors and printers. Non-government health and safety titles have adopted the style in their news content – but like the Australian Institute of OHS, retain ‘occupational’ in their titles eg, ‘Occupational’ Health News, and ‘OHS’ Alert.

Outside Victoria and WA, the harmonised legislation includes a model WHS Act, WHS regulations, codes of practice and a national compliance and enforcement policy. The Federal Government’s business website acknowledges the model WHS Act is “not significantly different” from previous occupational health & safety (OH&S) laws – but “makes it easier” for businesses and workers to comply with their requirements across different states and territories.

So if it is “not significantly different”, who decided that ‘WHS’ should replace ‘OHS’ as the recognised term – and why?

Is WHS a “different/better/clearer” description than OHS or was it simply a case of the harmonised legislation stamping its mark with a jazzy new name? Or is the shorter term “work” easier to understand than ‘occupational”?

Safe Work Australia (SWA) is the national body in charge of developing work health and safety and workers’ compensation policy. AlertForce asked SWA to explain the genesis of the term WHS at a federal level and why it was thought preferable to OHS. Also, were there any remaining legacy issues still to address? Similar questions were posed to the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and industry body the Australian Industry Group (AIG).

SWA told AlertForce the term ‘work health and safety’ was adopted during the development of the model WHS Act.

The development of the model WHS Act involved “substantial” public consultation and an independent review of OHS laws in each state, territory and the Commonwealth, it said. The draft of the model WHS Act was based on the decisions of the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council (WRMC) in relation to the review findings.

An exposure draft Model Act and a discussion paper were released for public comment in September 2009, providing all members of the Australian community an opportunity to contribute through written submissions. SWA said one of the matters raised in the discussion paper was the title of the Act and people were invited to comment on ‘an appropriate title.’

The relevant paragraph in the discussion paper explains why the term ‘work’ rather than ‘occupational’ was proposed:

It is proposed to call the model Act the Safe Work Act 2009 and that this citation be uniformly adopted for the Acts in the jurisdictions. The titles of OHS laws in Australia vary, with ‘Occupational Health and Safety Act’ the most common. Other titles are ‘work safety’, ‘workplace health and safety’; or ‘occupational health, safety and welfare’. The term ‘work’ is proposed in the title instead of ‘occupational’ to reflect that the Act applies more broadly to work, rather than only to occupations. An alternative is to include ‘health’ in the title eg, Work Health and Safety Act.”

SWA said a total of 480 submissions were received in response to the appropriate title and of those that commented on the title of the act, a majority preferred ‘Work Health and Safety Act.’

The WRMC endorsed the model WHS Act at its December 2009 meeting and recommended adoption into law by all states, territories and the Commonwealth by the end of 2011. All jurisdictions except Victoria and Western Australia have implemented the model legislation.

Safe Work Australia and the jurisdictions that have adopted the model legislation use work health and safety more generally and not just when referring to their Work Health and Safety Act, SWA said.

A spokesperson for SWA said the body understood the term “occupational health and safety” was still used by many people. “This may be something that changes over time,” he said.

ACTU assistant secretary Michael Borowick told AlertForce, meantime, said it “doesn’t matter” if it is called OHS or WHS. “What matters is that workers are protected in legislation and have compensation if they are injured at work,” Borowick said.

“The term occupational health and safety (OHS) is still widely used as workers and the general public are more familiar with OHS than workplace health and safety (WHS). In Victoria, the act is still known as the OHS Act.

“With 83 Australians killed at work since January 2015, Australian unions will continue to focus on strengthening safety at work. “

Director of WHS policy for AIG Mark Goodsell told AlertForce WHS was the preferred terminology in the harmonised legislation, but acknowledged OHS remained in use. “I suspect some see the term ‘work’ is more specific and says something different to ‘occupational’ – exactly what, remains debatable, “ he said. “There has always been debate about where the boundaries of work stop – travel claims are one example of this ongoing debate. Perhaps, ‘work’ is seen as saying something about those boundaries. It could also come down to a short word being preferred over a longer word.”

Goodsell said use of the term workplace/work health and safety originated in the states (Ed: eg, the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 became the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011), but said WHS was increasingly being used following the introduction of the federal harmonisation legislation.

10 things you should consider when implementing a traffic management plan, plus Blue Card changes

A traffic management plan is vital for anyone working on a construction site. AlertForce recommends the following 10-point planning approach. The new Blue Card system for traffic controllers is also explored.

  1. A traffic management plan provides the details of proposals to safely manage traffic during the conduct of works on roads.
  2. The plan includes a traffic guidance scheme (diagrams), worksite hazard assessment (such as a safe work method statement and details of the location, nature and duration of the works.
  3. For long-term work the plan should include details of the requirements to manage traffic through the worksite outside normal working hours or when workers are not present at the site (after-care).
  4. A plan is required by legislation whenever works affect traffic on public and private roads, parking areas, and restricted access construction sites. This includes short-term works such as line marking
or median strip mowing as and up to long -term major road construction work.
  5. Documentation is essential to planning all aspects of the worksite, setting out the what, when how and who of everything that needs to be done.
  6. Worksites need to meet the requirements of a range of compliance documents, which may include legislative, organisation and site requirements and procedures for workplace health and safety, environment and duty of care.
  7. In response to industry calls for greater national consistency, the Commonwealth, states and territories have agreed to implement nationally harmonised work health and safety (WHS) legislation to commence on 1 January 2012.
  8. While not all states and territories have me the deadline, it is important to be aware of the changes, as all states and territories will eventually implement them.
  9. The plan should include reporting requirements for notifiable incidents. Persons engaged in high-risk work should have licences, permits and registrations. There should be provision for worker consultation, participation and representation at the workplace, and resolution of health and safety issues.
  10. You can find out what regulations and codes of practice apply in your state from the relevant Road and Traffic Authority office.

In NSW, a combination of the red card and orange card qualifications enables workers to create a traffic management plan as well as design, select and modify traffic control guidance schemes (TCGS) and conduct inspections.

To attain a Prepare a Workzone Traffic Management Plan Qualification, the following key knowledge and skills set will be assessed, along with a number of other skills:

  • Design traffic control guidance schemes (TCGS) to suit the specific road environment
  • Select and modify traffic control guidance schemes (TCGS) to suit the specific road environment
  • Prepare and develop a work zone traffic management plan
  • Incorporate environmental management plans
  • Follow organisational and legislative WHS policies and work procedures
  • Select signs for a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS) (as required)
  • Sign-off a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS) (if required)
  • Keep records of all modifications to the Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS)
  • Monitor and interpret control systems to apply to the drawing, selection and design
  • Use approved methods and follow recognised local legislation
  • Use the site/location assessment, distinguish topographical landmarks and carry out authorised risk control
  • Conduct an onsite check of the plan to identify any unexpected risks and hazards
  • Interpret standards and requirements with local policy and procedures

For training in implementing a traffic management plan, go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/.

Changes to Blue Card system

While traffic planning saves lives, so too do competently trained traffic controllers. In NSW from July 1, 2015, Roads and Maritime Services has introduced a nationally-recognised competency-based framework into its suite of training courses for traffic controllers.

The competency framework is based on the Austroads research report, Traffic Control at Worksites – Training and Accreditation, which recommends a set of standards, skill sets and units of competency for traffic controllers.

Changes to the traffic controller qualification, currently referred to as Blue Card training, cover employees who manage traffic through or past a roadwork site, directing traffic with a stop/slow down baton or similar control device.

Skills and competencies required for the traffic controller qualification include stop/direct road users using a stop/slow bat and understanding stopping sight distances.

Other competencies include:

  • Understand and make changes to a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS) to suite the specific road environment
  • Adapt behaviours to the work site
  • Know the basic function of the Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS)
  • Adapt to all Work Health and Safety (WHS) and operational requirements
  • Follow organisational and legislative WHS policies and work procedures
  • Use the site/location assessment, distinguish topographical landmarks and carry out authorised risk control
  • Conduct an onsite check of a TCGS to identify any unexpected risks/hazards
  • Able to interpret plans, that is, must be aware of the distance and measuring devices of the method
  • Plan for emergencies that may arise
  • Identify and select the correct type of signs and traffic control devices in line with a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS)
  • Install and remove signs and traffic control devices, lane closures and advanced information signage, in line with a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS)
  • Ensure spacing between signs and traffic control devices is in line with a Traffic Control Guidance Schemes (TCGS)

The units of competency required for the traffic controller qualification are Work safely and follow WHS policies and work procedures (RIIWHS201A), Control traffic with a stop/slow baton (RIIWHS205A) and Communicate in the workplace (RIICOM201D).

If you are currently working as a traffic controller, your current qualification will remain valid until its expiry as you are already demonstrating the appropriate skills and knowledge.

When your traffic controller qualification expires after July 1, 2015, your qualification must be recertified when your qualification expires. A number of options will be offered that may include on-the-job assessment or recognition of prior learning.

Depending on your skill level, knowledge and experience, you may need to complete a course or attend gap training. You will be provided with the appropriate options when you apply for recertification. If you currently have a valid qualification, you will still be permitted to design and inspect traffic control plans and carry out the functions and duties of your existing qualification.

Further information can be access via the Roads and Maritime website or by calling 1300 828 782.

Working in the civil construction industry and require traffic management or traffic controller training? Go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/ for latest training courses.  

 

* Reference source for this article: AlertForce’s ‘Implement traffic management plan’ (R11WHS302D) and AlertForce’s ‘Changes to Traffic Control Training’ http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-traffic-control-training-nsw/ and Roads and Maritime Services Traffic control training at http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/business-industry/partners-suppliers/traffic-control-training/

NBN Co puts safety first

As part of their job requirements, employees at NBN Co must demonstrate clear knowledge of the company’s safety standards. AlertForce plays a key role by providing training for the employees. How do you think you would go answering the following questions taken from the course?

  • Search the Internet for the work health and safety government authority for your state/territory. Write the name (and date) of the relevant act and regulation that applies to you in your workplace.
  • Your employer under the legislation is referred to as a “PCBU”. What does PCBU stand for?
  • There are things that you, as a worker, must do, according to the WHS Act. Research the web site of the WHS authority and then write your interpretation of what you must do in order to comply with legislation.
  • The relevant safety act talks about “reasonable care”. What do you think this means?
  • Do you think that common law duty of care applies to both mental and physical harm?
  • If you notice that a workmate is being bullied or discriminated against in some way, what should you do?
  • According to WorkCover NSW, “the role of a health and safety representative is to facilitate the flow of information about health and safety between the person
  • conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU – the new term that includes employers) and the workers in the HSR’s work group.”
Go to WorkCover’s web page and find the powers and functions of an HSR. List all four of them
  • If an HSR’s role includes representing their work group, do you think this means they are entitled to attend meetings of the Health and Safety Committee?
  • As a worker, are you eligible to stand for election as an HSR?
  • If a safety inspector from the WHS Authority visits your site they must be given every co-operation and everybody on site must follow their instructions. They are authorised to inspect the workplace and work practices and to check tickets, licenses etc.
In your own case, list the licences that you must carry with you at all times.
  • When you are at work, you are injured very slightly – must you report this to your supervisor?
  • What do you think may be the consequences if you don’t report a slight injury and later there are complications that make you sick?
  • Why do you think it’s a requirement to report on a near miss that didn’t actually cause any injury or damage?

As part of the training, employees at NBN CO are required to identify construction hazards and control measures. In a typical example, an employee may be asked among other things to identify four hazards they are likely to come across in the physical environment, who else may be put at risk, and what should be done before work starts at the site, including controls.

At a practical level, they may be asked what type of work is most dangerous in relation to handling fibre cables, do they need additional training for this work, what are optical fibres made of, why food and drink shouldn’t be kept in the work area, what type of safety glasses should they wear and why is it essential to wash their hands before touching their faces, eyes or mouth.

More specific training covers areas such as Australian Standards that classify lasers by wavelength and maximum output and exposure to light from lasers. They are also asked to explain disposal procedures for chemicals.

In the event of an emergency, employees are asked to explain the four main steps to manage the incident. They are asked what they should do if they think it is unsafe to enter an area, and who needs to take leadership in making the scene safe. If power lines are involved, they are asked what is the closest distance for approaching the lines? And in the event of a fire, what type of fire extinguisher should they use.

Finally and importantly, they are asked why it is essential to clean up a site, what kind of work generates dust or fumes and how that can be minimised, what kinds of work will generate unacceptable noise and how can you minimise this, why is it essential to keep noise to an acceptable level, what kinds of waste will be generated in your work, how should they dispose of chemical waste, should you handle and dispose of sharps, what kinds of waste can be recycled or re-used and what types of environmental hazards must be immediately dealt with and reported to their supervisor.

The NBN Safety and Awareness Course is a mandatory induction program for any worker on the NBN. Designed by NBN and offered by AlertForce, the NBNAcc14001A NBN Safety and Awareness online course certifies workers are trained in health, safety and environment.

AlertForce is approved to deliver NBNATC1201A face-to-face. In addition, AlertForce currently has the only approval to deliver the course online.

The online training delivery for this course is more time efficient than other methods, meaning this version of learning can save business money. Whether they choose to do the course face-to-face or online, completing the course is mandatory for all NBN workers. The course is designed to give workers, both experienced and newcomers, useful knowledge to help make every NBN worksite a safe one.

Working for NBN Co or on the national broadband network and require safety training? Go to http://alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/nationally-recognised-nbn-safety-awareness-course/  for latest courses.  
  • Reference source for this article: AlertForce’s ‘NBN Safety and Awareness Course’ (NBNATC1201A).

21 things you SHOULD know about asbestos

The best thing to do with asbestos in good condition is don’t disturb it. Where it is damaged and needs to be removed, trained professionals must do the job. AlertForce has released this handy 21-point history of asbestos, its use in Australia and why training is essential if you intent to remove it.

  1. Asbestos belongs to the serpentine and amphibole groups of rock-forming minerals.
  2. Asbestos use in human culture dates back at least 4,500 years (to Finland, used in earthenware pots).
  3. The word asbestos comes from the ancient Greek (means “unquenchable” or “inextinguishable“). This refers to its heat-resistant qualities.
  4. Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor (800–814), is said to have had a tablecloth made of asbestos.
  5. Although asbestos causes skin to itch upon contact, ancient literature indicates that it was prescribed for diseases of the skin including, ironically, itching.
  6. Asbestos use in England dates back to the 1700s, but did not become widespread until the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800s.
  7. Commercial asbestos mines sprung up in the late 1800s and entrepreneurs recognised that asbestos could perhaps make them rich. The U.S. asbestos industry began in 1858 when fibrous anthophyllite was mined for use.
  8. By the mid 20th century uses included fire retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture, and drywall joint compound.
  9. In Japan, particularly after World War II, asbestos was used in the manufacture of ammonium sulfate for purposes of rice production, sprayed upon the ceilings, iron skeletons, and walls of railroad cars and buildings (during the 1960s), and used for energy efficiency reasons as well.
  10. The first documented death related to asbestos was in 1906. The first diagnosis of asbestosis was made in the UK in 1924.
  11. The term mesothelioma was first used in medical literature in 1931; its association with asbestos was first noted sometime in the 1940s. Mesothelioma rarely occurs in less than 15 years from first exposure, and in most cases occurs more than 30 years after first exposure.
  12. Approximately 100,000 people in the United States have died, or will die, from asbestos exposure related to ship building.
  13. In Australia, asbestos was widely used in construction and other industries between 1945 and 1980. From the 1970s there was increasing concern about the dangers of asbestos, and its use was phased out. Mining ceased in 1983. The use of asbestos was phased out in 1989 and banned entirely in December 2003.
  14. The dangers of asbestos are now well known in Australia and there is help and support for sufferers from asbestosis or mesothelioma.
  15. Aside from the well-known asbestos related diseases there have been reports of 
stomach, colo-rectal, larynx, pharynx, kidneys and oesophagus cancers.
  1. The excellent fire resistance, insulating properties, fibre strength, durability and flexibility of asbestos minerals resulted in the manufacture of over 3000 asbestos-containing products worldwide. These products included household products (such as hair dryers, ovens and toasters), construction materials (such as roofing, siding and pipe lagging), industrial products (like insulating board, gaskets and heat resistant gloves) and thousands more.
  2. Asbestos-containing materials were used extensively in Australian buildings and structures, plant and equipment and in ships, trains and motor vehicles during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Some uses included some friction materials and gaskets, which were only discontinued on 31 December 2003. In Australia, the asbestos cement manufacturing industry was responsible for over 60% of all production and 90% of all consumption of asbestos fibre.
  3. The well-known adverse health consequences of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres can be prevented if precautions are taken and appropriate procedures are followed. Strong management and control of all asbestos-containing materials in the workplace is essential.
  4. Between 1945 and 1954, 70,000 asbestos cement houses were built in New South Wales alone (52% of all the houses built in that state). In Australia as a whole, until the 1960s, 25% of all new housing was clad in asbestos cement. By 1954, Australia was number four in the western world in gross consumption of asbestos cement products, after the USA, the UK and France, and clearly first on a per capita basis.
  5. The vast majority of asbestos products were used in construction applications and this is why asbestos assessment work typically focuses on buildings and structures.
  6. From a practical standpoint, asbestos will be encountered in two forms including friable and non-friable (or bonded). Examples of non-friable asbestos include most flooring products, cement products like roof tiles and siding, hard gaskets, bricks, adhesives and other obviously bonded products. Examples of friable asbestos include most textiles, papers, sprayed-on fire proofing, and insulating products.
  7. Asbestos becomes a health hazard when fibres become airborne and are inhaled or swallowed. When asbestos fibres become airborne, they can penetrate your body through the nose or mouth and embed themselves in the deepest part of the lungs causing lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

 

Pursuing a career in asbestos management and removal. Go to www.alertforce.com.au/ohs-training-courses/asbestos-awareness/ for latest training courses.  
  • Reference source for this article: AlertForce’s ‘Supervise asbestos removal’ course (CPCCBC4051A).

 

WHS Bulletin Issue 3: Drug use, ramp collapse and fragile roofing

A police prosecutor sacked for taking drugs has unsuccessfully sought reinstatement on the basis he was suffering emotional problems following the 2005 suicide of a police friend and the 2013 death of his father.

Matthew Baker was found to have used cocaine in a random police drug test. The 18-year veteran admitted using the drug but failed to identify the one of seven friends he was drinking with who supplied him with the drug.

Hearing the reinstatement application, Acting Justice Peter Kite of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW said he had taken into consideration the personal grief and suffering suffered by Baker. However, this had to be weighed against the public interest. Baker had demonstrated a “lack of insight” into the implications of his actions on the integrity of the police force, reflected by his failure to identify who supplied him the drug.

Accordingly, his removal from the force was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable. AJ Kite said the circumstances might have been different had Baker volunteered his use of the drug. “This is not a case of an officer coming to his senses, admitting he has an issue and seeking help,” AJ Kite said. “Even when he knew of the possibility of the random test he did not volunteer his use of the prohibited drug.”

AJ Kite said it was not until Baker had been selected and was about to be tested that he made the admission. “It is clear he was hoping to get away with his misconduct. Facing inevitable discovery he made the admission, but even then he did not go further and assist with information which could identify the supplier(s). He exercised his right to silence when invited to be interviewed.”

The commission earlier heard evidence the police force had zero tolerance of drug use by officers. Officers who used drugs or believed they had a problem were actively encouraged to come forward for counselling and support services. “The effectiveness of the police in protecting the community rests heavily upon the community’s confidence in the integrity of the members of the police force, upon their assiduous performance of duty and upon the judicious exercise of their powers,” AJ Kite said.

“Applying these principles, I am satisfied that the findings I have outlined above demonstrate that it was open to the [police] commissioner to conclude both that Mr Baker’s integrity and that of the police force had been significantly compromised.”

Company fined $250k over ramp collapse death

A company has been fined $250,000 in the Victorian County Court after a loading ramp collapsed killing a driver.

Frewstal Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to three counts under the Victorian 2004 OHS Act of failing to ensure that people other than its own employees were not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

The court was told that the incident took place in September 2013 at Frewstal’s abattoir in Stawell, Victoria as the driver was unloading a shipment of lambs. The driver was on the loading ramp when the hoist he was using to move the ramp broke apart above him and the ramp collapsed. He suffered severe head injuries and was taken to Stawell Hospital before being airlifted to Melbourne. He died several weeks later.

WorkSafe Victoria spokesperson Leanne Hughson said issues around the company’s decision to alter the design of the hoist, a lack of maintenance, and poor driver training in relation to the loading ramp and hoist had “an all too familiar ring to them”. “A lack of maintenance and a lack of training are common causes of serious injuries and fatalities in workplaces across the state,” Hughson said.

“And, far too often, WorkSafe investigators will discover that an incident has been caused by a piece of machinery being altered without due regard for the safety implications. WorkSafe will continue to prosecute employers who fail to understand that there can never be shortcuts when it comes to safety.”
The court was told an investigation at Frewstal’s abattoir revealed a lug on the loading ramp hoist had failed “catastrophically”.

The court heard that when a new loading ramp and safety mechanism was installed at the abattoir in 2010, the hoist lug was moved 300mm. However, the new position made it more susceptible to fatigue damage, stress and corrosion. The court was told that the company had failed to get expert opinion about the design change before moving the lug, and then failed to regularly inspect the hoist system during regular maintenance checks of the loading ramp.

The company also failed to put in place a system to train, direct or induct drivers to the use of the loading ramp and hoist. The court heard that in order to lower the loading ramp, a safety bar had to be manually disengaged. It had to be manually re-engaged once the loading ramp had been moved into its new position. The court was told that the driver had not been adequately trained in the safety bar’s operation and the safety bar had not been engaged when the loading ramp collapsed.

Hughson said the health and safety failures in relation to the abattoir’s loading ramp meant the risk of a serious injury – or worse – kept growing. “The decision to move the hoist lug without first assessing the engineering consequences was a critical error,” Hughson said. “The failure to keep an eye on this vital part of machinery during regular maintenance checks also created a serious risk.”

Safety alert on fragile roofing

SafeWork SA has issued a safety alert on working with fragile roofing.

Fragile roofing materials include corroded corrugated steel cladding, structurally unsound roof members, plastic sheeting, wired glass and corrugated asbestos-cement roof sheeting.

It is essential to identify all potential hazards and conduct a risk assessment before working on any roof area or using the roof as a means of access (eg, for construction, repair, maintenance, demolition or inspection), the alert warns.

WHS Bulletin Issue 2: Hairdressing, fatalities, awards and agriculture

A hair dresser sacked after she changed her sanitary napkin in the salon kitchen and then washed her hands in the kitchen sink has failed to be obtain an extension of time to hear her unfair dismissal claim.

Employer Raw Hair argued it was a serious breach of workplace health and safety (WHS) relating to personal hygiene in the salon kitchen – and came on the back of ongoing poor performance. The kitchen was used for meal breaks and food preparation for the salon café, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) heard.

In her application seeking reinstatement, Samra Vilic argued her dismissal was not related to her performance at work because she did not receive a warning about her conduct, and because the WHS breach did not relate to her job or performance. The commission noted Vilic’s recollection of the events leading up to her dismissal differed to those of Raw Hair. While she did not dispute the incident had occurred, she did dispute the significance of the breach.

“Having considered all of the factors, I find that there are no exceptional circumstances warranting the granting of further period for the making of an application for an unfair dismissal remedy,” Deputy President John Kovacic found.

“Accordingly, the application cannot proceed and is therefore dismissed. An order to that effect will be issued with this decision.” The commission heard her application was lodged one day outside the 21 day statutory timeframe for making an unfair dismissal application.

 

15 work related deaths in March

Latest Safe Work Australia figures reveal 15 work-related notifiable fatalities during March 2015 — 12 male workers and 1 female workers, 1 male bystander and 1 female bystander.

Of these fatalities, six workers died as a result of incidents on public roads or air. The monthly notifiable fatality report provides a national summary of work-related traumatic fatalities that were notifiable to Australian work health and safety jurisdictions.

Besides providing an estimate of the number of work-related deaths, the report also included details of the types of incident involved; the industry of the workplace at which the fatalities occurred; and the industry of the decedent’s employer. The reporting is based on calendar year.

 

CASA recognised for annual report

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority’s (CASA’s) focus on workplace health and safety (WHS) in its annual report has been recognised with an award at this year’s Australasian Reporting Awards in Melbourne.

The WHS Reporting Award recognises the value of incorporating WHS performance into organisation’s annual report. Safe Work Australia chief executive officer Michelle Baxter said all businesses should include WHS reporting in their annual report.

“Congratulations to CASA. Their annual report illustrates a commitment to ensuring their workers, contractors and others stay healthy and safe at work,” Baxter said.

