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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been steadily infiltrating cities and rural communities across Australia, according to figures released by the NBN Co.
Published on July 1, the NBN report revealed that 20,000 premises in remote and regional areas have been connected to the network over the past 12 months. This coincides with a sevenfold increase in the number of households and families who have started using the service, climbing from 1,870 in 2013 to 16,000 in June this year.
NBN Co Chief Operating Officer Greg Adcock explained that these figures demonstrate a clear demand for broadband connections outside of major cities.
"We've put a significant focus on accelerating rollout of NBN Co's fixed wireless service to rural and regional Australia. That allows people in these communities to take advantage of the economic and social opportunities that the rest of the country takes for granted," he said.
Getting regional and remote communities connected to the NBN service is a crucial factor in boosting innovation, productivity and prosperity in rural Australian enterprises.
"Fast broadband will enable rural businesses to flourish and regional economies to grow and attract further wealth and investment," Federation University Australia Centre Director Helen Thompson explained.
As the NBN rollout reaches further into regional and remote locations, contractors and employees are continually being sourced close to project areas. Those living in a rural community who wish to take part in this exciting national program are required to undertake mandatory occupational health and safety training.
Fortunately, AlertForce offers an online NBN Safety and Awareness program, providing convenience and competencies to workers who may be unable to travel for an instructor-led course.
Moving forward with the NBN rollout
Further statistics, reported by ZDNet on July 10, show more than 380,000 premises are ready for NBN services, while the network itself is currently able to support 658,000 households and businesses.
"While there has been an ongoing effort throughout the year, these achievements are a result of the hardworking employees, contractors and third party partners under the direction of a new leadership team," NBN Co Chief Executive Officer Bill Morrow said, according to ZDNet.
"We have seen a significant uplift in performance and morale in the past several months. This is important not only because we have surpassed our forecast, but because the team has done so in a year of incredible uncertainty and change."
With the NBN rollout moving forward at an increasing rate, the NBN Co has been considering ways to streamline operations and complete connections faster and more efficiently. In particular, contracts with construction companies are being revamped and improved to deliver a standardised connection method.
"We have an obligation to build the NBN as quickly and cheaply as possible but we also know that if we don't pay a fair price for them to be able to pay for good labour then this won't be built," Mr Morrow told The Australian on June 11.
However, with the volume of work expected to be undertaken over the next 12 months, Mr Morrow has identified a need for better workforce solutions. He believes there is a "time and an environment that warrants different models" and the NBN Co is embracing this need.
One example of this drive to make the NBN rollout more efficient and convenient is the adoption of the online safety and awareness program. By developing this internet-based course, the NBN Co – along with AlertForce – has enabled regional and remote workers to undertake vital and mandatory training even when unable or unwilling to travel.
Accessing the NBN Safety and Awareness Course
As with any construction or electrical-based occupation, working on the NBN rollout can pose many hazards to an employee's health and wellbeing.
Because of this, the NBN Co has developed a mandatory safety program that can be accessed either face-to-face or online. This competency must be undertaken by any individual engaged in any of the following duties:
- Installing, connecting or maintaining network assets
- Hauling fibre optic cable
- Conducting boring or excavation
Additionally, any person directly responsible for an NBN work site is also required to access this safety and awareness program.
The training provided through this course includes the identification and control of specific industry and environmental hazards, as well as offering insight into how an individual's role fits into the scope of this exciting national project.
Currently, AlertForce is the only registered training provider offering the online training option. Individuals who choose to undertake the program through this platform are also required to complete an accredited CPR course in an instructor-led environment.
If you are interested in joining the history-making network rollout, get in touch with the AlertForce team for more information on the online NBN Safety and Awareness program.
Those working as part of the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout are required to undertake a range of important work health and safety (WHS) courses as part of their employment.
While traditional delivery of this training has supported the NBN for a number of years, industry developments have led to growing demand for a new solution. As the NBN rollout reaches further into regional and remote areas of Australia, arranging instructor-led training has become increasingly difficult.
Partnering with the NBN Co, AlertForce has created an online alternative to face-to-face safety and awareness training. This offering has already experienced a significant uptake, and is expected to influence the adoption of blended learning across a range of WHS training initiatives.
This white paper will provide insight into the events and choices that led to the launch of the AlertForce NBN Safety and Awareness online training program. Additionally, the paper will outline the key benefits of this course and investigate the program’s potential into the future.
The history of the NBN and occupational health and safety (OHS)
In 2002, the Howard government created the Broadband Advisory Group in an effort to address the idea of creating a national broadband framework. In a report released on January 22, 2003, the group recommended the government work with state institutions and industry stakeholders to create the National Broadband Network (NBN).
