Asbestos awareness is essential to the safety of Australians

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

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

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

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

Know the risk factors

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

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

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

Find and identify

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

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

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

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

Seek help if you're unsure

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

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

How much money could better WHS training save your business?

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

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

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

How many claims are there per year?

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

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

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

What could a claim cost you?

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

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

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

Cover all your bases with proper training

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

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

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

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

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

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

The effects of poor WHS

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

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

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

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

Economic loss from poor WHS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making your workplace better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The origins of asbestos

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

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

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

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

Asbestos in Australia

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

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

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

At long last: Asbestos ban

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to spot a confined workspace: WHS basics

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

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

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

What's the definition of a confined space?

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

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

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

Who has health and safety duties in these spaces?

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

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

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

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

What could traffic control training do for you?

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

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

The course

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

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

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

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

The pay

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

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

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

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

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

The job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Identify the risk first

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

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

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

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

2. Use the Buddy system

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

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

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

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

3. Proper equipment

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

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

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

4. Correct training

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

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

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

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

Five reasons confined spaces training is worth your time and money

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Your safety is at risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Save money in the long run

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

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

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

5. Give yourself peace of mind

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

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

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

Which health and safety practices are often overlooked?

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

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

1. Correct lifting technique

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

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

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

2. Staying hydrated at work

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

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

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

3. Work-related stress

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

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

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

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

The changing face of work health and safety requirements

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

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

WHS Harmonisation

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

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

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

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

Recent law changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make sure you're up to date

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

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

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

4 ways better health and safety can improve your construction business

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

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

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

1. Reducing costs

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

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

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

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

2. Improving employee retention

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Avoid fines and legal action

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

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

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

4. Making a good impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

An nightmare at Dreamworld

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

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

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

Who's liable? 

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

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

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

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

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

What happens next?

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

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

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

Why should you study the Diploma of Quality Auditing?

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

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

Auditing essentials

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

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

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

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

What to expect at AlertForce

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

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

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

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

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

Money matters

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

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

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

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

Just what is VET FEE-HELP?

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

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

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

Who is eligible for VET FEE-HELP?

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

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

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

How much am I allowed to borrow?

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

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

How do I pay back my loan?

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

Which AlertForce courses are VET FEE-HELP approved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is WHS in the agricultural industry shaping up?

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

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

Farming figures

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

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

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

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

A focus on farming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. There will always be WHS hazards to deal with

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The threat of asbestos remains

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

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

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

Will we ever see the end of asbestos?

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

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

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

Why is asbestos still arriving in Australia?

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

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

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

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

An enduring problem

In light of these revelations, the ASEA was granted an extra AU$3.4 million over two years as part of the 2016/17 Budget. Following this, the ASEA stated in its Annual Operational Plan that it would cooperate with a broad range of government arms to monitor the threat of asbestos. That's great news, but because asbestos is completely banned in Australia doesn't mean it is everywhere else. Far from it, in fact.

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China. It's the latter that is causing the most concern, seeing as China is easily Australia's most lucrative trading partner.  

There is no ban on asbestos in several developed nations, including Russia, India, Canada, the United States and China.

Worryingly, in a report produced by KGH Border Service, a company partnered with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, it was implied that imported asbestos is a problem too difficult to effectively police, especially as much of the substance crossing our borders originates in China.

Alarmingly, the report states that even though asbestos has been proven to be danger to public health and safety, it's still a cheap and effective material, suitable for a range of uses.

That may be so, but it's also widely known that asbestos is a lethal substance, responsible for the deaths of thousands. At AlertForce, we don't believe that any substance as deadly as asbestos should ever see the light of day again in Australia. Nevertheless, it's a problem that won't be going away for the foreseeable future, so be sure to get in touch with AlertForce to arrange your asbestos training today.

A student’s view: The Certificate IV in WHS

When it comes to getting ahead in the world of workplace health and safety (WHS), it's no secret that having the relevant, desired qualifications on your CV will stand you in better stead. With a Certificate IV in WHS under your belt, you'll be setting yourself up for an enriching career in the sector, as many who have studied at AlertForce will attest to. To illustrate this point further, we caught up with Yanet Ochoa, a former student of ours who completed the Certificate IV in WHS with flying colours. 

The Certificate IV in WHS is a vital qualification in any professional's CV
The Certificate IV in WHS is a vital qualification in any professional's CV

As a newcomer to Australia, Yanet was keen to expand on existing skills learned in her native country. She completed her course in mid-2016, choosing the Certificate IV in WHS to formalise her experience via an accredited, recognised certificate. She realised that to get ahead in the industry, it was necessary for her to gain the qualifications that would enable her to get her foot in the proverbial door. Even though Yanet had built up a fair bit of experience in her previous job overseas, she had no formal certificates to prove her worth.

Therefore, a course in WHS was the natural choice for Yanet to take things to the next level, so we were keen to hear her thoughts on how things are going since she finished up. Let's take a look at what she had to say.

Why did you choose to to study for a Certificate IV in WHS?

"At the time I saw the course advertised, I was actively looking for a job. Of course, I wanted to start work straightaway, but most of the roles I found required formal qualifications, which at the time I didn't have. I had worked in health and safety during my previous job, but aside from the experience I had there was no certificate to back me up. WHS has always been of interest to me, and I know that it is of paramount importance in every workplace around Australia today. I figured that with a recognised qualification in WHS, it would make things a lot easier with regards to securing a job."

"I figured that with a recognised qualification in WHS, it would make things a lot easier with regards to securing a job."

Yanet's words just go to show how important it is to gain the qualifications necessary to put yourself at the front of the queue when looking for employment in WHS. In this competitive industry, having as much weight on your CV as possible is a must, and with a Certificate IV in WHS from AlertForce, you're on the right path.

Why did you choose AlertForce as your training provider?

"There are a lot of training providers out there, but you simply must use the better ones. AlertForce is accredited, and has an outstanding reputation within the industry. I did a little more research online, and it was this reputation and accreditation that sold it to me. From my very first day it was excellent – very high standards, and I knew immediately that I had made the right choice." 

At AlertForce, we've always strived to provide the very finest in WHS and OHS compliance training. Whether online, face-to-face, or a mixture of the two, when you enrol in an AlertForce course you know that you'll be coming out the other side with a qualification to be proud of. As a registered provider, our courses are meticulously crafted to ensure that students receive a deep knowledge and understanding of the subject matter – as they have done on countless occasions. 

The Certificate IV in WHS includes a weekly online webinar, for extra guidance and support.
The Certificate IV in WHS includes a weekly online webinar, for extra guidance and support.

How did you find the course?

"The course was excellent – not only did we learn how best create a safe working environment in a range of sectors, we also studied specific legislation, were taught about educational WHS tools and how to work safely on a day-to-day basis."

"The teacher at AlertForce was very, very good. Directly to the point, understanding and very helpful."

"Even though I was pretty busy at the time, I still found that I had enough time to read, learn and study everything that I needed to. I found the course intriguing, and it was especially interesting to find out about Australia's WHS/OHS standards that are already in place. Creative thinking and innovative solutions were also strongly encouraged, because it is so important to spread this knowledge, as there are so many managers, owners and employees out there that just don't know their responsibilities when it comes to WHS. With a Certificate IV in WHS from AlertForce, we're perfectly placed to spread this knowledge."

"The teacher at AlertForce was very, very good. Directly to the point, understanding and very helpful – it made working through the course a whole lot easier." 

We deliver the Certificate IV in WHS as a series of five two-day courses over six sessions. Additionally, you'll have a weekly online webinar with your trainer, who'll provide invaluable support and advice. Students have up to one year to complete the course, but this can often be shorter depending upon experience and other factors – how quickly you finish is up to you. The Certificate IV in WHS is often seen as the perfect qualification for people looking to make their mark in WHS, or as an excellent way to formalise your experience if you're already working in it.

Would you say that having the Certificate IV in WHS has improved your career prospects?

"Yes, definitely! When looking for a job, I found a lot, but most of them required a qualification. The Certificate IV in WHS sets you up perfectly for a career in the sector, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to build a career in this industry."

The Certificate IV in WHS is one of AlertForce's most popular courses, meaning that spaces are limited. Get in touch with us to book your spot, as Yanet did, today!

How to land a health and safety job in the current climate

WHS. It’s an acronym that many of us see every day, but few pay attention to – but we should. Workplace health and safety protocols remain a big priority for businesses, schools, hospitals and all manner of facilities the length and breadth of Australia, and it’s easy to see why.

Despite the best efforts of trained WHS professionals, workplace accidents, injuries and other preventable incidents continue to occur in workplaces across Australia. Indeed, Safe Work Australia states that one in 25 Aussie employees were injured at work in 2015, according to its annual Key Work Health and Safety Statistics report. These injuries have occurred in all manner of different industries, with varying degrees of severity, which is why demand for WHS professionals remains high. Let’s take a look at how to land that perfect WHS role, wherever you are in Australia.

Thinking outside the box can really help your chances of landing a WHS job.Thinking outside the box can really help your chances of landing a WHS job.

The realities of the job market 

Of course, ever since the global financial crisis hit in 2008,  there have been job shortages all across Australia. The workplace health and safety sector is no different, and we understand that it can seem very difficult to get a career in WHS. Perseverance is key, though, and thinking outside the box when looking for employment can also really help. Keep at it and, with a qualification from AlertForce and a positive, can-do attitude, you’ll set yourself on the right path. It’s important to remember that, even in times of job shortages, there will always be a need for skilled, qualified WHS professionals, so don’t let your head drop.

Whether you choose to learn on a face-to-face or online basis, AlertForce have a broad of WHS courses for you to choose from.

The first step: Get qualified

You wouldn’t prepare a sumptuous meal without the requisite ingredients, nor would you attempt to fix a leaking pipe without the proper tools. The same philosophy applies to getting a job in WHS – it pays to be prepared.

This means laying the initial groundwork before you begin the application process, and there’s no better place to begin than with a qualification from AlertForce. Whether you choose to learn on a face-to-face or online basis, AlertForce have a broad of WHS courses for you to choose from. To really put yourself at the front of the queue, though, you should strongly consider enrolling in the Certificate IV in WHS, Diploma in WHS, or the Diploma in Quality Auditing.

Whichever of these certificates you have safely under your belt, you can rest assured it will put your name near the top of the list when you enter the WHS job market. You’ll enjoy the benefits that come with being taught by experienced industry leaders – each of our students are provided with a mentor to guide them through the finer points of their course, so from beginning to end, you’ll always have someone to turn to.

What’s more, AlertForce can proudly boast a 97 per cent completion rate, and we don’t shy away from going the extra mile. As such, our students not only finish their course, they come out of it the other side bursting with WHS knowledge and eager to start their careers.

Workplace accidents occur every day in Australia - which is why demand for OHS professionals is on the rise.Workplace accidents occur every day in Australia – which is why demand for OHS professionals is on the rise.

What are my chances of landing a job?

With a qualification from AlertForce safely in the bank, Australia really is your oyster when it comes to career opportunities in WHS. Things may seem a little difficult right now, but data released by the Australian government states that the job market in this industry is set to expand exponentially over the coming decade. That’s right – some 17 per cent more WHS professionals are projected to be employed in Australia in 2018 than there were in 2013, illustrating just how in demand WHS employees are.

Some 17 per cent more WHS professionals are projected to be employed in Australia in 2018 than there were in 2013, illustrating just how in demand WHS employees are.

The same source states that, as of November 2015, approximately 24,000 people were employed in the industry. This means that there are likely to be positions in every state in Australia, across a broad range of fields, so you’ll be able to pick and choose which industry to specialise in. To get a snapshot of the areas in big demand across Australia, as well as how much you can expect to take home, it is a good idea to browse  job vacancies sites where you’ll see positions such as:

  • OHS Support Officer – AU$60,000.
  • Return to work (RTW) Coordinator – $87,500.
  • OHS Consultant – $125,000.
  • Compliance Manager – $128,000.
  • RTW National Manager – $148,000.

Of course, there are a raft of other WHS jobs that you can get your teeth into. What you choose to do is completely up to you.

An alternative way to the top

There are other pathways into the WHS work arena that differ from the traditional routes. For example, you may have your heart set on a career as a senior asbestos removal specialist. Of course, the money at this level is a lot better than it would be for an entry-level position, but to reach the very top, you have to start somewhere – and that’s often a little further down the ladder. After following a course in asbestos removal, you could well land an entry-level job in this field. Stick with it and, with hard work and dedication, advancement and pay rises are only a matter of time away.

Perseverance and a positive attitude will help you find your dream career.Perseverance and a positive attitude will help you find your dream career.

There are many jobs with a big link to WHS that require licensing – for example, operating a forklift, or a role in traffic control. Though these might seem very minor industries, they actually represent a golden opportunity to get your foot in the door of the WHS house. By starting here, you’ll gain a wealth of experience and, as companies much prefer to promote internally, you’re in with a far better shot of working your way up.

State of the nation

In a recent article, we talked about how the building boom in New South Wales was causing WHS professionals to be in great demand. This still rings true today, and as the country’s most populous state with the biggest city, it’s where you’ll find the most job opportunities. Our article on the situation can tell you more, but to really put yourself on the fast-track to a rewarding WHS career, NSW is the place to be.

Data released by the Australian government states that the job market in this industry is set to expand exponentially over the coming decade.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of Queensland. The famous mining state is experiencing something of a downturn at present, meaning that cutbacks are having to be made. This means that any new vacancies are hotly contested, lowering your chances of landing a role. Of course, the mining industry is one that is always going to need WHS professionals, and should it recover, there’s every chance that there will be a big call for such workers in the future.

How can you improve your chances in the current climate?

After the financial crisis of 2008 unemployment rose across Australia, very few industries were unaffected. Even so, the market has been steadily recovering, with the unemployment rate standing at 5.6 per cent as of August 2016, according to Trading Economics. This is the lowest jobless rate since 2013, so things are certainly starting to look up. Though the green shoots of recovery are now apparent, giving yourself the best opportunity of finding work in the current climate is still an absolute priority.

This could mean meticulously tailoring your CV and cover letter for each specific job – there are few things that an employer finds more off-putting than a a blanket application that has obviously been used elsewhere. Additionally, showing your potential employer that you’re serious about your application will also go a very long way in what can be a competitive, selective atmosphere. Unpaid voluntary work in your chosen field, researching your employer and making use of AlertForce’s wealth of industry contacts will all stand you in excellent stead when you submit that application – as will attitude and a keen eye for that hidden gem of a job opportunity.

How to boost your earning potential

We’ve already talked about how having a nationally recognised qualification on your CV can vastly improve your chances of finding employment in the health and safety sector, but did you know that holding formal qualifications can also mean you’ll have more earning power than someone non-certified? To illustrate this, payments analysts PayScale found that safety officers who lacked formal qualifications were rarely paid more than $100,000, but those with the relevant certificates had earning potential of up to $150,000 – that’s a difference not to be sniffed at!

Be sure to get in touch with our friendly, knowledgeable team to get your WHS career off to a flying start!

Why the WestConnex furore highlights the need for more WHS professionals

Any motorist who lives and works in the Sydney area has surely heard of the WestConnex motorway scheme. In short, it's a project that entails widening and extending the M4 Western Motorway, adding a new section to the M5 South Western, and creating a new inner bypass of the Sydney CBD that will join the M4 and M5. Such an ambitious project doesn't come cheap, with the cost looking to hit AU$16.8 billion, and the scheme itself has been labelled as the largest transport project in the city since the Harbour Bridge was built.

However, the cost of the project, as well as a raft of other issues, has seen the WestConnex motorway scheme mired in controversy, and now an alarming new development has come to light – the alleged presence of asbestos in the road base of the new motorway.

A riddled road?

News agencies across the country are reporting that a former employee of Sydney excavation company, Moits, was supplying road base riddled with asbestos for use on the WestConnex project. Of course, such claims are highly serious, and so SafeWork NSW have now got involved. They are currently investigating Moits' practices at the recycling plant, with the end goal of figuring out whether or not WestConnex is being built with contaminated products.

Moits, though, is denying the allegations, stating that it unequivocally does not, and never will recycle anything that contains asbestos. Going forwards, Moits has stated that they will give their full cooperation to regulatory authorities such as SafeWork NSW to show them just how safe their work processes are – and that the wellbeing of the firm's employees is not in doubt. So how did these allegations actually come about?

Has asbestos really found its way into a new multi-billion dollar motorway?
Has asbestos really found its way into a new multi-billion dollar motorway?

A serious allegation

The ex-employee in question, Daniel McIntyre, worked for Moits as a weighbridge operator, as well as a quality control trainee, at a rock and dirt recycling plant in western Sydney. Part of the facility's main operations involves taking receipt of demolition waste from Sydney's various building sites, which is then crushed and given a new lease of life as road base.

It was Mr McIntyre's job to lead a team of staff in hunting through piles of rubble to discard anything that could not be put through. His team were allegedly given just 10 minutes to sift through each 30-tonne load – a small timeframe for such an undertaking.

Moits does not have the necessary licensing to receive anything that contains asbestos, but Mr McIntyre states that he and his team would regularly find sections of broken asbestos sheeting – every day, in fact.   

"On some days it was quite clean, we'd maybe get four or five pieces, on other days you could have we'd pick out maybe 20 pieces. We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible," said Mr McIntyre to ABC.

"We had three guys going through roughly 30 tonnes – times five – per hour so there was no way you could pick it all out. It was impossible."

A new lease of life

When Mr McIntyre noted that the road base was headed for the WestConnex project, as well as other construction sites all over Sydney, he called for a meeting with his management, and was promptly fired for 'being a troublemaker', he alleges. 

"My concerns are that people there are being put at risk. And my concerns are that there is asbestos that's free floating that's being crushed and it's dust and it's being sent out into businesses and homes and other places in Sydney and it poses a potential risk to the public," Mr McIntyre concluded.

Whether or not these claims turn out to be true or not, it just goes to show that asbestos remains a big problem across Australia. Hence, there remains a strong need for asbestos removal professionals the nation over, so be sure to get in touch with the team at AlertForce to gain your formal qualifications.

Why a workplace accident needn’t destroy your business operations

Unfortunately, workplace accidents occur every day across Australia. These range from the very minor, such as cutting your hand on a protruding nail, right through to the major – a fall from a ladder, or electrocution due to exposed wires. These incidents can occur in any workplace, from agriculture and construction, to manufacturing and mining. Though many workplace accidents can be prevented through proper workplace health and safety training, should something happen, it can have a notable effect on employees.

These incidents can occur in any workplace, from agriculture and construction, to manufacture and mining.