CASA’s report was selected from a finalists including BHP Billiton, Woodside Petroleum and the City of Ryde. The Australasian Reporting Awards (ARA) provide an opportunity for organisations to benchmark their reports against the ARA criteria. They are open to all organisations that produce an annual report. The criteria for entering can be found on the ARA website.

 

Safeguards for agricultural industry

WorkCover NSW is set to launch the third phase of an industry action plan to improve health and safety in the state’s highest risk agricultural sector.

Inspectors are contacting sheep and beef cattle farmers across regional NSW to arrange visits between now and the end of August to help farmers assess and improve safe work systems.

While some will be first-time clients, others have already received a special rebate of up to $2,000 for purchasing or supplementing the cost of health and safety solutions.

Executive director of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy said about 9,500 famers – more than a third of the target industry – had received assistance under the project’s now discontinued rebate scheme. “That is an extraordinary and unprecedented take-up rate, representing around $18 million in rebates, with more than $30 million invested in actual safety improvements that have helped to improve the industry’s health and safety performance,” Dunphy said.

“Most of these safety improvements are long-term infrastructure that will not only reduce the risk of injury on farms right now, but also for years to come and future generations. “We have already seen some significant results in pen and yard improvements, animal restraint and handling devices, animal loading ramps with hand-rail systems, and better sunshade protection.”

The project stems from an industry action plan devised by WorkCover and partners, such as NSW Farmers Association, the Country Women’s Association, Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

The plan addresses five main areas of concern – working with livestock, quad bikes, tractors and related implements, occupational disease and ‘recover at work’. Further support is being provided via an Alive and Well campaign – featuring real farmers conveying safety messages based on personal experiences to the wider agricultural community. The program has its own website; aliveandwell.net.au

During forthcoming visits, inspectors will work with farmers to improve safety systems. Farmers who are visited may be eligible for the $500 Small Business Rebate.

WorkCover NSW said there were about 26,000 workplaces and 14,000 workers in the sheep and beef cattle farming industry. In the three years to 2010/11, workplace injuries and occupational disease in the industry had cost the NSW WorkCover scheme around $48 million, it said.

WHS Bulletin Issue 1: Mining, asbestos and codes of practice news

Mining’s improving safety performance is reflected in latest figures – with companies in resources, materials and “heavy industry” among lower injury rates in the latest Citi workplace safety survey.

Citi’s Safety Spotlight: ASX100 Companies & More survey found safety systems were “often well established in such industries, given the potentially high risks in these industries, where major injuries and fatalities do occur”.

“Conversely, higher injury rates tend to be seen in industries with diverse sites, and activities like logistics, manual handling and hospitality – including consumer staples and retail,” its July 13 report said.

The research of Top 100 companies found in general, injury rates had “tended to come down over time, though for many companies substantial improvements have already been made and improvements are now more incremental”.

“Indeed, where injury rates are now low, it may be unrealistic to expect to see a continuing smooth downtrend”. Figures over the past five years revealed significantly reduced injury rates from earlier high levels for several ASX100 companies.

Metcash consistently had the highest lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) injury rate in the sample at 14.1 injuries for every million hours worked, though the rate was down from 16.3 in 2012-2013. Woolworths (10.37), Qantas (8.9) and Wesfarmers (7.6) were next on the list. The report identified 437 fatalities among the Top 100 companies between 2005-2014.

Companies with more than 10 fatalities among employees and contractors over the period included Aquarius Platinum (37 fatalities over the period), BHP Billiton (45), Boral (15), Coca-Cola Amatil (17), CIMIC (ex-Leighton Holdings) (49), Downer EDI (10), Lend Lease (40), Newcrest Mining (18), Orica (12), Rio Tinto (51) and Transfield Services (11). (Toll Holdings was previously in this category but recently delisted.)” It appears that more companies are now reporting vehicle accidents (eg, Coca-Cola in Indonesia) and we suspect historical reporting may have been less comprehensive,” the survey said.

The charts identify where a single incident resulted in five or more fatalities – these were three aviation accidents: BHP (5 fatalities, 2008), NCM (8, 2012), RIO (10, 2008) and one underground mining fall-of-ground: AQP (5, 2011). South Africa featured heavily in BHP and RIO’s fatalities. Of BHP’s 49 fatalities from 2005-2015, 16 (33%) were in South Africa. Of RIO’s 54 fatalities, 12 (22%) were in South Africa.

Fatalities have tended to result from: vehicle / mobile plant accidents, helicopter accidents and falls from height, falling objects or crush injuries, electrical accidents and drowning.

 

Rethink for asbestos training in utilties sector

The Federal Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (ASEA) is undertaking a review designed to strengthen asbestos-related training materials in the utilities sector. The public has until Friday (July 17) to respond to an issues paper on the subject.

The best practice training materials developed will ultimately be for use by organisations within the utilities sector. Improvements to asbestos-related training in other sectors may be considered following this process. The review follows a number of reported instances of inappropriate handling and removal of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) during the Telstra/NBN cabling rollout.

An independent national taskforce was established by the Australian Government to monitor ongoing activities and prevent exposure of employees, contractors, and the general public to airborne asbestos fibres.

One area requiring continued focus and oversight included the development and implementation of an improved practical competency based training program for safer work practices for all workers engaged in pit and pipe works.

Feedback on the issues paper can be provided by email to Secretariat@asbestossafety.gov.au or by mail to Mr Julian Farrugia (Assistant Director), Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, GPO Box 9880, Sydney NSW 2001.

 

New WHS codes of practice for the ACT

The ACT Government has adopted new model codes of practice developed by Safe Work Australia.

The notified codes are:

  • Work Health and Safety (Demolition Work Code of Practice) Approval 2015
  • Work Health and Safety (Excavation Work Code of Practice) Approval 2015
  • Work Health and Safety (First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2015
  • Work Health and Safety (Managing Electrical Risks at the Workplace Code of Practice) Approval 2015
  • Work Health and Safety (Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice) Approval 2015

AlertForce Nominated For Telstra Business Awards

AlertForce Team

AlertForce chief executive officer Brendan Torazzi struck on the model for his award-winning training business when exploring ways to market futuristic sleep pods to manage corporate fatigue.

Discouraged by barriers required to sell the pods, Mr Torazzi sought advice to build a course to help truck drivers manage fatigue.

Within six months, he had secured around 20 per cent of the market.

AlertForce now is one of Australia’s leading providers of workplace health and safety (WHS) training. Its success has seen it nominated in the NSW small business category of the annual Telstra Business Awards, to be announced at the Westin Sydney on Tuesday (July 21).

Launched in 2009, AlertForce is a registered training organisation that offers nationally recognised WHS training courses and qualifications. Operating across Australia, courses are delivered face-to-face and online for small businesses through to multi-nationals.

The Sydney-based operation employs eight fulltime staff to facilitate training in the areas of construction, telecommunications and government.

Mr Torazzi says the company’s website is the best sales generator, with 60 per cent of revenue delivered through sales transacted online. “I believe the best marketing and sales strategies for small business are delivered online. Done correctly, small business can leverage results not possible last century.”

Mr Torazzi said he spent a lot of time and effort getting the website and learning management system integrated so that customers can self-serve.

“Our marketing and sales strategy is let clients come to us once they are ready to purchase. Once an enquiry is made we regularly drive engagement through clear communication.”


WHS Mines Act 2013 Duties

The Work Health and Safety (Mines) Act 2013 (WHS Mines Act) has a wider application than previous laws.  It applies to all workplaces which are defined as mines – such as:

  • Where mining operations are carried out; or
  • A ‘tourist mine’ (being a workplace only for tourism purposes but at which mining operations were formerly carried out and at which there was a hazard prescribed by the regulations).

The term ‘mine’ is defined as a workplace at which ‘mining operations’ are carried out (or a tourist mine). The term ‘mining operations’ is defined to mean:

  • Activities (referred to as ‘mining activities’) carried out for the purpose of:
    • Extracting minerals from the ground;
    • Injecting minerals into the ground;
    • Exploring for minerals; and
    • Activities carried out in connection with mining activities at a site, or a site adjoining or in the vicinity of a site, at which mining activities are carried out.

Certain activities are expressly included in the definition of ‘mining operations’, and these include:

  • Handling, storing, preparing or processing extracted materials; and
  • Constructing a site where a mining activity is or may be carried out.

The scope of the term ‘mining operations’ means that the WHS Mines Act 2013 may extend to certain other activities which are not within a colliery holding or mining title, or at a place where extraction of material is carried out.

Duties of a “mine operator

The Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation 2014 (the WHS Mines Regulation) places primary obligations on the “mine operator” for the “mine”.  The “mine holder” is the mine operator, unless the mine holder has appointed another person to be the mine operator.

The “mine holder” is the person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) with control over a right or entitlement to carry out mining activities, or the preparation or processing of extracted materials carried out in connection with mining activities or at an adjoining site or in the vicinity of such a site.

The WHS Mines Regulation places requirements on the “mine holder” to only appoint a person as a “mine operator” if:

  • The person is a PCBU and is appointed to carry out mining operations at the mine on behalf of the mine holder;
  • The person has the skills, knowledge, experience and resources to exercise the functions of the mine operator; and
  • The mine holder authorises the person to have management or control of the mine and to discharge the duties of the mine operator under the WHS Act and WHS Mines Act and Regulation.

The WHS Mines Regulation introduces the ability of the Regulator (The Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services (DTIRIS)) to direct that one or more mine operators be appointed at a mine. The Regulator can give a direction, for example, that there be a single mine operator for the mine holding where the colliery holder/mine holder may have wished to appoint separate mine operators for separate and distinct mines.

Managing Risks – general requirements

A PCBU must ensure that a risk assessment is conducted by a person who is competent to conduct the particular risk assessment having regard to the nature of the hazard. This is a new requirement under the WHS Mines Regulation.

There are new obligations requiring PCBUs to maintain certain records in relation to risk assessments, control measures and reviews of those control measures. PCBUs which are mine operators have specific obligations concerning records of control measures which are to be reviewed in relation to certain events, such as notifiable incidents. The mine operator must maintain records relating to the causes of an incident, any WHS issues arising, recommendations, and a summary of any changes to the safety management systems. Similar obligations are imposed on other PCBUs at a mine.

These new obligations may impact on how mine operators currently conduct and retain internal investigations and claims for legal privilege. There are also penalty provisions which can result in fines being imposed for non-compliance.

Safety management system

The Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulation 2014 requires that a safety management system be established and implemented by the mine operator. These requirements are similar to the “health and safety management system” under the CMHS Act and the “mine safety management plan” under the MHS Act and Regulation.

The WHS Mines Regulation is more prescriptive in a number of respects than the CMHS Act and Regulation and MHS Act and Regulation. For example, the WHS Mines Regulation requirements include that there needs to be procedures for responses to, and investigations of, incidents. Organisational charts are also required to show the positions and persons who have WHS responsibilities. The safety management system is also to include, for example, arrangements for consultation, co-operation and co-ordination between fellow duty holders, particular measures for contractor safety management, and the procedures and conditions under which persons are to be withdrawn from the mine.

In relation to all underground mines, there are particular and detailed requirements for air quality and ventilation including that the mine operator must prepare a ventilation control plan for the mine.

“Principal mining hazard management plans”, “principal control plans” and “emergency plan”

The WHS Mines Regulation requires development, maintenance and review of principal hazard management plans and principal control plans.

The primary concept for such plans has been transposed across from “major hazard management plans” under the CMHS Act and Regulation, to now apply to all mines under the WHS Mines Regulation.

The mine operator of a mine has a duty to prepare an emergency plan for the mine, and there are specific things that must be done in this regard for underground mines, including in relation to the number of exits, safe escape, and refuge.

The WHS (Mines) Regulation also creates obligations to develop, implement and periodically review various plans, including a health control plan, mechanical engineering control plan, electrical engineering control plan, and explosives control plan.

The WHS (Mines) Regulation also requires that specified risks are managed by having specific control measures in place for “all mines”, “all underground mines”, “all coal mines”, and “all underground coal mines”.

There are many areas that are new under the WHS Mines Act 2013 and The WHS Mines Regulation 2014 and it will be necessary to review existing systems to ensure they comply with the new laws.

Further information can be found at www.resourcesandenergy.nsw.gov.au/safety

References
Work Health and Safety (Mines) Act 2013
Work Health and Safety (Mines) Regulations 2014 (clauses 6 & 7)

Management Of Asbestos in Leased Buildings

Asbestos is a serious health risk that must be managed. Immediate action to comply with the legislative changes is prudent. All pre-2004 buildings with common property workplaces need to comply. Compliance is simple with good quality properly experienced and trained advisors.

Responsibility

Most would perceive that the duty for managing asbestos in buildings is the responsibility of the owner. Although that was largely true once, the Model Work Health Legislation has changed some obligations concerning the detection and management of asbestos containing materials in their leased premises to the tenant. This responsibility concerns buildings constructed before 31 December 2003 (the date that a complete prohibition in the use of asbestos in building materials was imposed). Hence, the Legislation has determined that whoever is leasing the building based on this age limit and set criteria, is accountable for maintaining an asbestos register and for preparing an Asbestos Management Plan.

Work Health and Safety Regulations 2011

Part 8.3 Clause 422 of the Regulations states:

“Asbestos to be identified or assumed at workplace

  • A person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all asbestos or ACM at the workplace is identified by a competent person.
  • A person with management or control of a workplace must:

(a) if material at the workplace cannot be identified but a competent person reasonably believes that the material is asbestos or ACM – assume that the material is asbestos, and

(b) if part of the workplace is inaccessible to workers and likely to contain asbestos or ACM – assume that asbestos is present in the part of the workplace.”

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) with control of a workplace must ensure that any asbestos at the workplace is identified, recorded in a register (Reg. Clause 425) and subject to an Asbestos Management Plan (Reg. Clause 429).

The obligation to keep an asbestos register applies to buildings constructed before 31 December 2003. An asbestos register is not required to be prepared in circumstances where (Reg, Clause 425):

  • the workplace is a building that was constructed after 31 December 2003
  • no asbestos has been identified at the workplace, and
  • no asbestos is likely to be present at the workplace from time to time

However, even if no asbestos is identified or is determined not be present based on reasonable grounds, the register must state that:

“no asbestos or ACM is identified at the workplace if the person knows that no asbestos or ACM is identified, or is likely to be present from time to time, at the workplace.” (Reg. Clause 425)

If there is uncertainty about whether asbestos is present, it must be assumed that it is asbestos or arrange for samples to be analysed.

Many might falsely presume that this obligation falls upon building owners. However, the Tenant (or Lessee) as the PCBU has had the responsibility to ensure a register is maintained and if necessary, an Asbestos Management Plan from 1 July, 2013.

Victorian and West Australian OHS Legislation

As Victoria and Western Australia have yet to take on the Harmonised Work Health and Safety Act, their legislation in general does not have the lessee of a building and who runs the business from that building as the entity that has responsibility to maintain an asbestos register or management plan.

However, his does not affect the businesses’ responsibilities under Victorian or West Australian OHS Legislation to sustain an asbestos controlled environment, ensuring and maintaining a safe workplace. This would include ensuring the control risk of exposure where asbestos is identified, the control of asbestos-related work and specify the location of asbestos.

Ensuring Compliance: Asbestos Registers and Management Plans

There is a requirement to survey the building area and identify all loose and friable asbestos as well as stable categories found in building materials. These stable Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) can be located in all manner of building materials (e.g. old concrete pits, fibro sheets, etc…).

Complying

In order to assess the situation and be compliant, a survey to ascertain which buildings were completed prior 1st January, 2004 and order an asbestos survey (buildings that were completed prior to 31st December, 2003 which were strata titled at a later date should be included).

The surveys whereby asbestos or ACM are located must be kept onsite and available. When they are located, an onsite asbestos register and Asbestos Management Plan is to be developed and made available to those who might be at risk.

If asbestos or ACM is located, and the decision made is not to remove it but leave it onsite in a stable encapsulated state, a regular audit of the building will be necessary. The location of any asbestos needs to be clearly indicated (labelled) with the asbestos register that must be maintained, outlining:

  • The location of the asbestos
  • The type of asbestos-containing material
  • The nature of the material (friable or non-friable)
  • The likelihood of the material posing a health risk
  • Any work activities that may affect or cause deterioration to the material.

Depending upon the condition of the asbestos it must be removed or monitored to ensure that it is in safe condition.

Asbestos Management Plan

Every workplace where asbestos is present or may be present must have an Asbestos Management Plan. “A person with management or control of the workplace must ensure that a written plan (an asbestos management plan) for the workplace is prepared.” (Reg Clause 429).

An asbestos management plan must include information about the following:

  • the identification of asbestos or ACM,
  • decisions, and reasons for decisions, about the management of asbestos at the workplace,
  • procedures for detailing incidents or emergencies involving asbestos or ACM at the workplace,
  • workers carrying out work involving asbestos

A copy of the asbestos management plan for the workplace is readily accessible to:

  • a worker who has carried out, carries out or intends to carry out, work at the workplace, and
  • a health and safety representative who represents this worker and
  • a person conducting a business or undertaking who has carried out, carries out or intends to carry out, work at the workplace, and
  • a person conducting a business or undertaking who has required, requires, or intends to require work to be carried out at the workplace

The Asbestos Management Plan must be reviewed at least once every five years and, as necessary revised:

  • Before asbestos is removed , disturbed, or otherwise work undertaken on it
  • If the Asbestos Management Plan is no longer adequate
  • If a health and safety representative requests a review

Asbestos removal must be done by a licensed removalist and the regulator must be notified of any work taking place.

An asbestos case study

An apartment owner in a block of 12 apartments built in the 1970s phoned the strata manager indicating that both her door and that of her neighbour were sticking. She asked the strata manager to organise a tradesman to take a look at the problem.

The tradesman took the two doors off their hinges and proceeded to shave the doors (without a catcher). The doors were tagged indicating that they were made of asbestos material however the tradesman didn’t see this tagging. As well as shaving the doors in the apartment, he took them down to the garage and worked on them.

The owner was previously in the building industry, and became concerned about the dust in her apartment, the common area, and the garage. The owner contacted the strata manager with her concerns.

Resolution

The strata manager arranged for the dust particles to be tested and it was confirmed that they were asbestos particles. Immediate measures were taken to contain it. Black plastic was placed over the carpet and soft furnishings in the owner’s apartment, as well as in the common areas. The garage was blocked off. A qualified asbestos consultant was contracted to safely clean up the areas where asbestos particles were identified.

The presence of asbestos in buildings isn’t insurable, so the owner’s corporation was responsible for costs incurred in cleaning up and replacing carpet, furnishings in the contaminated apartment, carpet in the common areas, and cleaning up the garage. Several special levies had to be raised to cover the costs.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

 

Controversy over Discovery of Asbestos on Rottnest Island

For many years now, Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Known for its natural beauty and fine weather, it’s been especially popular among families looking for a relaxing outdoorsy holiday.

Recent discoveries of exposed asbestos on the island, however, may be threatening that popularity. Although the local government has issued a study that declares the asbestos deposit to be ‘low risk’ chrysotile or ‘white asbestos’ that isn’t much of a threat to health, many local activists and the President of the Asbestos Diseases Society vehemently disagree.

Not the First Time

The most recent discovery was made by a tourist staying in a bungalow on the island who spotted what he initially feared was blue asbestos, the most dangerous form of the mineral. The Rottnest Island Authority (RIA) immediately fenced off the area and sent the material for testing, announcing that it was actually the less dangerous white asbestos and that it posed no threat to visitors or inhabitants of Rottnest.

This isn’t the first time asbestos has been found on the island; in 2013 a little girl found a chunk of asbestos while collecting shells and brought the dangerous mineral back to her parents to show them.

However, activists and the Australian Medical Association (WA) disagree with this assessment, pointing out that breathing in white asbestos dust and fibres can cause cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, and that it can take years for damage done by asbestos to show. There is in fact no accepted ‘safe exposure’ to white asbestos. As a result, they criticised the government’s reaction, suggesting it was trying to save money by evading a full-on asbestos removal project.

Finding the Source

Although the source of the asbestos on Rottnest Island has not yet been identified, the most likely source is similar to many other communities in Australia that have suffered from asbestos contamination: Home construction. As with many other residential homes all across Australia, many of the structures on Rottnest Island were built years ago when asbestos in many forms was a common insulation material.

Asbestos works very well as insulation and is fire-resistant. For decades it was used in various forms – often in the most dangerous fibrous form. As long as the asbestos remains intact it offers very little danger to residents. But when these homes are renovated or torn down, the demolition process often releases huge amounts of asbestos into the environment and becomes an active problem. And even without construction the asbestos can break down due to environmental stresses or other factors and invisibly contaminate the air of a home or surrounding area. And since the diseases caused by asbestos exposure can take years or even decades to manifest, it is often difficult to trace the symptoms to asbestos exposure.

Across Australia many homeowners are every familiar with the problem of asbestos as they discover the Mr. Fluffy product in their homes, often unbeknownst to them. While the Australian government has been buying contaminated homes from affected owners in order to tear down the structures safely and dispose of the mineral, there is currently no indication that any of the homes on Rottnest contain the Mr. Fluffy product. However, it is deemed very likely that the asbestos so far found on the island originated with construction and demolition of older structures. There is a theory that the asbestos found most recently came from roof repair work done at the bungalow in 2005.

Danger to Families

Why the long delay between the roof work and the discovery of the asbestos? Chances are good the material was buried and then disturbed by weather or other natural activities, revealing it to the open air. Despite the RIA’s assurance that the white asbestos posed no real threat, many families are thinking twice about booking vacations at Rottnest until the problem has been thoroughly investigated.

Many families don’t feel confident in their ability to identify asbestos in the first place, and with the medical authorities reminding them that there is no ‘safe’ level of exposure, they naturally worry that a few weeks or even days spent on the island enjoying the scenery could make them or their children ill – if not immediately, then down the line when making the connection between the disease and the vacation.

Rottnest, known affectionately as Rotto by its loyal holiday tenants and full-time inhabitants, has been voted in the top ten favourite places for Australians to visit over the years. However, that status appears threatened by this new health risk and the perception that the RIA is not taking a serious enough position on it and is failing to protect its visitors and residents from what could be a disastrous health risk.

For its part, the RIA continues to preach calm, pointing out that an isolated deposit of white asbestos very likely stemming from an isolated construction project is no reason to assume the island is riddled with the deadly mineral. It maintains that the asbestos found on the island at no time represented significant risk to anyone, and stresses that it reacted promptly to fence off the area and perform a proper clean-up of the area the moment it was made aware of the problem.

In the end, the real trouble for Rottnest Island may not be asbestos removal or even the possibility of sickened visitors or residents launching lawsuits in the coming years. The real trouble may be the simple matter of managing fear and bad publicity, two powerful forces that have combined to disastrous effect at many other places and services both in Australia and elsewhere. No one, after all, wants to put their family at risk in exchange for a few days of fun and relaxation, and whether it is necessary or not the RIA must be considering some further efforts in order to satisfy the court of public opinion, or risk not being anywhere near the top ten of holiday destinations for Australians in the years to come.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Asbestos amendment to Work Health and Safety Regulations in the ACT to commence

In 2011 the federal government issued the Work Health and Safety model legislation and regulations, and began pushing all states and territories to adopt them with the goal to have a uniform set of laws for Work Health and Safety across the country. The aim was to have a uniform and consistent set of laws and regulations making it far easier for businesses working in multiple states and territories to comply with those regulations. With the exception of Victoria and Western Australia (who have now introduced the Work Health and Safety Bill 2014 for public comment), all states and territories have implemented the Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations.

Recently the ACT’s Legislative Assembly have recently passed the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment Act 2014 which commences on 1st January 2015. This amendment takes in Chapter 8 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations with adaptation for the ACT.

How will this affect business?

Businesses undertaking work that involves the handling, removal or disposal of asbestos will have to become familiar with the amendments to ensure that their company fully complies with the new requirements from the beginning of 2015. They still are required to follow the Work Health and Safety regulations which set out the context for the management of asbestos involving:

  • the training of workers at risk of encountering asbestos
  • notifying the regulator of asbestos removals
  • health monitoring for workers
  • naturally occurring asbestos
  • stricter requirements for the removal of asbestos and
  • national licensing and competency standards for licensed asbestos removalists and assessors

The ACT Government developed the Work Health and Safety regulations further through the Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment which requires businesses to ensure they comprehend and apply the following deviations by:

  • requiring all asbestos removal work to be carried out by a licensed asbestos removalist
  • removing the exception in the Work Health and Safety regulations for non-friable asbestos removal not exceeding 10 square meters
  • removing the exclusion on work involving asbestos when the work is only minor, routine maintenance work
  • replacing the term “competent person” with “licensed asbestos assessor” to clarify that all asbestos assessment, clearance
  • inspections and air monitoring must be provided by a licensed asbestos assessor (i.e. from 1 January 2015 a person must not
  • remove asbestos or asbestos containing material from any premises unless the person is an appropriately licensed asbestos removalist) and
  • requiring that a person who manages or controls a workplace, having to assume asbestos is present if an approved warning sign is present

What does businesses need to do?