From that point, plans and proposals were put in place to replace the “increasingly obsolete” copper network with a fixed-line and wireless fibre-based broadband framework. It was not until 2009, with the creation of the NBN Co, that the project began to experience real traction. A trial rollout was actioned in Tasmania in 2010, followed by a selection of mainland sites.
Throughout the rollout, the NBN Co was committed to improving health and safety outcomes for employees and the community – a core value of the NBN Co.
In order to achieve the organisation’s extensive WHS aspirations and discharge its duty as an employer, the company decided to develop the NBN safety and awareness course as a generic induction for people working in the field.
Course materials were developed in-house and licenced out to registered training organisations (RTOs) across the country.
The NBN Co entered a licencing agreement with those organisations, provided them with the course materials and any support that they needed. Then, when it comes time for delivery, the training providers arrange the commercials and the scheduling with NBN contractors.
One of the organisations chosen to deliver the instructor-led course was leading OHS training provider, AlertForce. The partnership between AlertForce and the NBN Co was forged through a demand for asbestos awareness and removal training for Telstra contractors working on the NBN network.
In mid 2013, after several instances of contractor non-compliance with Telstra’s asbestos handling practices, Telstra reviewed and altered its training and licensing requirements for contractors undertaking pit remediation work in preparation for the NBN roll-out. Telstra determined that all contractors undertaking work with asbestos were required to hold non-friable asbestos removal licences and that workers engaged by these contractors needed to hold the necessary VET competencies to undertake this work. To address this, Telstra called on AlertForce to provide training in asbestos awareness and removal for its employees and contractors.
“This basically caused a huge wave with Telstra contractors who were also required to get trained. During this process we pretty much trained most Telstra NBN contractors and sub-contractors undertaking asbestos removal as part of the pit remediation program,” AlertForce Chief Executive Officer Brendan Torazzi.
Through this process, AlertForce developed a relationship with the staff at NBN. This meant that when the NBN Co called for expressions of interest to develop an online version of the face-to-face NBN safety and awareness course, AlertForce quickly responded and its offer was shortly accepted.
The introduction of the online NBN Safety and Awareness Course
As the NBN rollout reached further into Australia, training providers were finding it more difficult to arrange the two-day mandatory instructor-led course. Many of the employees working on the project lived in regional or remote areas and were unable or unwilling to travel to other areas to undertake the program.
A lot of feedback from the industry focussed on accessibility. It was becoming difficult to service regional and remote contractors and workers with the face-to-face training course and many individuals indicated they were not particularly interested in spending the time or money to travel to metropolitan areas to access training.
AlertForce received approval to design and launch the online program in January 2014. Teams of people worked approximately 800 hours production time over a three month period, releasing the online NBN Safety and Awareness course in April.
Within the first month, close to 400 people accessed the online training program, within similar numbers also seen in May. The success of the launch was also underpinned by AlertForce winning gold at the 2014 LearnX awards in the OHS category.
“As soon as it was launched, it took off. The market just embraced it because it was a good alternative to having to get staff trained in a face-to-face environment,” Mr Torazzi explained.
Through the NBN safety and awareness course, students are trained in a range of relevant OHS competencies, including the identification and assessment of industry hazards, risk control measures and Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE) incident and hazard reporting.
Additionally, there is an element of NBN awareness training to ensure workers in this field understand their role in the development and integration of the country’s broadband framework.
What are the benefits of this online offering?
Moving the NBN Safety and Awareness course online has offered the industry a number of key benefits. While it was becoming difficult to provide remote and regional contractors and workers with this training, the online program offers a blended learning solution to this issue.
As the NBN Co works to bring all of Australia online, providers have begun to embrace online training as a valid way of learning. It provides scope for mandatory training outcomes across multiple locations.
Of course, with the training’s extended reach, the NBN benefits from an increasing number of job-ready contractors and employees in the areas it is servicing. Furthermore, these individuals gain access to the skills and knowledge they need to work safely on these projects, improving industry-wide OHS outcomes.
With this online training program, the NBN is able to more effectively and safely connect regional and rural locations, while providing employees with the understanding of their role is this important connection initiative.
How far can online training take OHS outcomes?
As stakeholders in the telecommunications industry, and other sectors, take notice of the success of the NBN safety and awareness online offering, AlertForce forecasts an increased demand for other internet-based training.
Already, AlertForce has received interest from government bodies and federal agencies asking for increased online training options. As the bulk of people have already completed programs in a number of areas, it has become increasingly difficult to get certain courses up and running. This shows that there is extensive market demand for online training, which should influence wider adoption of these methods and delivery systems.