Say that one of your employees incurred a small injury and had to go to an emergency department for treatment. He or she may have to take a few days off work. Your establishment is given the all-clear by investigating authorities, but even so, the remainder of your employees are a little apprehensive to get on with their work. Of course, this is completely understandable – we wouldn't be human if we weren't a little nervous re-entering the scene of an accident, no matter how small. 

The issue, then, lies in helping your employees return to previous levels of productivity, and this is by no means easy. Let's take a look at how you can best support your team through a potentially difficult time, and return things to normal as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is critical incident stress management? 

One of the most effective ways to deal with the aftermath of an accident or an incident where injury could occur is a technique known as critical incident stress management (CISM). The method is described by Good Therapy as a style of crisis intervention designed to help support people who may have been involved in, or were affected by, traumatic events of any severity. Of course, workplace incidents can affect employees in a variety of different ways, and CISM uses a step-by-step plan to deliver a viable solution to the problem. Though there are several different methods utilised in CISM, there are a few which are highly relevant in the workplace – here are a two of the most applicable.

Talking about a workplace accident  is one of the first steps on the road to recovery.
Talking about a workplace accident is one of the first steps on the road to recovery.

– Defusing

According to the Victorian government's Better Health Channel, 'defusing' is carried out by an employee trained in workplace health and safety immediately after an event has taken place, with the intention of drawing a line under it and lending instant personal support. The key aim of defusing a situation is to stabilise workers, and give them every opportunity to talk over their concerns. This defusing process should happen no more than 12 hours after the incident has taken place. An open dialogue is encouraged, and after defusing has happened, a later debrief can be set up for those that require further care.

– Debriefing

'Debriefing' takes the defusing part of the process to the next level. It would normally take place a few days (up to a week or so) after the incident has taken place. This method takes the form of what initially appears to be a counselling session, though it isn't strictly as such – rather, it's a voluntary discussion designed to put the event in sharp perspective. Therefore, workers can gain a little clarity about just what has gone on, helping them come up with a plan for recovery.

Of course, it is imperative that managers and business owners understand that everybody's mind operates in a unique fashion, That huge, burly, bearded man, seemingly so fearless, could be visibly shaken up and might need an extended amount of time away from the workplace, whereas someone usually timid in demeanour may be keen to get back to work. You never can tell.

In any case, it's important that your staff, especially ones in a position of authority, are fully clued up when it comes to emergency management. At AlertForce, our range of courses can help prepare your employees for any eventuality, so get in touch with us to find out more today. 

Top 3 reasons investing in training is worth your while

Without training, professional development is near impossible. At its core, training provides the resources for growth as a modern day worker. Investing in the continued development of your team is an investment in the future of your organisation as a whole. Study after study highlights the benefits of employee development initiatives.

Yet, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, a lack of proper training initiatives across businesses plays a key role in the current employee retention problem. In a survey of over 1,200 young professionals, with an average age of 30, respondents cited a lack of employee-development efforts as a major reason for leaving a position.

Employees want to work for businesses that invest in their development.
Employees want to work for businesses that invest in their development.

The researchers found a major disconnect between what employees wanted in terms of training initiatives and what their employers offered. While on-the-job development was highly available, there was a reported lack of formal development – including industry-based training.

Perhaps the most important finding here is just how bad these young professionals want training. They crave the opportunity to develop professionally within their given field. When you pair this desire with the considerable organisational benefits of investing in employee training – the case for professional development within your business becomes crystal clear. Let's take a closer look at why training investments are worth your while:

1. Training drives engagement

Across industries and continents, there exists a considerable problem with employee engagement. Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report found that only 13 per cent of employees across the world are engaged in their current position.

Learning and professional development opportunities are the key to driving engagement.

When staff members are better engaged, the organisation as a whole reaps the benefits. According to Gallup, organisations leading the charge in employee engagement also performed 22 per cent better in terms of profitability and 21 per cent higher in productivity compared to businesses with low engagement levels.

So, where does training fall in the engagement equation? In an interview with CIO, Jason Weingarten, CEO of Yello, explained that learning and professional development opportunities are the key to driving engagement, especially with the largest demographic in the workforce today: millennials.

"Millennials are concerned with investing their energy and their time in organisations that will reciprocate," noted Weingarten. "They want to make sure they're growing inside their organisations and that they have a path to continue to do so. The fact that our survey found that salary isn't as key for them wasn't honestly much of a surprise to us; they're more concerned with working well with teams of their friends, making a positive impact on the world and having a promising path to growth is really important."

2. Training improves job satisfaction

Training initiatives go beyond engagement, they can even help improve the overall satisfaction of your team. In a survey of 1,000 working professionals by Bridge, a cloud learning management solutions platform, continuous learning and training opportunities ranked number one on the list of most important factors contributing to overall job satisfaction.

Development opportunities for your employees show them that you are committed to their growth thus increasing levels of overall satisfaction.

When training is supported, job satisfaction improves.
When training is supported, job satisfaction improves.

"In our survey, the majority of employees say continuous learning was important or very important to their job satisfaction.They cared about their growth and wanted these training opportunities," says Jeff Weber, senior vice president of people and places at Bridge, in an interview with CIO.

"And 53 percent of respondents say they're very likely or likely to leave their job because there are insufficient learning and professional growth opportunities. This is a major message to companies that if you're not sufficiently providing ways for workers to learn and grow."

3. Improve your training, improve your bottom line

At the end of the day, training your team is all about improving your core business functions. Not only does it help with engagement and satisfaction, it ultimately delivers a better experience to your customers. When you have a highly skilled workforce, you have a highly functional company – it's as simple as that.

Supporting employee development begins with investing in training for your team.

Supporting employee development begins with investing in training for your team. In such a fast-paced business world, leaders that fail to dedicate resources to the skill advancement of their employees risk falling behind.

Here at AlertForce we are committed to the professional development of workplace health and safety teams across Australia. We provide our students with comprehensive training with personal mentorship and flexibility. Whether you opt for our face-to-face courses or our online training, you will be provided with personal support from one our experienced AlertForce mentors to help you every step of the way.

Leaders looking to invest in their team are in good hands with AlertForce. With a 97 per cent student completion rate and high levels of student support, we have got your employees covered. To learn more about what AlertForce can offer you, contact one of our reps today!

4 ways to strengthen your business’s WHS culture

Having a strong workplace health and safety culture is critical for any successful business. In the past, we've discussed the benefits in terms of brand value, financial savings and overall liability protection.

But what steps can you take to ensure your organisation is truly committed to WHS practices? Let's take a look at a few key ways leaders can initiate a stronger work health and safety culture in their business.

1. Understand the expectations

For leaders, the first step to optimal WHS conditions involves gaining a complete understanding of what is required by them by law. In Australia, WHS legislation mandates that all employers provide: 

  • safe premises
  • safe machinery and materials
  • safe systems of work
  • information, instruction, training and supervision
  • a suitable working environment and facilities
  • insurance and workers compensation for your employees

While the intricacies of legal obligations vary from business to business, these are the general standards for most operating organisations. Leaders should be mindful of these criteria when creating WHS policies.

2. Assess your current state

Once leaders have studied the requirements for workplace health and safety, it is time to take stock of where their organisation stands. Are you succeeding in some areas and failing in others?

Conduct a thorough inspection of your workplace and take note of what needs improvement. Get your employees involved by asking them what they think needs to change in terms of WHS. A qualified health and safety professional should be involved in this assessment, as they are better equipped to identify hazards or problems in your current environment.

Conduct a thorough assessment of your workplace to determine any safety problems.
Conduct a thorough assessment of your workplace to determine any safety problems.

3. Create a plan

Every organisation should have a clearly defined safety policy in place. If you don't already have one, it is time to create one. If you do, there is always room for improvement. Take what you learned from your workplace assessment and address the pitfalls in your policy.

Make sure this document is readily available to your entire team. A plan that isn't thoroughly communicated is useless so make sure everyone is aware of policy changes and updates.

Every organisation should have a clearly defined safety policy in place.

4. Invest in your team

Arguably the best way to improve your office WHS culture is to invest in your team. AlertForce offers a variety of courses for professionals looking to improve and solidify their WHS skills.

Whether your dedicated WHS officer wants to finally get certified or an ambitious employee wants to take the initiative and begin their journey into WHS, we offer a comprehensive learning environment for all skill levels.

How to use LinkedIn to supercharge your career in health and safety

While LinkedIn may not be viewed as the most glamorous social media site out there, it certainly holds the most value for professionals at every stage of their career.

Whether you are looking to jump start your career in work health and safety or you are trying to build your current professional network, creating a solid LinkedIn profile can be the boost you need to supercharge your health and safety career.

Create a stronger network

LinkedIn's obvious appeal has to do with the opportunity to network. Professionals can search through a database of millions of people with varying positions across industries. This opens up a whole new level of networking potential.

However, independent LinkedIn consultant Victoria Ipri says there should be a limit to which connections you accept. Instead of accepting every pending invitation, be thoughtful in your selection to create a truly strong network.

"You should keep it to people in your industry who you think could be of assistance, and to people you know and have done work with before," explained Ipri.

LinkedIn can be a critical tool to help you keep up with past professional connections.

Maintain and nurture your relationships

The same way Facebook may be used to keep up with old friends or family members that have moved away, LinkedIn can be a critical tool to help you keep up with past professional connections.

Just because you relocated to a new city for a new position doesn't mean you can't leverage the advice or connections of your old boss. Keep in touch with your past colleagues via LinkedIn and maybe they can help you out somewhere down the road.

Find your next new job

LinkedIn truly is a land of professional possibilities. Whether you are actively seeking a new job or not, your LinkedIn profile can open up the door to exciting new opportunities.

According to a 2015 Recruiter Nation survey, 87 per cent of recruiters actively search LinkedIn for new prospects. Keep the door open to new career opportunities by creating a profile.

Show off your skills

For health and safety professionals, LinkedIn can be a great tool for finding exciting new opportunities or gaining a better understanding of what skills are most important in the industry.

Your profile can create a professional portrait for recruiters, with areas on LinkedIn dedicated to special skills, past experience and even professional certifications.

With LinkedIn global networking is in the palm of your hand.
With LinkedIn global networking is in the palm of your hand.

Perhaps one of the best additions to your LinkedIn profile would be a WHS qualification. In an increasingly competitive job market these kinds of certifications can prove your skills to potential new employers.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a course with AlertForce today!

Understanding the importance of workplace health and safety

 

Health and safety are two words people tend to take rather seriously – and understandably so. They play a vital role in your well-being and overall quality of life. When it comes to the business world, health and safety protocol should be at the top of any executive priority list. These processes are just as important as sales and marketing to the successes and failures of any company.

Regardless of industry, the possibility of accidents are always present. Some fields of work present more potential than others but the bottom line is that there need to be distinct protocols in place for workplace health and safety. This can be accomplished by investing in certification courses for your current WHS staff members.

Need for skilled WHS workers illuminated by high incident rate

The need for skilled WHS professionals is only compounded by the alarming rate of workplace injury across Australia. According to Safe Work Australia’s Key Work Health and Safety Statistics for 2015, 1 in 25 Australians suffered from work-related injuries last year.

These incidents predominantly occurred in the workplace (91 per cent) but notably also took place while travelling on business (4 per cent), when travelling to or from work (2 per cent) and during lunchtime or break activities (2 per cent).

The industries most susceptible to fatalities while on the job were:

  • Transport, postal and warehousing
  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing

These four industries accounted for just over 70 per cent of all workplace fatalities in 2015.

Health and safety policies are critical to a successful business environment. Health and safety policies are critical to a successful business environment.

The benefits of exceptional WHS

The obvious benefit of outstanding workplace health and safety protocols is the protecting of your employees. When organisations have clearly articulated and well understood WHS processes in place, their staff members are less likely to fall victim to workplace injuries. As a result, your business can be protected from the potential liabilities and costs associated with incidents that occur on-site.

But safety and legal responsibility aren’t the only benefits associated with well-executed WHS processes. They can enhance brand value, improve employee loyalty, decrease business disruptions and promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). Let’s take a closer look at a couple of these benefits:

Enhanced brand value: Branding plays an important role in customer perception. A company that promotes safe workplace conditions is inherently perceived as socially responsible by consumers and potential clientele – a value that increasingly translates to profitability. A study by the Bank of Finland examined the impact of corporate social responsibility on a company’s stock value between 1990-2004.

Organisations that were placed on a list of socially responsible companies saw a market value increase of around 2 per cent. Those who were removed from the list saw their stock value drop by an average of 3 per cent. Companies with exceptional WHS standards and procedures have the potential to not only enhance their brand image but improve profitability as well.

Workplace catastrophes can cause businesses to come to a screeching halt.

Decreased business disruptions: Workplace catastrophes can cause businesses to come to a screeching halt. Whether it be temporarily losing a worker to an injury or having to suspend production processes in light of potential dangers with current protocol, a lack of WHS procedures can cost your business time and money.

Investing in WHS skill advancements

Whether it be preventing costly legal fees or enhancing your overall company image, good WHS policies clearly play a vital role in an organisation’s well-being. As such, it is critical to invest in the development of your health and safety employees.

AlertForce can offer current health and safety professionals with formal qualifications in WHS practises. Our Certificate IV Work Health and Safety course enables employees to become certified by nationally recognised standards.

Our team of dedicated trainers provide a more personal approach to certification by supporting their students via weekly online webinar catch ups. To learn more about how AlertForce can help advance the skill sets of your health and safety staffers, check out the course today!

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Paralympians inspire safety at work [VIDEO]

Transcript

Working at heights training and other OHS programs are vital for reducing the risk of injuries in Australian workplaces. A fall from height can often result in serious injuries, such as paralysis.

Because of the high rates of accidents in local businesses, some of Australia’s most inspiring athletes have signed an alliance to help increase safety awareness.
The Australian Paralympic Committee has partnered with the Safety Institute of Australia in order to deliver targeted messages directly to workers. Paralympians will be travelling the country, sharing their real-life injury experiences with workers.

It is hoped the stories these athletes can share regarding their own struggles and rehabilitation will create a more tangible impact on OHS strategies than traditional training.

Allowing those who have sustained workplace injuries to share their experiences is just one way employers can boost OHS standards. Another is working at heights training from AlertForce.

Where can asbestos be found in the home?

Asbestos was a common building material in Australia prior to the 1990s. Beneficial for fire, sound and water proofing, this material was used extensively when building and renovating homes and commercial properties across the country.

This means that many houses built before 1990 therefore contain asbestos materials – posing a risk for any homeowner or professional undertaking renovations or demolition.

Understanding the risk of asbestos in the home is vital for ensuring families and workers are not accidentally exposed to this deadly material. A key consideration is engaging the services of a qualified professional – who has successfully completed asbestos assessment training – to conduct testing and appraisals before any work is undertaken on older homes.

For small jobs, however, it may not be reasonable to invite a professional in your home. In these situations, it is important that you are aware of the potential risks.

If your home or a property you are renovating was built prior to 1990, here are the six key areas where asbestos materials may be present:

  • The bathroom

As asbestos was often used as waterproofing and insulation, it is unsurprising that your bathroom is one of the most significant locations likely to contain this material.

The most common areas for asbestos to be present include the walls, ceilings and floors – particularly if cement sheeting was used during construction.

Another space to be aware of is the insulation around pipes and hot water heaters. In its friable form, asbestos was often sprayed onto pipes to protect against heat loss – making this a key concern for renovators and plumbers.

  • Living areas

If the property contains a fireplace, this is one location that is likely to contain asbestos. The product was proven to slow the effects of flames, making it an ideal fireproofing material. However, if the product was to burn, the resulting ash and dust would be a serious risk to health and safety if inhaled.

It is also recommended to be mindful of the total fire and smoke system, including the flue pipes.

Another location to consider is underneath the floors and within the roof space, as asbestos could have been used to insulate in these areas.

  • Kitchen

As a heat and waterproofing material, asbestos was often used in the kitchen splashbacks – that is, the panels around kitchen sinks and draining boards.

Additionally, asbestos will likely be present in the roof, walls and under the flooring. If your kitchen contains vinyl flooring, the material was often used as backing – so keep this in mind if you are ripping up old tiles or vinyl.

  • Outdoors

Due to the insulating and waterproofing materials of asbestos, this product was commonly used in exterior cladding. Be mindful of walls and roofs made from imitation brick cladding, concrete and even flat, patterned and corrugated sheeting.

Fibro homes are the most at risk of asbestos exposure, as this form of building material tended to always contain asbestos in Australia. Another area to consider is the guttering around your home, as asbestos fibres can collect here following storms.

In the backyard, any fencing and sheds built from similar exterior materials are also likely to contain asbestos products. Fences were built using asbestos up until the 1990s, with many constructed using “Super Six” fencing, according to the Queensland Asbestos Management Services.

  • Vehicles

Your home is not the only area where asbestos may have been used in the past. Mechanics and vehicle owners also need to be aware of the risks in their automobile.

Asbestos was used extensively in the automotive industry, with a ban on the products not introduced until December 2003. This means that if your car was manufactured prior to 2004, you could be at risk.

You need to take care when carrying out maintenance on the brakes, clutches or gaskets in particular. Any items installed or purchased before 2004 could contain asbestos fibres, creating a significant risk to your health and wellbeing.

If these parts become damaged in any way, you should take the vehicle to a trained and qualified professional as soon as possible and inform them of the asbestos risk.

  • Electric meter board

Not only could asbestos protect against water, heat and fire, it was also often used as an electrical insulation. Asbestos was added to other materials in the manufacture of electrical backing in a similar way to the creation of asbestos cement sheeting.

According to Ausgrid, electrical meter boards installed before 1988 may contain asbestos materials. Another important clue is the colour of your board, as relevant electrical boards were typically black.

The meter boards may also be stamped with one of several product names – Lebah, Ausbestos, Miscolite and Zelemite. Otherwise, it could have a caution sticker placed on or inside the box.

When employing an electrician to work on your board, it is important that you make them aware of the potential asbestos risk.  You should also discuss the work that is required and how they will manage the potential risk of exposure for themselves, you and your family.

Additionally, if working as an electrician in Australia, it is important to undertake asbestos awareness training to ensure you can identify and respond to deadly materials. This online course will give skills and knowledge to understand your risks and control the hazards related to your work.

Asbestos awareness training

With asbestos such a significant threat in Australia, it is important that you are able to identify the material in all locations within the home.

For those working in any trades related to plumbing, construction and electrical work, asbestos can be a very real hazard present each time you pick up your tools. For this reason, it is vital that you and your employees complete the necessary asbestos awareness training.