The Dangerous Substances (Asbestos Safety Reform) Amendment Act 2014 in the ACT will impact individual workers and contractors as well as businesses. Anyone handling asbestos-containing materials or other potentially toxic materials will need to study the new regulations because they may need to complete additional training or secure a license that was previously unnecessary for the tasks they complete in their line of work.

Businesses handling asbestos contracts, utilizing heavy machinery, conducting work in the mines or otherwise completing jobs governed by the work health and safety regulations have hopefully already studied the new laws to determine how they will affect their operations. Some of the changes that some companies may need to implement are as follows:

  • Workers potentially handling materials that contain asbestos may require additional training.
  • All jobs that involve the removal and disposal of asbestos materials must be reported to Work Safe ACT prior to beginning the project.
  • Companies may be required to monitor the health of all workers handling or removing asbestos materials.
  • All workers removing and disposing of asbestos materials will need to complete training competencies and secure a license as trained removalists or assessors.

Notice that there is no longer any room for non-licensed contractors or workers to remove or dispose of materials containing asbestos, and that includes naturally-occurring asbestos. While there was a previous law that confused many businesses regarding their ability to remove small amounts of materials that contain asbestos without a license, that law is being overturned in favour of stricter standards for worker protection against exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos courses are offered online by AlertForce and works as an introduction to this crucial section of work health and safety (WHS) standards. To obtain a basic knowledge of asbestos in Australia and confidently put measures in place to reduce your risks, you should talk to the AlertForce team today.

Yoga Keeps Workers on Their Toes, Saves Businesses Money

What comes to mind when you think about yoga? You may think that yoga pants are comfortable on a lazy weekend at home but you would never wear them to work. You may think of some of your more zen friends and then laugh. Perhaps you don’t think yoga is the right form of exercise for you, but recent studies may make you think twice about that assumption.

It turns out that there are many physical and mental benefits of performing yoga on a routine basis, and those benefits aren’t limited to your personal life. More and more businesses are thinking about offering yoga programmes as employee incentives because they increase employee health, increase productivity within the workforce and can potentially reduce the number of injuries suffered on and off the job.

Yoga programmes are now available through live instructors, DVDs and internet-based courses. You can even perform yoga with a cheap mat or carpeting and written instructions. Something as simple as a booklet that contains pictures of various yoga poses could potentially become a powerful tool for a business interested in keeping workers health and happy so that they report to work more often and work harder when they are on the clock.

Yoga Relieves Stress, Promotes Happiness

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a report that showed workers missing five or more consecutive days from work were more likely to do so as a result of stress or mental health issues than as a result of a physical injury. This signifies a shift from physical injuries causing the majority of work absences to mental distress causing a large percentage of absences.

This is an important shift because work absenteeism costs businesses a lot of money due to loss of productivity. According to research completed by Safe Work Australia, absenteeism costs businesses more than $10 billion every year, so it is in the best interest of every business to minimize work call offs to the greatest extent possible.

Researchers are now starting to explore the physical and mental response to yoga as well as other forms of exercise. One study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that people performing yoga experienced a more significant boost in happiness than those completing a walking programme. There are other studies starting to surface which also validate the claim that yoga boosts positive thinking and increases overall sensations of happiness and well being.

This is important because workers are now under more stress in the workplace than ever before. The amount of stress experienced is even greater for employees and contractors working on or within close proximity of heavy machinery or toxic chemicals. The more hazardous or dangerous the work environment, the more stress employees are likely to feel while on the job.

Stress also comes in the form of harassments, conflicts with colleagues and pressure to complete duties that are potentially unethical. This type of emotional stress is just as debilitating as the stress of physical danger when it is suffered on a routine basis over a long period of time.

Since more workers are now calling off work due to the mental and physical effects of stress, it’s important for businesses to help workers fight off those effects. Yoga is proving to be one of the most cost-effective options, and it has many other benefits for employers and employees.

Yoga for Pain Management and Prevention

One of the biggest benefits to performing yoga on a routine basis is the stretching and strengthening of muscles throughout the body. It is important to strengthen the back and other core muscles in order to perform the poses correctly, and that offers three benefits for employers and employees:

Stronger, more flexible back and core muscles reduce the chance of employees suffering injuries in the workplace. Employers invest in employee physical fitness in order to benefit from reduced rates of injury which cost the company money.
When an injury is sustained at or outside of work, stronger muscles increase the chances of a fast return to health. This limits the amount of time employees may need to spend away from work when injuries do occur, increasing productivity and saving companies money.

Employees suffering from chronic back over a long period of time can learn to manage the pain naturally through yoga, allowing them to work even while in pain. This is beneficial to the employee in need of a paycheck and the employer in need of active, productive workers.

Yoga and ROI

Is it possible that paying for yoga programmes could provide a substantial return of investment, or ROI, for employers? Could something as simple as offering yoga classes for all employees once a week improve the health and increase productivity for all workers within a business? Research is showing that yoga is beneficial physically and mentally to workers, so employers can consider it wise to invest in the health and well being of their employees in this manner.

The payback comes through reduced employee absenteeism, fewer workplace injuries, and more productive work from employees when they are o the job. As employees maintain healthier bodyweights, feel more energetic and increase muscular strength, they also start to feel happier and more content. That means they can focus on their jobs and put more effort into their duties, and that benefits employers tremendously.

There is no way to eliminate all forms of stress currently affecting workers, but companies can potentially benefit from keeping workers on their toes with regular yoga classes. In many studies completed to date, the best results came from weekly programmes featuring one or two classes of 50-60 minutes each.

There are many ways that employers can offer that type of programme to employees either through live courses offered on the job or DVDs, mats, printouts and other materials provided for practice outside of the workplace. Some companies may even find it beneficial to offer incentives to employees embracing their health and wellness by picking up yoga classes on their own.

Get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

 

Resources:

http://omicsonline.org/open-access/the-costeffectiveness-of-yoga-for-preventing-and-reducing-back-pain-at-work-trial-protocol-2157-7595.1000161.pdf
http://yoga-des-herzens.com/onewebmedia/dru-yoga%2​0research%20stress%20and%20backpain.pdf
http://www.theage.com.au/national/job-stress-the-biggest-cause-of-work-absence-20110730-1i5mp.html
http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/media-events/media-releases/pages/mr08042013
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16310720
http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/study-shows-people-happier-after-doing-yoga-7724.html

Mr. Fluffy Heads to West Belconnen

The Mr. Fluffy saga has been playing out in Canberra for more than a decade, and it is now expanding to New South Wales and other surrounding areas. It all started 40 years ago when raw, loose asbestos was placed in thousands of residential homes to serve as insulation. It was marketed by a company now known as Mr. Fluffy because the product was marketed under the name “asbestosfluf” for the fluffy nature of the material.

It is now well known that this type of loose asbestos material can cause cancer and other health conditions 20 or more years after inhalation. The human body cannot eliminate it from the system as it does many other toxins, so the fibres collect inside the body and lead to mesothelioma or asbestosis. Thousands of Australians have died due to asbestos-induced cancer, and even more people are receiving the same deadly diagnosis of cancer every day.

The number of people affected by asbestos-induced cancer will continue to grow as long as buildings in Australia contain asbestos. While some reports state that the government was warned about the dangers of the loose asbestos fill being placed in thousands of homes throughout Canberra and NSW 40 years ago, the government is just now being forced to take action on the problem.

Recent Mr. Fluffy Updates

If you have been following the Mr. Fluffy saga, you may already know that more than a thousand homes have been identified as containing Mr. Fluffy asbestos insulation in Canberry and homes are now being identified in NSW and other areas. The ACT government has decided to buy back homes in the area so that they can be demolished and the materials properly disposed of before more people are affected by the asbestos materials.

The problem is that the federal government had not offered a loan to help the ACT government cover the expenses of such a buy back programme. That was recently changed when the federal government stepped forward with a $1-billion loan to help the ACT cover the buy backs and demolition projects essential to cleaning up the Mr. Fluffy asbestos mess.

With the financial means to move forward with the buy back programme, the ACT government started searching for a safe place to dispose of the homes demolished through the programme. Most Australian landfills do not accept asbestos materials, and there are strict laws that must be enforced to ensure more people are not exposed to asbestos fibres that get loose in the air. Those fibres are not seen by the human eye, so they are among the deadliest toxins to ever enter the environment.

The Planned Asbestos Dump

It is now being reported that all of the homes demolished in the Mr. Fluffy buy back programme will end up in the West Belconnen Resource Management Centre. This centre is a landfill in Macgregor located on Parkwood Drive. All remains of the asbestos-contaminated homes will be dumped in the West Belconnen tip which is just slight over 1 km from the closest residential area.

The Act government claims that this is the only dumping facility capable of handling the amount of asbestos-contaminated waste that will be produced as more than 1,000 homes are demolished. It is estimated that 150,000 tonnes of asbestos-contaminated material will be disposed of by the completion of the project, and there are still more homes throughout Canberra and NSW which may have even more Mr. Fluffy asbestos materials.

The estimate of 150,000 tonnes of waste is based on the estimated amount of rubbish produced by a home with three or four bedrooms. This figure is likely to go even higher since homeowners are likely going to give up some of their material possessions which are now contaminated with asbestos fibres. There are reports of families finding asbestos fibres on clothing, bedding and in carpeting.

Some reports even detail asbestos fibres found on children’s toys and in carpeting, walls and dressers used by children. All of those materials may need to be included in the waste deposited at the centre, increasing the number considerably.

Moving Forward with Mr. Fluffy

It is scary to think about children playing with toys contaminated with deadly asbestos fibres. That hints that many more Australians are likely to receive diagnoses of mesothelioma in the future, and many of them can get the diagnosis in their 20s or 30s rather than later in life since they have potentially been exposed to these fibres as young children.

Other reports have detailed asbestos insulation installed by Mr. Fluffy remaining in roofs which are now in poor condition. These roofs are in residential areas where children play and adults enjoy their daily lives, and there is a concern that the asbestos fibres will break free and contaminate the breathing air in those areas.

Since the ACT government continues to request homeowners come forward if they are aware of Mr. Fluffy asbestos in their homes, many simply don’t know whether this insulation was placed in their homes during construction or not. Others have simply not responded to the government inquiry, which means there could be many more homes contaminated than the figure currently revealed.

Now that funding for the buy back programme is in place and there is a plan for the disposal of the contaminated rubbish, the Act government will proceed with purchasing homes from families and demolishing them to prevent future exposure. Some families have already been removed from their homes because they are so contaminated they are deemed unsafe for inhabitation.

There are likely many more homes that are unsafe for inhabitation, and they will be identified as the project moves forward and testing on homes throughout Canberra and NSW continues. The problem is that this is a slow process, and thousands of people are at risk of inhaling deadly asbestos fibres in the meantime.

While no one likes the idea of disposing of this amount of asbestos anywhere in the ACT, it has to go somewhere and the faster these homes are demolished the better.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Resources:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2014-08-10/5649508

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/up-to-150000-tonnes-of-asbestos-waste-headed-to-west-belconnen-20141118-11kt97.html

ACT Government Corrects Misconceptions Regarding Key Asbestos-Removal Rule

Any company involved in building demolition, renovations or construction must go through proper training courses regarding the safe removal and disposal of materials containing asbestos. This is a heat-resistant material that was heavily used in residential and commercial construction prior to the 1980s. It was used as insulation inside buildings as well as in wallboard, roofing shingles and indoor tile.

While asbestos was championed as an affordable material that resists and traps in heat naturally, it also releases fibres that are invisible to the eye which collect inside the lungs. Inhalation of those fibres is now linked to the development a form of cancer known as mesothelioma as well as other life-threatening diseases.

It can take more than 20 years for victims to start showing symptoms of disease, and Australians die from asbestos mesothelioma every year. Although the use of any material containing asbestos in the construction of residential or commercial buildings was banned in Australia in 2003, there are many structures built in earlier years that still contain these materials. When these materials are encountered during renovation, demolition or property maintenance, they must be removed and disposed of safely so that fibres aren’t released into the air.

When governmental regulations regarding the removal of asbestos aren’t followed carefully, the lives of all people in the area are put in danger. This is why companies are now working through the certification process to qualify as approved asbestos-removal professionals. Companies, contractors and individuals without the proper certification must call an approved professional if they believe a material containing asbestos is found during the course of a project.

Loopholes and Misconceptions about Removal

The ACT government is now taking action to close loopholes and bust myths surrounding one particular rule included in asbestos-removal regulation. The rule states that certified, approved asbestos-removal professionals must be called for all projects involving the removal of more than 10 square metres of asbestos-containing material.

For years, many companies have interpreted this to mean they can remove up to 10 square metres of asbestos materials without any training. This means that many companies have allowed uncertified, untrained workers and supervisors to remove small amounts of asbestos materials without contacting a qualified professional to oversee the work. This puts Australians in danger because even small amounts of asbestos-containing materials can release dangerous fibres into the air.

Taking it even further, some companies interpret the rule to mean that they can remove up to 10 square metres of asbestos materials per day. If a project takes 40 days to complete, that means the company may remove up to 400 square metres of asbestos without the supervision of a qualified professional before the end of the project.

Builders, contractors and other workers involved in the removal and disposal of asbestos materials have abused this rule either intentionally or out of ignorance for many years, but the ACT government is closing the loophole and clearing up any misunderstandings.

What Does the Rule Really Mean?

The rule was intended to allow uncertified workers to remove small amounts of asbestos materials when encountered over the course of a larger project. Workers are still required to receive some training in the handling and removal of these materials, even if they don’t obtain their certification or diploma in work health and safety.

The intention was never to allow uncertified and untrained workers to accept jobs removing any amount of asbestos materials. Companies have been carrying out this work without the proper training and without meeting other legal qualifications due to this one rule, and that is what the ACT government is now correcting.

The New Asbestos Removal Rules

The ACT government is making the following changes to ensure the safety of all Australians:

  1. All asbestos removalists and assessors will be licensed through Worksafe. All company oversight will be completed by Worksafe as well, ensuring the asbestos-removal industry is closely monitored with the strict standards currently experienced by other high-risk industries.
  2. New workers handling asbestos in Canberra must contact Worksafe so that their first project can be approved. This will ensure that workers moving into the area have received the proper training, are licensed and are handling these dangerous materials in line with the government’s expectations.
  3. Worksafe must receive advanced notification from companies completing projects that involve friable asbestos. This form of asbestos crumbles and breaks easily and is therefore much more likely to contaminate the air with asbestos fibres. These projects are currently reported after the completion of the work, but Worksafe will now demand advanced approval for such jobs.
  4. Any job requiring the removal of asbestos materials, friable or non-friable, must be completed by a licensed asbestos removalist. This completely does away with the 10 square metre rule, closing that loophole and leaving no room for misunderstandings of the law.

These new rules will go into effect January, 1, 2015, and will change the way many construction and remodelling companies perform their work. This may also lead to an increase in the number of companies investing in asbestos training and certification so that they can employ their own asbestos removalists and assessors.

These new rules go well beyond correcting misunderstandings surrounding the 10 square metre rule. They address a few other problems that have left the asbestos removal industry vulnerable in past years. Once the new rules go into effect, companies will have no choice but to train their workers for the safe removal and disposal of these materials or to connect with licensed asbestos removalists in their area to ensure that these materials are handled legally when identified during the course of a project.

The new rules will also give companies fewer excuses when violations of the rules are discovered or reported. The new rules are straightforward and contain fewer loopholes, so workers will have less room to talk their way out of citations when caught handling these dangerous materials improperly. This will increase business for removalists while decreasing the risk to Australians living near construction sites that contain any amount of asbestos materials.

More info on Asbestos Training

Resources:
http://www.smh.com.au/act-news/act-government-bans-builders-from-removing-asbestos-20141104-11eqbu.html

AIG Puts Spotlight on Victorian Economy in Pre-Election Statement

On November 29, 2014, all Australian citizens living in Victoria over the age of 18 will hit the polls to take part in the state election. While the candidates running for office haven’t made workplace health and safety a major issue in their running platforms, that doesn’t mean organisations and citizens in Victoria aren’t concerned.

The Australian Industry Group, otherwise known as AIG, issued their pre-election statement for this voting cycle on November 2. This is a report that the group submits before each round of voting in hopes of influencing candidates running for office. The report contains a variety of recommendations for the government soon to take office, including issues related to state-based taxes, regulatory reform, state holidays and employment trends in specific industries.

The pre-election statement issued for this year’s candidates in Victoria includes some strong recommendations for employment in the construction industry. It also contains some recommendations related to workplace health and safety.

Spotlight on the Economy

The AIG spared no time digging into highlighting what the group believes is a major obstacle for Victoria: the struggling economy. The report states that prices are high and productivity in the region is low, creating a difficult economy for Victorian residents. At least part of the blame for this is placed on the closing of the automotive industry which previously kept the economy in Victoria quite strong.

In order to strengthen the economic conditions in Victoria and bring more businesses into the area, the AIG recommends that the incoming government consider taking the following steps:

  • Reduce taxation
  • Reduce business regulation
  • Invest more in infrastructure
  • Encourage innovation
  • Take action to increase worker skills
  • The AIG believes that the new Victorian government can reduce the cost of operating a business in Victoria by reducing taxes and easing regulations placed on businesses. They recommend more investment in infrastructure and a focus on innovation and skill enhancement because it might increase business productivity in the region.

These recommendations will have an impact on all industries operating out of Victoria, and that includes industries bound by strict health and safety guidelines.

Recommendations for the Harmonised OHS laws

The AIG also recommended that the new Victorian government commit to the Harmonised OHS laws, stating that they can help reduce the cost of business. This refers to the Intergovernmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety which was signed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2008. The goal was to enact one health and safety code for all Australian governments, ensuring that businesses and workers enjoyed the same protections regardless of where they lived and worked.

One of the reasons given by the Council of Australian Governments for harmonising the OHS laws throughout Australia was to reduce “compliance and regulatory burdens for businesses operating across State and Territory boundaries.” Since the AIG is calling for the new Victorian government to reduce the cost of business in order to spark more economic activity, it makes sense that they would encourage the state to agree to the harmonised laws in order to reduce regulation pressure on businesses.

To date, the Victorian government has refused to agree to the harmonised occupational health and safety laws because of the expense. The government viewed a report presented by PricewaterhouseCooper regarding the expense of initiating the changes and determined that the benefits would not justify that expected expense.

There is one more major criticism against the harmonised laws which may have impacted the state’s decision not to commit: there aren’t too many Australian businesses operating in multiple states and territories. Statistics were used to show that most business operate in just one state or territory, so they won’t benefit much from standardised laws that apply to all states equally.

Mark Goodsell, Director – NSW of the AIG, is now pointing out that the logistics industry was not included in the statistics used in that big criticism of the harmonised laws. He points out that that logistics industry includes many businesses that operate in states throughout Australia, but those businesses may have headquarters in only one state. He reasons that these companies would benefit tremendously from harmonised OHS laws throughout all states and territories, since they operate vehicles in all regions of the country.

Will the New Victorian Government Conform to Harmonisation?

Joining the rest of Australia in the commitment to the harmonised OHS laws was just one recommendation presented in the lengthy AIG pre-election statement. While members of the new government have made no mention of workplace health and safety laws through their campaigning efforts, only time will tell whether they are paying attention to these recommendations and whether they will take action to bring Victoria on board with the commitment to harmonisation.

Victoria does have a good worker’s compensation plan in place, and many of the workplace health and safety laws in the state are well-developed and effective. Yet, the AIG argues that harmonising with the rest of Australia will help the state make a comeback as a leader in this important industry.

Mark Goodsell notes that the state was once a leader in OHS but has recently slipped from that position because the government is out of the loop in terms of harmonisation. He states that the states and territories already committed to the agreement are working together to create the best OHS laws possible, but the Victorian government has been left out of those negotiations due to its stance against the harmonisation project.

As Victorian residents hit the streets to vote for their preferred stated candidates on November 29, many of them may not think much about occupational health and safety laws. That doesn’t mean that the candidates they vote for won’t take a position for or against the harmonisation of OHS laws after they take office.

Residents concerned can look up their candidate’s previous statements and political actions to determine whether they have taken a stance on one side or the other on this issue.

References:

https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/Elections/2014VictorianStateelection.html
http://www.aigroup.com.au/policy/submissions
http://publicsectorsafety.wa.gov.au/occupational_safety_and_health/harmonisation_of_laws.html

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/ourmembers/pages/markgoodsellaigroup

Asbestos Factory in Victoria Possibly Linked to 16 Mesothelioma Cases

Asbestos is fast becoming a dirty word in Australia. Due to the heavy use of this dangerous material in construction prior to the 1980s, many commercial and residential buildings throughout the country contain loose-fill, boards, shingles, tiles and other materials which contain asbestos. Australians are diagnosed with mesothelioma every year, and the cases are growing at an alarming rate.

In 1983, there were 156 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in the country. In 2008, there were 661 people diagnosed with the disease. Hundreds of people also die due to this illness every year. For example, there were 668 people diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2007, and 551 Australians died from the disease that same year.

These statistics are alarming, but they are reality. Many of these mesothelioma cases are due to the inhalation of asbestos fibres before the 1980s. Many Australians worked in industries that used this material heavily, and they breathed those deadly fibres into their lungs on a daily basis year after year. Those fibres collect inside the body and aren’t easily eliminated, and it takes more 20 years for signs of disease to become apparent. That is why so many people are dying today for asbestos fibres they inhaled many years ago.

Ongoing Risks

Yet, the growing rate of mesothelioma diagnosis isn’t a result only of inhalation in the past. There are thousands of buildings throughout Australia that still contain some type of asbestos material. For instance, more than 1,000 homes are currently being bought back by the government and demolished because they contain asbestos insulation marked by Mr. Fluffy.

As long as asbestos remains in our homes and offices, it is a risk for Australian citizens. It is not harmful when left undisturbed, but it may easily release fibres into the air if licensed removalists are not contacted for safe removal and disposal during remodelling and other construction projects.

The Problem in Victoria

One of the most recent discoveries of potential asbestos contamination comes out of Victoria. The problem surrounds an old factory which is no longer in use. The factory was a heavy producer of asbestos prior to the 1980s, and authorities decontaminated all buildings at the site in the late 1980s. the property was also sealed and capped to prevent any remaining asbestos fibres from escaping into the surrounding community.

Unfortunately, many people worked in that factory before the dangers of asbestos became well known in the late 1980s. Many others lived in close vicinity to the factory and potentially breathed in air contaminated with asbestos fibres before it was capped and sealed. Since it takes 20 years or longer for signs of mesothelioma from asbestos inhalation to manifest itself, it makes sense that reports of mesothelioma cases are now starting to surface.

Between 2001 and 2013, there were 16 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma in the region of this factory. According to Michael Ackland, acting Chief Health Officer, this rate is slightly higher than what is expected for an area that size within that time period. This has sparked concern that many people in the area may have been exposed to unhealthy amounts of asbestos in the past, but it also raises the question of whether the factory is safe for the surrounding community as it stands today.

Addressing the Victoria Asbestos Problem

In order to determine whether the old factory continues to contaminate the air and soil with asbestos fibres or not, the Environment Protection Agency will oversee testing in the area. The testing will be conducted by an environmental hygienist without connections to the government or factory. The air in surrounding residential areas will be tested in addition to the soil and roof spaces.

There are also 10 residential structures in the area that will undergo testing due to previous connections to asbestos materials. If these homes are found to contain asbestos fibres in the air, roof spaces or soil, they may be considered dangers to the community just like the old factory.

The government will also talk to the 16 people diagnosed with mesothelioma to determine their connections to the factory. It is possible that at least some of them are former employees of the factory before it was decontaminated and capped. This means that they may have been exposed to asbestos fibres for many years before the dangers of the material were realized.

What Happens After Testing?

The test results will determine whether the Victorian factory and those 10 homes continue to present a threat to residents of Victoria or if the increasing rate of mesothelioma is due to inhalation of fibres prior to the 1980s. The course of action taken by the government will depend on the findings of those tests, so it is too early to predict what may happen in the area moving forward.

If the factory is determined to be a present health risk for community members, it is possible that the government will have it demolished and the site cleansed of all asbestos materials. More drastic measures may need to be taken if high levels of asbestos are found in the soil at the factory or in surrounding communities. Many community members may be impacted if asbestos fibres are found in the air within communities surrounding the factory.

Tips for Residents

It is important for all Australians to understand the risks of handling asbestos materials. Anyone believing that their home or office building may contain an asbestos material of any type should contact a licensed asbestos removalist. They can thoroughly examine the property to determine what type of asbestos is present, how much of the material is present, and whether fibres are currently contaminating the air.