Once more courses head online, more regional and remote employees will be able to access important OHS training. This should result in improve health and safety outcomes across many industries Australia-wide.
However, there are some limitations as some aspects of OHS training that cannot be moved online. For instance, those undertaking the NBN Safety and Awareness course must still undergo face-to-face assessments, such as for the CPR component. Blended learning solutions are therefore required to take online training from a simply induction and theory course into the line of comprehensive OHS training.
Practically any course could adopt an online element, enabling individuals from all walks of life to access relevant training. This is particularly relevant when considering the objective of the NBN project – to ensure Australians from all areas, no matter how remote, have access to fast and reliable internet.
Accessing the NBN Safety and Awareness course
As the NBN Safety and Awareness course is a mandatory training program for any person undertaking certain tasks within the function of the NBN rollout, the ability to access this course is extremely important.
With AlertForce’s online training offering, individuals from all across Australia can take part in this vital program to ensure they hold the required skills and knowledge to achieve safe working outcomes.
For more information on the online NBN Safety and Awareness program, or to access the training for yourself, speak with the team at AlertForce today.
The seventh annual LearnX Impact Awards were held this month, and AlertForce has scored Gold in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) category for the third year running. The acknowledgement this year was offered to AlertForce for their work with the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN).
AlertForce's latest offering, the NBN Safety and Awareness Course, took home the top OHS prize in the Asia Pacific region this year. Previous years saw AlertForce awarded for the successful LexisNexis Online Training – work health and safety (WHS) modules (2013) and the OHS award and Environmental Gold winner in conjunction with Carbon Training International in 2012.
"Our courses allow people to learn at their own pace in a convenient and cost effective way. We will continue to provide the "Gold standard" of OHS training courses," AlertForce Founder Brendan Torazzi said.
The annual LearnX Impact Awards are run by not-for-profit organisation, LearnX Foundation. This event is designed to recognise and acknowledge the top workforce learning and professional development initiatives across the Asia Pacific.
The NBN network in Australia
Launched in August 2009, the NBN Co is a Commonwealth company founded to represent the government's commitment to delivering a national open-access broadband network to all Australians by 2021.
Over the past five years, the NBN network has been slowly rolling out across the country, with employees working hard to connect cities, towns and regional communities to the broadband system.
While fixed line connections are being installed in the majority of Australian households, remote and rural areas are expected to be given access to foxed wireless and satellite connections.
After various OHS instances, such as the discovery of asbestos across many work sites, the NBN Co developed its compulsory training requirements. All individuals involved with the project are contracted to undertake specific training in NBN safety and awareness. The compulsory courses include:
- NBN safety and awareness
- Elevated work platform rescue
- Power awareness
- Remove non-friable asbestos
- Supervise asbestos removal training
AlertForce offers not only the NBN safety and awareness course, but can also provide asbestos removal training and a vast range of other OHS-relevant courses.
"At NBN Co ensuring the safety of communities, the environment and our workers is the most important job we have and one of our core values. We are dedicated to building a culture of excellence in safety and continually improving safety practices to meet the best standards in the industry," the NBN Co safety statement explains.
About the award-winning NBN program
AlertForce is Australia's only online provider of the compulsory NBN Safety and Awareness Course. The company has also been named as the approved face-to-face training provider for the NBN Co.
As an official provider of this important mandatory course, AlertForce has designed a comprehensive curriculum to ensure that this induction training prepares individuals for the specific requirements of working in the NBN sector.
The NBN Safety and Awareness program is tailored to address the OHS hazards and risks present in this industry, to ensure workers are trained in the necessary theoretical and practical skills. All personnel hauling, installing or connecting NBN fibre optic cable, conducting excavations or holding direct responsibility over any NBN-related work site is expected to undergo the mandatory training and earn this qualification before beginning work in this sector.
The course is designed to act as an induction into the hazards and risks present in the NBN sector. This includes the adoption of minimum WHS standards and CPR training. Additional topics in the training also include traffic management, confined spaces, asbestos awareness, laser safety and fibre optic cable handling.
Upon completing the course, participants will have gained the ability to explain the purpose of the NBN project, identify their role in the execution of the NBN rollout and assess and respond to workplace hazards and risks. This will involve the process of hazard control and mitigation, understanding WHS requirements and completing adequate reports on the workplace risks and environmental issues.
Whether individuals decide to access the NBN safety and awareness course face-to-face or online, the training can completed in just one day. The in-person option consists of a day-long program featuring the use of iPads and educator interaction, while the online course can be completed in a four-hour period.