This course is offered online by AlertForce and works as an introduction to this crucial section of work health and safety (WHS) standards. To obtain a basic knowledge of asbestos in Australia and confidently put measures in place to reduce your risks, you should talk to the AlertForce team today.

Are you ready for Safe Work Australia Month? [VIDEO]

Transcript

We all know how important occupational health and safety strategies are in Australian workplaces. In an effort to boost awareness and encourage more businesses to adopt these life-saving practices, Safe Work Australia has launched its preparations for this year's safety month.

Safe Work Australia Month will be held in October this year. The theme for 2014 is Work Safe, Home Safe, which reminds us that our families are the most important reason for OHS standards.

If you want to get involved in safety month this year, you can consider taking part in one of our OHS training programs or signing up to become a safety ambassador in your community.

For more information on the workshops and events scheduled next month, visit SafeWorkAustralia.gov.au.

 

Third annual Mesothelioma Registry released [VIDEO]

Transcript

Asbestos exposure is a very serious problem in Australia, with people in a range of occupations facing potential contact with this deadly material during the course of their employment.

For employers, asbestos awareness and removal training is one of the best methods of mitigating the risk of exposure in the workplace.

To help workers understand the risks, Safe Work Australia – together with Comcare – have released the third annual Australian Mesothelioma Registry report.
According to the report, 575 people were newly diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013. More than two-fifth of these patients are male, with 80 per cent being over 60 years of age.

Asbestos exposure continues to be a problem in Australia, with 60.9 per cent of workers surveyed by Safe Work Australia having experience possible or probable exposure in 2013.

For more information on asbestos awareness training, talk to AlertForce today.

WHS News Recap – WHS obligations [VIDEO]

Transcript

When dealing with work health and safety in the workplace, it is vital that you understand your obligations as a manager, director or officer.

The recent changes to the Work Health and Safety Act have meant that the company is no longer held primarily responsible for accidents, injuries and fatalities. This responsibility has also been extended to cover business officers and senior managers.

The ACT became the first Australian state to prosecute an individual under these new regulations. In a case involving the electrocution of a dump truck driver in 2012, the ACT Work Safety Commissioner identified a number of failings regarding the company director's responsibilities.

When the proceedings continue in December this year, the company officer is facing a potential $300,000 penalty. This shows just how important it is for directors and managers to understand their obligations, including the provision of relevant OHS training and personal protective equipment.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

WHS News Recap – Working at Heights [VIDEO]

Transcript

August is National Tradies’ Health Month, which means now is the best time to consider the Work Health and Safety risks that face tradespeople in Australia every day.

Working at heights is a common OHS hazard among tradespeople, with many individuals required to climb ladders and enter roof spaces to complete their work in the trades. With around 10 per cent of all work-related injuries caused by a fall from height, it is easy to see how working at heights training can benefit our nation’s tradies.

And this consideration is becoming more important, as the number of tower blocks and apartment buildings being raised across Australia continues to climb. Population growth is driving demand for more space-efficient housing solutions, which is in turn influencing a need for trained construction workers.

When individuals are working above ground on any project, having the right protection in place is key. Without training and fall-arrest systems, employers risk substantial fines or even injuries and fatalities on site.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

Asbestos Monthly News Round Up: August 2014

Asbestos awareness and removal is a vital consideration in Australia, as products containing the deadly fibres are discovered each day.

The country’s extensive history with asbestos has made this material a serious threat to homeowners and employees in many industries. It is important, therefore, that Australians know what trends and discoveries are affecting buildings and work across the country.

Here are just five recent headlines that shed some light on how asbestos continues to impact on local and international operations.

NSW joins asbestos campaign

As the campaign to remove loose-fill asbestos from home in the ACT continues, the NSW government has come on board, offering free inspections to any home built before 1980 in high-risk areas.

Thus far, NSW has lagged behind the ACT in terms of addressing the “Mr Fluffy” crisis, claiming that the asbestos was safe as long as fibres were undisturbed.

However, as the campaign to demolish affected ACT homes moves forward, NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet announced the state would conduct health assessments in affected homes to make a better informed decision.

“The NSW government is absolutely committed to ensuring the health and safety of all citizens in this state,” Mr Perrottet said in an August 15 statement.

“This commitment stands when it comes to the issue of asbestos.”

Fronting the campaign is the NSW Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities (HACA). This organisation is chaired by WorkCover’s Acting General Manager Work Health and Safety Division Peter Dunphy.

“While the investigation will help determine the extent of properties that may be impacted it is important to remember that the risk of exposure to asbestos in buildings containing loose-fill asbestos is likely to be very low if the asbestos is undisturbed and sealed off,” Mr Dunphy explained.

He added that sprayed asbestos insulation is a “highly hazardous” product, and should not be disturbed by homeowners or workers who have not undertaken asbestos removal training.

“Only qualified tradespeople with training in suitable asbestos control measures can work in any areas identified as containing asbestos.”

Garden mulch asbestos contamination discovered

mulchA recent asbestos scare has seen a number of Bundaberg residents unintentionally putting their homes and gardens at risk.

Many locals purchased garden mulch from the Bundaberg Regional Council rubbish tip. Unfortunately, a resident last month discovered small pieces of asbestos present in the product.

After sending the product away for testing, the tip continued to sell the mulch until the results were returned. This meant that dozens of residents had time to purchase and use the contaminated product.

A spokesperson from the council explained to NewsMail that residents who had bought the mulch were being contacted and offered assistance. The council planned to send a qualified professional to each home to test gardens and undertake any necessary decontamination.

Since the incident, measures have now been put in place to obtain contact details for those purchasing the council’s mulch, as well as improving monitoring of what is being dumped. Asbestos products are not normally allowed in the affected tip site, which means that material has likely been incorrectly disposed of.

Anyone concerned about their garden should contact the Bundaberg Regional Council on 1300 883 699.

Drive for education in Wollongong

The Wollongong City Council has pushed for increased asbestos education for residents. In addition to publishing a list of approved and licenced removalists, the council will also release an asbestos education program.

Developed by the Asbestos Education Committee, these measures will ensure that local residents are aware of their responsibilities regarding asbestos assessment and removal.

“All of the councillors were unanimous in expressing their concerns about the effects of asbestos on people’s health and believed council should and could do more to protect the health of Wollongong residents,” Councillor Jill Merrin told the Illawarra Mercury on August 10.

Unlicensed asbestos removal results in fines around the world

A number of recent court cases have seen unlicensed removalists be landed with heavy fines. While these trials were located overseas, they each demonstrate the serious nature of unauthorised asbestos handling.

In particular, an American man from Woodbridge, New Jersey has been given five years in prison for undertaking unlicensed asbestos removal in schools, homes, churches and pre-school centres.

The man came under investigation after authorities discovered asbestos dust and material had been left in a day care facility he had been charged to clear.

“[He] exhibited tremendous greed and callousness with his unlicensed and unsafe asbestos removal, putting the health of young children at risk so that he could turn a profit,” acting state Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement.

Another case in the United States has seen a man from Lebanon, Oregon fined more than US$13,000 for allowing an unlicensed individual to undertake an asbestos project on his home.

Issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, fines regarding unauthorised asbestos work are handed out regularly to property owners and businesses. This particular fine was followed by a $8,800 penalty issued to a cafe in the same area that engaged the services of an unlicensed contractor.

This shows that it is important not just for removalists to access the appropriate licences, for also for homeowners to ensure they hire the right people to undertake asbestos-related work.

Unlawful demolitions a problem in Rockdale

The unauthorised demolition of a home in Bardwell Park, NSW is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to unlicenced renovations, according to the Rockdale Council.

While the owners of this particular property were given a stop-work order and a clean-up notice, a spokesperson from the council claims there are “dozens and dozens” of homeowners who are working on their homes without approval.

These individuals are not only putting themselves at risk, but also creating hazards for the health of neighbours and workers by potential asbestos contamination.

The home in this particular instance was over 70 years old, which means it is very likely it contained asbestos products, as reported by The Leader on August 15.

A suggestion raised by locals is for approved and assessed demolitions to be given official notices to be displayed prominently on the site. This will help the community identify illegal works, and should boost the number of unauthorised projects the council is informed of and able to stop.

The Rockdale Council has reissued warnings regarding older homes, particularly those that may contain asbestos materials. Residents who are planning renovations or demolition should engage a suitably licenced individual to assess the asbestos risk and, if required, carry out the removal.

Non-compliance with the clean-up notice could result in a fine up to $1 million for a business and $250,000 for an individual.

Want to know more?

Asbestos is a serious issue in Australia. If you would like to know more about this deadly material, check out the other stories on our news feed.

To access asbestos awareness and removal training, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

WHS News Recap – Traffic Management [VIDEO]

Transcript

Traffic management training is a serious work health and safety consideration for businesses across almost every industry. However, some sectors are more at risk than others, according to recent headlines from around Australia.

In particular, audits of mining companies in Tasmania in recent months have revealed troubling gaps in OHS standards. With safety inspectors overworked and underpaid, concerns have been raised regarding the efficiency of monitoring and controlling hazards.

Mining vehicles often reach immense size and weight, so preventing collisions is vital to reducing the number of fatalities in the industry. Fortunately, this is where comprehensive traffic management training can help.

Another area of significant concern is forklift safety in the manufacturing and warehousing industries. A Perth company was recently fined $30,000 when two untrained employees were injured after a forklift toppled over.

Operating a forklift is a high-risk occupation, so it is important that workers access all the necessary permits and training before jumping behind the wheel.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

WHS News Recap – Confined Spaces [VIDEO]

Transcript

Confined spaces can pose many work health and safety risks, due to dangerous atmospheres and limited entry and exit points.

This is why it is important for employers to understand the hazards their workforce could be facing, particularly in relation to accidents, injuries and fatalities in confined spaces.

Unfortunately, a recent case in Victoria has seen an employer fined for a second time regarding a fatal confined spaces incident in 2010.

Originally, the company was fined $80,000 for work health and safety breaches when a worker was overcome by carbon dioxide while moving stock in a confined space. With the right level of confined spaces training, the individual may have been able to identify the hazard and vacate the area before inhaling a fatal dose.

This year, the same company now may have to pay damages to another employee, who suffered anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the accident.

This incident demonstrates how vital it is to provide employees with a safe working environment in which to complete their duties.

For more information on this or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

Road surfacing safety a primary concern

Those undertaking a traffic management and control training program may be taking the first step towards a career in road construction and surfacing. Creating quality road infrastructure is a massive local industry, worth over $280 billion, according to Roads Australia.

With more than 817,000 kilometres of road network already laid across the country, maintaining the existing roads and building new network connections takes a lot of work. This is why civil contracting roles are always in demand, with more than 70,000 individuals employed in this sector in 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed.

Unfortunately, this essential industry can pose many risks to employees’ health and safety. When working on or near public roads, there are always traffic hazards present. Vehicles are one of the leading causes of work-related injuries and fatalities, according to Safe Work Australia.

Because of this, working near traffic has been defined as a high-risk activity, under the current Work Health and Safety Act.

As with any high-risk industry, understanding and controlling the hazards is a crucial consideration. Fortunately, with the right level of training and education, workers can easily minimise WHS risks. This is particularly important for traffic controllers – who are required to work directly with both civil and public vehicles.

Understanding the risks

In regards to addressing the risks traffic controllers face, industry authority, the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association (AAPA) has published an article in the most recent Asphalt Review dispatch.

The publication highlighted the importance of workshops and training for traffic controllers, citing a number of issues that may be influencing high injury and accident rates.

There have been a number of incidents that demonstrate the high-risk nature of surfacing work, particularly in regards to traffic managers. AAPA spokesperson Robert Busuttil pointed to one tragic day in November 2010, when two controllers were killed in separate events only hours apart.

On this day, a 45-year-old worker and a 23-year-old man within his first week on the job were both struck and killed by reversing trucks. Both men were employed as traffic controllers at the time of their death.

Following these accidents, the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) released a report looking into the WHS failings present in the road surfacing sector.

The key concerns identified in the 2012 dispatch included:

  • A lack of hazard awareness and induction training to both controllers and the persons responsible for creating Traffic Control Plans (TCPs)
  • Failing to update TCPs to specific jobs and locations
  • TCPs not inclusive of indirect hazards and how roadwork activities can affect a site

These dangerous issues are causing major hazards, as traffic controllers continue to work with limited knowledge of the risks they face each day. Additionally, managing the public and internal traffic can be difficult when not given an adequate or up-to-date control plan.

Addressing these concerns is a crucial consideration for any person working in or planning to enter the road surfacing industry.

Education is the key

Traffic controllers are a vital part of any civil construction project, with their work protecting the lives of their colleagues and the public. However, it is important that individuals employed in this role do not forget their own safety.

Fortunately, increasing the awareness and understanding of personal and site-wide hazards is simple when the right training and education is in place.

In this regard, the AAPA has developed a new workshop to improve WHS outcomes on civil construction sites. The Road Surfacing Awareness for Traffic Controllers course is aimed at improving the recognition of the hazards associated with related projects.

This important training program will include competencies relevant to:

  • Unique risks traffic controllers could experience – such as proximity to hot materials and working on public roads
  • Factors that can affect traffic control measures – including the introduction of work-related vehicles
  • Identifying issues which may compromise work quality and lead to extended project time and increased exposure to risks

Launched this month, the safety and awareness program is designed to help any worker who may be required to manage a traffic control plan. Additionally, supervisors and those responsible for approving or auditing these schemes can also benefit from the training.

Quality education from the beginning

Prior to undertaking employment in the construction, road surfacing or similar industry, individuals are encouraged to seek all necessary training. Rather than waiting until accidents and near-misses occur, undertaking a traffic control program as a preemptive measure can help mitigate potential risks.

In particular, any person who may be required to work as a traffic controller must access the mandatory traffic and pedestrian management and control training. Under state and federal legislation, all employers have a legal obligation to ensure only competent and adequately trained personnel are appointed as traffic controllers.

However, each state and territory is subject to different regulatory requirements. Understanding the specific courses and training needs in your area can be difficult. This is why it is recommended that you contact a registered training provider who can direct you to the most appropriate course for your needs.

This includes knowing when refresher training is required and which programs are needed prior to any work being undertaken. If you need any more information on traffic management and control programs, or want to access WHS training relevant to your industry, talk to the AlertForce team today.

AlertForce can help you meet your legislative requirements, as well as creating a training program that suits your role and WHS needs.

Asbestos dumping prompts call for education

A recent spate of illegal asbestos dumpings has highlighted the need for more awareness and control over this dangerous material.

On August 12, a large amount of asbestos was discovered strewn along the side of a busy road in North Rocks, NSW. This incident required hours of dedicated work safely contain and remove the material.

Several roads were closed as the clean-up was undertaken, and Council General Manger Dave Walker explained that it was difficult to tell just how much asbestos had been dumped. It appeared likely that the material has been deliberately thrown from the back of a truck, as it was spread across a 300m distance along three separate roads.

The council were taking this incident very seriously, and a full and thorough investigation is now underway. If caught, the individual responsible could face a fine up to $1 million and seven years in prison. Alternatively, if a business is found to be the source of this material, penalties would climb to $5 million.

"Asbestos dumpers are the most inconsiderate and reckless of all illegal rubbish dumpers – they put the long-term health of innocent people at risk," Mr Walker said.

Educating individuals and businesses on safe asbestos removal

While most people should now be aware of the dangers of asbestos material, it seems that many individuals are still practising unsafe dumping and removal. Unfortunately, this is not only putting themselves at risk, but also their families, friends and members of the public.

When an untrained person attempts to remove asbestos from their home or business, it is possible that the deadly fibres could become attached to their clothing, skin or hair. If the individual then heads home without changing their outfit, they are unintentionally exposing everyone they come into contact with to the material.

This means that your family and friends could be inhaling asbestos fibres all because you failed to undertake safe removal procedures. This is just one reason why it is vital that any person who may be required to work with or near asbestos is provided with the necessary asbestos awareness training.

As we head into spring, it is likely that the warmer weather could encourage more homeowners to start DIY projects. Home renovations and amateur construction projects are a hot bed for asbestos exposure, with untrained members of the public unaware of the potential danger.

This is why a number of licensed asbestos removal contractors and disposal facilities across Australia have launched a campaign to spread awareness.

"Exposure to asbestos is very dangerous there are many risks involved in the removal but if people are given the correct procedure to follow and the right equipment to wear there will not be any problem," explained Justin Castelluzzo, part-owner of Adelaide-based waste management company, Metro Waste.

"We tell every person that comes to the yard what's involved in correct asbestos removal and disposal and we still get a number of enquiries each day regarding the process."

While educating the public regarding the danger of asbestos works to a point, it is also vital businesses dedicated to the removal of the deadly material access all the necessary licences and training.

Often, companies and individuals rely on official removalists to undertake the process of containing and disposing of asbestos in the home or worksite. If these organisations are staffed by workers who have not obtained adequate education, permits or licences then significant hazards are likely.

How to become a qualified asbestos removalist

If you are interested in working as a qualified asbestos removalist, or have launched a business with this intention, it is vital that you understand how to access the necessary qualifications and licences.

Under the Work Health and Safety (WHS) regulations, there are two key licences required by those removing asbestos products. Essentially, the Class A licence allows individuals to work with all kinds of asbestos, while the Class B is limited to non-friable material only.

These levels can be obtained by accessing the relevant asbestos removal training through a registered training provider, such as AlertForce.

Other crucial considerations are the asbestos supervisory licence and the assessors qualification. In some cases, asbestos removal projects will require a supervisor to be present at all times, while others may only need a qualified person on standby.

Conducting asbestos assessments with the intention of removal requires a person to hold specialist skills related to identification of hazards and control of air monitoring. Without the relevant Level 5 qualification, individuals should not be employed in this role.

More information on these particular obligations can be found at Safe Work Australia, or through your state's affiliate authority.

To access the necessary asbestos removal training to get yourself started in this career, talk to the AlertForce team today.

Government body fined after workplace death

Traffic management training is an important consideration not just for employees, but also any members of the public. Vehicles of any size or shape can pose serious risks to people's health and safety, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure these hazards are mitigated.

When contractors are engaged to carry out high risk tasks, this issue becomes even more vital. A person conducting a business or undertaking cannot safely assume that a contractor will perform the necessary hazard checks. It is therefore up to the employer to ensure the individual has received the necessary training and understands the correct risk management processes.

This was demonstrated recently when a local government council was fined after a bystander was struck and killed by earth-moving equipment on a landscaping site in Stirling, Western Australia.

Failure to keep the public safe

The accident, which occurred in November 2011, involved a contractor who has been hired by the council to undertake landscaping works outside a community centre.