Professional removalists can also take on the project of removing these materials and decontaminating the site so that it is safe. It is crucial that residents not undertake construction projects that involve these materials without the assistance of licensed removalists. There are companies in Victoria with the expertise and asbestos training needed to safely remove these materials without releasing deadly fibres into the air.

Resources:

http://www.smh.com.au/victoria/victorian-cancer-spike-prompts-asbestos-testing-20141026-11c19m.html

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDAQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.safeworkaustralia.gov.au%2Fsites%2FSWA%2Fabout%2FPublications%2FDocuments%2F706%2FMesotheliomaInAustralia2012.pdf&ei=JiNcVNiKFc2iyATivYCYCA&usg=AFQjCNF_TwzfXtF49SV1K6lL5ubscYR2yQ&bvm=bv.79184187,d.aWw

AlertForce Pty Ltd Ranked 19 on BRW’s Fast 100 List


Potts Point, NSW, Australia
  – 13 November 2014 – BRW recently released their prestigious Fast 100 annual list, recognising the fastest-growing start-up companies in Australia. Many promising businesses made that list, and AlertForce.com.au is proud to stand amongst them. Ranking #19 on the list for 2014, the compliance training company looks forward to networking with and learning from other Australian businesses.

In order to compile this list, BRW scores companies based on the following criteria: number of years in business, financial turnover the previous year, number of full-time employees and growth in company revenue. In order to qualify, companies must have at least four months of operational history, employ fewer than 200 full-time employees and prove revenue growth and a minimum of $500,000 turnover from the previous year.

Brendan Torazzi, AlertForce’s CEO, told SmartCompany.com.au that the company has enjoyed steady growth since 2009, but the progress over the past two years has been remarkable. This is largely due to the company’s expertise in national training standards for the removal of asbestos.

While many Australian communities struggle to clean up dangerous asbestos-containing materials in residential and commercial buildings, many asbestos-removal companies have made headlines for illegal practices. AlertForce has stepped up to provide training to businesses and individuals involved in the removal of asbestos safely and legally.

In addition to specialising in asbestos education, AlertForce offers comprehensive Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) compliance training courses that are accredited, nationally recognised and in line with current governmental regulations. A diverse collection of certification and diploma courses are offered, including some unique specialisations.

AlertForce allows students to select from online courses and classroom courses with live instructors. Some students complete their certifications through a blend of online and face-to-face classes. The format is flexible so that participants needs are accommodated.

What sets AlertForce apart from other WHS training programmes is a commitment to innovation and expansion. Brendan Torazzi is a well-known entrepreneur and stated that the company “always looked for little niches in the market where the government says training is needed by a certain date.” Brendan and his WHS experts look for those opportunities to provide essential health and safety training to a wider audience.

For example, the company recently announced a new programme offering mandatory training for those interested in the Government’s National Broadband Network. As new government regulations are introduced, the course offerings at AlertForce will expand. It is that rapid response to governmental training standards, top-of-the-field instructors and flexible course environments that skyrocketed AlertForce to the top 20 of the Fast 100 List.

National Broadband Network work ramping up

Australia’s National Broadband Project is ramping up its efforts and is starting to show solid results with tens of thousands of properties being connected to the blazingly fast new system and talk of big things to come.

What is the National Broadband Network?

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is a government program launched in 2011 aimed at getting more than 93 per cent of Australian homes connected to ultra-fast internet access by mid-2021.

The goal is to create a system with download speeds in excess of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2016, and 50 to 100 Mbps by 2019. This is not some minor side-project; the Australian Government plans to stump up $29.5 billion over the project’s lifetime.

Such speeds may become necessary if the amount of data being downloaded continues to rise. In the past five years the amount of data Australians use has risen tenfold, and the total has increased from 657,262 terrabytes to 996,000 from June 2013 to the same time next year. To put that in perspective, that’s just over 217 million DVDs.

It’s a project that is expected to employ tens of thousands of Australians over its run time and require local workers to up-skill intensively to take part in the infrastructure construction project aimed at integrating fibre-optic, fixed wireless and satellite technology across Australia.

Once complete it is also expected that many of those workers will be retained at the end of the project to repair, maintain, update and expand the infrastructure they built.

The NBN is different to the mobile wireless services, where download and upload speeds can be affected by the number of users in the area and how much activity is going on. The NBN network is designed to provide consistent and reliable service for a specific number of premises in an area.

Why does Australia need it?

According to a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were nearly 12.5 million internet subscribers in Australia by the close of June this year, with over 98 per cent of Australian connections being broadband and the number of dial-up connections continuing to dwindle. This represents a huge shift from 2006 when roughly 47 per cent of connections were dial-up.

Fibre has been the fastest growing internet connection type in recent years, increasing by 76 per cent since June 2013 and reaching 203,000 connections as of June this year. The data makes it clear that Australians are opting, where possible, for ever-faster internet connections, and expanded capacity is crucial to providing this for both commercial and residential connections.

Of the total Australian market, just over 2 million subscribers had internet speeds of 24Mbps or greater, with the greatest number (6.2 million) having speeds between 8 and 24Mbps, 3.7 million had speeds between 1.5 and 8Mbps, and 256,000 people had speeds ranging between 256 kilobits per second and 1.5 Mbps, while 186 thousand were stuck on dial-up.

“Fast broadband helps give residents access to e-health services, distance education and entertainment on demand and we have seen examples of businesses demonstrating an increase in productivity, reduction of costs and access new markets,” NBN co-spokesperson Justin Jarvis said.

What’s happening now?

The National Broadband Network has reported a series of solid achievements in recent weeks, with technological advancements, end users growing 27 per cent over the last quarter to 267,000, and revenue up 32 per cent to $29 million.

“These results reflect the improvements we are making in construction, product development and the end user experience. They represent solid progress towards our FY15 targets of 1 million serviceable homes and 480,000 end users,” NBN Co CEO Bill Morrow said.

Workmen are labouring across Australia to make it happen, and work is proceeding ahead of schedule in some locations, like Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, which are getting bumped ahead on the list and are expected to be up and running by the end of 2015.

The region is crucial to the roll out in the New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland regions, NBN told ABC News, with the implementation of fibre-to-the-node (FttN) infrastructure planned for more than 200,000 premises across 140 NSW and Queensland suburbs in the near future.

Fibre-to-the-node is a slight step down from having fibre-optic cables run directly to a premises, but NBN’s Darren Rudd told ABC news that it is a faster way to get the infrastructure laid down. The decision to ramp up the FttN method comes after a 50 house trial in Umina NSW that found FttN houses managed download speeds of 97Mbps and upload speeds of 33Mbps, while running fibre directly to the property only increased this to 100/40.

“There’s less complexity, less cost and we can get people on the network, in those numbers, in those suburbs this time next year,” Mr Rudd said. “Essentially what we’re going to do is roll through the city and build this network … They’re like a mini exchange in the street, we run fibre from the exchange to them and then we push more of the data through from that little node into the house or apartment.”

Safety requirements for getting involved

The National Broadband Network, like any infrastructure project that involves working with electrical systems, carries with it a set of risks to workers’ health.

As a result NBN Co has a comprehensive mandatory safety program in place, which can be accessed either through the internet or in person. The program must be completed if an employee is to take part in the installation, connection and maintenance of network assets, shifting fibre optic cables, boring and excavation. Those in charge of sites where NBN work is underway must also access the safety program.

The training focuses on spotting and controlling for both industrial and environmental dangers, and helps employees to understand the scope of their role within the wider project. AlertForce is presently the only training provider registered to conduct the online training program. People who do the online safety program also need to undertake an accredited and instructor-led CPR course.

If you are interested in becoming a part of Australia’s broadband future, contact AlertForce to get more information on the online NBN Safety and Awareness program.

Asbestos still a concern in NBN rollout

As the Australian government rolls out the National Broadband Network (NBN), work health and safety standards continue to be a serious concern.

One of the most significant threats to employee wellbeing is the presence of asbestos in pit sites. As the construction of telecommunications company Telstra’s network dates back over a number of decades, many pits and materials were manufactured using asbestos-containing cement.

This issue came to a head last year when Telstra came under fire after investigations revealed some contractors were not handling the deadly material in the correct methods.

“These pits and ducts are owned by Telstra and it is their responsibility to get them ready for the NBN rollout in a safe and secure way,” said Julia Gillard, prime minister at the time. “I do want to emphasise there are no shortcuts when dealing with asbestos. All safety procedures must be adhered to.”

In response to this, Telstra reported in May last year it had hired 200 specialists to investigate poor handling of asbestos.

“Telstra retains ownership of the pit and pipe infrastructure and retains the primary responsibility for the remediation of its infrastructure to make it fit for NBN practice,” NBN Co Chief Executive Mike Quigley told a parliamentary hearing in 2013.

After the initial story broke, Telstra was quick to respond. The communications giant put measures in place to reduce the poor handling of asbestos and worked hard to mitigate any further exposure. This included offering asbestos awareness training to workers through a long-standing partnership with AlertForce.

Telstra pits back in the news

The presence of asbestos in Telstra pits has recently been thrust back into the spotlight after a young girl fell into a Telstra services pit earlier this month.

According to an article by The Herald on November 6, the girl’s mother, Melanie Strempel, was watching her daughter riding her bike when she witnessed the lid to the pit flip open, causing the girl to fall partially inside.

“When we went over to see if she was alright in the bottom of the pit we noticed all the broken bits of asbestos, the pit had deteriorated on the inside,” Ms Strempel told The Herald.

Ms Strempel revealed that she had lost her grandfather to an asbestos-related disease and the incident brought back painful memories.

While it has not been confirmed whether the material in the pit did contain asbestos, Telstra representatives were quick to seal the area with plastic sheeting and put up precautionary barriers. The company will now work to remove the material in the safest possible manner.

Addressing asbestos in Telstra pits

Due to the potentially high prevalence of asbestos in Telstra pits, many workers and some residents are at risk of exposure as the NBN upgrade is carried out around Australia.

Addressing this hazard is a serious concern, which Telstra has approached through education, training and awareness strategies.

Furthermore, the mandatory NBN Safety and Awareness course offers additional training and qualifications for those working on the nationwide campaign. This particular program is designed to introduce students to the NBN project and help workers identify the specific risks they may face.

When asbestos is discovered in a Telstra pit, a specific set of practices and procedures must be adhered to. This will ensure that both workers and the public are not unnecessarily exposed to asbestos while the NBN rollout continues.

No one knows what condition much of Telstra’s infrastructure is in around the country, or how much needs to be replaced before it is fit for NBN Co to lease. This is why caution is important.

Telstra does have a significant number of asbestos-related regulations and practices in place, to ensure the rollout continues to run smoothly.

The first step is for NBN Co and its contractors to inspect the pits and pipes to identify which elements need to be upgraded or fixed prior to the fibre cable installation. At this point, asbestos testing can also be carried out to ensure no work is being performed on or near materials that may contain the deadly fibres.

If asbestos is detected in a pit, Telstra requires workers to follow a strict set of procedures, put in place to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure. These include:

  • The site must be barricaded to ensure the public and other workers are kept at a safe distance
  • Signage must be visible to warn of the asbestos risk
  • Asbestos removal must only be carried out by a trained professional
  • Those directly involved in the clean-up need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including asbestos-rated masks, goggles, disposable coveralls, boots and gloves
  • The pit will be thoroughly wet down to prevent dust and airborne fibres
  • Once the material has been removed, it needs to be sealed in specially designed asbestos disposal bags
  • Protecting clothing and equipment must also be disposed of in sealed asbestos bags
  • Only once all material is removed from the site should the signage be taken down and work commenced on the new pit installation
  • Protecting health and safety on the NBN

There are many potential risks to health and safety when working on a telecommunications upgrade. Beyond the asbestos risk outlined above, workers need to remain alert and on guard to protect against injuries related to electricity, falls from heights, engulfment and traffic accidents.

Understanding the hazards that could put you at risk is vital to ensuring you can go home safe to your family each work day. However, when working on a remote or rural Telstra site, it may become difficult for you to travel into a major centre to undergo training.

This is why AlertForce offered the NBN Safety and Awareness course online. Accessing the training via the internet gives workers in any region the ability to earn this mandatory qualification. Once the course has been completed, you will need to also obtain a CPR certificate which can only be undertaken through instructor-led training.

Fortunately, this component is typically easy to arrange due to being an important part of many work health and safety courses – which means you can find the training time and place that suits your needs.

For more information on the online NBN course or to get qualified in asbestos removal, talk to the AlertForce team today.

Asbestos is a serious and ongoing concern in Australia

Asbestos is a serious concern in Australia, affecting the lives of many and creating havoc in the building and construction industry.

Staying on top of developments regarding this dangerous material is just one way to minimise your risk of exposure. An in-depth and evolving knowledge of asbestos is crucial to mitigate the hazards that may be lurking in your workplace.

Another consideration would be to undertake asbestos awareness training, to ensure you can identify and address any potential asbestos that may be present.

To ensure you are in the best possible position to protect the health and the safety of your colleagues and staff, here are just a few of the latest asbestos-related headlines from around Australia.

Australian hospitals tested for asbestos

A hospital is the place you go when recovering from an illness or injury. The last thing you would expect would be for the very building itself to pose a danger to your health and safety.

Unfortunately, recent testing has revealed many hospitals in Australia may contain asbestos products. Sydney’s Westmead hospital closed its service tunnels earlier this year after an untrained apprentice disturbed asbestos in the walls.

Now, only trained and supervised personnel are allowed entry into the tunnels, and only while wearing protective clothing and suitable asbestos-grade breathing masks.

Speaking to ABC News, Annabel Crouch, a former speech therapist at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital, explained that she had recently been diagnosed with mesothelioma – a disease directly related to asbestos exposure.

It is believed Ms Crouch contracted the cancer while working at the hospital, due to service tunnels being lined with asbestos materials.

“We went up and down the tunnel 10 times a day,” Ms Crouch explained. “And there would always be people working on it, the pipes, there’d be plumbers doing things {…} No-one thought there would be asbestos or any danger.”

This revelation is a serious concern for anyone who has worked in or on a hospital in Australia, particularly those built prior to the total asbestos ban in 2003. It is therefore important for individuals in all industries to stay aware and understand their risks. One way to do this is to complete asbestos training to help identify and monitor the hazards.

Home renovators the new wave of asbestos victims

As the health risks of asbestos was discovered, the victims contracting related diseases have come in waves. Starting with those working in asbestos mining and factories, the ill effects soon moved into the construction and manufacturing sectors.

The third wave appeared much later, when families and spouses of first and second wave workers also began being diagnosed with mesothelioma and other conditions. This was due to a lack of safety precautions meaning workers often carried dangerous asbestos fibres home on their clothing – where it was then inhaled by family members.

The latest wave of victims to come forward is also related to domestic exposure, but is not limited to the years before the total asbestos ban was put in place. Now, home renovators who are unaware of their property’s history are putting their own and their family’s lives at risk by undertaking DIY renovations and disturbing asbestos materials.

This is according to Asbestos Diseases Research Institute professor Nico van Zandwijk, who told the Daily Telegraph last month that “statistics are suggesting that an increasing number of mesothelioma victims were exposed to asbestos fibres in non-occupational settings such as home renovation and maintenance including women and children.”

Approximately one-third of Australian homes contain asbestos products, so it is important for homeowners to get their property assessed before starting any developments. While buildings constructed after 1990 are likely free of asbestos products, any home built before this time need to be checked.

Homeowners, renovators, tradies and contractors are all at risk when working on older buildings. This is why awareness and training is crucial. Any person considering DIY renovations should talk to a qualified professional before cutting, stripping or disturbing materials in the home.

“Factory of death” responsible for neighbours’ health concerns

The importance of correct asbestos containment and removal has been highlighted as the death toll in Melbourne’s Sunshine North continues to climb.

Reports from the Sunday Herald Sun suggest that more than 30 people have died and 15 fallen ill simply due to living near the Wunderlich factory, which created asbestos products prior to the nationwide ban.

The Health Department last month conducted a range of air quality tests around the area and found no evidence of asbestos fibres. However, the toll of past manufacturing work is hard to ignore.

Because of this, the Sunday Herald Sun commissioned asbestos experts to test the roof spaces of a number of houses near the factory and found a significant number contained invisible asbestos dust.

Peter Thomson, a resident whose home tested positive, was upset over the lack of information. Prior to these recent tests, homeowners were unaware of the danger lurking in their roof spaces.

“If it wasn’t for the Sunday Herald Sun this still would not have come out,” he said on October 18.

“There could be 2,000 or 3,000 homes sitting on a time bomb. It leaves a dirty taste in your mouth and makes you feel sick.”

While it may be too late to prevent the asbestos spreading from the abandoned factories, it is not too late to minimise exposure in your workplace. Correct asbestos removal techniques are crucial for protecting the health and safety of yourself, your colleagues and any neighbouring residents.

As the presence of asbestos in these homes demonstrates, precautions need to be taken even when properties are not directly exposed to asbestos products. If the wind were to blow in the wrong direction on the wrong day, any loose asbestos fibres can easily travel over long distances and contaminate many homes.

Any person who may be required to undertake asbestos removal needs to complete the relevant training. While official qualifications are not required for small amounts of non-friable materials, the training will ensure all proper precautions are in place no matter what.

For more information on safe asbestos removal or to get started with asbestos awareness training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Australian Hospitals and the Asbestos Crisis

Millions of people walk in and out of hospitals around the world every day. Some are doctors, nurses and staff members getting paid to clock in and help the sick and injured. Others are patients and their loved ones seeking relief from pain and treatment for illnesses and injuries. Some are already fighting serious medical conditions like cancer. Others are conducting research on subjects suffering from those diseases.

What none of these people expect to encounter is a deadly dose of asbestos fibres floating around in the air. They breathe the air freely, perhaps assuming that the hospital is one of the cleanest and healthiest places in the world.

Unfortunately for many Australians, those hospitals may be the least safe of all places in the country. Employees working in some hospitals for many years are now coming down with mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos fibres in the air. The problem is being traced to the presence of asbestos materials in the tunnels running underneath many hospitals.

According to many hospital workers, tunnels have served as passageways for staff members for many years. One mesothelioma victim and long-term hospital employee noted that she used the tunnel under Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney as many as 10 times a day, and she worked at the hospital for 30 years. She has now been diagnosed with mesothelioma and is campaigning against the hospital to ensure that the danger of asbestos is contained and eliminated.

There are many other employees at hospitals throughout Australia who were likely exposed to asbestos in the air inside those tunnels. There is also concern that the presence of asbestos is not limited to the tunnels.

Tanya Segelov actively represents victims suffering from diseases caused by asbestos and other dangerous dusts. She alleges that asbestos is hidden within many Australian hospitals, and it isn’t just in the tunnels. She believes that the ceilings, steam pipes, fire doors, broiler houses and laundry facilities of many hospitals are contaminated with asbestos.

 

The Hospital Perspective

danger of asbestos in hospitalsIf you are questioning why so many hospitals and other businesses can contain asbestos and still remain open to employees and the public, it is a matter of justifiable risk. Hospitals allege that their buildings have been tested for asbestos fibres in the air, and no detectable asbestos fibres are present. The argument is that the asbestos materials present in hospitable buildings are not friable and therefore don’t present an immediate threat to people breathing the air inside the buildings.

Friable materials are those that can easily crumble, sending dust fibres into the air. Those airborne dust particles are what collect in the lungs of humans, causing mesothelioma and other diseases. These fibres are not easily eliminated from the body, so they collect over time. In many cases, symptoms of disease don’t set in until years after the exposure.

Hospital representatives have stated that they believe the asbestos contained within their buildings is contained and is not friable. This would mean that they are of no danger to humans unless disturbed.

The Unions Protest

Many hospital workers and patients are starting to worry about their safety when they enter hospitals, largely due to the case of one known hospital worker diagnosed with mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure over three decades of service in a hospital. Employees of some hospitals are also starting to talk openly about time spent in the tunnels beneath hospitals, including some stories that relate to Halloween festivities that may have introduced children and other non-staff members into those asbestos-contaminated tunnels.

Union representatives throughout Australia are now fighting for hospitals to take the risk of asbestos contamination more seriously. Representatives including Tanya Segelov claim that the risk is not limited to those tunnels, and the threat of life-threatening disease is still valid for many Australian hospital workers.

Concern for Workers and Citizens

This concern over asbestos in hospitals comes during a time of heightened alert in Australia. Many residents are now well aware that millions of structures throughout the country were built with asbestos-containing materials, and there are routine news stories regarding citizens concerned with potential exposure in their local communities.

As buildings are demolished and renovated, there is an ongoing concern that asbestos fibres will release into the air, causing disease that will sabotage lives in years to come. This is a nationwide health concern that has been around for generations, and the lingering presence of asbestos materials in older buildings means that it will remain an issue for generations to come.

It is important to stress that this is not an issue related only to the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney. The discovery of asbestos has shut many businesses down in recent years, and that includes small businesses as well as large corporations operating in various areas of Australia. The country used more asbestos materials than most others prior to 1980, so it is going to take a long time to completely eliminate all structures throughout the country of those materials.

What Happens Next?

As unions continue to place pressure on hospitals to take asbestos concerns seriously, testing will continue to determine the true risk to lives of people moving in and out of Australian hospitals each day. As risks are detected, sections of hospitals may be closed to the public while the asbestos threat is eliminated.

In the meantime, Australians should remain on the lookout for potential asbestos dangers. Maintenance workers and other employees in charge of construction, renovation and maintenance of facilities should receive professional training on the detection and treatment of asbestos materials. This training is essential because employees may unknowingly disturb materials containing asbestos, presenting a health risk to their own bodies and many others around them. Education is the best weapon Australia has against the lingering threat of mesothelioma and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos fibres.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Resources:
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-03/hospital-tunnels-riddled-with-asbestos/5863568
http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2014/s4120674.htm

November is National Asbestos Awareness Month

This November is the second annual National Asbestos Awareness Month, leading up to National Asbestos Awareness day on November 28. But what is asbestos and why should homeowners and tradespeople take notice?

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring set of mineral fibres coming in three main varieties: white asbestos, brown/grey asbestos, and blue asbestos. Prized for centuries for its collection of useful properties including flexibility, strength, insulation from heat and electricity, chemical non-reactiveness and its low cost, it has had thousands of applications including strengthening concrete and plastics, insulation, fireproofing and sound-proofing.

It was also employed intensively industrially, with the shipbuilding sector using it to insulate boilers, steam and hot water pipes while the car industry used it in brake shoes and clutch pads.

Australia was one of the world’s most prolific users of asbestos until the 1980s; Australian industry mined asbestos until 1984, and approximately 1.5 million tonnes of it were also imported between 1930 and 1983 according to the Australian Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

It was used extensively in housing construction, with the Australian Government’s Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency saying: “If your house was built before the mid-1980s, it is highly likely that it would have some asbestos containing materials.”

The health risks of asbestos were first discovered in 1899 and the first case of asbestosis was discovered in 1924 with the death of 33-year-old asbestos factory worker Nellie Kershaw.

Asbestos was eventually classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a group-one carcinogen, meaning it is a known cause of cancer in humans. It is a category shared with burning coal fumes, several forms of radiation, tobacco smoke and some industrial production fumes.

Asbestos’ tiny fibres can become airborne and when breathed in become lodged in the lungs where they cause the lining of the lungs to become inflamed and scarred, causing asbestosis (which is incurable) and increasing the risk of mesothelioma (also incurable) and lung cancer. However, there is a lag between ingesting the fibres and developing the related diseases that can last decades – it is for this reason that children are believed to be at greater risk.

Asbestos comes in two forms, bonded and friable. Bonded asbestos is asbestos mixed into other materials such as concrete which cannot be crumbled or crushed with hand pressure. Renovations that involve actions like crushing or drilling can release asbestos fibres and create a risk of them being breathed in, but if the asbestos-containing material is in good condition, the Asbestos Awareness Month website advises that they are best left undisturbed as they do not pose a significant health risk. Simply paint over them to help ensure the fibres are sealed within.

Friable asbestos refers to materials containing asbestos that can be crumbled or crushed. Generally this form of asbestos was used in industrial applications such as pipe lagging and asbestos rope or cloth. However, bonded asbestos can become friable when it the material it is bonded to becomes broken, such as when asbestos-containing concrete has holes drilled in it. Friable asbestos may only be removed by a trained and licenced specialist with a friable asbestos licence.

Warning signs of asbestos-related diseases include:

  • shortness of breath, wheezing and hoarseness
  • coughing up bloody fluid
  • persistent painful coughing which worsens with time
  • chest pain and tightness
  • difficulty swallowing
  • swelling around the face and neck
  • lack of appetite
  • losing weight
  • excessive tiredness
  • anaemia

Asbestos Awareness month

Many Australian cities are getting on-board with this year’s Asbestos Awareness Month, urging homeowners and tradesmen to educate themselves about the risks of during home renovations and demolitions when they accidentally expose themselves or others to asbestos fibres.