Through the use of quizzes, videos and other innovative training features, the AlertForce NBN blended training system is designed to encourage engagement and effective learning outcomes among adults.
Minimising the risk of accidents, injuries and deaths in workplaces across Australia is the number one priority at AlertForce, and the NBN safety and awareness program supports this goal. For more information on this course, or to start your training today, get in touch with the team at AlertForce.
The national broadband network (NBN) is an exciting and advantageous undertaking currently being rolled out across the country. Once complete, the NBN will ensure that all Australians have open access to fast broadband – improving internet capabilities for all families, businesses and individuals.
As the government strives to connect every town and community with the NBN, a large number of workers are carrying out a vast range of tasks and duties under the NBN Co umbrella.
Similar to most industries and occupations in Australia, there are a range of occupational health and safety hazards that employees in this field face each day. Mitigating the risk of injury, accident or death is an important goal of the NBN Co.
In an effort to protect the public, environment, communities and workers affected by the NBN installation, NBN Co has listed a number of required training for its employees, including NBN Safety and Awareness – offered online exclusively by AlertForce.
One of the most important steps to reducing the risks present in the NBN install is to ensure all workers are aware of the hazards they face. There are many potential risks within this field – here are just five of the most critical.
Open pits and manholes
Often, the work required to connect homes and communities with the NBN requires employees to open manholes and dig pits to reach and lay wires and cables buried below ground.
Many risks can be present when working in or near an open pit, including falling, engulfment and being struck by dropped objects. Mitigating these risks is an important factor in improving safety for the public and workers.
Fortunately, there are simple measures that can be put in place the reduce the risk of accident or injury, such as providing employees with hard hats, installing barriers around the open hole and ensuring the walls of the pit are secure and supported.
Working at heights
Connecting Australian homes to the NBN can involve scaling telephone poles and various other tasks that require employees to work above the ground.
When an individual is raised more than 2 metres off the ground, there is a significant risk of falling and sustaining serious injuries. It is therefore crucial to ensure workers have been adequately trained in working at heights practices.
Simple ways to minimise the risk of working above ground include using an enclosed elevated work platform (EWP) instead of a ladder when required to scale a telephone pole or building. When an EWP is unavailable or unreasonable, employees should have access to fall arrest systems, such as harnesses and tethers.
Installing the wires and devices required to connect homes and businesses to the NBN will require employees to work within the walls and floors of many buildings.
Because of this, there is a significant risk that individuals could become exposed to dangerous asbestos fibres. The ability to identify and respond to the presence of asbestos is a crucial factor in protecting the health and wellbeing of workers, residents and the community.
Drilling, cutting or breaking through walls, floors or roofs could disturb even bonded asbestos, causing dust and fibres to become airborne and pose serious health risks. If an individual were to inhale asbestos fibres, they would significantly increase their risk of developing fatal lung conditions, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis.
Any building that was constructed using material supplied before 2003 could potentially contain asbestos. In the interest of safety, employees should consider all older work sites as an asbestos risk.
When asbestos is discovered, it is important that the correct procedures are followed. This includes allowing only those who have received an asbestos assessment and removal qualification to undertake the duty of removing and disposing of the material.
As in any industry that requires direct access to power lines, cables and wiring, those working on the NBN face a serious risk of electrocution.
Addressing this risk can be as simple as ensuring all power has been switched off before commencing work on or close to these lines. However, in the event that electricity is present, employees should be wearing adequate personal protective equipment – such as charge dampening gloves – to reduce their risk of injury.
Furthermore, those working on or around electricity should ensure that another employee is available to act as an observer, keeping watch and ready to respond if an accident occurs.
Much of the work on the NBN is being conducted close to public roads. This means any worker taking part in the installation could be at risk of a traffic accident.
Because of this, it is important that individuals in this field are adequately trained in traffic management and control. Undertaking a course in traffic control will ensure workers are able to safely and efficiently direct public road users away from their colleagues, reducing the risk of an accident.
Furthermore, traffic management courses often also include training in how to effectively manage pedestrians. When open pits and manholes or live electrical wires are present on a work site, it is crucial that the public are protected from these hazards.
Ensuring that pedestrians have a safe path past the site can simply involve asking the public to use an alternative route. However, in some cases it is more appropriate to create an alternative pathway on the road. In this situation, an adequate traffic management plan is required to protect the safety of pedestrians, road users and employees.
For more information on the hazards faced by those working on the NBN, or to access training in this field, talk to the AlertForce team today.