In the same area, a group of individuals were clearing a shed. The contractor had repeatedly told these people to stay clear of the vicinity. Unfortunately, when the landscaping machinery was being reversed up an incline, it struck and killed a man from that group.

The Perth Magistrates Court found that the employer, the City of Stirling, had failed to ensure the contractor had completed risk assessments in the area before performing the work. Additionally, the obligation for an employer to satisfy itself that the contractor was adequately reducing risks was also not met.

Because of this, the Court fined the City of Stirling more than $20,000 in compensation and costs. This decision was reached after much deliberation, with the final order being laid on August 6.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch explained that the tragic death of the bystander should serve as a reminder to employers to ensure that safety measures are always in place.

"This is especially important when mobile plant such as bobcats are in use in and around public areas," he said in an August 6 statement.

"The case also provides a reminder that workplace safety is the responsibility of not only the contractor performing the work, but also the organisation that engages the contractor."

As the City of Stirling employed the contractor to carry out the landscaping work, it was then the obligation of the government officer overseeing the project to ensure a job safety assessment (JSA) had been carried out.

"It was not alleged that the City of Stirling's failure to require a JSA caused the man's death, but had the City taken these measures, the risk of harm would have been reduced or eliminated," Mr McCulloch said.

Traffic management in public areas

Traffic management and control is not only to ensure those operating vehicles and mobile machinery follow the rules onsite. This training is also vital for protecting pedestrians and avoiding preventable accidents involving members of the public.

In particular, pedestrian management is a vital component of any traffic control training course. While this is most important for projects undertaken in public areas, it can also be beneficial for on-site work to ensure visitors and bystanders are protected.

When construction, maintenance, landscaping or any other work is being carried out close to where you can reasonable expect members of the public to occupy, it is vital that pedestrian controls are in place.

In the case above, the contractor had allegedly told the bystander to stay clear of the worksite. However, if physical boundaries had been in place, for example, the accident may not have occurred.

The very best solution for preventing traffic-related injuries and fatalities is to keep pedestrians and vehicles physically separated. This can be done by simply installing temporary barriers around workspaces. In the Western Australian case, mobile fencing could have been utilised to clearly mark where the worksite began.

However, in some circumstances this is not always possible. For instance, if the landscaping work required the contractor to move across the entire community centre grounds, it would not be reasonable for the complete area to be fenced-off.

Protecting the public with traffic management training

When physical barriers are not a reasonable solution, there are fortunately other options that can be put in place. In particular, any person operating a work-related vehicle near the public should be provided with traffic management training to ensure they understand the risks to themselves and others.

Another consideration could be to have a stand-by employee checking the area is clear before machinery is moved. In the case outlined above, the accident occurred when the equipment was reversing up an incline. It is possible that the bystander did not see or hear the machinery coming towards him, and was not visible to the operator.

In this case, simply having a spotter standing nearby could have ensured that both the member of the public and the driver were aware of each other.

Alternatively, the driver – knowing that people were nearby – could possibly have chosen to turn the machinery around. By reversing, the contractor potentially cut down his own field of vision and impacted on his ability to identify the risks and stop before the accident occurred.

There are many potential factors that could have resulted in a different outcome. Understanding how these influencers relate to your own undertaking is a crucial consideration. Fortunately, you can find out more information through comprehensive traffic management training.

To improve the safety at your site, get in touch with the AlertForce team to access training for you or your staff today.

WHS complaints rise in Queensland

New figures from the Queensland Work Health and Safety (WHS) authority show that the number of construction-related complaints has climbed significant over the past year.

This is according to an August 3 article published in The Sunday Mail, which revealed reports concerning safety breaches on local sites climbed to 2,765 for the 2013-14 financial year. In comparison, complaints reached just 2,092 in 2012-13 and 1,764 in 2011-12.

One of the key influencers driving the increased complaints is the growing public awareness of WHS standards. While in the past, the majority of complaints were issued from internal sources, recent years have seen nearby residents and passersby become more widely represented in the figures. According to The Sunday Mail, this could be because the popularity of shows such as The Block and House Rules, which commonly feature segments outlining safety procedures and awareness.

In addition to the rise in complaints issued, a WHS Queensland (WHSQ) representative has reveals that there were 10 workplace fatalities throughout the entire 2013-14 financial year. However, the current statistics show two people have died in work related incidents within a week.

One of the individuals was killed when the trench they were working in collapsed and engulfed them, while the second died after falling six metres on a construction site.

These incidents, and the WHS breaches that result in complaints, are demonstrations of the importance of correct safety procedures in workplaces. When policies are not present or not followed correctly, businesses can be hit with substantial fines or even experience serious accidents.

Making a WHS complaint in Queensland

For any individual who discovers a serious WHS breach, informing the proper authorities is vital for protecting the health and safety of employees and the public.

WHSQ supports this important process by offering an online complaint form as well as a direct phone line for those wishing to make a report. If an individual does not wish to reveal their identity, complaints can be made anonymously. This is important for any contractor or employee who may not feel comfortable reporting on their boss or colleagues.

Once a complaint has been received, WHSQ will review the details and take action depending on the nature of the breach. In many cases, this involves sending a Department of Justice representative to the site in question and ensuring those working in the area are aware of their obligations and best practice policies.

The Department of Justice inspectors issued more than 1,300 improvement notices in Queensland in the 2013-14 financial year. Around 750 projects were forced to halt their work due to non-compliant and high-risk activity.

Although the number of fines was down on previous years, 32 employers still received penalties of between $200 and $3,600 last year. The drop in overall fines issued is largely attributed to the change in philosophy by the Department of Justice. Now, the focus has been placed on working with builders and contractors to boost compliance prior to incidents being reported – rather than responding to accidents.

Addressing the rising complaints

With the number of complaints continuing to climb across Queensland's construction sites, the Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland has revealed plans for a 2014-17 action plan.

This initiative will target "critical risks/issues related to fatalities" within the construction industry, with a focus on traffic management, falls prevention, site supervising and mentoring of young workers.

Another important factor for employers and workers to consider is asbestos exposure, with issues related to the dangerous fibres making up more than a quarter (28 per cent) of total complaints.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to address these concerns in workplaces and construction sites across Australia. In fact, there are a few simple measures that can be put in place to mitigate the risk of serious WHS breaches and non-compliance.

What can employers do?

When responding to the high number of workplace complaints, employers working in high-risk industries – such as construction – probably already have policies in place to boost safety.

However, in some cases, a basic knowledge of the WHS standards may not be enough to avoid accidents and injuries. In particular, when employees are not continually supervised and reviewed, they could make changes to their work behaviours which fail to meet safety requirements.

This is why it is vital that employers regularly check up on their workers and keep them informed and aware of their changing WHS needs. Additionally, employers, supervisors and site managers should undertake the following standards to ensure that best practices are being followed at all times.

– Know the regulations and requirements

When you want your workers to follow correct WHS policies, it helps to hold a thorough understanding of these practices yourself.

It is therefore important that all leaders and stakeholders access the relevant education that can help boost WHS compliance. This could include contacting your local Work Safe Authority, or undertaking comprehensive WHS training.

– Educate your workers

As well as increasing your own understanding and knowledge, it is vital that you provide all relevant workers with the necessary training to protect themselves and others. By giving employees access to these qualifications, they are more likely to work within industry standards.

While some competencies may be more relevant than others, the construction industry is an area that requires a large number of skills to operate safely. For instance, most workers within the building sector will need some level of working at heights training throughout their career.

This is reflected in the high number of workplace fatalities that are related to falls and working at heights. Once an individual is working two metres off the ground, their risk of serious injury or death increases dramatically. With much in construction work involving roofs and tall structures, this is an important consideration for all industry employers.

– Have all necessary equipment available

In addition to accessing the necessary training and education for you and your workers, it is crucial that the worksite offers all necessary safety equipment and set-ups.

Many WHS complaints involve environmental and situational issues, such as ladders being set on uneven ground or scaffolding placed under live power lines. Additionally, a lack of personal protective equipment is also a common reason for complaint.

For instance, a worker climbing over a roof without a fall-arrest system in place may be grounds for an official WHS complaint. Alternatively, unstable or unsecured scaffolding may also be cause for alarm. 

Addressing these issues is easy, when employers invest in the right equipment and environmental reviews. However, knowing which systems would be most beneficial and being able to identify and address potential risks is vital.

With WHS training and reviews, employers can ensure that they and their workers understand these factors – significantly reducing their risk of accidents and injuries.

If you need more information on your WHS training requirements, or how to improve safety on your construction site, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Monthly News Roundup: July 2014

Another month has passed with serious asbestos revelations making headlines around the world. Staying up-to-date with asbestos-related news is an important consideration for any employer, as it helps increase awareness of the potential risks you and your employees could be facing.

With this in mind, here are four of the top asbestos-related revelations that dominated the news channels around the world in July.

Telstra terminates NBN asbestos subcontractors

Health and safety has become one of the defining features in the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN). With various risks and hazards present across the process, companies working on this vital project are encouraged to boost safety wherever possible.

This focus has led to a number of important policies, such as the introduction of mandatory NBN safety and awareness training for individuals working in particular roles.

Recently, major NBN employer Telstra has revoked accreditation of a number of subcontractors and individual workers, according to a July 28 article from The Australian.

"This decision was made after audits showed they were not meeting safety standards we ­expect for this type of work. These accreditation breaches were not limited to asbestos work, but included other issues such as traffic and pedestrian management," Telstra spokesperson Nicole McKechnie explained.

Last year, the rollout was delayed due to a series of asbestos scares, demonstrating the need for NBN individuals to undertake comprehensive asbestos awareness training.

More schools closed due to asbestos scares

Asbestos exposure is a serious hazard for many workers in Australia. Unfortunately, this risk can also affect people unrelated to their occupation – such as homeowners performing renovations.

Another major asbestos hazard is the historical use of the material in schools built across the country. This means that a significant number of children could be exposed at any time.

It seems that not a month can pass without another school being closed due to asbestos discoveries – and July was no different. In particular, Willetton Senior High School in Western Australia was closed down on July 22 in response to suspected asbestos.

"We've known Willetton is an old school and has been scheduled for major work as part of the rebuilding program," David Axworthy, a spokesperson from the Education Department told ABC Australia.

"The buildings that are to be demolished later in the year are routinely monitored and checked so during that routine inspection they found some broken ceiling tiles and other residue … that contained asbestos."

There are many schools facing potential asbestos risks, according to a 2013 government report, with several institutions in WA listed as needing immediate attention.

New threat in Gaza war

Residents in Gaza are not only facing the persistent threat of mortar shells and rockets. The war-ravaged southern communities are now being exposed to a secondary danger – asbestos.

A recent media report has picked up on the increased risk of asbestos inhalation, due to structures and buildings being destroyed in the fight.

Fortunately, the local councils are working hard to replace any asbestos roofs that may be in the line of fire. However, as shells continue to drop across the communities, the threat is becoming increasingly urgent.

"The problem is mainly with front-line communities, which are most vulnerable to rocket and mortar fire," Council Head Haim Yalin said, according to Middle Eastern news publication Haartz.

"Warehouses and other buildings also have asbestos roofs, but our first priority is to replace the roofs of residential structures."

Mr Yalin revealed that there are around 700 residences with asbestos roofs located along the Gazan perimeter. This means that any initiative to replace the dangerous materials will be a lengthy and consuming endeavour.

Former BHP worker wins asbestos damages case

A landmark case concluded in New South Wales last month, with a former BHP worker awarded more than $2 million in damages.

The ex-employee claimed that he was exposed to asbestos in the early 1980s due to negligence from his employer. The plaintiff is now suffering from terminal mesothelioma as a consequence of inhaling the fibres.

On July 31, the Dust and Diseases Tribunal found BHP guilty of negligence related to work health and safety standards. The Court then decided BHP would have to pay the worker $2.2 million in compensation.

"While today's verdict is a significant victory for Mr Dunning and his family, it does not take away from the fact that he is dealing with an incurable, terminal disease as a result of BHP's negligence," Joanne Wade, asbestos lawyer with Slater & Gordon expressed.

"We are extremely pleased that Mr Dunning can now move on and concentrate on spending his remaining time with his loved ones."

For more information on asbestos in Australia, check out our news feed. Get in touch with the AlertForce team to access a range of vital asbestos training programs.

OHS News Recap – NBN Safety and Awareness [VIDEO]

Transcript:

The National Broadband Network is being steadily rolled out across the country, with more Australian homes connected to the service every week.

As the project continues its campaign, regional workers may soon see job opportunities to land in their area. Overall, construction of the network is expected to employ 18,000 individuals, according to Deloitte.

The project to connect every Australian to fast broadband has started to infiltrate regional towns, with this activity expected to pick up this year. Over the past 12 months, 20,000 premises in remote and regional areas have been connected to the network. But there is still a lot of work to do.

Fortunately, those interested in taking part in the rollout, and working on sites in regional communities, can access the mandatory NBN safety and awareness training online through AlertForce.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.

August is National Tradies’ Health Month

The health, safety and wellbeing of tradespeople in Australia is under the spotlight this month, as industry bodies launch the National Tradies' Health Month.

Throughout August, the Australian Physiotherapy Association – together with work boot manufacturer and supplier Steel Blue – will be supporting initiatives which raise awareness of the hazards in many trade industries. Of particular importance are musculoskeletal health issues, caused by lifting, slips, trips and falls.

"Too many tradies are injured on site every day, 80 per cent of injured workers in Australia are tradies and labourers," Steel Blue General Manager Ross Fitzgerald explained.

"We have been working closely with the Australian Physiotherapy Association to encourage a behaviour change amongst tradies, to make them more aware about the importance of health and safety, at work and home."

Trades can be the most dangerous occupations in Australia, with a vast and complex range of hazards present each time an individual commences work. Because of this, around 10 Victorian tradespeople are badly injured at work each day, according to WorkSafe Victoria. This means that 3,560 tradies sustain an injury that requires workers' compensation each year.

"The number of deaths, injuries and safety breaches prove that everyone – builders, contractors and workers – must do more to make sure workers get home to their families safely every night," WorkSafe Chief Executive Denise Cosgrove said.

According to Safe Work Australia, around 10 in every 100,000 workers claim compensation related to musculoskeletal disorders. Nearly a quarter of all roofers, labourers and plumbers experience back pain, muscle stress and strain from lifting equipment or slips, trips, and falls when handling materials.

"The injuries caused on sites are not always life threatening, but are often painful, costly and result in long periods off work," said Ms Cosgrove.

Unfortunately, when workers require time away from employment, mental health becomes another major issue among tradespeople. Statistics released on the official Tradies' Health website reveal that 18 per cent of injured workers sought mental health services after six months off work. After a year off, that number increased to 30 per cent.

What are the risks to tradies' health?

There are many potential risks to the health and safety of tradespeople in Australia. With these roles often playing a crucial factor in a number of industries, addressing every hazard can be challenging.

To help tradies and employers understand the risks facing tradespeople, here are five of the most common hazards.

  • Working at heights

Falls from roofs, ladders, scaffolding and other heights account for around 25 per cent of all workplace fatalities, according to WorkSafe Victoria.

Many trades-related occupations can require an individual to work above the ground. Every time a tradesperson climbs a ladder, they are putting themselves in danger of a serious injury or even death.

Fortunately, simply strategies can be put in place to avoid these accidents. In particular, employers should provide all at-risk individuals with necessary fall-arrest systems and working at heights training.

  • Asbestos exposure

When a tradesperson works on a building or structure that was built before 1990, there is a significant risk of being exposed to deadly asbestos fibres.

Each time a worker cuts into a wall, for example, the resulting dust could contain asbestos. If the individual was to then inhale the dust, they would forever be at risk of developing an asbestos-related lung condition.

It is important for all workers who may be working in environments that contain asbestos to access the necessary information and guidance. For instance, older buildings should have a register that indicates the presence of asbestos so workers can avoid dangerous areas.

Additionally, undertaking asbestos awareness training will ensure workers are able to monitor and identify asbestos fibres in any workplace – which is ideal for tradespeople who often move from site to site.

  • Electricity

Electricity is a major concern for some tradespeople, as their occupation may involve working directly with wires and other electrical equipment. For others, it is less of a persistent threat but can still pose a risk when working in certain locations.

Any tradesperson who may come into contact with electricity during the undertaking of their duties can follow a few simple practices to ensure their own safety. These include personally checking wires and equipment are not live before handling them and wearing the necessary protective equipment – such as thick gloves and rubber-soled boots. 

  • Heavy lifting

Musculoskeletal disease is one of the most common injuries reported among tradespeople, with the culprit usually being unsafe lifting procedures.

Back pain and muscle sprains are typical results of incorrect lifting, and these injuries can seriously affect a person's ability to continue physical work. If a tradie was to permanently injure their back, they could lose their entire income due to not being able to complete the tasks they are trained for.

It is therefore crucial that practices are put in place to promote safe lifting techniques, such as warming up and stretching before undertaking any strenuous labour. Whenever possible, physical lifting tasks should be avoided – employees need to understand when a crane, forklift or wheelbarrow is suitable.

Additionally, tradies need to be encouraged to ask for help. Some individuals may believe that asking for help would make them seem weak and unable to perform their job – however, seeking assistance is recommended and demonstrates an admirable knowledge of one's own limits.

  • Excessive noise

Tradespeople are often required to use loud equipment and machinery during the undertaking of their duties. For instance, an electrician may need to operate drilling equipment to access the wires in a structure.

Excess noise can also be a risk when operating a heavy vehicle or working close to other construction work. Unfortunately, once you feel pain the damage is already done, so it is important to put preventative measures in place.

Examples of this could be wearing earmuffs or plugs whenever you are using a hand drill or other loud piece of equipment. Noise-related hearing damage is permanent, so don't just put up with excessive sounds – talk to your employer or human resources department about the protection and policies you need. 

How can you get involved with National Tradies' Health Month?

There are a number of ways individuals and corporations can take part in National Tradies' Health Month. A variety of events are being held across Australia, raising awareness of the hazards tradespeople face and methods to control these risks. A list of the events can be found on Tradieshealth.com.au.

Alternatively, employers and tradespeople can register to host their own event – as well as access a range of WHS resources to share with staff. 

For a more unique and interactive approach to boosting hazard awareness, individuals can play the online game. The Australian Physiotherapy Association and Steel Blue have released this fun and informative game to encourage increased participation in WHS initiatives.

Need more information?

If you need more information regarding occupational health and safety in the trades, or would like to access a relevant training program, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Seven step action plan for small business safety

If you own and operate a small business in Australia, then it is your responsibility to ensure your employees are provided with a safe working environment.