The Asbestos Awareness Month is supported by the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, and will be overseen by WorkCover, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and wall and floor construction specialists James Hardie.

This will be the second year the awareness month has run after its launch in 2013. In 2011, the Asbestos Education Committee ran an education campaign in New South Wales in cooperation with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, and following its success the two organisations went on to run a national campaign, Asbestos Awareness Week in 2012.

When removing things like asbestos concrete roofing, the website advises relying on licenced removalists, as there is a history of people dying or suffering serious injury after falling through asbestos cement roofs when they underestimated how brittle the material was.

What to be aware of

Home maintenance can be particularly risky. Asbestos fibres are particularly dangerous when they are disturbed, such as during home renovations. Once airborne they can be breathed in, or settle on other surfaces and become ingested and while greater quantities of fibres are more dangerous than smaller quantities, there is no safe level of exposure.

Asbestos products were often used in wet areas of homes, such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundries, however it is not possible to tell whether a material contains asbestos using sight alone.

People intending to do home maintenance or renovations should be aware of the risks and take action to protect themselves. Measures like an asbestos assessment can identify potential risks and are the first step to removing it safely.

“Removing asbestos is a dangerous and complicated process best carried out by professionals who are licenced having completed the required training,” the Asbestos Awareness Month website says.

“If you suspect you have asbestos in your home, don’t cut it! don’t drill it! don’t drop it! don’t sand it! don’t saw it! don’t scrape it! don’t scrub it! don’t dismantle it! don’t tip it! don’t waterblast it! don’t demolish it! And whatever you do… don’t dump it!” the website says.

Asbestos contaminated materials require special care when being disposed of, as they cannot simply be dumped or buried and each state has its own set of regulations about how they should be handled. Any decision to remove asbestos-tainted material must take these legal issues into account.

For more information contact the AlertForce team

Top 10 Deadliest Jobs in Australia

So many things can go wrong on the job. You may strain muscles and tear ligaments in any line of work that requires movement, but some industries present much bigger dangers. If your job requires travel or your job site is on the highway, you are risk of being run over. You can fall from great heights, get trampled by animals or light up in a chemical explosion.

A recent study completed by finder.com.au surveyed all of the injuries and deaths suffered in 2012 to determine a list of the 10 deadliest jobs in Australia. If you or someone you love works in any of the following fields, make sure you pay close attention to safety standards for your own protection and that of your colleagues.

 

#1: Transportation Workers

This includes truck drivers, postal workers making deliveries and all workers employed in storage and warehousing within the transport industry. This industry reported the highest number of deaths out of all industries in Australia in 2012. This is likely due to the fact that there are so many things that can go wrong when you are out on the open road. While you can control your own behaviours to ensure safety, you are always at the mercy of other drivers.

#2: Agricultural Workers

This includes anyone working in theagriculture, fishing and forestry fields. There are so many perks to working out in the wild with Mother Nature, but that also exposes you to wild animals, elements of the weather and other dangers. With more than 50 work-related deaths reported in 2012, this industry was a close second for the deadliest industry in Australia.

#3: Construction Workers

It isn’t surprising to see construction in the top five deadliest jobs of Australia. In fact, many people would list it as number one if it weren’t for the statistical backing of this research. The construction industry can expose you to a variety of dangers from hazardous chemicals, extreme heat and cold or great heights. You may even encounter live electrical wires and hidden ground wires, depending on your job site and duties. This is why safety is so critical for every worker on a construction site.

#4:  Manufacturing Workers

There were far more injuries reported in the manufacturing field than the transportation and agricultural fields combined, but the death rates are higher in those other fields. This makes manufacturing less deadly, but it is still quite dangerous. You are at heightened risk for injury when working in this field due to picking up heavy loads, operating heavy machinery, working near hazardous waste or chemicals and trusting colleagues to follow safety protocol.

#5: Public/Government Administration Workers

This category includes workers employed in safety and defence for the government or public works companies as well as police officers working the streets. While there were only 13 deaths reported in 2012, that is enough to squeeze this industry into the top five deadliest Australian workforces. There are known risks to working in law enforcement, but other workers within this field may find themselves at risk for auto accidents and other dangers as well.

#6: Mining Workers

According to Safe Work Australia, 21 of the 36 deaths reported in the mining industry between 2007 and 2012 involved vehicle accidents. Other fatalities included falls from great heights and strikes by falling objects. From falling down a mine shaft to ducking as heavy debris rains down unexpectedly, there is a lot to watch out for in this industry.

#7: Retail Workers

How can working retail put your life in danger? There were six deaths reported in this industry in 2012, which is more than you may expect but not quite high enough to make the evening news. While you may not deal with toxic waste or climb to great heights in this industry, you do deal with the public daily. Your job may also require you to lift and manoeuvre heavy boxes or drive in heavy traffic or in warehouse environments.

#8: Skilled Trade Workers

You could put this industry at number seven on the list with retail workers, since both industries reported six deaths in 2012. This category includes scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants and other white-collar employees. Some jobs have a higher risk for injury and death than others. For instance, a scientist working in a lab with chemicals is much more likely to experience a potentially-deadly incident than a lawyer sitting behind a desk completing paperwork.

#9: Wholesale Trade Workers

This industry places many workers in large warehouses and manufacturing facilities, so there are flying objects to watch out for and great heights to climb. In some settings, you may also work alongside dangerous chemicals that can cause injury or death in the case of a leak or explosion. There were five deaths in this industry in 2012, and many of those involved driving accidents and falling objects.

#10: Electrical, Gas, Water and Waste Services Workers

Many of the deaths reported in 2012 for this industry involved traffic accidents. This reflects the amount of time that many technicians spend out in the field, providing service customers, maintaining equipment and restoring service after natural disasters. There were 530 injuries reported for the industry in 2012, and that is lower than what you may expect for an industry that places so many workers in high-activity roles. If this is your industry, you may be safer out there than you expected, especially when compared with some of the stats from other industries placed higher up on this list.

Now that you are aware of the deadliest career fields in Australia, don’t rush to pack up your tool belt and find a new direction for your life. These death rates are far lower than they were in previous years for many industries. This is a reflection of the progress taken by implementing and enforcing stricter safety protocols for companies and employees. Brush up on your safety knowledge and make sure you follow protocol so that you are as safe as possible even if your industry does fall on this list.

Sources: http://www.smh.com.au/national/10-deadliest-jobs-i​n-australia-20141019-118cnj.html
http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/

$1 Billion Bill for Asbestos Contamination Case

Clean-up for Mr Fluffy houses could cost $1 billion

Solving the problem of homes contaminated with asbestos in New South Wales will not come cheap, according to ACT Government statements to the Canberra Times, which put the cost of buying the contaminated houses for demolition as high as $1 billion.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher told ABC News the state would need to buy the approximately 1,000 contaminated houses in order to demolish them, and that she had already begun receiving valuations from affected owners, with some coming in at upwards of $1 million.

More than 1,000 houses in the south of New South Wales had their roof cavities filled with loose-fill asbestos by the Mr Fluffy company during the 1960s and 70s (Mr Fluffy stopped operating in 1979). While the first negative health effects of asbestos were discovered in 1899, Australia did not start regulating it until the late 1970s, with white asbestos finally banned in 2003.

The ACT government is currently in talks with the Commonwealth Government, she said, and was also looking at recouping as much as $700 million of the costs by selling the land on after the houses had been demolished.

“There is an issue about cash flow and there is an issue, if we proceed with a demolition program, how fast people would want to relinquish their homes and move out,” she said. “The true cost will not be known until we finish the program.”

The fate of the occupants is also raising concerns, as despite the contamination many still have outstanding mortgages that need to be paid. This can cause strife when families need to move out and have trouble paying both rent for their new accommodation and their existing mortgage payments.

The ACT government has announced an emergency support package of up to $10,000 per household with an extra $2,000 per dependent child, to help those living in Mr Fluffy houses move out. To qualify, they must have been advised by an asbestos assessor that they needed to leave.

Grants of $1,000 are also available for those still living in contaminated homes who have been advised to destroy contaminated items.

Government was warned of contamination 25 years ago

The Australian Commonwealth was given expert medical advice in 1988 on the health risks that houses insulated with Mr Fluffy asbestos posed, say the Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action group, citing documents obtained through freedom of information legislation requests.

The group says that the Commonwealth had received reports from both occupational health academic Dr David Douglas and the National Health and Medical Research Council concerned that more deaths would ensue if people lived in houses insulated with Mr Fluffy.

Dr Douglas told the Canberra Times that the Mr Fluffy contamination was “a public health asbestos problem far greater than any documented elsewhere in the world” and that exposure levels to the fibres by those who had been hired to install the insulation were “likely to have been as high as any ever recorded”.

The reports also raised concerns that children were more vulnerable to contracting mesothelioma (a form of cancer in the lining of the lungs or other organs) from exposure to asbestos fibres. Asbestos is a class-1 carcinogen, a category it shares with arsenic, plutonium, mustard gas and formaldehyde.

The government of 1988 was preparing to remove the insulation from the ceilings of over 1,000 homes in a five-year, $100 million program. However, this program failed to remove all the asbestos from the affected houses.

Although the program was carried out, it has been discovered that the asbestos insulation was not removed from 12 houses and many of the houses that were cleared have been found to still be contaminated by residual asbestos. Owners now await a decision from the ACT and Commonwealth Governments on whether to demolish the houses.

Professor Bruce Armstrong, who was Director and Professor of Epidemiology and Cancer Research at the National Health and Medical Research Council at the time, told the Canberra Times that it was known then that asbestos had escaped some houses’ roofs and contaminated the living spaces.

The risk of developing mesotheliuma was 25 times higher for those living in Mr Fluffy homes than the base population, he said, rising from 26 deaths per million to 650.

“It should be noted that the National Research Council’s estimates were based on exposure to mixed asbestos fibres including chrysotile which carries a lower risk of mesothelioma than does amosite. Thus the risk in the Canberra houses would be likely to be greater than the above estimates would suggest,” he said.

In his report, Professor Armstrong had advised the government to quickly remove the asbestos from both the roofs and living spaces, also pointing out that residents would be anxious if they thought they’d be exposed to the carcinogen, fearing for both for their health and the future of their property.

“Anxiety and fear are major causes of disability. The levels of both will rise the longer people continue to live in the asbestos insulated homes,” he said.

Founder of the Fluffy Owners and Residents’ Action Group Brianna Heseltine told the Canberra Times that anxiety and stress levels were “off the charts” and that she did not see many options for the government.

“They either decide that there is an acceptable death toll among the Mr Fluffy owner and resident population, or they come together to eliminate the risk,”

It defied belief, she said, that the New South Wales government had not re-evaluated its stance on the danger of the fibres, which was that they weren’t a threat so long as they weren’t disturbed. Dr Douglas’ report, she said, raised the risk that the asbestos could escape through the tiles and that damage to homes caused by wind, water and fire could also raise exposure levels.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Air New Zealand’s Epic Safety Video

Air New Zealand’s Epic Safety Video shows it’s audience that safety doesn’t always have to be serious, it can be fun too once you understand the risks.

As the official airline of Middle-earth, Air New Zealand has gone all out to celebrate the third and final film in The Hobbit Trilogy – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Starring Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson; we’re thrilled to unveil The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

What do you think?

Paralympians inspire safety at work [VIDEO]

Transcript

Working at heights training and other OHS programs are vital for reducing the risk of injuries in Australian workplaces. A fall from height can often result in serious injuries, such as paralysis.

Because of the high rates of accidents in local businesses, some of Australia’s most inspiring athletes have signed an alliance to help increase safety awareness.
The Australian Paralympic Committee has partnered with the Safety Institute of Australia in order to deliver targeted messages directly to workers. Paralympians will be travelling the country, sharing their real-life injury experiences with workers.

It is hoped the stories these athletes can share regarding their own struggles and rehabilitation will create a more tangible impact on OHS strategies than traditional training.

Allowing those who have sustained workplace injuries to share their experiences is just one way employers can boost OHS standards. Another is working at heights training from AlertForce.

Where can asbestos be found in the home?

Asbestos was a common building material in Australia prior to the 1990s. Beneficial for fire, sound and water proofing, this material was used extensively when building and renovating homes and commercial properties across the country.

This means that many houses built before 1990 therefore contain asbestos materials – posing a risk for any homeowner or professional undertaking renovations or demolition.

Understanding the risk of asbestos in the home is vital for ensuring families and workers are not accidentally exposed to this deadly material. A key consideration is engaging the services of a qualified professional – who has successfully completed asbestos assessment training – to conduct testing and appraisals before any work is undertaken on older homes.

For small jobs, however, it may not be reasonable to invite a professional in your home. In these situations, it is important that you are aware of the potential risks.

If your home or a property you are renovating was built prior to 1990, here are the six key areas where asbestos materials may be present:

  • The bathroom

As asbestos was often used as waterproofing and insulation, it is unsurprising that your bathroom is one of the most significant locations likely to contain this material.

The most common areas for asbestos to be present include the walls, ceilings and floors – particularly if cement sheeting was used during construction.

Another space to be aware of is the insulation around pipes and hot water heaters. In its friable form, asbestos was often sprayed onto pipes to protect against heat loss – making this a key concern for renovators and plumbers.

  • Living areas

If the property contains a fireplace, this is one location that is likely to contain asbestos. The product was proven to slow the effects of flames, making it an ideal fireproofing material. However, if the product was to burn, the resulting ash and dust would be a serious risk to health and safety if inhaled.

It is also recommended to be mindful of the total fire and smoke system, including the flue pipes.

Another location to consider is underneath the floors and within the roof space, as asbestos could have been used to insulate in these areas.

  • Kitchen

As a heat and waterproofing material, asbestos was often used in the kitchen splashbacks – that is, the panels around kitchen sinks and draining boards.

Additionally, asbestos will likely be present in the roof, walls and under the flooring. If your kitchen contains vinyl flooring, the material was often used as backing – so keep this in mind if you are ripping up old tiles or vinyl.

  • Outdoors

Due to the insulating and waterproofing materials of asbestos, this product was commonly used in exterior cladding. Be mindful of walls and roofs made from imitation brick cladding, concrete and even flat, patterned and corrugated sheeting.

Fibro homes are the most at risk of asbestos exposure, as this form of building material tended to always contain asbestos in Australia. Another area to consider is the guttering around your home, as asbestos fibres can collect here following storms.

In the backyard, any fencing and sheds built from similar exterior materials are also likely to contain asbestos products. Fences were built using asbestos up until the 1990s, with many constructed using “Super Six” fencing, according to the Queensland Asbestos Management Services.

  • Vehicles

Your home is not the only area where asbestos may have been used in the past. Mechanics and vehicle owners also need to be aware of the risks in their automobile.

Asbestos was used extensively in the automotive industry, with a ban on the products not introduced until December 2003. This means that if your car was manufactured prior to 2004, you could be at risk.

You need to take care when carrying out maintenance on the brakes, clutches or gaskets in particular. Any items installed or purchased before 2004 could contain asbestos fibres, creating a significant risk to your health and wellbeing.

If these parts become damaged in any way, you should take the vehicle to a trained and qualified professional as soon as possible and inform them of the asbestos risk.

  • Electric meter board

Not only could asbestos protect against water, heat and fire, it was also often used as an electrical insulation. Asbestos was added to other materials in the manufacture of electrical backing in a similar way to the creation of asbestos cement sheeting.

According to Ausgrid, electrical meter boards installed before 1988 may contain asbestos materials. Another important clue is the colour of your board, as relevant electrical boards were typically black.

The meter boards may also be stamped with one of several product names – Lebah, Ausbestos, Miscolite and Zelemite. Otherwise, it could have a caution sticker placed on or inside the box.

When employing an electrician to work on your board, it is important that you make them aware of the potential asbestos risk.  You should also discuss the work that is required and how they will manage the potential risk of exposure for themselves, you and your family.

Additionally, if working as an electrician in Australia, it is important to undertake asbestos awareness training to ensure you can identify and respond to deadly materials. This online course will give skills and knowledge to understand your risks and control the hazards related to your work.

Asbestos awareness training

With asbestos such a significant threat in Australia, it is important that you are able to identify the material in all locations within the home.

For those working in any trades related to plumbing, construction and electrical work, asbestos can be a very real hazard present each time you pick up your tools. For this reason, it is vital that you and your employees complete the necessary asbestos awareness training.

This course is offered online by AlertForce and works as an introduction to this crucial section of work health and safety (WHS) standards. To obtain a basic knowledge of asbestos in Australia and confidently put measures in place to reduce your risks, you should talk to the AlertForce team today.

Are you ready for Safe Work Australia Month? [VIDEO]

Transcript

We all know how important occupational health and safety strategies are in Australian workplaces. In an effort to boost awareness and encourage more businesses to adopt these life-saving practices, Safe Work Australia has launched its preparations for this year's safety month.

Safe Work Australia Month will be held in October this year. The theme for 2014 is Work Safe, Home Safe, which reminds us that our families are the most important reason for OHS standards.

If you want to get involved in safety month this year, you can consider taking part in one of our OHS training programs or signing up to become a safety ambassador in your community.

For more information on the workshops and events scheduled next month, visit SafeWorkAustralia.gov.au.

 

Third annual Mesothelioma Registry released [VIDEO]

Transcript

Asbestos exposure is a very serious problem in Australia, with people in a range of occupations facing potential contact with this deadly material during the course of their employment.

For employers, asbestos awareness and removal training is one of the best methods of mitigating the risk of exposure in the workplace.

To help workers understand the risks, Safe Work Australia – together with Comcare – have released the third annual Australian Mesothelioma Registry report.
According to the report, 575 people were newly diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013. More than two-fifth of these patients are male, with 80 per cent being over 60 years of age.

Asbestos exposure continues to be a problem in Australia, with 60.9 per cent of workers surveyed by Safe Work Australia having experience possible or probable exposure in 2013.

For more information on asbestos awareness training, talk to AlertForce today.

WHS News Recap – WHS obligations [VIDEO]

Transcript

When dealing with work health and safety in the workplace, it is vital that you understand your obligations as a manager, director or officer.

The recent changes to the Work Health and Safety Act have meant that the company is no longer held primarily responsible for accidents, injuries and fatalities. This responsibility has also been extended to cover business officers and senior managers.

The ACT became the first Australian state to prosecute an individual under these new regulations. In a case involving the electrocution of a dump truck driver in 2012, the ACT Work Safety Commissioner identified a number of failings regarding the company director's responsibilities.

When the proceedings continue in December this year, the company officer is facing a potential $300,000 penalty. This shows just how important it is for directors and managers to understand their obligations, including the provision of relevant OHS training and personal protective equipment.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

WHS News Recap – Working at Heights [VIDEO]

Transcript

August is National Tradies’ Health Month, which means now is the best time to consider the Work Health and Safety risks that face tradespeople in Australia every day.

Working at heights is a common OHS hazard among tradespeople, with many individuals required to climb ladders and enter roof spaces to complete their work in the trades. With around 10 per cent of all work-related injuries caused by a fall from height, it is easy to see how working at heights training can benefit our nation’s tradies.

And this consideration is becoming more important, as the number of tower blocks and apartment buildings being raised across Australia continues to climb. Population growth is driving demand for more space-efficient housing solutions, which is in turn influencing a need for trained construction workers.

When individuals are working above ground on any project, having the right protection in place is key. Without training and fall-arrest systems, employers risk substantial fines or even injuries and fatalities on site.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

Asbestos Monthly News Round Up: August 2014

Asbestos awareness and removal is a vital consideration in Australia, as products containing the deadly fibres are discovered each day.

The country’s extensive history with asbestos has made this material a serious threat to homeowners and employees in many industries. It is important, therefore, that Australians know what trends and discoveries are affecting buildings and work across the country.

Here are just five recent headlines that shed some light on how asbestos continues to impact on local and international operations.

NSW joins asbestos campaign

As the campaign to remove loose-fill asbestos from home in the ACT continues, the NSW government has come on board, offering free inspections to any home built before 1980 in high-risk areas.

Thus far, NSW has lagged behind the ACT in terms of addressing the “Mr Fluffy” crisis, claiming that the asbestos was safe as long as fibres were undisturbed.

However, as the campaign to demolish affected ACT homes moves forward, NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet announced the state would conduct health assessments in affected homes to make a better informed decision.

“The NSW government is absolutely committed to ensuring the health and safety of all citizens in this state,” Mr Perrottet said in an August 15 statement.

“This commitment stands when it comes to the issue of asbestos.”

Fronting the campaign is the NSW Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA). This organisation is chaired by WorkCover’s Acting General Manager Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy.

“While the investigation will help determine the extent of properties that may be impacted it is important to remember that the risk of exposure to asbestos in buildings containing loose-fill asbestos is likely to be very low if the asbestos is undisturbed and sealed off,” Mr Dunphy explained.

He added that sprayed asbestos insulation is a “highly hazardous” product, and should not be disturbed by homeowners or workers who have not undertaken asbestos removal training.

“Only qualified tradespeople with training in suitable asbestos control measures can work in any areas identified as containing asbestos.”

Garden mulch asbestos contamination discovered

mulchA recent asbestos scare has seen a number of Bundaberg residents unintentionally putting their homes and gardens at risk.

Many locals purchased garden mulch from the Bundaberg Regional Council rubbish tip. Unfortunately, a resident last month discovered small pieces of asbestos present in the product.

After sending the product away for testing, the tip continued to sell the mulch until the results were returned. This meant that dozens of residents had time to purchase and use the contaminated product.

A spokesperson from the council explained to NewsMail that residents who had bought the mulch were being contacted and offered assistance. The council planned to send a qualified professional to each home to test gardens and undertake any necessary decontamination.

Since the incident, measures have now been put in place to obtain contact details for those purchasing the council’s mulch, as well as improving monitoring of what is being dumped. Asbestos products are not normally allowed in the affected tip site, which means that material has likely been incorrectly disposed of.

Anyone concerned about their garden should contact the Bundaberg Regional Council on 1300 883 699.

Drive for education in Wollongong

The Wollongong City Council has pushed for increased asbestos education for residents. In addition to publishing a list of approved and licenced removalists, the council will also release an asbestos education program.

Developed by the Asbestos Education Committee, these measures will ensure that local residents are aware of their responsibilities regarding asbestos assessment and removal.

“All of the councillors were unanimous in expressing their concerns about the effects of asbestos on people’s health and believed council should and could do more to protect the health of Wollongong residents,” Councillor Jill Merrin told the Illawarra Mercury on August 10.

Unlicensed asbestos removal results in fines around the world

A number of recent court cases have seen unlicensed removalists be landed with heavy fines. While these trials were located overseas, they each demonstrate the serious nature of unauthorised asbestos handling.

In particular, an American man from Woodbridge, New Jersey has been given five years in prison for undertaking unlicensed asbestos removal in schools, homes, churches and pre-school centres.

The man came under investigation after authorities discovered asbestos dust and material had been left in a day care facility he had been charged to clear.

“[He] exhibited tremendous greed and callousness with his unlicensed and unsafe asbestos removal, putting the health of young children at risk so that he could turn a profit,” acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement.

Another case in the United States has seen a man from Lebanon, Oregon fined more than US$13,000 for allowing an unlicensed individual to undertake an asbestos project on his home.

Issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, fines regarding unauthorised asbestos work are handed out regularly to property owners and businesses. This particular fine was followed by a $8,800 penalty issued to a cafe in the same area that engaged the services of an unlicensed contractor.

This shows that it is important not just for removalists to access the appropriate licences, for also for homeowners to ensure they hire the right people to undertake asbestos-related work.

Unlawful demolitions a problem in Rockdale

The unauthorised demolition of a home in Bardwell Park, NSW is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to unlicenced renovations, according to the Rockdale Council.

While the owners of this particular property were given a stop-work order and a clean-up notice, a spokesperson from the council claims there are “dozens and dozens” of homeowners who are working on their homes without approval.

These individuals are not only putting themselves at risk, but also creating hazards for the health of neighbours and workers by potential asbestos contamination.

The home in this particular instance was over 70 years old, which means it is very likely it contained asbestos products, as reported by The Leader on August 15.

A suggestion raised by locals is for approved and assessed demolitions to be given official notices to be displayed prominently on the site. This will help the community identify illegal works, and should boost the number of unauthorised projects the council is informed of and able to stop.

The Rockdale Council has reissued warnings regarding older homes, particularly those that may contain asbestos materials. Residents who are planning renovations or demolition should engage a suitably licenced individual to assess the asbestos risk and, if required, carry out the removal.