Work-related injuries and accidents are a serious issue across many industries, with a significant number of fatalities and workers' compensation claims being lodged each week.

According to Safe Work Australia, almost 100 people had died in work-related incidents in 2014 by the end of July. This amounts to nearly one fatality every second day. Reducing this number is an important work health and safety (WHS) consideration for any Australian business owner, as even one preventable death is too many.

Fortunately, SafeWork SA has released a seven step safety guide and checklist for small businesses. By following this plan, employers and owners will more effectively understand and meet their obligations regarding Australian WHS standards.

This action plan includes practical advice on how to improve safety in the workplace, with general information that can apply to a vast range of industries and occupations.

Seven steps to safety

There are many ways an employer can meet their obligations as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). Safe Work Australia explains that, as far as is reasonable practical, the primary duty of a PCBU is to ensure the health and safety of workers (and visitors to the workplace) is not put at risk.

In particular, it is vital that business operations and conduct does not create unnecessary hazards. This is why the seven step process is crucial for any persons launching a startup enterprise or running an existing small business.

The guide, released on July 30, encourages employers to work with their workers when addressing potential risks in the workplace. Safety improvements can be implemented more efficiently and effectively if all employees are aware of their responsibilities and requirements.

Prior to commencing the seven step process, PCBUs should compare their current operations with the WHS snapshot. This document helps employers identify where there is room for improvement and which areas should be priorities.

Once this has been completed, the seven step action plan should be put in place.

1. Set up a safe workplace

The very first action you need to take as a small business owner is to ensure the working environment is supportive of WHS standards. This includes investing in quality machinery, mitigating trip hazards and supplying any necessary personal protective equipment.

This step can generally be achieved by engaging a Safe Work representative to review your site. Once the potential hazards have been identified, policies and protection can be enacted to prevent accidents.

Other PCBU responsibilities include installing WHS information sheets and reporting procedures, to ensure workers and visitors are aware of crucial risks and practices. A common example of this is to have evacuation procedures prominently displayed in the workplace, where both employees and the public can find it.

2. Consult

As well as engaging the services of an official representative, employers should involve their workers in the WHS process. In South Australia, this is a legal requirement under the WHS Act (2012).

Your employees often have first-hand knowledge of the potential hazards they face during business conduct, so they can provide valuable insight into your WHS policies.

Consulting with your workers is not only beneficial for you, but will ensure that every worker is aware of the risks in the workplace. This review and discussion should take place whenever business processes and practices change, as any minor adjustments can affect potential WHS hazards – putting uninformed workers at risk.

3. Manage hazards

Once you have identified and addressed the numerous hazards in the workplace, ongoing management policies need to be put in place.

Having procedures in place will ensure that workers continue to follow WHS standards, particularly as regular reviews are made.

4. Train and supervise

Training is one of the most vital factors in improve WHS outcomes, as misinformed and untrained employees can struggle to understand and adequately address their risks.

Your WHS training requirements will vary depending on the industry in which your business operates. However, it is the duty of the employer to know and access the correct courses and programs for their staff.

For instance, any business that involves handling or working near materials that may contain asbestos could benefit from asbestos awareness training.

As well as investing in the required education, employers need to ensure that adequate supervision is provided to monitor new workers and those undertaking unfamiliar tasks. A competent supervisor will ensure that safety policies are being followed and correct procedures are in place. 

5. Maintain safety

Once the required training and policies have been integrated into the business, employers need to regularly check that these processes are still being utilised and have remained relevant and effective.

Hazards and operations can evolve throughout the life of a business, which means that original WHS standards may not suffice for future risks. By carrying out regular reviews and maintenance, PCBUs can ensure best practice policies are in action at all times.

6. Keep records

Documenting injuries, incidents and near misses is an important legal requirement for any business. This includes recording any maintenance, inspections and tests you perform.

By keeping this information on file, you can respond when your Safe Work authority requests the reports – which may occur in the event of an accident. This will also make it easier for you to monitor health and safety in the workplace, so you can quickly and efficiently act when potential issues are identified.

7. Monitor and review

As your business grows and evolves, so too could the hazards. It is therefore vital that you regularly review and improve your WHS standards and policies to suit your changing business.

If you need any more information on monitoring WHS in your business, or would like to access the training your staff require, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

OHS News Recap – Working at Heights [VIDEO]

Transcript:

Working at heights training is an important consideration in many industries across Australia, but some sectors are more dangerous than others.

In particular, the high risk forestry industry recently announced plans to continue a partnership designed to improve worker safety and awareness. The New South Wales WorkCover authority has signed an ongoing agreement with the Forestry Corporation to provide training in areas such as working at heights, traffic management and driver safety.

Within the construction sector, high winds kept workers on their toes in Victoria and New South Wales earlier this month. As bad weather swept across the country, various WorkCover bodies issued warnings regarding working at heights and the dangers of structure collapse.

As winter continues to create havoc across Australia, and spring approaches, workers in the southern states in particular need to prepare for ongoing strong winds.

For more information on these or other OHS stories, check out the articles on our news feed.
 

Safety audit reveals gaps in Tasmanian mines

Mining is one of the most dangerous industries in Australia, with employees at every level facing a range of potential work health and safety (WHS) hazards.

In fact, approximately 3 fatalities occurred per 100,000 workers in 2013. Although this was a great result for the industry, which has seen historical fatality rates reach up to 12.35 deaths per 100,000 employees, it still highlights the dangers present in this sector.

Sustaining WHS standards is therefore a serious consideration for any employer in the resources sector. Unfortunately, mining business owners in Tasmania have their work cut out for them, according to a recent audit conducted by the University of New South Wales' School of Management.

The independent report, commissioned last year and published this month, found that serious deficiencies have led to various safety incidents over recent months. Lead study author, Professor Michael Quilan explained that Tasmania's regulatory framework is "deficient in a number of regards".

"It's imperative critical gaps in existing rules be addressed because most, if not all, are pivotal to preventing fatal accidents," he explained in the audit.

In particular, Professor Quilan investigated the training, presence and pay of safety inspectors across the industry. His findings revealed serious shortfalls in the number of mining-qualified competent persons available on a full-time basis.

The industry stakeholders surveyed by Professor Quilan commonly identified training as an area where improvements are needed. For instance, several interviewees claimed that no inspectors were available who held specific training and knowledge for the unique hazards associated with coal mining.

A lack of succession planning could be the leading cause of this issue, with no adequate training or induction processes in place when staff turnover occurs. Because of this, Professor Quilan urged Tasmanian mining employers to adopt mandatory training requirements, such as the policies currently in place in Queensland and other resource-reliant states.

The benefits of training in the mining industry

There are many reasons why training is a crucial consideration for mining employers, including the vast range of potential hazards each employee faces on every shift.

For instance, due to the complex nature of many mining occupations, a worker could be subject to risks related to confined space, traffic control and machinery entrapment all at one time.

Training individuals to recognise and address these hazards should not only help improve WHS standards, but can also lead to more efficient operations and increased profitability. This is because a decline in safety incidents will reduce the amount of time needed for injury recovery and accident investigations. In turn, this should lead to more time focused on daily operations and business-as-usual endeavours.

Because of the complexities of mining work, knowing what WHS training to access can be a challenge. To help you reach positive safety outcomes in your business, here are just four areas where training and qualifications can be beneficial to miners.

– Traffic management

Whether the mining operations are above or under the ground, traffic management training should be a vital consideration for any employer. This is because the resources industry often relies on large and heavy mobile equipment to move product across sites and through freight channels.

A particular hazard of underground mining is when these vehicles are required to enter the same shafts and confined spaces as pedestrian workers. Operating vehicles in shared tunnels can lead to collisions and crushing if adequate WHS policies are not in place.

Fortunately, traffic management training can help any employee understand the risks and avoid potential accidents. In particular, the use of vehicles in shared spaces – above or below ground – can be controlled to strict safety standards if each individual holds the necessary qualifications.

– Confined spaces

Underground mines can be dangerous environments to work in, due to the risk of poor atmospheric conditions, cave-ins and disorientation. Employers can protect their employees against these risks in a number of ways. 

Workers should be provided with comprehensive confined spaces training before entering any area with limited entry points. This competency will ensure that individuals are able to monitor their environment and utilise any necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) if a hazard is present.

For instance, atmospheric testing can help employees identify whether oxygen levels are fluctuating – due to poor ventilation or an unexpected release of gas. If unsafe environmental conditions are detected, workers must be able to safely find, don and operate breathing apparatus and any other relevant PPE.

– Hazardous materials

Some mining situations can require individuals to handle or work alongside hazardous materials. In particular, explosive substances are commonly used in these situations.

Training is an important requirement which must be accessed before workers are given permission to handle such material. Unsafe or misinformed use of these items could lead to serious accidents, such as preventable fires and explosions.

Additionally, radioactive materials are sometimes present in mines – potentially creating significant health risks. Using the right PPE and protective clothing is crucial to avoid necessary exposure to unsafe materials.

– Emergency response

No matter how safe your workers are, accidents can happen. This is why it is vitally important that certain employees are trained and aware of their duties in an emergency. 

If an incident was to occur on your site, having qualified workers on staff will ensure that would-be rescuers do not put themselves in danger. This is of particular importance when dealing with confined spaces, where a significant number of fatalities are related to emergency response, rather than business-as-usual operations.

If you would like more information about WHS risks in the mining industry, or want to access the relevant training, contact the AlertForce team today.

Preventing forklift accidents in Australian workplaces

Industrial lift trucks, also known as forklifts, are one of the manufacturing industry's most valuable assets. The ability to move large products and loads across warehouses and yards is essential for supply chain efficiency.

However, the reliance on forklifts can have serious consequences on worker health and safety, as these machines pose many potential risks.

It is therefore important that any business using forklifts accesses adequate training, licences and permits before undertaking work involving industrial lift trucks. This includes, but is not limited to, traffic control and management training to protect operators and pedestrians.

To help employers understand the risks of using forklifts in the workplace, here are four factors that need to be considered to upkeep work health and safety standards.

Overweight or unbalanced loads

While many people assume forklifts are most dangerous when moving, employees can still face serious hazards when the equipment is stationary. In particular, when industrial lift trucks are in the process of loading and unloading, incorrect use and practices can lead to accidents, injuries and even death.

A significant number of workplace accidents involving forklifts are caused by unbalanced or overweight loads. Forklifts should all come with very clear manufacturing instructions related to maximum weights and best practice loading. Following these instructions is key to ensuring workers, operators and pedestrians are safe from tipping and falling objects.

One example of this was recently highlighted by WorkSafe Western Australia, resulting in a $30,000 fine. The accident involved untrained employees standing on a lifted platform when the truck toppled over.

The workers each sustained injuries when the elevated work platform tipped forward due to an unsafe loading. One of the men suffered minor injuries, including cuts and bruising, while the other sustained significant harm and was unable to work for two months.

When the accident occurred, the employees were in the process of moving a heavy load between shelves. They climbed onto the elevated platform in order to move beds onto the platform, which was raised six metres. Although the forklift was limited to a lifting capacity of 500kg, the employees did not realise that the platform was fabricated and attached after the forklift was purchased.

When the 200kg platform was taken into consideration, the true lifting capacity was actually only 300kg. However, the untrained workers were not aware of this and had loaded the platform with 362kg worth of product. On top of this, the employees failed to take into account their own weight, estimated at 150-200kg. This meant that the equipment was overloaded by a combined 532kg at the time of the accident.

"It is crucial that written safe work procedures are in place in workplaces such as this one, and that employers ensure employees are aware of them and putting them into practice," WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said.

"Subsequent to this incident, the employer had the relevant employees from its four WA stores trained to obtain high risk work licences, and had weight sensor devices fitted to all order pickers in operation."

Mr McCulloch shared his belief that if training had been undertaken much earlier, the employees would have avoided the incident and not been subjected to their injuries and suffering.

In addition to protecting those individuals working on top of forklifts, unstable loads can often put pedestrians and other visitors at risk. If a machine carrying too much was to turn a corner or tip at the wrong moment, the load could potentially fall onto a nearby worker, causing serious injuries.

Traffic management

When forklifts and other elevated platform machinery are being used in the same space as other equipment and pedestrian traffic, collisions can easily occur. Avoiding these accidents is relatively simple, when the right traffic management systems are in place.

For instance, control plans should always ensure that, whenever possible, pedestrians and trucks are kept separate. This could include creating independent roadways for each form of traffic, or installing elevated walking paths to keep employees off factory floors.

Additionally, employers need to make sure the warehouse is well-lit and has adequate line of sight, to avoid collisions occurring when forklift operators fail to see oncoming traffic.

Training is a crucial part of protecting employee health and safety, which is why traffic control and management courses are recommended for all workers who are required to share space with forklifts and other vehicles.

This undertaking will ensure individuals are aware of their risks in the workplace, as well as giving them the tools and knowledge to control and mitigate these hazards.

Maintenance and storage

In addition to protecting worker health and safety while forklifts are in use, ensuring these essential pieces of machinery are well taken care of is also important.

Correct storage is one area where many people fail to make adequate provisions, as the industrial equipment looks sturdy enough to be left in factory spaces. However, exposure to the elements over an extended time can lead to advanced wear and tear, such as rust, which can cause accidents due to the truck not performing as it should.

Parking a forklift can also pose problems for other individuals as, if not correctly stored, the forklift can create a hazard in the workplace by posing as an unnecessary and unexpected obstacle for other vehicles.  Additionally, leaving the key in or the brakes disengaged could cause accidental collisions if a forklift was to become mobile for any reason.

Furthermore, if you allow a forklift to sit idling for a long period of time in an enclosed area, the resulting fumes could cause employees to become disorientated, light-headed or sick. Carbon monoxide is a serious issue in small work spaces, so it is important to ensure areas are well ventilated and forklifts are shut off when not in use.

Maintenance is also a serious consideration for any workers operating a forklift, as wear and tear can lead to serious accidents. Any person required to operate a forklift or other elevated platform machinery should undertake the adequate training and obtain any relevant information regarding maintenance.

Without the proper inspections and services, forklifts can pose very serious risks to employees and pedestrians. A worn or damaged component could easily lead to loads being tipped or mechanisms failing, putting everyone in close vicinity in danger of falling debris or collision.

Fortunately, it is not difficult to avoid these kinds of incidents. With regular and thorough inspections, drivers and operators can identify and address any issues before they become larger problems. A forklift should be subjected to an inspection before every use.

If you need further guidance on controlling forklift risks in warehouses, take a look at our previous article – Key tips for minimising traffic management risks in warehouses.

For more information on traffic management training or any other work health and safety courses, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Fire risk in confined spaces

In certain industries and locations, confined spaces can pose a serious fire or explosion risk. When flammable materials are present in high concentrations in an enclosed area, any spark or ignition could lead to a devastating detonation – causing injuries or even death to nearby workers.

Such an event has resulted in a company operating in the California recently being fined more than US$82,000 due to occupational health and safety (OHS) negligence.

In December 2013, an employee was working within a large steel tank, spraying flammable coating to the inside walls. The worker was using a portable halogen light to improve his visibility. Unfortunately, this lamp created an electrical spark that ignited the coating. The worker was rescued, but had to spend three days in the burn unit of a hospital.

"This was a preventable accident," Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker said in a June 26 media statement.

"The employer was aware that working inside the confined space was dangerous but did not take the required steps to avoid putting workers at serious risk."

In June this year, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) cited the employer for various breaches to confined space OHS standards. Overall, the proposed penalties reached $82,090 and included fines for knowingly using an unauthorised electric lamp in an explosive atmosphere.

Additionally, the employer was required to pay damages related to failing to obtain a permit to work within a confined space and not having proper ventilation or protective equipment in a hazardous area. 

"The purpose of requiring confined space entry permits is to prevent trouble before work begins," said Cal/OSHA Acting Chief Juliann Sum.

"This case involved flammable vapours that needed to be monitored and diluted to safe levels, and a lamp approved for this type of operation was required to avoid bringing a source of ignition into a flammable atmosphere."

Further citations included fines attributed to not providing adequate safety equipment and confined space training for employees working within the tank.

Back in Australia, confined spaces can pose a serious risk to workers' health and safety. In particular, many industries, workplaces and occupational undertakings can result in high concentrations of flammable contaminants. This can significantly increase the chance of a fire or explosion causing injuries and deaths, so must be monitored and addressed carefully.

Understanding the risk of fire and explosions in confined spaces

While there are many potential risks in confined spaces, fire and explosions are perhaps the most dangerous. According to a 2006 report from the Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, 100 per cent of the confined spaces incidents that involved fire or explosions between 1980 and 1986 resulted in fatalities.

In fact, of the 50 total accidents, 76 employees perished due to burns and other fire related injuries. Comparatively, just 58 of the 105 (55 per cent) of grain handling incidents – including engulfment – resulted in worker death.

This high rate of fire and explosion related deaths may be attributed to the extreme danger that continues after the initial event. When an explosion or fire occurs, response crews can also often succumb to the environment while attempting to rescue workers trapped within confined spaces.

It is therefore vital that employers do all they can to prevent fires and explosions within confined spaces in the workplace. Fortunately, there are a number of simple and effective measures that be put in place to improve OHS outcomes.

Preventing fires and explosions in confined spaces

There are a number of key factors that can lead to fires and explosions in confined spaces. These include:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Unsuitable equipment
  • Unsafe atmospheric conditions
  • Radiation and heat
  • Use of flammable materials

It is important to remember that in order for a fire or explosion to occur, three factors must be present – an ignition source, oxygen and a flammable fuel.

Unfortunately, these requirements can easily be introduced into a confined space when proper precautions are not put in place.

For instance, a silo that has been coated with a flammable sealant could fill with a dangerous vapour as exterior heat causes the seal to evaporate. As this vapour or gas becomes more highly concentrated, a worker wearing static-inducing clothing could easily create a spark that results in a devastating fire.

As this is all it can take to cause a fire or explosion within a confined space, workers and employers must be particularly vigilant when working with flammable materials. 

Preventing these accidents is simple, with the right level of confined spaces training and hazard awareness. By taking proper precautions, employees can avoid putting themselves in harm's way and mitigate the risk of an explosion or fire.

OHS policies to have in place include obtaining permits before entering confined spaces, using approved equipment only and monitoring atmospheres for high concentrations of dangerous gases.

In particular, all confined spaces should be tested for flammable contaminants before any work that may involve the use of sparking tools or electrical equipment is undertaken. Completely removing the ignition source or potential fuel ensures that the risk of fires and explosions is totally mitigated.

However, rather than simply providing workers with gas testing equipment, it is also vital that employers provide comprehensive training on the proper use and maintenance of these devices. Incorrect use could lead to a misreading, which may result in an easily preventable accident occurring.

For more information on the hazards present in confined spaces, or to access relevant training for your staff, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Traffic management guides released

National occupational health and safety (OHS) organisation Safe Work Australia has released a range of guidance materials designed to help employers improve employee and public wellbeing outcomes.

Nine packages were created in support of the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and WHS Regulations. Published on July 4, the guides cover common OHS hazards such as working on scaffolds, using industrial lift trucks and managing risks in the forestry industry.

These nationally recognised guides provide employers and persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) with practical advice on how to manage risks in the workplace. However, some states and territories are subject to particular legislation and requirements, so additional OHS training and support is recommended.

One particular package published by Safe Work Australia covers the risks and best practices related to traffic management across a range of industries. This release contains a number of amendments to the specific sector guides published in July 2013, as agreed upon by the majority of the Safe Work Australia board in June this year. Also included are checklists to assist employers and supervisors manage and address common risks.

General traffic management guide

The general traffic management guide is a vital resource for any PCBU whose operations present a risk of traffic colliding with people in the workplace. Traffic as per these guides includes any vehicles such as cars, trucks or buses, powered mobile equipment like forklifts and cyclists.

However, the guide is not designed to support work carried out on or near a public road. This includes construction projects located on footpaths or close to streets. Undertakings that require working on or near roads should follow the requirements and guidelines set out by your local road authority.

Key considerations laid out in this general guide include the identification and assessment of potential risks, controls to manage hazards and systems of responsibilities.

In particular, workplaces that include high volumes of vehicles and pedestrians should develop a thorough traffic management plan to help communicate risks and controls to all staff and visitors.

A strategic plan may include the best practice pedestrian and vehicle movements and the expected frequency of interactions and occurrences of traffic. This document can also contain illustrations and guides to relevant signs, barriers and hazards as well as overviews of the controls that have been put in place.

An important consideration within the general management guide is the provision of traffic management training to help protect employees from common risks. Workers who are required to perform duties associated with controlling traffic in your workplace should be adequately trained to do so.

As far as is reasonably possible, all individuals who have access to your workplace – including visitors – should be offered the necessary information to protect against OHS risks. This could be managed through a range of methods, from a simple induction to the site through to comprehensive training programs.

Construction Work

The construction and building industry can pose many OHS risks to employees, particularly related to traffic management. Vehicles commonly share the site with pedestrian workers, which presents a number of hazards regarding collisions and crushing.

This industry specific guide outlines the most effective methods of reducing traffic risks on a construction site – including the total mitigation of hazards through eliminating the need for vehicles and pedestrians to use the same pathways. For example, site managers may be able to design the workplace to provide separate routes for each traffic type.

The key considerations laid out within this guide include:

  • Separating pedestrians and vehicles
  • Mitigating the need to reverse
  • Improving line of sight and visibility
  • Minimising potential vehicle movement
  • Installing relevant signs and barriers
  • Developing and enacting a traffic management plan

If these considerations are taken on board when designing and managing a construction site, the potential for accidents and injury should be reduced significantly. Additionally, PCBUs need to consider the provision of information, training, instruction and supervision.

Ensuring employees and visitors hold all necessary information regarding safe work practices and traffic controls is a vital factor in improving OHS outcomes on construction sites. This process is considered the responsibility of the PCBU, employer or site manager, as well as any worker who is required to undertake duties related to the operation of vehicles onsite.

Events

Organising a public event is a highly complex and challenging endeavour, made more difficult by the OHS risks at each step. In particular, when patrons, participants and workers are sharing space with vehicles and equipment, having a traffic management plan in place is crucial.

Whether a recreational, social, sporting or corporate event, traffic chaos can lead to serious accidents and injuries if not correctly managed. In many cases, vehicles that contribute to an event's traffic include buses, forklifts, cars and cranes.

The PCBU in charge of traffic management plans at events may be the event organiser, but this duty should also be handed down to and addressed by any supervisors, contractors and employees who may be required to undertake work related to vehicles and pedestrians on site.

Traffic control procedures will need to be in place during the three phases of the event – preparation, staging and dismantling. Each of these time frames can pose serious risks to employee and public health and safety.

In particular, the separation of pedestrians and vehicles should be a key consideration. Creating independent pathways and roads is vitally important, particularly when dealing with visitors who have not undertaking traffic management training.

Additionally, designated areas should be created for vehicle parking and the loading and unpacking of equipment or goods. Restricting public access to these locations is a recommended control that may help improve OHS outcomes.

During times of peak pedestrian movement, such as just prior and after the main event showcase, vehicle activity should be kept to a minimum.

Training and information is a crucial consideration for event traffic management, including easily visible signs and marked pathways to ensure visitors and patrons understand traffic plans even without prior training.

Shopping Centres

The activity around or within shopping centres often involves a great deal of traffic, such as pedestrians, passenger vehicles, trolley collection carts, delivery trucks and forklifts.

It can therefore be challenging to manage and control this activity. Fortunately, the Safe Work Australian traffic management guide outlines a few key considerations that can help – such as:

  • Schedule deliveries for times of low public traffic
  • Design car parks and loading docks to avoid pedestrian and vehicle interaction
  • Locate shopping trolley collection bays away from high traffic areas
  • Develop and implement traffic management plans

The business owner and employer should also ensure that staff have undertaken adequate traffic management training and information is easily accessible for visitors to the centre.

Warehousing

The practical guide to warehouse traffic management identifies the common risks present in factories and warehouses. This includes the use of delivery trucks, forklifts and passenger cars.

Due to the high volume of vehicle traffic required in the warehousing sector, considerations must be made in regards to effective traffic management plans. This includes separating pedestrians and vehicles, avoiding potential load falls and ensuring employees know how to safely operate machinery.

For example, the traffic management plan for a warehouse will generally include the provision of forklift training and permits to any employee who may be required to operate an industrial lift device.

If you would like more information on the traffic management requirements in your industry, or want to access training for your staff, get in touch with AlertForce today.

Safety agreement renewed in forestry industry

The Forestry Corporation of NSW has cemented its commitment to work health and safety (WHS) improvements by renewing a partnership with the state's WorkCover authority.

Announced on June 30, this ongoing agreement between the two bodies is a continuation of commitments first signed in 2011. The launch of this partnership has influenced impressive progress in addressing safety issues in this challenging industry, according to WorkCover NSW Work Health and Safety Division Acting General Manager Peter Dunphy.

"Through the partnership, WorkCover NSW and Forestry Corporation of NSW have delivered the Forest Industry Engagement Program to facilitate hazard identification and general risk management in forest harvesting," Mr Dunphy explained.

"Importantly, there has been a 35 per cent reduction in injury claims since the partnership was signed in 2011."

The partnership has also led to the creation of a range of vital resources for those working in the forestry industry. For instance, the Forest Industry Safety Tool was launched to raise awareness of safety management systems and workplace safety obligations.

Further benefits are being seen across Australia, as the two organisations contributed to the development of a new national WHS package, released by Safe Work Australia this month – Managing risks in forestry operations.

Forestry Corporation of NSW Chief Executive Officer Nick Roberts explained that the partnership should help to improve safety for a wide range of occupations.

"Forestry Corporation's workforce is diverse and mobile, with staff and contractors involved in activities ranging from setting and monitoring remote wildlife traps through to large scale tree felling and timber hauling operations and firefighting," he explained.

Due to the wide range of occupations found within the forestry industry, accessing the correct training is key to ensuring all employees understand the hazards specific to their role.

For instance, while some staff can benefit from working at heights training, others may find it more advantageous to access traffic control and management courses.

The importance of WHS standards in the forestry industry

The Forestry industry can pose many risks to the public and to employees. Understanding and minimising these hazards is crucial for reducing the number of serious accidents and injuries.

Figures collected by WorkCover show that there have been 755 workplace injuries recorded in the NSW forestry industry over the past five years. These events have cost the sector approximately $8.4 million in workers compensation.

Falls, trips and slips while working at heights, in trees or on large machinery are among the most common workplace accidents reported in the industry. Additionally, body stressing and being hit by moving objects are also among the more frequent injuries.

Traffic management and driver safety is another key concern in the forestry sector, as logging contractors are over-represented in truck rollover crash statistics. Fortunately, the partnership is expected to benefit individuals working in transport and freight-related roles within this sector.

"We're already working together on a safety training program specifically tailored to log truck drivers and we hope the partnership will deliver many more practical initiatives that will make for a safer workplace for all forestry employees," Mr Roberts said.

Understanding forestry work hazards

By using the Safe Work Australia forestry package, it is easy to identify the various occupational health and safety (OHS) that may be present when working in this challenging sector.

Specific guides have been released in a range of occupations and operational settings, including growing, harvesting, extracting and transporting logs.

In particular, the felling of trees has been identified as a high risk forestry activity and involves a number of important considerations when attempting to conduct this work safely.

Some tree felling operations will require workers to climb above ground in order to prep trees for falls. Once an individual has climbed above two metres in height, safety belts and harnesses are required to be worn. The correct use, fitting and maintenance of this equipment is crucial for ensuring safe work practices.

Any climbing apparatus used during this process should be inspected, tested and deemed suitable for the task as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

To achieve this, employers operating a business within the forestry industry are recommended to provide workplace training relevant to heights and other forestry hazards. Accessing a working at heights program should be a vital consideration for any supervisor, employer or individual who may be required to perform duties above the ground.

Accessing forestry-related training

For more information on working at heights training, traffic management course or other relevant OHS programs, get in touch with the AlertForce team.

AlertForce offers a range of nationally recognised training programs designed to improve the awareness, monitoring and mitigation of hazards and risks in many workplaces and industries.

Traffic management in underground mines

Underground mining is one of Australia's largest industries, with numerous shafts extended deep into local soil across most states and territories. Each year, these operations produce millions of tonnes of coal, as well as gold, nickel, copper and other valuable metals and minerals.

This burgeoning industry is expected to continue to grow throughout Australia, with a number of mines currently in development or awaiting approval. Recent projects that have supported the growth of the country's underground coal mining sector include a proposed mine near Gunnedah in NSW and an approved site in Queensland's Bowen Basin – expected to employ more than 2,000 workers during construction and 500 in operations.

Further to these projects, on May 21, NSW Premier Mike Baird officially opened the country's largest underground mine. The Cadia East Gold Mine, located in central western NSW, will create a potential 1,900 direct and indirect jobs while producing at least 700,000 ounces of gold each year at full production.

"Cadia East is a large, long life asset and a cornerstone of our Company's strategy.  It is one of the largest gold and copper deposits in the world, with 2.8 billion tonnes of ore estimated to contain 37 million ounces of gold and 7.5 million tonnes of copper," Mr Baird explained in a May media release.

"With an approved mine life of 21 years, Cadia East will deliver significant economic benefits to the local community, the workforce and suppliers, local, State and federal governments, and of course Newcrest's shareholders for the long term."

Located more than 1.2 kilometres under the surface, the Cadia East Gold Mine will create a challenging environment in which to work, with various risks to health and safety present each time a worker descends into the mine's depths. It is therefore crucial that employers operating within this industry understand their obligations regarding training, supervision and provision of personal protective equipment.

Understanding the risks in underground mines

With so many Australians working underground each day, it is crucial to ensure occupational health and safety (OHS) standards are being followed. Mining is one of the country's most dangerous industries, so any measures that can potentially reduce the number of accidents, injuries and death are important.

While any mining enterprise can be hazardous, working in an underground mine in particular can pose a vast range of serious risks to employees' health and safety, so following best practice procedures is key. This is because of the unique combination of confined spaces, heavy machinery and dangerous work duties.

While most workers are aware of the hazards present when working in confined spaces, there is one factor that may not be accounted for underground. When mining in enclosed shafts and underground sites, a range of vehicles and machinery may also be sharing the space – which makes traffic management an important OHS consideration.

Traffic hazards in mining

Traffic management training should be a significant concern for any mining employer, as many of the vehicles used in this industry are large, imposing and can cause serious damage when misused.

Furthermore, when machinery and vehicles are operating in the confined space of an underground mine, the restrictive nature of shafts and sites can mean pedestrians and vehicles are required to share pathways. This can lead to significant danger for both workers and drivers.

Ensuring your employees understand the importance of traffic control plans is an important consideration to protect OHS outcomes and national safety standards.

Failure to provide workers with the necessary training can lead to serious accidents, potentially resulting in injuries and even death. For instance, a recent report from the Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum found that close to half (49 per cent) of all underground mining fatalities in Western Australia involved workers who had been employed at the site for less than a year.

Additionally the study, which analysed WA mining fatalities between 2000 and 2012, revealed that vehicles were involved in a vast majority of these accidents. Incidents such as collisions, runaway vehicles and plunging over edges caused at least 19 deaths during the reviewed period.

Collisions between vehicles, and between workers and equipment, have been identified as a relatively prevalent hazard in underground mines. Potential consequences of these incidents include serious injury or fatality.

The probability of collisions is comparatively high in these environments due to the confined working space, restricted visibility and close interactions between employees and vehicles.

This shows that the most significant challenges faced by vehicle operators and pedestrians in underground mines are following safe paths, monitoring traffic and ensuring equipment is correctly used and maintained.

The prevention of these incidents requires an increased focus on OHS standards as well as significant investment in traffic management awareness and training. If all underground employees are given access to this training, it is more likely that each individual will be able to identify potential hazards and safely respond to risks.

Traffic management in underground mining

As with all traffic management plans, underground mining initiatives must first consider measures to ensure pedestrians and vehicles are separated from one another at all times. This could include creating independent roadways for machinery and workers.

However, in the already restricted space found in underground mining shafts, it is often impossible or unreasonable to create separate paths. When this is the case, other traffic management measures need to be put in place.

These practices should address the known hazards of traffic in underground mining environments, particularly the close interactions between pedestrians and vehicles and low visibility in shafts.

Visibility is a relatively simple issue to fix. With adequate lighting installed, drivers and employees should be able to easily identify when a pathway is occupied. Mirrors can also be used to help drivers and workers identify obstacles around corners or through obstructed views.

To promote safe driving within shafts, all pathways should be clearly marked, with potential dangers signposted with recognisable warning labels. For example, some mining shafts contain steep drop offs in which a vehicle can easily tumble. These holes and cliffs should be outfitted with barriers and high-visibility signage to ensure drivers are made aware of their presence.

Traffic safety in underground mining environments is paramount to ensure each employee who enters the mine can safely return home at the end of their workday. As such, strict rules and regulations should be put in place and followed carefully. 

Specific traffic management practices that can significantly boost OHS outcomes are communication and speed restrictions. By ensuring vehicle operators are in constant contact with pedestrians, supervisors and other drivers, accidental collisions can easily be avoided. Additionally, if a potential incident was discovered, speed restrictions will ensure that operators are able to safely manoeuvre away from collision, either by braking or turning their vehicle from impact.

With workers and equipment working in close quarters during much of underground mining operations, ensuring traffic safety standards is a vital concern for employers. If you are interested in boosting the safety of your business, get in touch with AlertForce for more information on nationally recognised traffic management and control courses.

Minimising engulfment in confined spaces

When undertaking work within a confined space, individuals face a significant number of occupational health and safety (OHS) risks. Depending on the environment, engulfment can be one of the most common causes of injuries and deaths within confined spaces.

A recent audit from the Department of Mines and Petroleum's Resources Safety Division found non-compliance is a major issue within the resources industry. Published in the Resources Safety magazine, the review revealed that many workers are not adequately trained or supervised when working in confined spaces.

To ensure OHS standards are being followed, it is crucial employers invest in approved confined spaces training and qualifications when responsible for workers who need to enter confined spaces.

Failing to ensure employees are trained in confined spaces safety and awareness can have devastating consequences as individuals face significant hazards and health risks. Without the correct policies and procedures in place, the probability of injury or death increases substantially.

To help protect your employees within confined spaces, here are the key issues regarding engulfment and how to address them in your workplace.

What is engulfment?

In certain confined space environments, workers can be at risk of potential engulfment. This refers to any situation in which an individual is trapped by bulk materials, such as grain, or liquids.

The most serious consequence of engulfment is asphyxiation, followed by potential crushing. When overcome by liquid, asphyxiation is likely through drowning, while dry materials can block oxygen flow, clog a person's airways or crush their chest and cause breathing difficulties.

There are three key scenarios where engulfment becomes a significant risk.

  1. In the first scenario, machinery maintenance and repairs is crucial. If a worker enters an empty tank or silo for any reason, a faulty system may release material into the space unexpectedly.
  2. When employees undertake the unblocking of materials from pipes and tanks, unsuitable positioning or practices can lead to dislodged grains, for example, falling onto the individual.
  3. Some materials stored in confined spaces can form crusts and bridges as the substance shifts underneath. If a worker was to walk across this bridge, their weight could cause the crust to crack or dislodge, resulting in engulfment.

Understanding and addressing these risks is a vital step in improving OHS outcomes in a range of industries, including manufacturing, agriculture and mining.

Minimising the risk of engulfment

There are many potential practices that can be put in place to minimise the risk of engulfment. Perhaps the most effective is to avoid entering the confined space altogether.

With the right tank and silo design, workers may not be required to enter a confined space. To support this, manufacturers are required to install, wherever possible, access to lines and feeds from outside of the tank.  With external access points, employees are able to unblock, assess and clean the confined space without the risk of engulfment.

However, this is not always a possibility. In many cases, the need to enter a confined space is unavoidable.

In order to improve OHS outcomes with a confined space, employers are required to access the right permits and training for any worker required to enter the relevant area.

By ensuring the correct permits are awarded, employees can undertake their tasks with accurate knowledge regarding the specific risks and hazards they may face within the confined space. Most permits will only be offered once a range of particular factors are taken into account, including the materials contained in the space and the quality and maintenance of the equipment being used.

Additionally, by investing in confined spaces training, individuals can ensure they understand not only the risks they may face, but also the best practice procedures to follow if an emergency occurs. This includes the use of personal protective equipment, as well as any potential rescue items that may be required.

Responding to an engulfment emergency

When engulfment occurs, it is not just the affected individual at risk. In many cases, the response team face the same range of hazards and potential risks as the employee in danger.

It is therefore crucial that rescue personnel have undertaken adequate training in emergency response procedures. When operating in a confined space, it is important to ensure a stand-by employee is available to raise the alarm if engulfment occurs.