Non-compliance with the clean-up notice could result in a fine up to $1 million for a business and $250,000 for an individual.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

WHS News Recap – Traffic Management [VIDEO]

Transcript

Traffic management training is a serious work health and safety consideration for businesses across almost every industry. However, some sectors are more at risk than others, according to recent headlines from around Australia.

In particular, audits of mining companies in Tasmania in recent months have revealed troubling gaps in OHS standards. With safety inspectors overworked and underpaid, concerns have been raised regarding the efficiency of monitoring and controlling hazards.

Mining vehicles often reach immense size and weight, so preventing collisions is vital to reducing the number of fatalities in the industry. Fortunately, this is where comprehensive traffic management training can help.

Another area of significant concern is forklift safety in the manufacturing and warehousing industries. A Perth company was recently fined $30,000 when two untrained employees were injured after a forklift toppled over.

Operating a forklift is a high-risk occupation, so it is important that workers access all the necessary permits and training before jumping behind the wheel.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

WHS News Recap – Confined Spaces [VIDEO]

Transcript

Confined spaces can pose many work health and safety risks, due to dangerous atmospheres and limited entry and exit points.

This is why it is important for employers to understand the hazards their workforce could be facing, particularly in relation to accidents, injuries and fatalities in confined spaces.

Unfortunately, a recent case in Victoria has seen an employer fined for a second time regarding a fatal confined spaces incident in 2010.

Originally, the company was fined $80,000 for work health and safety breaches when a worker was overcome by carbon dioxide while moving stock in a confined space. With the right level of confined spaces training, the individual may have been able to identify the hazard and vacate the area before inhaling a fatal dose.

This year, the same company now may have to pay damages to another employee, who suffered anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the accident.

This incident demonstrates how vital it is to provide employees with a safe working environment in which to complete their duties.

For more information on this or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

Road surfacing safety a primary concern

Those undertaking a traffic management and control training program may be taking the first step towards a career in road construction and surfacing. Creating quality road infrastructure is a massive local industry, worth over $280 billion, according to Roads Australia.

With more than 817,000 kilometres of road network already laid across the country, maintaining the existing roads and building new network connections takes a lot of work. This is why civil contracting roles are always in demand, with more than 70,000 individuals employed in this sector in 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed.

Unfortunately, this essential industry can pose many risks to employees’ health and safety. When working on or near public roads, there are always traffic hazards present. Vehicles are one of the leading causes of work-related injuries and fatalities, according to Safe Work Australia.

Because of this, working near traffic has been defined as a high-risk activity, under the current Work Health and Safety Act.

As with any high-risk industry, understanding and controlling the hazards is a crucial consideration. Fortunately, with the right level of training and education, workers can easily minimise WHS risks. This is particularly important for traffic controllers – who are required to work directly with both civil and public vehicles.

Understanding the risks

In regards to addressing the risks traffic controllers face, industry authority, the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA) has published an article in the most recent Asphalt Review dispatch.

The publication highlighted the importance of workshops and training for traffic controllers, citing a number of issues that may be influencing high injury and accident rates.

There have been a number of incidents that demonstrate the high-risk nature of surfacing work, particularly in regards to traffic managers. AAPA spokesperson Robert Busuttil pointed to one tragic day in November 2010, when two controllers were killed in separate events only hours apart.

On this day, a 45-year-old worker and a 23-year-old man within his first week on the job were both struck and killed by reversing trucks. Both men were employed as traffic controllers at the time of their death.

Following these accidents, the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) released a report looking into the WHS failings present in the road surfacing sector.

The key concerns identified in the 2012 dispatch included:

  • A lack of hazard awareness and induction training to both controllers and the persons responsible for creating Traffic Control Plans (TCPs)
  • Failing to update TCPs to specific jobs and locations
  • TCPs not inclusive of indirect hazards and how roadwork activities can affect a site

These dangerous issues are causing major hazards, as traffic controllers continue to work with limited knowledge of the risks they face each day. Additionally, managing the public and internal traffic can be difficult when not given an adequate or up-to-date control plan.

Addressing these concerns is a crucial consideration for any person working in or planning to enter the road surfacing industry.

Education is the key

Traffic controllers are a vital part of any civil construction project, with their work protecting the lives of their colleagues and the public. However, it is important that individuals employed in this role do not forget their own safety.

Fortunately, increasing the awareness and understanding of personal and site-wide hazards is simple when the right training and education is in place.

In this regard, the AAPA has developed a new workshop to improve WHS outcomes on civil construction sites. The Road Surfacing Awareness for Traffic Controllers course is aimed at improving the recognition of the hazards associated with related projects.

This important training program will include competencies relevant to:

  • Unique risks traffic controllers could experience – such as proximity to hot materials and working on public roads
  • Factors that can affect traffic control measures – including the introduction of work-related vehicles
  • Identifying issues which may compromise work quality and lead to extended project time and increased exposure to risks

Launched this month, the safety and awareness program is designed to help any worker who may be required to manage a traffic control plan. Additionally, supervisors and those responsible for approving or auditing these schemes can also benefit from the training.

Quality education from the beginning

Prior to undertaking employment in the construction, road surfacing or similar industry, individuals are encouraged to seek all necessary training. Rather than waiting until accidents and near-misses occur, undertaking a traffic control program as a preemptive measure can help mitigate potential risks.

In particular, any person who may be required to work as a traffic controller must access the mandatory traffic and pedestrian management and control training. Under state and federal legislation, all employers have a legal obligation to ensure only competent and adequately trained personnel are appointed as traffic controllers.

However, each state and territory is subject to different regulatory requirements. Understanding the specific courses and training needs in your area can be difficult. This is why it is recommended that you contact a registered training provider who can direct you to the most appropriate course for your needs.

This includes knowing when refresher training is required and which programs are needed prior to any work being undertaken. If you need any more information on traffic management and control programs, or want to access WHS training relevant to your industry, talk to the AlertForce team today.

AlertForce can help you meet your legislative requirements, as well as creating a training program that suits your role and WHS needs.

Asbestos dumping prompts call for education

A recent spate of illegal asbestos dumpings has highlighted the need for more awareness and control over this dangerous material.

On August 12, a large amount of asbestos was discovered strewn along the side of a busy road in North Rocks, NSW. This incident required hours of dedicated work safely contain and remove the material.

Several roads were closed as the clean-up was undertaken, and Council General Manger Dave Walker explained that it was difficult to tell just how much asbestos had been dumped. It appeared likely that the material has been deliberately thrown from the back of a truck, as it was spread across a 300m distance along three separate roads.

The council were taking this incident very seriously, and a full and thorough investigation is now underway. If caught, the individual responsible could face a fine up to $1 million and seven years in prison. Alternatively, if a business is found to be the source of this material, penalties would climb to $5 million.

"Asbestos dumpers are the most inconsiderate and reckless of all illegal rubbish dumpers – they put the long-term health of innocent people at risk," Mr Walker said.

Educating individuals and businesses on safe asbestos removal

While most people should now be aware of the dangers of asbestos material, it seems that many individuals are still practising unsafe dumping and removal. Unfortunately, this is not only putting themselves at risk, but also their families, friends and members of the public.

When an untrained person attempts to remove asbestos from their home or business, it is possible that the deadly fibres could become attached to their clothing, skin or hair. If the individual then heads home without changing their outfit, they are unintentionally exposing everyone they come into contact with to the material.

This means that your family and friends could be inhaling asbestos fibres all because you failed to undertake safe removal procedures. This is just one reason why it is vital that any person who may be required to work with or near asbestos is provided with the necessary asbestos awareness training.

As we head into spring, it is likely that the warmer weather could encourage more homeowners to start DIY projects. Home renovations and amateur construction projects are a hot bed for asbestos exposure, with untrained members of the public unaware of the potential danger.

This is why a number of licensed asbestos removal contractors and disposal facilities across Australia have launched a campaign to spread awareness.

"Exposure to asbestos is very dangerous there are many risks involved in the removal but if people are given the correct procedure to follow and the right equipment to wear there will not be any problem," explained Justin Castelluzzo, part-owner of Adelaide-based waste management company, Metro Waste.

"We tell every person that comes to the yard what's involved in correct asbestos removal and disposal and we still get a number of enquiries each day regarding the process."

While educating the public regarding the danger of asbestos works to a point, it is also vital businesses dedicated to the removal of the deadly material access all the necessary licences and training.

Often, companies and individuals rely on official removalists to undertake the process of containing and disposing of asbestos in the home or worksite. If these organisations are staffed by workers who have not obtained adequate education, permits or licences then significant hazards are likely.

How to become a qualified asbestos removalist

If you are interested in working as a qualified asbestos removalist, or have launched a business with this intention, it is vital that you understand how to access the necessary qualifications and licences.

Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations, there are two key licences required by those removing asbestos products. Essentially, the Class A licence allows individuals to work with all kinds of asbestos, while the Class B is limited to non-friable material only.

These levels can be obtained by accessing the relevant asbestos removal training through a registered training provider, such as AlertForce.

Other crucial considerations are the asbestos supervisory licence and the assessors qualification. In some cases, asbestos removal projects will require a supervisor to be present at all times, while others may only need a qualified person on standby.

Conducting asbestos assessments with the intention of removal requires a person to hold specialist skills related to identification of hazards and control of air monitoring. Without the relevant Level 5 qualification, individuals should not be employed in this role.

More information on these particular obligations can be found at Safe Work Australia, or through your state's affiliate authority.

To access the necessary asbestos removal training to get yourself started in this career, talk to the AlertForce team today.

Government body fined after workplace death

Traffic management training is an important consideration not just for employees, but also any members of the public. Vehicles of any size or shape can pose serious risks to people's health and safety, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure these hazards are mitigated.

When contractors are engaged to carry out high risk tasks, this issue becomes even more vital. A person conducting a business or undertaking cannot safely assume that a contractor will perform the necessary hazard checks. It is therefore up to the employer to ensure the individual has received the necessary training and understands the correct risk management processes.

This was demonstrated recently when a local government council was fined after a bystander was struck and killed by earth-moving equipment on a landscaping site in Stirling, Western Australia.

Failure to keep the public safe

The accident, which occurred in November 2011, involved a contractor who has been hired by the council to undertake landscaping works outside a community centre.

In the same area, a group of individuals were clearing a shed. The contractor had repeatedly told these people to stay clear of the vicinity. Unfortunately, when the landscaping machinery was being reversed up an incline, it struck and killed a man from that group.

The Perth Magistrates Court found that the employer, the City of Stirling, had failed to ensure the contractor had completed risk assessments in the area before performing the work. Additionally, the obligation for an employer to satisfy itself that the contractor was adequately reducing risks was also not met.

Because of this, the Court fined the City of Stirling more than $20,000 in compensation and costs. This decision was reached after much deliberation, with the final order being laid on August 6.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch explained that the tragic death of the bystander should serve as a reminder to employers to ensure that safety measures are always in place.

"This is especially important when mobile plant such as bobcats are in use in and around public areas," he said in an August 6 statement.

"The case also provides a reminder that workplace safety is the responsibility of not only the contractor performing the work, but also the organisation that engages the contractor."

As the City of Stirling employed the contractor to carry out the landscaping work, it was then the obligation of the government officer overseeing the project to ensure a job safety assessment (JSA) had been carried out.

"It was not alleged that the City of Stirling's failure to require a JSA caused the man's death, but had the City taken these measures, the risk of harm would have been reduced or eliminated," Mr McCulloch said.

Traffic management in public areas

Traffic management and control is not only to ensure those operating vehicles and mobile machinery follow the rules onsite. This training is also vital for protecting pedestrians and avoiding preventable accidents involving members of the public.

In particular, pedestrian management is a vital component of any traffic control training course. While this is most important for projects undertaken in public areas, it can also be beneficial for on-site work to ensure visitors and bystanders are protected.

When construction, maintenance, landscaping or any other work is being carried out close to where you can reasonable expect members of the public to occupy, it is vital that pedestrian controls are in place.

In the case above, the contractor had allegedly told the bystander to stay clear of the worksite. However, if physical boundaries had been in place, for example, the accident may not have occurred.

The very best solution for preventing traffic-related injuries and fatalities is to keep pedestrians and vehicles physically separated. This can be done by simply installing temporary barriers around workspaces. In the Western Australian case, mobile fencing could have been utilised to clearly mark where the worksite began.

However, in some circumstances this is not always possible. For instance, if the landscaping work required the contractor to move across the entire community centre grounds, it would not be reasonable for the complete area to be fenced-off.

Protecting the public with traffic management training

When physical barriers are not a reasonable solution, there are fortunately other options that can be put in place. In particular, any person operating a work-related vehicle near the public should be provided with traffic management training to ensure they understand the risks to themselves and others.

Another consideration could be to have a stand-by employee checking the area is clear before machinery is moved. In the case outlined above, the accident occurred when the equipment was reversing up an incline. It is possible that the bystander did not see or hear the machinery coming towards him, and was not visible to the operator.

In this case, simply having a spotter standing nearby could have ensured that both the member of the public and the driver were aware of each other.

Alternatively, the driver – knowing that people were nearby – could possibly have chosen to turn the machinery around. By reversing, the contractor potentially cut down his own field of vision and impacted on his ability to identify the risks and stop before the accident occurred.

There are many potential factors that could have resulted in a different outcome. Understanding how these influencers relate to your own undertaking is a crucial consideration. Fortunately, you can find out more information through comprehensive traffic management training.

To improve the safety at your site, get in touch with the AlertForce team to access training for you or your staff today.

WHS complaints rise in Queensland

New figures from the Queensland Work Health and Safety (WHS) authority show that the number of construction-related complaints has climbed significant over the past year.

This is according to an August 3 article published in The Sunday Mail, which revealed reports concerning safety breaches on local sites climbed to 2,765 for the 2013-14 financial year. In comparison, complaints reached just 2,092 in 2012-13 and 1,764 in 2011-12.

One of the key influencers driving the increased complaints is the growing public awareness of WHS standards. While in the past, the majority of complaints were issued from internal sources, recent years have seen nearby residents and passersby become more widely represented in the figures. According to The Sunday Mail, this could be because the popularity of shows such as The Block and House Rules, which commonly feature segments outlining safety procedures and awareness.

In addition to the rise in complaints issued, a WHS Queensland (WHSQ) representative has reveals that there were 10 workplace fatalities throughout the entire 2013-14 financial year. However, the current statistics show two people have died in work related incidents within a week.

One of the individuals was killed when the trench they were working in collapsed and engulfed them, while the second died after falling six metres on a construction site.

These incidents, and the WHS breaches that result in complaints, are demonstrations of the importance of correct safety procedures in workplaces. When policies are not present or not followed correctly, businesses can be hit with substantial fines or even experience serious accidents.

Making a WHS complaint in Queensland

For any individual who discovers a serious WHS breach, informing the proper authorities is vital for protecting the health and safety of employees and the public.

WHSQ supports this important process by offering an online complaint form as well as a direct phone line for those wishing to make a report. If an individual does not wish to reveal their identity, complaints can be made anonymously. This is important for any contractor or employee who may not feel comfortable reporting on their boss or colleagues.

Once a complaint has been received, WHSQ will review the details and take action depending on the nature of the breach. In many cases, this involves sending a Department of Justice representative to the site in question and ensuring those working in the area are aware of their obligations and best practice policies.

The Department of Justice inspectors issued more than 1,300 improvement notices in Queensland in the 2013-14 financial year. Around 750 projects were forced to halt their work due to non-compliant and high-risk activity.

Although the number of fines was down on previous years, 32 employers still received penalties of between $200 and $3,600 last year. The drop in overall fines issued is largely attributed to the change in philosophy by the Department of Justice. Now, the focus has been placed on working with builders and contractors to boost compliance prior to incidents being reported – rather than responding to accidents.

Addressing the rising complaints

With the number of complaints continuing to climb across Queensland's construction sites, the Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland has revealed plans for a 2014-17 action plan.

This initiative will target "critical risks/issues related to fatalities" within the construction industry, with a focus on traffic management, falls prevention, site supervising and mentoring of young workers.

Another important factor for employers and workers to consider is asbestos exposure, with issues related to the dangerous fibres making up more than a quarter (28 per cent) of total complaints.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to address these concerns in workplaces and construction sites across Australia. In fact, there are a few simple measures that can be put in place to mitigate the risk of serious WHS breaches and non-compliance.

What can employers do?

When responding to the high number of workplace complaints, employers working in high-risk industries – such as construction – probably already have policies in place to boost safety.

However, in some cases, a basic knowledge of the WHS standards may not be enough to avoid accidents and injuries. In particular, when employees are not continually supervised and reviewed, they could make changes to their work behaviours which fail to meet safety requirements.

This is why it is vital that employers regularly check up on their workers and keep them informed and aware of their changing WHS needs. Additionally, employers, supervisors and site managers should undertake the following standards to ensure that best practices are being followed at all times.

– Know the regulations and requirements

When you want your workers to follow correct WHS policies, it helps to hold a thorough understanding of these practices yourself.

It is therefore important that all leaders and stakeholders access the relevant education that can help boost WHS compliance. This could include contacting your local Work Safe Authority, or undertaking comprehensive WHS training.

– Educate your workers

As well as increasing your own understanding and knowledge, it is vital that you provide all relevant workers with the necessary training to protect themselves and others. By giving employees access to these qualifications, they are more likely to work within industry standards.

While some competencies may be more relevant than others, the construction industry is an area that requires a large number of skills to operate safely. For instance, most workers within the building sector will need some level of working at heights training throughout their career.

This is reflected in the high number of workplace fatalities that are related to falls and working at heights. Once an individual is working two metres off the ground, their risk of serious injury or death increases dramatically. With much in construction work involving roofs and tall structures, this is an important consideration for all industry employers.

– Have all necessary equipment available

In addition to accessing the necessary training and education for you and your workers, it is crucial that the worksite offers all necessary safety equipment and set-ups.

Many WHS complaints involve environmental and situational issues, such as ladders being set on uneven ground or scaffolding placed under live power lines. Additionally, a lack of personal protective equipment is also a common reason for complaint.

For instance, a worker climbing over a roof without a fall-arrest system in place may be grounds for an official WHS complaint. Alternatively, unstable or unsecured scaffolding may also be cause for alarm. 

Addressing these issues is easy, when employers invest in the right equipment and environmental reviews. However, knowing which systems would be most beneficial and being able to identify and address potential risks is vital.

With WHS training and reviews, employers can ensure that they and their workers understand these factors – significantly reducing their risk of accidents and injuries.

If you need more information on your WHS training requirements, or how to improve safety on your construction site, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Monthly News Roundup: July 2014

Another month has passed with serious asbestos revelations making headlines around the world. Staying up-to-date with asbestos-related news is an important consideration for any employer, as it helps increase awareness of the potential risks you and your employees could be facing.

With this in mind, here are four of the top asbestos-related revelations that dominated the news channels around the world in July.

Telstra terminates NBN asbestos subcontractors

Health and safety has become one of the defining features in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). With various risks and hazards present across the process, companies working on this vital project are encouraged to boost safety wherever possible.

This focus has led to a number of important policies, such as the introduction of mandatory NBN safety and awareness training for individuals working in particular roles.

Recently, major NBN employer Telstra has revoked accreditation of a number of subcontractors and individual workers, according to a July 28 article from The Australian.

"This decision was made after audits showed they were not meeting safety standards we ­expect for this type of work. These accreditation breaches were not limited to asbestos work, but included other issues such as traffic and pedestrian management," Telstra spokesperson Nicole McKechnie explained.

Last year, the rollout was delayed due to a series of asbestos scares, demonstrating the need for NBN individuals to undertake comprehensive asbestos awareness training.

More schools closed due to asbestos scares

Asbestos exposure is a serious hazard for many workers in Australia. Unfortunately, this risk can also affect people unrelated to their occupation – such as homeowners performing renovations.

Another major asbestos hazard is the historical use of the material in schools built across the country. This means that a significant number of children could be exposed at any time.

It seems that not a month can pass without another school being closed due to asbestos discoveries – and July was no different. In particular, Willetton Senior High School in Western Australia was closed down on July 22 in response to suspected asbestos.

"We've known Willetton is an old school and has been scheduled for major work as part of the rebuilding program," David Axworthy, a spokesperson from the Education Department told ABC Australia.

"The buildings that are to be demolished later in the year are routinely monitored and checked so during that routine inspection they found some broken ceiling tiles and other residue … that contained asbestos."

There are many schools facing potential asbestos risks, according to a 2013 government report, with several institutions in WA listed as needing immediate attention.

New threat in Gaza war

Residents in Gaza are not only facing the persistent threat of mortar shells and rockets. The war-ravaged southern communities are now being exposed to a secondary danger – asbestos.

A recent media report has picked up on the increased risk of asbestos inhalation, due to structures and buildings being destroyed in the fight.

Fortunately, the local councils are working hard to replace any asbestos roofs that may be in the line of fire. However, as shells continue to drop across the communities, the threat is becoming increasingly urgent.

"The problem is mainly with front-line communities, which are most vulnerable to rocket and mortar fire," Council Head Haim Yalin said, according to Middle Eastern news publication Haartz.

"Warehouses and other buildings also have asbestos roofs, but our first priority is to replace the roofs of residential structures."

Mr Yalin revealed that there are around 700 residences with asbestos roofs located along the Gazan perimeter. This means that any initiative to replace the dangerous materials will be a lengthy and consuming endeavour.

Former BHP worker wins asbestos damages case

A landmark case concluded in New South Wales last month, with a former BHP worker awarded more than $2 million in damages.

The ex-employee claimed that he was exposed to asbestos in the early 1980s due to negligence from his employer. The plaintiff is now suffering from terminal mesothelioma as a consequence of inhaling the fibres.

On July 31, the Dust and Diseases Tribunal found BHP guilty of negligence related to work health and safety standards. The Court then decided BHP would have to pay the worker $2.2 million in compensation.

"While today's verdict is a significant victory for Mr Dunning and his family, it does not take away from the fact that he is dealing with an incurable, terminal disease as a result of BHP's negligence," Joanne Wade, asbestos lawyer with Slater & Gordon expressed.

"We are extremely pleased that Mr Dunning can now move on and concentrate on spending his remaining time with his loved ones."

For more information on asbestos in Australia, check out our news feed. Get in touch with the AlertForce team to access a range of vital asbestos training programs.

OHS News Recap – NBN Safety and Awareness [VIDEO]

Transcript:

The National Broadband Network is being steadily rolled out across the country, with more Australian homes connected to the service every week.

As the project continues its campaign, regional workers may soon see job opportunities to land in their area. Overall, construction of the network is expected to employ 18,000 individuals, according to Deloitte.

The project to connect every Australian to fast broadband has started to infiltrate regional towns, with this activity expected to pick up this year. Over the past 12 months, 20,000 premises in remote and regional areas have been connected to the network. But there is still a lot of work to do.

Fortunately, those interested in taking part in the rollout, and working on sites in regional communities, can access the mandatory NBN safety and awareness training online through AlertForce.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

August is National Tradies’ Health Month

The health, safety and wellbeing of tradespeople in Australia is under the spotlight this month, as industry bodies launch the National Tradies' Health Month.

Throughout August, the Australian Physiotherapy Association – together with work boot manufacturer and supplier Steel Blue – will be supporting initiatives which raise awareness of the hazards in many trade industries. Of particular importance are musculoskeletal health issues, caused by lifting, slips, trips and falls.

"Too many tradies are injured on site every day, 80 per cent of injured workers in Australia are tradies and labourers," Steel Blue General Manager Ross Fitzgerald explained.

"We have been working closely with the Australian Physiotherapy Association to encourage a behaviour change amongst tradies, to make them more aware about the importance of health and safety, at work and home."

Trades can be the most dangerous occupations in Australia, with a vast and complex range of hazards present each time an individual commences work. Because of this, around 10 Victorian tradespeople are badly injured at work each day, according to WorkSafe Victoria. This means that 3,560 tradies sustain an injury that requires workers' compensation each year.

"The number of deaths, injuries and safety breaches prove that everyone – builders, contractors and workers – must do more to make sure workers get home to their families safely every night," WorkSafe Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove said.

According to Safe Work Australia, around 10 in every 100,000 workers claim compensation related to musculoskeletal disorders. Nearly a quarter of all roofers, labourers and plumbers experience back pain, muscle stress and strain from lifting equipment or slips, trips, and falls when handling materials.

"The injuries caused on sites are not always life threatening, but are often painful, costly and result in long periods off work," said Ms Cosgrove.

Unfortunately, when workers require time away from employment, mental health becomes another major issue among tradespeople. Statistics released on the official Tradies' Health website reveal that 18 per cent of injured workers sought mental health services after six months off work. After a year off, that number increased to 30 per cent.

What are the risks to tradies' health?

There are many potential risks to the health and safety of tradespeople in Australia. With these roles often playing a crucial factor in a number of industries, addressing every hazard can be challenging.

To help tradies and employers understand the risks facing tradespeople, here are five of the most common hazards.

  • Working at heights

Falls from roofs, ladders, scaffolding and other heights account for around 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities, according to WorkSafe Victoria.

Many trades-related occupations can require an individual to work above the ground. Every time a tradesperson climbs a ladder, they are putting themselves in danger of a serious injury or even death.

Fortunately, simply strategies can be put in place to avoid these accidents. In particular, employers should provide all at-risk individuals with necessary fall-arrest systems and working at heights training.

  • Asbestos exposure

When a tradesperson works on a building or structure that was built before 1990, there is a significant risk of being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres.

Each time a worker cuts into a wall, for example, the resulting dust could contain asbestos. If the individual was to then inhale the dust, they would forever be at risk of developing an asbestos-related lung condition.

It is important for all workers who may be working in environments that contain asbestos to access the necessary information and guidance. For instance, older buildings should have a register that indicates the presence of asbestos so workers can avoid dangerous areas.

Additionally, undertaking asbestos awareness training will ensure workers are able to monitor and identify asbestos fibres in any workplace – which is ideal for tradespeople who often move from site to site.

  • Electricity

Electricity is a major concern for some tradespeople, as their occupation may involve working directly with wires and other electrical equipment. For others, it is less of a persistent threat but can still pose a risk when working in certain locations.

Any tradesperson who may come into contact with electricity during the undertaking of their duties can follow a few simple practices to ensure their own safety. These include personally checking wires and equipment are not live before handling them and wearing the necessary protective equipment – such as thick gloves and rubber-soled boots. 

  • Heavy lifting

Musculoskeletal disease is one of the most common injuries reported among tradespeople, with the culprit usually being unsafe lifting procedures.

Back pain and muscle sprains are typical results of incorrect lifting, and these injuries can seriously affect a person's ability to continue physical work. If a tradie was to permanently injure their back, they could lose their entire income due to not being able to complete the tasks they are trained for.

It is therefore crucial that practices are put in place to promote safe lifting techniques, such as warming up and stretching before undertaking any strenuous labour. Whenever possible, physical lifting tasks should be avoided – employees need to understand when a crane, forklift or wheelbarrow is suitable.

Additionally, tradies need to be encouraged to ask for help. Some individuals may believe that asking for help would make them seem weak and unable to perform their job – however, seeking assistance is recommended and demonstrates an admirable knowledge of one's own limits.

  • Excessive noise

Tradespeople are often required to use loud equipment and machinery during the undertaking of their duties. For instance, an electrician may need to operate drilling equipment to access the wires in a structure.

Excess noise can also be a risk when operating a heavy vehicle or working close to other construction work. Unfortunately, once you feel pain the damage is already done, so it is important to put preventative measures in place.

Examples of this could be wearing earmuffs or plugs whenever you are using a hand drill or other loud piece of equipment. Noise-related hearing damage is permanent, so don't just put up with excessive sounds – talk to your employer or human resources department about the protection and policies you need. 

How can you get involved with National Tradies' Health Month?

There are a number of ways individuals and corporations can take part in National Tradies' Health Month. A variety of events are being held across Australia, raising awareness of the hazards tradespeople face and methods to control these risks. A list of the events can be found on Tradieshealth.com.au.

Alternatively, employers and tradespeople can register to host their own event – as well as access a range of WHS resources to share with staff. 

For a more unique and interactive approach to boosting hazard awareness, individuals can play the online game. The Australian Physiotherapy Association and Steel Blue have released this fun and informative game to encourage increased participation in WHS initiatives.

Need more information?

If you need more information regarding occupational health and safety in the trades, or would like to access a relevant training program, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Seven step action plan for small business safety

If you own and operate a small business in Australia, then it is your responsibility to ensure your employees are provided with a safe working environment.

Work-related injuries and accidents are a serious issue across many industries, with a significant number of fatalities and workers' compensation claims being lodged each week.

According to Safe Work Australia, almost 100 people had died in work-related incidents in 2014 by the end of July. This amounts to nearly one fatality every second day. Reducing this number is an important work health and safety (WHS) consideration for any Australian business owner, as even one preventable death is too many.

Fortunately, SafeWork SA has released a seven step safety guide and checklist for small businesses. By following this plan, employers and owners will more effectively understand and meet their obligations regarding Australian WHS standards.

This action plan includes practical advice on how to improve safety in the workplace, with general information that can apply to a vast range of industries and occupations.

Seven steps to safety

There are many ways an employer can meet their obligations as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). Safe Work Australia explains that, as far as is reasonable practical, the primary duty of a PCBU is to ensure the health and safety of workers (and visitors to the workplace) is not put at risk.

In particular, it is vital that business operations and conduct does not create unnecessary hazards. This is why the seven step process is crucial for any persons launching a startup enterprise or running an existing small business.

The guide, released on July 30, encourages employers to work with their workers when addressing potential risks in the workplace. Safety improvements can be implemented more efficiently and effectively if all employees are aware of their responsibilities and requirements.

Prior to commencing the seven step process, PCBUs should compare their current operations with the WHS snapshot. This document helps employers identify where there is room for improvement and which areas should be priorities.

Once this has been completed, the seven step action plan should be put in place.

1. Set up a safe workplace

The very first action you need to take as a small business owner is to ensure the working environment is supportive of WHS standards. This includes investing in quality machinery, mitigating trip hazards and supplying any necessary personal protective equipment.

This step can generally be achieved by engaging a Safe Work representative to review your site. Once the potential hazards have been identified, policies and protection can be enacted to prevent accidents.

Other PCBU responsibilities include installing WHS information sheets and reporting procedures, to ensure workers and visitors are aware of crucial risks and practices. A common example of this is to have evacuation procedures prominently displayed in the workplace, where both employees and the public can find it.

2. Consult

As well as engaging the services of an official representative, employers should involve their workers in the WHS process. In South Australia, this is a legal requirement under the WHS Act (2012).

Your employees often have first-hand knowledge of the potential hazards they face during business conduct, so they can provide valuable insight into your WHS policies.

Consulting with your workers is not only beneficial for you, but will ensure that every worker is aware of the risks in the workplace. This review and discussion should take place whenever business processes and practices change, as any minor adjustments can affect potential WHS hazards – putting uninformed workers at risk.

3. Manage hazards

Once you have identified and addressed the numerous hazards in the workplace, ongoing management policies need to be put in place.

Having procedures in place will ensure that workers continue to follow WHS standards, particularly as regular reviews are made.

4. Train and supervise

Training is one of the most vital factors in improve WHS outcomes, as misinformed and untrained employees can struggle to understand and adequately address their risks.

Your WHS training requirements will vary depending on the industry in which your business operates. However, it is the duty of the employer to know and access the correct courses and programs for their staff.

For instance, any business that involves handling or working near materials that may contain asbestos could benefit from asbestos awareness training.

As well as investing in the required education, employers need to ensure that adequate supervision is provided to monitor new workers and those undertaking unfamiliar tasks. A competent supervisor will ensure that safety policies are being followed and correct procedures are in place. 

5. Maintain safety

Once the required training and policies have been integrated into the business, employers need to regularly check that these processes are still being utilised and have remained relevant and effective.

Hazards and operations can evolve throughout the life of a business, which means that original WHS standards may not suffice for future risks. By carrying out regular reviews and maintenance, PCBUs can ensure best practice policies are in action at all times.

6. Keep records

Documenting injuries, incidents and near misses is an important legal requirement for any business. This includes recording any maintenance, inspections and tests you perform.

By keeping this information on file, you can respond when your Safe Work authority requests the reports – which may occur in the event of an accident. This will also make it easier for you to monitor health and safety in the workplace, so you can quickly and efficiently act when potential issues are identified.

7. Monitor and review

As your business grows and evolves, so too could the hazards. It is therefore vital that you regularly review and improve your WHS standards and policies to suit your changing business.

If you need any more information on monitoring WHS in your business, or would like to access the training your staff require, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

OHS News Recap – Working at Heights [VIDEO]

Transcript:

Working at heights training is an important consideration in many industries across Australia, but some sectors are more dangerous than others.

In particular, the high risk forestry industry recently announced plans to continue a partnership designed to improve worker safety and awareness. The New South Wales WorkCover authority has signed an ongoing agreement with the Forestry Corporation to provide training in areas such as working at heights, traffic management and driver safety.

Within the construction sector, high winds kept workers on their toes in Victoria and New South Wales earlier this month. As bad weather swept across the country, various WorkCover bodies issued warnings regarding working at heights and the dangers of structure collapse.

As winter continues to create havoc across Australia, and spring approaches, workers in the southern states in particular need to prepare for ongoing strong winds.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.
 

Safety audit reveals gaps in Tasmanian mines

Mining is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia, with employees at every level facing a range of potential work health and safety (WHS) hazards.

In fact, approximately 3 fatalities occurred per 100,000 workers in 2013. Although this was a great result for the industry, which has seen historical fatality rates reach up to 12.35 deaths per 100,000 employees, it still highlights the dangers present in this sector.

Sustaining WHS standards is therefore a serious consideration for any employer in the resources sector. Unfortunately, mining business owners in Tasmania have their work cut out for them, according to a recent audit conducted by the University of New South Wales' School of Management.

The independent report, commissioned last year and published this month, found that serious deficiencies have led to various safety incidents over recent months. Lead study author, Professor Michael Quilan explained that Tasmania's regulatory framework is "deficient in a number of regards".

"It's imperative critical gaps in existing rules be addressed because most, if not all, are pivotal to preventing fatal accidents," he explained in the audit.

In particular, Professor Quilan investigated the training, presence and pay of safety inspectors across the industry. His findings revealed serious shortfalls in the number of mining-qualified competent persons available on a full-time basis.

The industry stakeholders surveyed by Professor Quilan commonly identified training as an area where improvements are needed. For instance, several interviewees claimed that no inspectors were available who held specific training and knowledge for the unique hazards associated with coal mining.

A lack of succession planning could be the leading cause of this issue, with no adequate training or induction processes in place when staff turnover occurs. Because of this, Professor Quilan urged Tasmanian mining employers to adopt mandatory training requirements, such as the policies currently in place in Queensland and other resource-reliant states.

The benefits of training in the mining industry

There are many reasons why training is a crucial consideration for mining employers, including the vast range of potential hazards each employee faces on every shift.

For instance, due to the complex nature of many mining occupations, a worker could be subject to risks related to confined space, traffic control and machinery entrapment all at one time.

Training individuals to recognise and address these hazards should not only help improve WHS standards, but can also lead to more efficient operations and increased profitability. This is because a decline in safety incidents will reduce the amount of time needed for injury recovery and accident investigations. In turn, this should lead to more time focused on daily operations and business-as-usual endeavours.

Because of the complexities of mining work, knowing what WHS training to access can be a challenge. To help you reach positive safety outcomes in your business, here are just four areas where training and qualifications can be beneficial to miners.

– Traffic management

Whether the mining operations are above or under the ground, traffic management training should be a vital consideration for any employer. This is because the resources industry often relies on large and heavy mobile equipment to move product across sites and through freight channels.

A particular hazard of underground mining is when these vehicles are required to enter the same shafts and confined spaces as pedestrian workers. Operating vehicles in shared tunnels can lead to collisions and crushing if adequate WHS policies are not in place.

Fortunately, traffic management training can help any employee understand the risks and avoid potential accidents. In particular, the use of vehicles in shared spaces – above or below ground – can be controlled to strict safety standards if each individual holds the necessary qualifications.

– Confined spaces

Underground mines can be dangerous environments to work in, due to the risk of poor atmospheric conditions, cave-ins and disorientation. Employers can protect their employees against these risks in a number of ways. 

Workers should be provided with comprehensive confined spaces training before entering any area with limited entry points. This competency will ensure that individuals are able to monitor their environment and utilise any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) if a hazard is present.

For instance, atmospheric testing can help employees identify whether oxygen levels are fluctuating – due to poor ventilation or an unexpected release of gas. If unsafe environmental conditions are detected, workers must be able to safely find, don and operate breathing apparatus and any other relevant PPE.

– Hazardous materials

Some mining situations can require individuals to handle or work alongside hazardous materials. In particular, explosive substances are commonly used in these situations.

Training is an important requirement which must be accessed before workers are given permission to handle such material. Unsafe or misinformed use of these items could lead to serious accidents, such as preventable fires and explosions.

Additionally, radioactive materials are sometimes present in mines – potentially creating significant health risks. Using the right PPE and protective clothing is crucial to avoid necessary exposure to unsafe materials.

– Emergency response

No matter how safe your workers are, accidents can happen. This is why it is vitally important that certain employees are trained and aware of their duties in an emergency. 

If an incident was to occur on your site, having qualified workers on staff will ensure that would-be rescuers do not put themselves in danger. This is of particular importance when dealing with confined spaces, where a significant number of fatalities are related to emergency response, rather than business-as-usual operations.

If you would like more information about WHS risks in the mining industry, or want to access the relevant training, contact the AlertForce team today.

Preventing forklift accidents in Australian workplaces

Industrial lift trucks, also known as forklifts, are one of the manufacturing industry's most valuable assets. The ability to move large products and loads across warehouses and yards is essential for supply chain efficiency.

However, the reliance on forklifts can have serious consequences on worker health and safety, as these machines pose many potential risks.

It is therefore important that any business using forklifts accesses adequate training, licences and permits before undertaking work involving industrial lift trucks. This includes, but is not limited to, traffic control and management training to protect operators and pedestrians.

To help employers understand the risks of using forklifts in the workplace, here are four factors that need to be considered to upkeep work health and safety standards.

Overweight or unbalanced loads

While many people assume forklifts are most dangerous when moving, employees can still face serious hazards when the equipment is stationary. In particular, when industrial lift trucks are in the process of loading and unloading, incorrect use and practices can lead to accidents, injuries and even death.

A significant number of workplace accidents involving forklifts are caused by unbalanced or overweight loads. Forklifts should all come with very clear manufacturing instructions related to maximum weights and best practice loading. Following these instructions is key to ensuring workers, operators and pedestrians are safe from tipping and falling objects.

One example of this was recently highlighted by WorkSafe Western Australia, resulting in a $30,000 fine. The accident involved untrained employees standing on a lifted platform when the truck toppled over.

The workers each sustained injuries when the elevated work platform tipped forward due to an unsafe loading. One of the men suffered minor injuries, including cuts and bruising, while the other sustained significant harm and was unable to work for two months.

When the accident occurred, the employees were in the process of moving a heavy load between shelves. They climbed onto the elevated platform in order to move beds onto the platform, which was raised six metres. Although the forklift was limited to a lifting capacity of 500kg, the employees did not realise that the platform was fabricated and attached after the forklift was purchased.

When the 200kg platform was taken into consideration, the true lifting capacity was actually only 300kg. However, the untrained workers were not aware of this and had loaded the platform with 362kg worth of product. On top of this, the employees failed to take into account their own weight, estimated at 150-200kg. This meant that the equipment was overloaded by a combined 532kg at the time of the accident.

"It is crucial that written safe work procedures are in place in workplaces such as this one, and that employers ensure employees are aware of them and putting them into practice," WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said.

"Subsequent to this incident, the employer had the relevant employees from its four WA stores trained to obtain high risk work licences, and had weight sensor devices fitted to all order pickers in operation."

Mr McCulloch shared his belief that if training had been undertaken much earlier, the employees would have avoided the incident and not been subjected to their injuries and suffering.

In addition to protecting those individuals working on top of forklifts, unstable loads can often put pedestrians and other visitors at risk. If a machine carrying too much was to turn a corner or tip at the wrong moment, the load could potentially fall onto a nearby worker, causing serious injuries.

Traffic management

When forklifts and other elevated platform machinery are being used in the same space as other equipment and pedestrian traffic, collisions can easily occur. Avoiding these accidents is relatively simple, when the right traffic management systems are in place.

For instance, control plans should always ensure that, whenever possible, pedestrians and trucks are kept separate. This could include creating independent roadways for each form of traffic, or installing elevated walking paths to keep employees off factory floors.

Additionally, employers need to make sure the warehouse is well-lit and has adequate line of sight, to avoid collisions occurring when forklift operators fail to see oncoming traffic.

Training is a crucial part of protecting employee health and safety, which is why traffic control and management courses are recommended for all workers who are required to share space with forklifts and other vehicles.

This undertaking will ensure individuals are aware of their risks in the workplace, as well as giving them the tools and knowledge to control and mitigate these hazards.

Maintenance and storage

In addition to protecting worker health and safety while forklifts are in use, ensuring these essential pieces of machinery are well taken care of is also important.

Correct storage is one area where many people fail to make adequate provisions, as the industrial equipment looks sturdy enough to be left in factory spaces. However, exposure to the elements over an extended time can lead to advanced wear and tear, such as rust, which can cause accidents due to the truck not performing as it should.

Parking a forklift can also pose problems for other individuals as, if not correctly stored, the forklift can create a hazard in the workplace by posing as an unnecessary and unexpected obstacle for other vehicles.  Additionally, leaving the key in or the brakes disengaged could cause accidental collisions if a forklift was to become mobile for any reason.

Furthermore, if you allow a forklift to sit idling for a long period of time in an enclosed area, the resulting fumes could cause employees to become disorientated, light-headed or sick. Carbon monoxide is a serious issue in small work spaces, so it is important to ensure areas are well ventilated and forklifts are shut off when not in use.

Maintenance is also a serious consideration for any workers operating a forklift, as wear and tear can lead to serious accidents. Any person required to operate a forklift or other elevated platform machinery should undertake the adequate training and obtain any relevant information regarding maintenance.

Without the proper inspections and services, forklifts can pose very serious risks to employees and pedestrians. A worn or damaged component could easily lead to loads being tipped or mechanisms failing, putting everyone in close vicinity in danger of falling debris or collision.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to avoid these kinds of incidents. With regular and thorough inspections, drivers and operators can identify and address any issues before they become larger problems. A forklift should be subjected to an inspection before every use.

If you need further guidance on controlling forklift risks in warehouses, take a look at our previous article – Key tips for minimising traffic management risks in warehouses.

For more information on traffic management training or any other work health and safety courses, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Staying safe on scaffolding

The construction industry often relies on scaffolding and elevating platforms to perform important work above the ground. In particular, Australia's capital cities have seen apartment buildings and tower blocks being constructed taller than ever before in recent years.

High-rise construction work is expected to experience a continued rise in activity, according to the latest report from BIS Shrapnel. The Building in Australia 2014-2029 study, released on July 21, forecast a growing demand for apartments in order to meet the housing needs of an increasing population.

Currently, Australia is facing an estimated dwelling shortfall of approximately 100,000 homes. Due to the 1.7 per cent annual population growth rate, BIS Shrapnel Associate Director Dr Kim Hawtrey expects it will be some time before this demand is met.

"Home building has been punching below its weight for about a decade, and has not kept pace with population growth for some time now," said Dr Hawtrey.

"We estimate that it will take the next five years to eliminate the unmet demand for housing. We therefore do not see this housing shortfall closing until 2018."

In particular, the report identifies apartments and tower blocks as a key driver to rising construction activity. As the population grows, major cities are combating urban sprawl by building up instead of out. This means that construction businesses in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are likely to participate in projects that require the use of major scaffolding.

"In the next two years we'll also see the recent emphasis on high-rise units continue. Currently two high-rise apartments are being built for every five detached houses, which is double the historical rate of one apartment for every five houses built," Dr Hawtrey explained.

When working above ground, there are many considerations that need to be made in order to protect the health and safety of workers and the public. This includes engaging qualified scaffolding installers and accessing working at heights training for all relevant employees.

Work health and safety on scaffolding

Undertaking any tasks above the ground can put workers at risk due to the fall hazards. Once an individual is more than two metres off the ground, their chances of serious injury or even death are significantly increased.

Fortunately, properly installed and maintained scaffolding can help minimise the risk of falling, due to industry regulations that these structures must comply with. Additionally, any worker who may be required to climb on and perform tasks involving scaffolding should be offered working at heights training as well as comply with dangerous work permits.

To help employers understand their requirements regarding scaffolding and working above the ground, Safe Work Australia has recently released a series of guides designed to raise awareness of the hazards and controls related to this work.

In particular, workers and employers can now access a series of five documents outlining specific scaffolding requirements and work health and safety standards.

– General scaffolding guide

The first document is a general guide providing information on the overall use of scaffolding. This publication outlines what scaffolding is, how it relates to construction work and the hazards involved in its use.

According to Safe Work Australia, a scaffold is a temporary structure constructed to provide working platforms above the ground. In this guide, scaffolding work refers to the erecting, altering and dismantling of the individual components that make up a scaffold.

The important elements contained in the general scaffolding guide include hazard controls related to anchoring, installing and taking down these temporary structures. Common risks to employee health and safety outlined within this document include scaffold collapse, electric lines, uneven ground, falls and dropped objects.

While following the recommended safety standards should help worker avoid these hazards, accidents can still occur. Because of this, Safe Work Australia recommends that an emergency plan is prepared and in place before any work begins.

– Scaffold inspection and maintenance

As with any equipment in the construction industry, regular maintenance and safety inspections are crucial for scaffolding safety.

Safe Work Australia's inspection guide requires that any scaffold that poses a fall risk of more than four metres should not be used unless signed off by a qualified and competent person. Inspections are recommended prior to work being started, as well as during construction projects.

Scaffolds higher than four metres must be assessed at least every 30 days while in use. If an inspection identifies an issue with the structure, work must be halted while any necessary repairs and alterations are carried out. Once this process has been completed, a follow-up inspection is required before normal work can resume.

– Scaffolds and scaffolding

The practical guide to scaffolds outlines the different kinds of structures that can be included under this umbrella. For instance, a birdcage scaffold is an independent platform generally used for work on a single level.

This particular scaffold type requires different working at heights safety equipment, as fall-arrest systems are usually not suitable for controlling risks within birdcage structures.

Comparatively, a hung, single pole or trestle scaffold could require the use of fall-arrest equipment, such as harnesses, anchors and suspension. It is important for workers using scaffolding to know what kind of structure is being utilised, and the specific hazards present in each situation. Once this is understood, the proper standards and controls can be put in place.

– Swing stage (suspended) scaffolds

Perhaps one of the most dangerous forms of scaffold is the suspended platform. Installing these scaffolds requires a person holding an advanced scaffolding or rigging licence.

Workers operating a suspended platform do not need to hold a high-risk licence but should be provided with the necessary fall-arrest equipment and working at heights training to avoid potentially fatal falls.

This type of scaffolding presents a number of unique risks, particularly as the platform is often used on the sides of high-rise buildings, where wind and weather elements can significantly increase risk to workers.

Fortunately, with the right controls and policies in place, these hazards can easily be mitigated. In particular, inspections, training and personal protective equipment are crucial for protecting the health and safety of suspended scaffolding operators.

– Tower and mobile scaffolds

While most types of scaffolds are fixed in place, tower and mobile standards can usually be moved across sites in order to access multiple points above the ground.

Because of this, it is important for workers using these structures to remain aware of environmental hazards, such as uneven ground and interactions with machinery. If a mobile scaffold was to be placed on a minutely sloped surface, the resulting work on the platform could be enough to create movement and cause the structure to move.

It is therefore crucial that scaffold safety features are in place, such as brakes on the wheels and anchors to fixed points.

Furthermore, individuals undertaking tasks on these structures will benefit from working at heights training, as this competency will ensure they are aware of their hazards and the controls that are required.

For more information on working at heights training and scaffold safety, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Understanding asbestos in Australia

Asbestos exposure is a very real threat in Australia, with new discoveries made almost every week. Homeowners, contractors and workers all face serious asbestos-related risks across each state and territory.

Fortunately, minimising the work health and safety hazards posed by asbestos exposure is relatively simple. Any employee undertaking work that may result in them handling or inhaling these dangerous fibres should access an asbestos awareness training program.

Additionally, it is important that any person who is planning to renovate, build, demolish, work on or cut into a structure that may contain asbestos understands the risks they are facing.

To help prepare yourself and your staff against asbestos hazards, here are a few basic facts and information related to this deadly material.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre which has traditionally been used as insulation. Falling into two groups – Serpentine and Amphibole, asbestos comprises of six kinds of fibres. These are:

  • Chrysotile (White asbestos)
  • Anthophyllite
  • Amosite (Brown or grey asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (Blue asbestos)
  • Tremolite
  • Actinolite

Generally, asbestos containing materials in structures and buildings fall into two categories – friable and non-friable. This related to whether the asbestos fibres are bonded to their structure, with friable materials poses serious risks to health and safety due to unbonded and airborne fibres.

What are the risks?

While asbestos was traditionally considered a useful and valuable material, this substance can seriously impact on the health of any person exposed to it. 