While it is not necessary for this person to be trained in rescue and response, untrained individuals need to be aware of the risks of entering the confined space. This will ensure the stand-by worker does not attempt to rescue the engulfed employee, as his could lead to themselves becoming overcome and trapped.

Employees must understand their limitations in regards to confined spaces emergency response, and never attempt a rescue unless they have received adequate and appropriate training. Even those who hold the right qualifications are subject to various factors that may impact their ability to perform a rescue, such as access to safety equipment – such as breathing apparatus and harnesses.

It is also important to ensure response teams have a proper rescue plan in place before entering a confined space. This includes enacting a hierarchy of enter personnel, to outline who should be allowed within the confined space and at what point during the rescue they should perform their duties.

If you're business operates within an industry with confined space hazards, it is crucial that you understand your duties as an employer regarding OHS outcomes. For more information on engulfment and confined spaces safety training, get in touch with the team at AlertForce today.

The risk of equipment failure when working at heights

Falling from heights is one of the leading causes of workplace injuries and death, according to Safe Work Australia. Approximately 11 per cent of all work-related fatalities are caused by a fall from height.

Addressing this troubling figure requires more than an investment in training and equipment, the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) reveals. While ensuring employees are provided with comprehensive working at heights training and personal protective equipment is crucial, a recent WAHA survey found that unsafe tools and fall-arrest system failures may be influence a number of accidents and injuries.

"Based on the results of a survey of the WAHA Installer Group, fall-prevention equipment cannot be relied on," WAHA Installer Group Committee Member Carl Sachs explained to the National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA).

The survey found that 94 per cent of fixed ladders and 31 per cent of anchor points in work sites across Australia were potentially fatal due to incorrect installation. 

Mr Sachs believes failure to install fall-prevention equipment correctly stems from the lack of mandatory training and licensing of installers working in many industries.

"Anyone with a credit card and a cordless drill can install this equipment and work at heights," he revealed, "and there are manufacturers who don't impose any training requirements on their clients at all."

A call for industry standards

The WAHA and other industry stakeholders have long been campaigning for nation-wide standards to be introduced regarding the installation of fall-prevention systems. In particular, the strongest voices convened in NSW for a falls crisis summit at the Sydney Safety Conference in September last year.

Several issues were put to the vote at this event, receiving unanimous support. These votes included the belief that compliance with the Australian Standards should be compulsory, formal training for installers be mandatory and regulators inspect fall-prevention equipment.

"We don't need more WHS laws," Mr Sachs explained. "We need a framework which complements the layers of legislation and actually enforces it. Relying on people doing the right thing is not a suitable control for equipment that workers' lives depend on."

Currently, no specific mandatory accreditation exists for the installers of fall-arrest systems. Furthermore, installers are not required to access training and can effectively install and certify their own work. This often leads to installations being completed under little scrutiny.

The NSCA believes that intense regulation is not necessarily the key to improving quality. Instead, industry leaders need to address the potential conflict of interest introduced by having the installer certify their own work.

"If you have that independence in terms of the certification … [it] gives you greater confidence that the person who is certifying the installation of fixed fall-prevention equipment is making the appropriate enquiry and tests that the  platform has been appropriately installed," occupational health and safety (OHS) expert Michael Tooma expressed.

Mr Tooma believes that even providing a secondary trained individual within the installers own company may be enough to boost safety standards.

"As long as they are a competent person, have the correct expertise and have the independence to be able to certify, this would be an appropriate step forward and improvement to the existing approach – and that in itself would improve the quality of fall-prevention equipment out here," he said.

It is therefore important to ensure that if your worksite requires fall-prevention equipment installation, and you choose to perform this duty in-house, that you provide working at heights training to multiple employees. This will enable your staff to certify and regulate the work of their colleagues, in addition to increasing their ability to recognise potential issues with their own systems.

Boosting the safety of the installer

As well as increasing the safety of those employees destined to use the completed fall-arrest systems, it is also vital to ensure you have procedures in place to protect the health and safety of the installer.

"Apart from other workers relying on their installations, the installers themselves are exposed to incredible risk of falls when they install the equipment," Mr Sachs explained.

"Anyone can go and install equipment on the edge of a 30-metre skyscraper. With a framework of training and licensing, there is no reason why an installer shouldn't certify their height safety installation the same way a licensed electrician certifies their own work."

Improving the safety of the individual installing fall-prevention systems can include using temporary equipment, such as elevated platforms, harnesses and fall-arrest lines. However, similar to the more permanent installations, incorrect set-up and use of these items can significantly reduce their effectiveness.

Accessing working at heights training is an important step in boosting OHS outcomes for those undertaking employment above the ground. This is because a nationally certified course helps increase knowledge and ability related to these systems.

In particular, a comprehensive working at heights learning program should include training in the identification, installation, maintenance and use of safety systems and equipment. This enables an individual who has undergone this training to increase their awareness of potential hazards, such as incorrect installation, degraded mechanisms and other risks.

Once training has been completed, employees are also able to make informed decisions regarding the specific type of equipment that would be best for the situation at hand. This means there will be a reduced risk of workers using the wrong system and being involved in a preventable accident.

Monitoring equipment is also crucial as this ensures that any wear or degradation of systems is identified and addressed as soon as possible, minimising the risk of equipment failures.

For more information on working at heights training to help improve safety on your elevated work site, contact the AlertForce team today.

Traffic control training to address truck-related fatalities

Many industries rely on trucks and heavy vehicles to transport and freight product across work sites, cities, states and the country. Because of this extensive prevalence of truck-related occupations, workers in almost every sector and industry need to be aware of the hazards these heavy vehicles can present.

Unfortunately, a significant number of individuals are involved in truck-related incidents each year, with close to 80 workers killed annually while working in or around a truck, according to Safe Work Australia.

In a report released on May 20, Safe Work Australia identified a number of key areas that need to be addressed in order to improve the health and safety of employees and the public. These include:

  • Improving maintenance and use of brakes
  • Increasing spacial awareness and recognition of nearby pedestrian workers and public
  • Adopting methods to reduce risk of falls from heights
  • Ensuring cargo is securely restrained during transit, loading and unloading

"By targeting these areas we can improve the working environment for truck drivers, people who work in the vicinity of trucks and the general public," said Safe Work Australia Chairperson Ann Sherry.

"Improving a business's work health and safety is critical, it increases productivity and more Australian's get home safely every day because of it."

Due to the significant risk of heavy vehicles, industries that involve extensive use of trucks are often considered the most dangerous in terms of accident, injury of death. For instance, in the latest year-to-date fatality statistics from Safe Work Australia, almost 30 workers had suffered a fatal accident in the transport, postal and warehousing industry as of May 29.

This is by far the most deaths recorded in any industry in Australia, followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing on 17 deaths.

To address these troubling statistics, employers should be taking any reasonable precautions – such as ensuring all workers understand the risks of working in or around trucks. By offering staff extensive traffic management training, employers can benefit from the increased knowledge of heavy vehicle hazards and effective traffic control plans around the workplace.

Initiatives to improve truck safety

Over the past few years, truck-related deaths have dropped by close to half (48 per cent), according to Safe Work Australia. However, the fatality rates within the road freight transport industry are still approximately 10 times higher than all other industries.

Additionally, the number of injuries per 1,000 workers in the transport and storage industry (86) is 25 per cent higher than the rate for all other Australian workers.

In an effort to reduce these figures, a number of initiatives have been launched across the country. For employers in particular, the National Road Commission has put in motion reviews into the Chain of Responsibility obligations and penalties under the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).

Chain of Responsibility

Released on February 10 this year, the HVNL lays out specific requirements relating to the protection of occupational health and safety (OHS) when working in or around trucks.

Overall, the law states that if you consign, pack, load or receive goods as part of the undertakings of your business, you could be liable for any road transport law breaches, including accidents and injuries.

This means that if you hold control or influence over any transport task, you are responsible to ensure drivers, pedestrian workers and the public are protected. Breaches to safe work regulations and requirements could result in significant fines and penalties.

Due to this responsibility, it is recommended that – as an employer – you ensure all employees are adequately trained in traffic management. This will mitigate the risk of an uninformed or untrained individual making an error that results in employer liability.

State-focussed traffic plans

In addition to the National Road Commission's review, various state governments and industry bodies have partnered to improve road and transport safety.

For instance, SafeWork SA is currently performing audits on all local transport operators to ensure compliance in relation to fall prevention requirements. In particular, the OHS body has focused on reducing the risk of falling from truck-trailers and cabins while loading and unloading heavy vehicles.

Furthermore, Work Health and Safety (WHS) Queensland is working to minimise work-related accidents, injuries and deaths in the road freight sector through its Queensland Road Freight Industry Action Plan 2014-17.

As part of this blueprint, WHS Queensland is conducting fall prevention and load restraint inspections across the state and offering training and workshops to workers and industry stakeholders. On June 18 this year, Queensland workers are invited to attend a traffic management forum to learn more about OHS best practices in the freight and transport industry.

Onsite traffic management systems are also a key focus in a targeted project currently being designed by WorkCover NSW. Once launched, the program will address OHS issues in any business involved in truck-related operations. The key factors being targeted are onsite traffic management systems, loading of trucks and getting out of trucks, return to work and injury management, and driver wellness.

Improving truck safety onsite

If your business undertakings involve significant use of trucks or other heavy vehicles, it pays to understand the specific hazards you and your employees may face.

For instance, the loading and unloading of product from trucks poses several significant risks for employees. These include falling from height, engulfment by shifting material, being struck by a vehicle if brakes are not correctly applied and crush injuries caused by falling or settling products or equipment.

Once trucks are on the move within your site, the risk of an accident or injury extends to any pedestrian workers, or those operating a smaller vehicle nearby.

An important consideration when identifying the risks to workers on your site is to address the areas where vehicles and machinery are required to share the same areas and roadways as pedestrians. Additionally, where vehicles are required to stop to load and unload can pose significant issues, due to obstructed views, potential brake failure and the risk of product falling from the trailer.

Once you have identified and assessed these hazards, an effective traffic management plan should be put in place to reduce or remove the risks.

Controlling OHS outcomes can be as simple as separating pedestrians from vehicles on your site. This is possible through the development of independent pedestrian walkways, removed from roadways by barriers, guardrails or elevated platforms.

Furthermore, designated loading and unloading zones should be clearly marked and kept well away from where workers may be travelling. Due to the significant risk of dropped product or failed breaks, stationary trucks should be kept on flat surfaces whenever possible.

Protecting those workers that need to climb onto truck-trailers or cabins during this process may require a more complex solution, such as the integration of fall arrest systems and offering employees working at heights training.

Overall, each hazard in the traffic management sector can be effectively controlled through adequate communication and training. To improve the health and safety of your truck operators or pedestrian workers, consider investing in traffic management training.

For more information, contact the team at AlertForce today.

New campaign to improve ceiling safety

A new roofing safety awareness campaign has been launched in Queensland, following the deaths of four insulation installers in 2009-10. Three Queenslanders were electrocuted, while a New South Wales man succumbed to heat exhaustion while working in a ceiling on a day when temperatures reached 40 degrees celsius.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie announced the project on May 16, in partnership with the father of one of the workers who was killed during the former federal government’s home insulation scheme.

“The dangers of working in roof spaces need to be well known and clearly understood,” Mr Bleijie explained.

“We are committed to making Queensland work sites the safest in the country and the legacy of these men will be better safety and awareness about ceiling work.”

The campaign was created in response to the coroner’s report, released last year, which found that three of the workers had not been given adequate workplace safety training.

If training and supervision had been supplied, as is required by law, these deaths could potentially have been prevented. The Queensland coroner attributed the lack of education and preparedness to the government’s desire to roll out the insulation scheme as quickly as possible.

“Undoubtedly, a major contributor to the failure to put in place adequate safeguards was the speed with which the program was conceived, designed and implemented,” the coroner’s report stated.

Mr Bleijie responded to the coroner’s findings with a promise to undertake a public awareness campaign to educate tradies and homeowners about the risks of working in ceiling spaces. The release of the “Stay safer up there, switch off down here” drive is expected to reduce the rate of injuries, illness and deaths that occur in Queensland roofs.

“There are serious electrical safety risks in our ceilings and the best and simplest way people can make them safer is to turn off all of the main power at the switchboard before climbing up there,” Mr Bleijie explained.

However, working under a roof poses more risks than just electricity. Due the enclosed nature of ceiling spaces, any individual that enters a roof should be aware of all occupational health and safety hazards that may be present.

The hazards of working in a ceiling space

As a ceiling is an enclosed and confined area, according to Safe Work Australia, there are many potential risks to an individual’s health and safety. Understanding and identifying these hazards is an important step in mitigating the potential of an accident, injury, illness or even death.

Electrocution

Perhaps the most significant and common risk within ceiling spaces is the exposure to live wires and electricity. To avoid electrocution or electricity burns, it is vital that the total power supply to the area is switched off before entering the space.

Some equipment and circuits may run on separate switches to the main power, which means that for complete safety all switches and circuit breakers should be turned off. If in doubt, contacting a trained and registered electrician or other professional is recommended.

Even once all the switches have been turned off, it is possible that power may still be present in some cables and wires. Because of this, it is important to avoid touching or being near these lines whenever possible.

Falling through the ceiling

In most cases, the ceiling is unable to hold an individual’s weight for an extended period of time. It is commonly recommended that anyone working in a ceiling space uses the support beams or work platforms to move through the area.

Serious injury can occur if an individual were to fall through a ceiling, particularly if they landed on hard surfaces, such as concrete, tiles and wood, or landed awkwardly on a piece of furniture.

Avoiding a fall is the most effective way to avoid sustaining potential injuries. This can be achieved by installing raised work platforms across the space to mitigate the need to stand on the ceiling surface.

Exposure to asbestos

Insulation installed prior to 2003 may contain bonded or friable asbestos fibres. This potential exposure to asbestos is a significant risk to individual’s long-term health.

When insulation or other materials are disturbed within a confined space, the fibres can become airborne and densely fill the breathing space of a worker. When an individual inhales airborne asbestos fibres, they risk developing serious lung diseases, such as the fatal cancer mesothelioma.

Avoiding exposure to asbestos is a vitally important step to protecting the health and wellbeing of any individual working in a ceiling space. This can include wearing approved breathing masks and obtaining asbestos awareness training to ensure they can easily identify and avoid potential asbestos fibres.

Personal protective equipment, such as P2 graded masks and disposable coveralls, should always be worn when dealing with asbestos. This mitigates the risk of inhaling fibres, or spreading them to other items of clothing when attempting to launder the work outfit.

Body strain

Due to the confined nature of ceiling spaces, individuals often need to crouch or stoop to move around the area. This can lead to significant muscle strain and may result in long-term injuries and disability.

It is therefore important that workers in ceiling spaces take regular breaks, moving outside of the cramped area to stretch and relax their muscles. If any ongoing pain occurs, individuals should stop work immediately and visit their doctor.

Exposure to extreme temperatures

In Australia, temperatures can fluctuate widely, from extreme heat to freezing cold. When work is required in a ceiling space, individuals need to be aware of how the weather could impact on their health and safety.

Summer temperatures often reach dangerous levels, with the enclosed space of a ceiling climbing to an even higher temperature than the outside air.

As roofs typically contain poor ventilation, those working in ceiling spaces may succumb to heat exhaustion and a lack of breathable air due to extreme weather conditions. It is therefore crucial that those working in these areas monitor the temperature regularly, and vacate the space if feeling hot, dizzy and dehydrated.

Exposure to birds, insects or animals

Ceilings are popular hiding spaces for many birds, insects and animals. Individuals venturing into these areas need to be aware of the potential bites and stings they could receive.

Before working in a ceiling space, individuals should ensure any vermin or insect activity has been eliminated or minimised through extermination or other methods. If a bite or sting occurs, workers should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Additionally, exposure to deceased animals or birds, or their droppings, can pose a significant risk of various diseases and illnesses. Workers in ceiling spaces should ensure they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

Any exposure to an animal or their leavings should be followed by adequate personal hygiene solutions, such as disinfectant and full body showers. Furthermore, if any illness or pain is detected, individuals should visit their doctor or local hospital.

If you would like more information about the hazards present in roof and ceiling space, or would like to access training relevant to working in confined spaces, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Reducing the risk of working in confined space

There are many occupations and sectors that require employees to work within a confined space, including mining, construction and maintenance roles. Unfortunately, when an individual enters an enclosed space, they face a significant number of occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards due to the atmosphere and environment.

In particular, farming and the agriculture industry contain a number of scenarios where an individual may need to enter a confined space during the undertakings of their duties. This could include entering a silo to dislodge grain, cleaning the inside of an industrial fuel tank or repairing and maintaining a manure pit.

Because of the vast range of potential confined space scenarios in this industry, farmers and other individuals working in agriculture must be able to identify and correctly address the hazards present in enclosed areas. Fortunately, a comprehensive confined space training course can help.

Furthermore, there are a few key steps workers can take to help reduce the risk of sustaining an injury or illness within a confined space.

Identify the space

The first step to mitigating the risk of confined space work is to ensure you can accurately identify these hazardous areas in your worksite. Many people may be surprised to find that a confined space does not necessarily have to be a cramped area. Instead, a confined space complies with each of the following five elements:

  1. Is the space partially or completely enclosed?
  2. Is there an intention to enter the space?
  3. Does the area have limited or restricted entry and exit points?
  4. Is the area at normal atmospheric conditions?
  5. Does the space contain, or is likely to contain, harmful levels of contaminants, unsafe oxygen levels or a stored solid that poses a risk of engulfment?

If the space you are planning to enter complies with each of these elements, you have identified a confined space and must consider the risks you potentiality face.

Identify the hazards

There are many hazards that could result in injuries, illness or even death within a confined space. Knowing which of these risks you may face is a crucial factor in enacting the right OHS measures to protect yourself and other workers.

According to Safe Work Australia, there are 16 potential hazards found within confined spaces. Here are just five:

  • Harmful airborne contaminants – Depending on the use of the area, a confined space may contain a risk of materials or fumes that become airborne and impact on atmospheric conditions. This can lead to illness through inhalation or injury when an individual is overcome by fumes. In serious cases, dangerous fumes can even lead to fatality.
  • Unsafe oxygen levels – Humans can safely breathe in air that contains 19.5 – 23.5 per cent oxygen. In some scenarios, the level of oxygen in a confined space can become dangerously high or low due to displacement or depletion.
  • Fire and explosion – When fumes, vapour or airborne particles become densely packed in an enclosed space, this increases the risk of an ignition source causing a devastating fire or explosion. This is a significant risk as even the friction of clothing may be enough to create an ignition spark.
  • Engulfment – If the confined space contains a material that may shift beneath an individual's feet, this creates a serious risk of engulfment and suffocation or crushing. Additionally, engulfment can occur if material is accidentally released into an occupied space due to faulty equipment or a lack of communication.
  • Environmental hazards – In certain spaces, there will be significant risks caused by the environment in which the area is found. This could include substantial fluctuations in temperature, the risk of tripping, slipping or falling, or even inadequate lighting resulting in an accident and injury.