In particular, airborne asbestos fibres can be easily inhaled and settle into the lungs of a builder or tradesperson. Once breathed into the lungs, asbestos can lead to a person developing serious illnesses and diseases. The most common conditions caused by asbestos are:

  • Asbestosis – scarring of lung tissue. This generally causes breathing problems and is irreversible
  • Lung cancer – after 20-40 years of incubation, tumours develop in and around the lungs
  • Mesothelioma – a deadly cancer of the lining around the lungs and abdomen. This condition is largely incurable and can lie dormant for up to 40 years before developing
  • Benign pleural diseases – non-cancerous conditions that affect the lining of the abdomen and lungs

Hundreds of people are diagnosed with these diseases every year in Australia, with the number of mesothelioma cases not expected to peak until 2020. Overall, the global asbestos awareness authority, The Mesothelioma Center, believes that at least 35,000 Australians are expected to die from this disease within the next four decades.

The history of asbestos in Australia

When asbestos was originally discovered, it was heralded as a diverse and useful tool in the construction of homes, structures and tools. This is because asbestos has an excellent durability, is fire resistant and insulates against heat, damp and electricity.

Asbestos was commonly used in Australian homes between the 1940s and 80s. Additionally, extensive asbestos mining operations were in place across various sites, creating a massive industry in certain towns.

However, it wasn't long before international studies regarding the health risks of asbestos fibres lead to nationwide bans. Each form of asbestos was subject to individual bans until, finally in December 2003, all use of asbestos was completely prohibited in Australia.

Unfortunately, much of the damage was already done. Up to one-third of all homes built in Australia contain asbestos products, with any property constructed prior to 1990 likely to pose some risk to health, according to the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency.

Because of this, asbestos exposure continues to be a serious factor for any homeowner considering renovations, contractor or tradesperson working on older structures and building managers.

Responding to asbestos discoveries

It seems as though not a week can pass without some form of asbestos exposure making the headlines in Australia.

As asbestos discoveries continue to be made, any individual working on building sites and structures need to ensure they can identify and respond to potential asbestos fibres.

Fortunately, Safe Work Australia has published a Code of Practice outlining the recommended responses related to national occupational health and safety standards. In particular, this document addresses the identification of asbestos as the first step in managing risks related to the dangerous fibres. 

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in Australia has a duty of care to their employees and visitors to their site. Because of this, it is vital that PCBUs understand how to safely control asbestos risk in the workplace.

First, if an employer suspects asbestos may be present, they must engage a competent person (someone trained to handle and test samples) to the material.

Until tests are completed, it is recommended that any suspected asbestos materials are treated as if they are definitely contaminated. This will mitigate the risk of accidental exposure.

Secondly, investing in asbestos awareness training is a recommendation for any employee in trades and building related occupations across Australia. This should ensure that potential asbestos materials are easily identified and avoided to minimise the risk of exposure.

Ensuring all workers can effectively identify asbestos is a key factor in protecting not just themselves, but also the public. In some cases, construction work can cause fibres to become airborne and impact on neighbouring properties. When contamination is possible, a trained employee should respond by halting work and seeking further advice from a competent and qualified worker.

For example, work was recently halted in a discount store in Tasmania after renovation work potentially put workers at risk. The owner of the store had undertaken work by ripping up tiles that potentially contained asbestos.

Despite failing to invest in an inspection prior to commencing work, the renovations were finally stopped and the store closed for testing after employees were present in the store for some hours.

This dangerous potential exposure to asbestos fibres has put not only the renovation contractors at risk, but also the employees and shoppers present in the store while work was being undertaken. If the employer, renovators and staff had access asbestos awareness training prior to the renovations, the identification of asbestos tiles may have been made much earlier – mitigating this unfortunate exposure.

Safe removal of asbestos

If asbestos is discovered in the workplace, the safest option is usually to remove all contaminated materials. However, the act of removing asbestos can pose more serious risks than working around it. This is because disturbing and handling asbestos will usually lead to fibres becoming airborne.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to put safe removalist practices in place, particularly when engaging a third-party business to conduct this work.

In particular, building managers, employers and home owners should employ a competent team or person to undertake removal work. This includes investing in a business that has provided asbestos removal training to its entire staff.

Even homeowners can get into trouble when incorrectly removing asbestos. A Canberra couple were recently convicted for failing to safely and completely remove contaminated materials from their home during major renovations.

While the homeowners had identified and removed some asbestos from the ceiling before undertaking demolition work, two kinds of asbestos were discovered in the rubble once the work had been completed.

This was because the couple had gone ahead with the demolition without investing in a general asbestos assessment. Instead, they told the contractors that all the asbestos had been removed – putting themselves, their children and the workers at risk of exposure.

The couple pleaded guilty to the charge and were each fined $1,650, according to the Canberra Times.

It is easy to see how asbestos training and qualifications can help all Australians avoid asbestos risks, whether they are homeowners, employers or business managers. 

For more information on asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Fire risk in confined spaces

In certain industries and locations, confined spaces can pose a serious fire or explosion risk. When flammable materials are present in high concentrations in an enclosed area, any spark or ignition could lead to a devastating detonation – causing injuries or even death to nearby workers.

Such an event has resulted in a company operating in the California recently being fined more than US$82,000 due to occupational health and safety (OHS) negligence.

In December 2013, an employee was working within a large steel tank, spraying flammable coating to the inside walls. The worker was using a portable halogen light to improve his visibility. Unfortunately, this lamp created an electrical spark that ignited the coating. The worker was rescued, but had to spend three days in the burn unit of a hospital.

"This was a preventable accident," Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker said in a June 26 media statement.

"The employer was aware that working inside the confined space was dangerous but did not take the required steps to avoid putting workers at serious risk."

In June this year, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited the employer for various breaches to confined space OHS standards. Overall, the proposed penalties reached $82,090 and included fines for knowingly using an unauthorised electric lamp in an explosive atmosphere.

Additionally, the employer was required to pay damages related to failing to obtain a permit to work within a confined space and not having proper ventilation or protective equipment in a hazardous area. 

"The purpose of requiring confined space entry permits is to prevent trouble before work begins," said Cal/OSHA Acting Chief Juliann Sum.

"This case involved flammable vapours that needed to be monitored and diluted to safe levels, and a lamp approved for this type of operation was required to avoid bringing a source of ignition into a flammable atmosphere."

Further citations included fines attributed to not providing adequate safety equipment and confined space training for employees working within the tank.

Back in Australia, confined spaces can pose a serious risk to workers' health and safety. In particular, many industries, workplaces and occupational undertakings can result in high concentrations of flammable contaminants. This can significantly increase the chance of a fire or explosion causing injuries and deaths, so must be monitored and addressed carefully.

Understanding the risk of fire and explosions in confined spaces

While there are many potential risks in confined spaces, fire and explosions are perhaps the most dangerous. According to a 2006 report from the Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, 100 per cent of the confined spaces incidents that involved fire or explosions between 1980 and 1986 resulted in fatalities.

In fact, of the 50 total accidents, 76 employees perished due to burns and other fire related injuries. Comparatively, just 58 of the 105 (55 per cent) of grain handling incidents – including engulfment – resulted in worker death.

This high rate of fire and explosion related deaths may be attributed to the extreme danger that continues after the initial event. When an explosion or fire occurs, response crews can also often succumb to the environment while attempting to rescue workers trapped within confined spaces.

It is therefore vital that employers do all they can to prevent fires and explosions within confined spaces in the workplace. Fortunately, there are a number of simple and effective measures that be put in place to improve OHS outcomes.

Preventing fires and explosions in confined spaces

There are a number of key factors that can lead to fires and explosions in confined spaces. These include:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Unsuitable equipment
  • Unsafe atmospheric conditions
  • Radiation and heat
  • Use of flammable materials

It is important to remember that in order for a fire or explosion to occur, three factors must be present – an ignition source, oxygen and a flammable fuel.

Unfortunately, these requirements can easily be introduced into a confined space when proper precautions are not put in place.

For instance, a silo that has been coated with a flammable sealant could fill with a dangerous vapour as exterior heat causes the seal to evaporate. As this vapour or gas becomes more highly concentrated, a worker wearing static-inducing clothing could easily create a spark that results in a devastating fire.

As this is all it can take to cause a fire or explosion within a confined space, workers and employers must be particularly vigilant when working with flammable materials. 

Preventing these accidents is simple, with the right level of confined spaces training and hazard awareness. By taking proper precautions, employees can avoid putting themselves in harm's way and mitigate the risk of an explosion or fire.

OHS policies to have in place include obtaining permits before entering confined spaces, using approved equipment only and monitoring atmospheres for high concentrations of dangerous gases.

In particular, all confined spaces should be tested for flammable contaminants before any work that may involve the use of sparking tools or electrical equipment is undertaken. Completely removing the ignition source or potential fuel ensures that the risk of fires and explosions is totally mitigated.

However, rather than simply providing workers with gas testing equipment, it is also vital that employers provide comprehensive training on the proper use and maintenance of these devices. Incorrect use could lead to a misreading, which may result in an easily preventable accident occurring.

For more information on the hazards present in confined spaces, or to access relevant training for your staff, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Focus placed on safety in farming

A renewed focus is being placed on work health and safety (WHS) outcomes in the farming sector. This drive, supported by a number of WorkCover authorities across the country, has come after a Safe Work Australia report revealed employee fatalities rates are highest in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.

The Work-related Traumatic Fatalities: Australia 2014 report, released on July 15, found that almost one in four (19 per cent) of the total occupational deaths recorded in 2013 involved workers in the agricultural sector alone. This industry accounted for 37 of the 191 fatalities in Australia last year.

With a fatality rate of 15.11 deaths per 100,000 workers, it is easy to see why health and safety initiatives are so crucial for employers in this industry. This is nine times the national rate of 1.64 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

As many of the deaths in this industry and other sectors were related to vehicles, a particular effort should be made to access traffic management training for all employees. In particular, approximately 66 per cent of all fatalities over the past 11 years involved a vehicle, with one-third of workers killed in collisions on public roads and one-third in incidents on site. 

Work-related injuries and fatalities in Australia

Overall, WHS training and initiatives seem to be making an impact as total fatalities across all industries fell to the lowest rate in 11 years.

In 2013, 191 workers were killed through an incidents related to their employment, compared with 228 in 2012 and significantly lower than the highest figure of the past decade (311 fatalities in 2007).

Despite this decline, Safe Work Australia Acting Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter reminds workers and employers that health and safety should remain a priority.

"While we have seen a 16 per cent reduction in work-related deaths since 2012, this does not mean workers should become complacent about reducing and eliminating risks while working," she said. 

Beyond the fatalities reported in the agriculture industry, 46 people died in the transport, postal and warehousing sector, followed by 19 construction-related deaths. Additionally, 66 bystanders and members of the public were killed due to work-related activity in 2013.

This shows that WHS policies still have a long way to go in these particular industries, and employers need to remain vigilant in regards to worker health and safety.

Farm safety improving in Victoria

While the number of fatalities in Australia's agricultural sector increased last year, total farm-related injury claims in Victoria fell by approximately 14 per cent – reaching the lowest rate in a decade. This is according to figures released on July 16 by the Victorian WorkCover Authority.

In 2013, 401 farmers and employees made a workers compensation claim, which is down from 467 claims in 2012. However, the industry still presents a significant number of risks to workers. This is shown by tallying the number of fatalities (53) and injuries (4,600) on Victorian farms over the past 10 years.

"A farm is just like any other workplace, and farmers need to ensure the same proactive approach to safety is adopted," said Victorian WorkCover Authority Executive Director of Health and Safety Len Neist.

Mr Neist expressed concern at the more than 400 injuries claims that occurred last year. He explained that although reports are at their lowest in 10 years, it is vital that those working on farms remain "vigilant when it comes to workplace safety".

In particular, Mr Neist urges farmers and workers to avoid taking on tasks for which they are not trained, as this commonly leads to accidents and errors that caused injuries.

"Specialised services should always be engaged in work which is outside of the farmers' expertise or knowledge," he said.

Farmer health and safety initiative launched in NSW

Over the past three years, close to 5,500 NSW farmers have sustained injuries that required claims on workers compensation, according to WorkCover NSW.

Because of this, the authority has developed a new farm safety initiative designed to improve awareness of the hazards in the industry. The program was launched by the NSW Minister for Finance and Services Dominic Perrottet at the 2014 NSW Farmers Conference on July 15.

WorkCover NSW has teamed up with individuals across the industry to help farmers stay alive and well by offering them a hub to share and experience stories of accidents, injuries and deaths on farms.

"The NSW agricultural industry is one of the state's largest and most important industries, contributing $11.7 billion in revenue," Mr Perrottet said.

"It is also one of the State's highest risk industries, recording 5,465 injuries and illnesses, including seven fatalities over the three years to July 2012. As the high number of injuries show, it is important that everyone out on the farm works more closely together to improve safety."

The website, aliveandwell.net.au, serves as a place for farmers to share their stories about accidents and incidents from their past. By promoting awareness and offering personalised advice, these individuals can help boost the safety and wellbeing of others in their industry.

"By using these real-life stories of farmers to highlight the devastating impact they can have, we hope it leads to more farms improving safety," Mr Perrottet explained.

"Importantly, the stories show that it doesn't have to be expensive or complicated to keep everyone on the farm safe."

With a number of guides and channels of support available through the initiative, workers can benefit from checking out the site and searching for the specific injuries or hazards they may face.

For instance, an advice and support page shares a range of links to industry authorities, educational videos and fact sheets to increase awareness of the help available.

Improving WHS outcomes

The agriculture industry records high rates of vehicle-related deaths, as well slips, trips and falls – which accounted for 22 per cent of the total injuries.

A range of factors can result in serious safety issues, including unguarded machinery and untidy workshops, as well as poorly stored chemicals creating hazards in confined spaces. Additionally, inattention when manoeuvring vehicles is a significant WHS risk.

"The key to keeping farm work safe is effective planning and using the right equipment for the job," said Mr Neist.

"It's important that if you are heading out on the tractor for the day, or fencing in the back paddock, to let someone know where you'll be."

In lights of the approaching National Farm Safety Week, which runs from 21–25 July 2014, Mr Neist offered a range of helpful tips to help boost safety in the agriculture industry. The advice includes:

  • Always communicate to someone where you will be
  • Ensure machinery is well maintained and switched off when undergoing repairs
  • Engage specialists for work you are not trained to complete
  • Always follow manufacturers standards when operating machinery or storing chemicals
  • Be aware of fumes and hazardous chemicals
  • Stay vigilant when operating or working near vehicles

How AlertForce can help

To achieve improved health and safety outcomes, it is important to ensure all employees have access to the right training, supervision and knowledge.

In particular, WHS training relevant to agriculture industry can vastly reduce the chance of inadequate policies and procedures resulting in an accident, injury or death. This includes working at heights, confined spaces and traffic management training.

For more information on any of our occupational health and safety courses, get in touch with the AlertForce team today. We can offer nationally recognised training and qualifications relevant to most high-risk industries, including agriculture, forestry and fishing.

Occupational disease report highlights asbestos concerns

Respiratory diseases caused by exposure to asbestos in the workplace have declined in recent years, according to a recent report from Safe Work Australia.

The fifth edition of the Occupational Disease Indicators study, released on July 8, studied a number of priority work-related conditions, including lung diseases and cancers developed after contact with asbestos products. Trend rates of these diseases, as well as high-risk occupations and preventative policies, were identified in this report.

Overall, five of the eight priority diseases showed a decline in prevalence between 2000 and 2011, with the remaining three categories – occupational cancers, noise-induced hearing loss and mental disorders – all remaining steady.

Worker compensation claims related to respiratory conditions, including those caused by asbestos, fell by 49 per cent during the nominated period. In particular, the rates of Australian employees reporting asbestosis fell from 36 claims per million population, in 2000-01 to just seven in 2010-11.

In the same time, the rate of occupational cancer reported by workers remained relatively steady. However, the incidence of claims due to mesothelioma – caused by inhalation of asbestos fibres – steadily increased from 11 to 33 cases per million Australians between 1983 and 2003, before falling to 28 cases in 2010.

The 20 year growth in mesothelioma claims can possible be contributed to the long-term incubation of the disease, with exposure to asbestos leading to the disease over a potential 20-40 year period. 

As respiratory disease and occupational cancer each started to decline in recent years, this may be an indication that modern practices and policies concerning asbestos in the workplace have started to make a difference for employee health and safety.

In particular, the country-wide ban of asbestos products which came into effect in 2003, coupled with extensive removal projects and asbestos awareness training, have ensured that workers in Australia understand the risks of inhalation and exposure.

The history of asbestos in Australia

Asbestos has a long and extensive history in Australian workplaces, particularly due to its use as a flame and water resistant insulation product. 

Australia had the highest per capita use of asbestos in the world between the 1950s and 70s, according to Asbestos.com. A vast range of occupations and industries relied on this material, including construction, textiles and mining.

While mesothelioma cases began being reported as early as 1962 in Australia, the use of amosite (brown) asbestos continued into the late 1980s. Furthermore, some products that contained the dangerous fibres were still in use until December 2003.

In addition to the asbestos use across the country, parts of Australia were considered mining hubs for particular forms of the material. This includes crocidolite (blue) asbestos, which was mined extensively in the Western Australia town of Wittenoom from the 1930s until the mine was shut down in 1966.

Despite the fact nation-wide bans began to come in force in the 1970s, residents across Australia are still at risk of asbestos exposure due to remnants of its use in past decades. In particular, houses and buildings built prior to 1990 are likely to contain the deadly fibres in some form.

This fact commonly puts construction workers, renovators, plumbers and other tradespeople at risk of exposure and inhalation. Because of this, asbestos assessment, awareness and removal training has remained vital consideration for employers across a wide range of industries.

Asbestos awareness training

Any person conducting a business or undertaking has a duty of care to ensure their employees are aware of the risks present in the workplace.

If an individual is required to perform work that may result in asbestos exposure, whether manufactured or naturally occurring, asbestos awareness training is highly recommended. Accessing a relevant program ensures that the worker understands their risks and is able to respond safely to asbestos discovery and exposure.

In particular, some individuals may be employed in a capacity which requires them to undertake asbestos removal work. In this circumstance, further training could be mandatory, depending on the size and type of asbestos discovered.

According to Safe Work Australia's asbestos code of practice, training and supervision is a key consideration when performing asbestos-related work. For instance, all employees who are required to wear personal protective equipment, such as breathing apparatus, must be given offered a course that provides adequate competencies to ensure safe fitting, use, maintenance and storage of the devices.

Furthermore, supervision should be provided when dealing with significant asbestos removal projects. Individuals able to offer this service need to have completed a training program, such as the AlertForce Supervise Asbestos Removal course.

For more information on this, or any other asbestos-related training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Traffic management guides released

National occupational health and safety (OHS) organisation Safe Work Australia has released a range of guidance materials designed to help employers improve employee and public wellbeing outcomes.

Nine packages were created in support of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and WHS Regulations. Published on July 4, the guides cover common OHS hazards such as working on scaffolds, using industrial lift trucks and managing risks in the forestry industry.

These nationally recognised guides provide employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) with practical advice on how to manage risks in the workplace. However, some states and territories are subject to particular legislation and requirements, so additional OHS training and support is recommended.

One particular package published by Safe Work Australia covers the risks and best practices related to traffic management across a range of industries. This release contains a number of amendments to the specific sector guides published in July 2013, as agreed upon by the majority of the Safe Work Australia board in June this year. Also included are checklists to assist employers and supervisors manage and address common risks.

General traffic management guide

The general traffic management guide is a vital resource for any PCBU whose operations present a risk of traffic colliding with people in the workplace. Traffic as per these guides includes any vehicles such as cars, trucks or buses, powered mobile equipment like forklifts and cyclists.

However, the guide is not designed to support work carried out on or near a public road. This includes construction projects located on footpaths or close to streets. Undertakings that require working on or near roads should follow the requirements and guidelines set out by your local road authority.

Key considerations laid out in this general guide include the identification and assessment of potential risks, controls to manage hazards and systems of responsibilities.

In particular, workplaces that include high volumes of vehicles and pedestrians should develop a thorough traffic management plan to help communicate risks and controls to all staff and visitors.

A strategic plan may include the best practice pedestrian and vehicle movements and the expected frequency of interactions and occurrences of traffic. This document can also contain illustrations and guides to relevant signs, barriers and hazards as well as overviews of the controls that have been put in place.

An important consideration within the general management guide is the provision of traffic management training to help protect employees from common risks. Workers who are required to perform duties associated with controlling traffic in your workplace should be adequately trained to do so.

As far as is reasonably possible, all individuals who have access to your workplace – including visitors – should be offered the necessary information to protect against OHS risks. This could be managed through a range of methods, from a simple induction to the site through to comprehensive training programs.

Construction Work

The construction and building industry can pose many OHS risks to employees, particularly related to traffic management. Vehicles commonly share the site with pedestrian workers, which presents a number of hazards regarding collisions and crushing.

This industry specific guide outlines the most effective methods of reducing traffic risks on a construction site – including the total mitigation of hazards through eliminating the need for vehicles and pedestrians to use the same pathways. For example, site managers may be able to design the workplace to provide separate routes for each traffic type.

The key considerations laid out within this guide include:

  • Separating pedestrians and vehicles
  • Mitigating the need to reverse
  • Improving line of sight and visibility
  • Minimising potential vehicle movement
  • Installing relevant signs and barriers
  • Developing and enacting a traffic management plan

If these considerations are taken on board when designing and managing a construction site, the potential for accidents and injury should be reduced significantly. Additionally, PCBUs need to consider the provision of information, training, instruction and supervision.

Ensuring employees and visitors hold all necessary information regarding safe work practices and traffic controls is a vital factor in improving OHS outcomes on construction sites. This process is considered the responsibility of the PCBU, employer or site manager, as well as any worker who is required to undertake duties related to the operation of vehicles onsite.

Events

Organising a public event is a highly complex and challenging endeavour, made more difficult by the OHS risks at each step. In particular, when patrons, participants and workers are sharing space with vehicles and equipment, having a traffic management plan in place is crucial.

Whether a recreational, social, sporting or corporate event, traffic chaos can lead to serious accidents and injuries if not correctly managed. In many cases, vehicles that contribute to an event's traffic include buses, forklifts, cars and cranes.

The PCBU in charge of traffic management plans at events may be the event organiser, but this duty should also be handed down to and addressed by any supervisors, contractors and employees who may be required to undertake work related to vehicles and pedestrians on site.

Traffic control procedures will need to be in place during the three phases of the event – preparation, staging and dismantling. Each of these time frames can pose serious risks to employee and public health and safety.

In particular, the separation of pedestrians and vehicles should be a key consideration. Creating independent pathways and roads is vitally important, particularly when dealing with visitors who have not undertaking traffic management training.

Additionally, designated areas should be created for vehicle parking and the loading and unpacking of equipment or goods. Restricting public access to these locations is a recommended control that may help improve OHS outcomes.

During times of peak pedestrian movement, such as just prior and after the main event showcase, vehicle activity should be kept to a minimum.

Training and information is a crucial consideration for event traffic management, including easily visible signs and marked pathways to ensure visitors and patrons understand traffic plans even without prior training.

Shopping Centres

The activity around or within shopping centres often involves a great deal of traffic, such as pedestrians, passenger vehicles, trolley collection carts, delivery trucks and forklifts.

It can therefore be challenging to manage and control this activity. Fortunately, the Safe Work Australian traffic management guide outlines a few key considerations that can help – such as:

  • Schedule deliveries for times of low public traffic
  • Design car parks and loading docks to avoid pedestrian and vehicle interaction
  • Locate shopping trolley collection bays away from high traffic areas
  • Develop and implement traffic management plans

The business owner and employer should also ensure that staff have undertaken adequate traffic management training and information is easily accessible for visitors to the centre.

Warehousing

The practical guide to warehouse traffic management identifies the common risks present in factories and warehouses. This includes the use of delivery trucks, forklifts and passenger cars.

Due to the high volume of vehicle traffic required in the warehousing sector, considerations must be made in regards to effective traffic management plans. This includes separating pedestrians and vehicles, avoiding potential load falls and ensuring employees know how to safely operate machinery.

For example, the traffic management plan for a warehouse will generally include the provision of forklift training and permits to any employee who may be required to operate an industrial lift device.

If you would like more information on the traffic management requirements in your industry, or want to access training for your staff, get in touch with AlertForce today.

Safety agreement renewed in forestry industry

The Forestry Corporation of NSW has cemented its commitment to work health and safety (WHS) improvements by renewing a partnership with the state's WorkCover authority.

Announced on June 30, this ongoing agreement between the two bodies is a continuation of commitments first signed in 2011. The launch of this partnership has influenced impressive progress in addressing safety issues in this challengin