Controlling these hazards

The most effective method of minimising the risks of confined space is to avoid entering these environments. This can be achieved by ensuring any tanks, silos and pits have alternative measures in place to mitigate the need to enter them to complete work. 

For example, a tank that has access points at various heights and locations around the outside will enable workers to perform repairs and cleaning while standing outside the tank, rather than climbing inside.

However, it is not always possible to eliminate the need to enter a confined space, so it is therefore important to understand the equipment available to reduce risks in these areas. Individuals will also need to ensure they establish adequate entry and exit procedures, in addition to emergency policies, that are communicated to any persons able to stand by and help if something were to go wrong.

Any confined space should be tested for oxygen levels and contaminants before entry. If unsafe levels of oxygen, fumes or contaminants are detected, individuals will need to use adequate breathing apparatus or masks while within the confined space.

Additionally, workers entering silos, tanks and pits should invest in fall-arrest systems to stop trips and slips resulting in serious injury and possible entrapment.

While providing and using all the necessary and available personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety monitors are a sufficient method of reducing risk in confined space, it is also vital to ensure any individual planning to enter an enclosed area has received the proper training.

A confined space training program will enable a worker to accurately monitor the atmosphere within an enclosed space, in addition to maintaining and using their PPE correctly.

For more information on confined space training programs, or to improve the OHS policies on your farm, get in touch with the team at AlertForce today.

National Safe Work Awards celebrate Australian achievement

Australia's ninth annual Safe Work Awards were held in Canberra on April 28, celebrating the year's achievements in positive work health and safety (WHS) practices. A total of 37 finalists competed in this year's awards, representing a range of different industries from civil engineering to livestock transport.

Minister for Employment Eric Abetz said he was "delighted" to see the WHS safety efforts of individuals and organisations all around Australia. 

"The leadership and innovation of people and organisations like those celebrated at the Awards not only helps to reduce the number of workplace deaths and injuries, but also helps to create a positive workplace culture," Senator Abetz said in a statement released April 29.

"Congratulations to this year's winners and finalists – their outstanding efforts are helping Australia get a step closer to achieving our vision of healthy, safe and productive working lives."

The official ceremony this year was held at Old Parliament House in Canberra and attended by the winners of the 2013 state and Comcare awards.

Tasmanian company VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd received the award for Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System. This recognises a continuous commitment to improving WHS by using an integrated systems approach, which the company achieved through making safety a business driver. They also used innovative ideas to encourage their staff to participate in workplace safety.

The award for Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue went to Frasers Livestock Transport in Queensland for their special Cross-loading Module. The company researched, designed and built the module themselves to eliminate the risks in their category of work, and the award recognises the significant improvements they have made to safety and productivity.

Best Workplace Health and Safety Practice/s in a Small Business went to Zetco Valves Pty Ltd in New South Wales. This company was commended for its initiative in implementing technology solutions that many larger companies have yet to successfully put in place. Along with decreasing the risks of their daily manual handling tasks, these solutions aided an increase in productivity throughout the business.

There were two joint winners for Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety (by an employee) in 2014. Jedda McGlinchey of Ambulance Victoria and Rodney Cook of the Northcoast Institute of TAFE were both recognised by the Safe Work Australia for their efforts to improve WHS for coworkers, staff and students. In particular, Ms McGlinchey was instrumental in getting her branch removed from an unsafe building and a new workplace built.

Last but not least, Queensland's Jennifer Bell (from the RSPCA Queensland) won Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety by a WHS manager. She was recognised for her efforts to move the organisation's WHS strategy away from a reactive approach to a proactive risk-based system.

Safe Work Australia also highly commended Phyllip Bix from the Department of Justice in this category. As the Health and Safety Officer for Grampians Regional Prison, Mr Bix worked with a committee to create a thorough health and wellbeing program for both new and existing employees. 

Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie has added his own congratulations to the two Queensland winners at the Safe Work Awards, saying he hopes the recognition will prove to be an inspiration for other organisations. 

"Tragically, around 17 Queenslanders die each year as a result of traumatic workplace incidents, and more than 5,000 suffer a permanent injury," Mr Bleijie said in a statement.

"This is why it's important the Safe Work Awards showcase individuals and businesses who think outside the square to make their workplace as safe as possible."

Improving health and safety in your own organisation

The Safe Work Awards are a great opportunity for every Australian business to demonstrate how they have focused on heath and safety in the workplace. However, achieving real impact in this area means focusing on your WHS policy consistently throughout each year.

Any person conducting a business or undertaking is legally responsible for ensuring that all the necessary steps have been taken to either eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety in the workplace. 

There are four steps towards health and safety management that every business can take. First, you need to identify the hazards involved in the workplace and how these might endanger your employees. 

After you have found the hazards, it's time to assess the risks they present. Consider how serious the consequences may be and how likely it is for these incidents to happen. The next step is to control the risks by implementing the most effective measures you can.

Lastly, reviewing your control strategies is important to ensure they are still keeping pace with the needs of your workforce. WHS policies should also be reviewed in light of any changes to legislation in your state or territory. 

When it comes to developing an appropriate WHS system in your company, it helps to seek the assistance of experts. They can advise you on all aspects of the process and offer specialised training to your employees, so they have a better understanding of how to keep themselves safe in the workplace.

For more information on improving health and safety outcomes in your own company, talk to the AlertForce team today. 

International Workers’ Memorial Day highlights importance of workplace safety

Around the globe, April 28 marks International Workers’ Memorial Day, or IWMD. With a slogan of ‘remember the dead, fight for the living’, this day highlights the tragic consequences that can arise when work heath and safety rules aren’t taken seriously.

Every year, IWMD is an opportunity for workers to remember their colleagues and focus on the steps that need to be taken to ensure those tragedies do not happen again. In 2014, the theme of IWMD is ‘protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights’.

In Australia, we have legislation and policies in place to promote safe working practices around the country. There are guidelines and model codes of practice available for matters such as asbestos removal, working at heights, traffic management, construction safety and more.

However, in spite of these regulations, the impact of work-related injuries and fatalities continues to affect businesses, families and the economy every year.

Workplace incidents in Australia

Workers across different industries are put at various risks through the course of their jobs. This could be falling from height at a construction site, colliding with powered mobile plant in a warehouse, getting trapped in a confined space or any other activity that puts their health and wellbeing in danger.

According to Safe Work Australia, in the year to April 28 2014, 58 employees died at work. A total of 25 were from the transport, postal and warehousing sector, 13 were from agriculture, forestry & fishing, six occurred in the mining industry and the sectors of construction, manufacturing, arts & recreation services recorded three worker fatalities each during this period.

Two worker fatalities were recorded in accommodation & food services, and one fatality in each of the sectors of rental, hiring & real estate services, health care & social assistance and electricity, gas, water & waste services.

Work-related injuries also represent a significant burden, not only for the worker himself or herself but for their families and employers as well. Between July 2006 and June 2009, approximately 73,400 employees had to be hospitalised due to an injury sustained while working for income.

These incidents resulted in various types of physical injuries. The most common was fractures, which accounted for 27 per cent of all work-related hospitalisations during this period, followed by open wounds (18 per cent) and injuries of the muscle and tendons (12 per cent). During this time, the most common causes of a work-related injury included exposure to mechanical forces (46 per cent), falls (16 per cent), transport accidents (9.1 per cent), overexertion (5.1 per cent) and exposure to mechanical forces – such as being struck by cattle (2.5 per cent).

What are some of the obstacles facing WHS?

Both the people conducting a business or undertaking (the employer) and staff members have a responsibility to uphold the necessary WHS policies. Unfortunately, there are some obstacles that make this more difficult – thereby heightening the risk of a workplace incident.

One thing to think about when creating your WHS policy is the entrenched attitudes and perceptions that may already exist around the topic. A review of the literature around WHS in Australia found attitudes (settled ways of thinking or feeling) could influence action related to work, health and safety policies. For example, an attitude that workers are mostly at fault in cases of death, injury or disease, will have a profound influence on the way WHS policies are set and implemented in that workplace.

These attitudes are entwined with motivations, perceptions, willingness and capacity – all of which affect the success and level of quality of a WHS strategy. Motivations for creating and following a new WHS policy can range from legal, economic, social, or emotional but it’s important to understand what motivates different levels of your company before putting your policy into action.

Perceptions can have a direct influence on health and safety because they affect how workers and others choose to see risks and hazards in the workplace. A perception that a site is less dangerous than it really is can have severe consequences, which is why health and safety training can be beneficial for boosting worker knowledge.

Any WHS policy needs to take into account the willingness and capacity of the organisation and individual workers to follow and understand the guidelines. No policy will be effective if it can’t be followed through consistently, so make sure yours is tailored for this aspect of your company.

To find out more on preventing and minimising risks to worker health and safety, contact the AlertForce team today.

ABC report puts the spotlight on dangers of working at heights

It's no surprise that working at heights can represent a severe risk for work health and safety, yet this particular hazard continues to cause a significant number of work-related injuries and fatalities every year. 

Now, the issue has come under the spotlight with a recent report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation focusing on whether stricter regulation is needed. Presented by Sarah Ferguson and reported by Greg Hoy, the ABC report looked at several incidents where workers had become injured or worse as a result of the hazard.

One of these was the case of Bernard Wills, a 45-year-old builder from Western Australia who fell through a skylight in a high shed under construction and died as a result of the impact. This happened in 2011 during his first day on the job, and his employer was eventually fined for not following appropriate safety procedures. 

Another case highlighted by the ABC report is that of plumber Keith Dickman. He had been installing air conditioning ducting at a fit-out site in Melbourne when he fell from an A-frame commercial grade ladder. He was taken to a hospital but later died as a result of his injuries. 

In this incident, the coroner found the ladder had some missing fixtures which may have contributed to the fall, and it had not been properly inspected.

These are just two examples of the types of dangers that can arise from working at heights. It's a hazard that can affect anyone and should be an important part of construction site safety procedures or any other workplaces where heights are likely to be involved. 

The dangers of working at heights

Workers can be exposed to heights in different ways throughout thee course of their normal working day, and the consequences of a fall can be substantial. Accidents can happen when someone is in or on plant that is at an elevated level, near an opening or edge through which it is possible to fall or near/on an unstable, slippery or sloped surface.

This puts your staff at danger of sustaining potentially fatal injuries, either from striking another object during the fall or being exposed to another hazard as a result (such as drowning after falling into a body of water). It's not just plant or elevated structures that can pose a risk, as employees can also fall from a vehicle, an animal or from ground level into a deeper hole or trench.

According to Safe Work Australia, between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2011, 232 workers were killed after falling from heights. This represented 11 per cent of all workers killed during that same period. 

During the 2010-11 period alone, falls from heights killed 29 workers, leading to a fatality rate of 0.25 deaths per 100,000 workers. The age group of affected workers tended to be skewed towards the older range of the spectrum, with workers aged 45 years or older making up 70 per cent of fatalities. 

Construction is one of the most at-risk industries for this hazard, accounting for 37 per cent of all fall-related fatalities during 2008-11. This is four times higher than the overall rate for other industries in Australia.

Managing the risks

One of the first steps you can take to reduce the impact of this risk is to ensure your workers have the appropriate training. Specialised courses run by recognised providers can give your workforce the knowledge and skills they need. OHS courses can help your staff understand the dangers involved and how to prevent or minimise the risks of working at heights.

Identifying specific areas of risk is another step towards better WHS policies. Once you know where the fall hazards are in your workplace, you can assess the likelihood of a fall actually occurring and act accordingly to control the risk.

Sometimes, it's possible to eliminate the risk altogether by removing the work to ground level or solid construction. If this isn't practicable, various strategies such as passive fall prevention devices, work positioning systems and fall-arrest systems can be implemented to mitigate the level of danger involved.

Any equipment, tools or devices used as part of this WHS strategy should be inspected thoroughly and frequently to ensure they are still in the best condition. 

For more detailed information about managing and preventing the risk of working at heights, talk to the AlertForce team today. 

What are the essential features of a thorough traffic management plan?

The flow of vehicles, powered mobile plant and other objects in the workplace requires having a thorough work health and safety plan in place. Interactions between pedestrians and vehicles can lead to different kinds of accidents, whether they take place around an event, inside busy shopping malls, at a construction or road works site or within a warehouse environment.

Traffic hazards can arise from a variety of factors, so your WHS strategy will need to be tailored to the risks inherent in your workplace. Owners or other people conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) have direct responsibility to ensure that any risks to worker health and safety is eliminated or reduced as much as humanly possible.

Reducing the amount of workplace incidents that occur has benefits for the workforce as a whole as well as the larger company, with the potential to affect everything from employee satisfaction to productivity as well as your bottom line. Traffic management plans can make up a vital component of your strategy to protect workers and members of the public in the workplace.

If you’re in the process of creating a new traffic management strategy or rethinking your existing policy, here are some essential features and steps you may want to take.

Consulting employees

Your employees’ welfare is at the issue at the heart of any WHS strategy. In light of that fact, it makes sense to include your workforce in the creation and development of your traffic management plans. After all, they are the ones who are on the front lines every day and they will typically be most at risk of unsafe incidents with vehicles.

It’s up to you to work out how you want to set up the consultation system, whether you appoint a health and safety representative to liaise with or encourage submissions through email or face to face meetings.

Involving your employees in the process can give you a deeper insight into why incidents are occurring and where specific hazards are located in the workplace. They can also be a source of innovative ideas for controlling and eliminating the risks, which can help to improve your overall WHS strategy.

Don’t forget to keep consulting your employees even after the traffic management plan has been implemented, as their feedback can be essential in fine-tuning the scope of the strategy and making sure it is really making an impact on safety around vehicles and powered mobile plant.

If appropriate, you may also wish to provide an opportunity for your staff members to participate in traffic management training. Specialised courses can improve your employees’ knowledge of the traffic risks in their workplace and provide them with solutions for avoiding or reducing the risk factors.

There are different legislative requirements in each state or territory of Australia, but a tailored traffic management course will ensure your staff have what they need to plan, prepare and monitor the relevant traffic guidance and management schemes.

Hazard identification

Identifying the hazards around traffic in the workplace is the first step to creating a thorough WHS plan. Control measures should be enforced around specific hazards to promote safer working practices, so you will need to understand where the risks are and how they can be prevented or minimised.

Your employees can be a useful source of information about traffic management problems, but it’s also a good idea to look back at any archived incident and injury records. You may be able to identify patterns and specific danger zones from analysing the records made over the years.

Spend some time observing your workplace to see where procedures or areas can be improved. For example, are there any sites where vehicles are operated in the same area as pedestrians? Is there enough signage displayed to warn pedestrians and vehicle operators of each other’s presence, and is it fully visible in all weather and lighting conditions?

Hazards around traffic can also occur when vehicle and/or pedestrian volumes are higher. This may arise during certain times of the day, for example when pick-ups and deliveries are scheduled or during break time as employees leave their designated work zones. Sometimes, a simple change in the scheduling of these activities can ensure the risk of traffic incidents is lowered.

There are certain areas in any workplace which have greater potential for collision, such as intersections or bottlenecks around entry and exit points, blind corners or close working spaces. Keep an eye out for these spots in your work environment and make a note of where they are.

Reporting procedures

A traffic management plan should include the appropriate steps for reporting an incident. These should be labelled clearly and concisely, and they need to be accessible for everyone who may have cause to report an accident.

Reporting any WHS incident is important for updating company records. It provides the information needed to ensure the same type of accident doesn’t happen again, and the notes may also be required in the case of a legal proceeding.

Make sure everyone knows where the relevant instructions are kept and ensure the chain of command is clear. Names, dates and the nature of the incident should all be detailed as part of the report.

Control measures

Your traffic management plan should set out the measures that can be implemented to eliminate or reduce risks in the workplace. These should be linked to the specific hazard they are associated with and updated regularly as workplace conditions change.

When it comes to selecting the appropriate control measure for a risk or hazard, there are several things you can consider. For example, signage, signalling and speed limits can be a preventive step against traffic incidents and may be helpful for directing traffic flows more efficiently.

Separating humans from vehicle traffic is another way to reduce the possibility of an incident. This can involve eliminating vehicles or powered mobile plant from entering areas where pedestrians are moving around and working or creating new routes for vehicles or pedestrians only. You can also physically separate humans from vehicles by adding safety barriers or fences.

When appropriate, you may also want to provide certain staff members with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as high visibility clothing.

As you select your control measures, make sure to take into account the challenges around your workplace layout, the traffic volume and flow, black spots and site conditions.

Evaluation measures

If you are satisfied with the depth of your traffic management plan, the next step is to put it into action. After you have implemented the strategy within your workplace, it’s important to keep reviewing and evaluating its success on a regular basis.

Even the best traffic management plans will need an update from time to time, as workplace conditions or legislative requirements may change. Even if nothing has changed, consistent evaluation is a good way to ensure the strategy is still working as effectively as it should be.

You should pay particular attention to your control measures, as these will generally need to be maintained and reviewed regularly.

For more information on creating a good traffic management plan for your workplace, talk to the AlertForce team today.

Key tips for minimising traffic management risks in warehouses

Traffic management can be a crucial part of an organisation's work health and safety (WHS) policy. Not every workplace will face hazards arising from this particular issue, but for those that do there are several strategies that can be put into place to minimise and, if possible, prevent the risks involved.

If your workforce operates within a warehouse environment during its day-to-day tasks and activities, there are specific issues around traffic management which need to be mitigated in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of workers.

As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) in Australia, you have a legal obligation to protect your workers from health and safety risks in the workplace. Incidents arising from work-related events can take a significant toll, not only financially but on staff morale and satisfaction as well. Accidents and fatalities can have a wide-ranging impact, so it makes sense to ensure your workers are as protected as possible.

The risks of traffic in the workplace

When people think of WHS policies, most jump to issues such as asbestos, working at heights or in a confined space as some of the most dangerous hazards. While these are certainly significant concerns, it's important not to forget about the dangers that can arise from traffic in the workplace as well.

Depending on the type of company, anything from trucks and vans to powered mobile plant and buses could represent a risk for the workers who operate in that environment day in and day out. Traffic management training and awareness plays a key role in protecting the workforce from injuries inflicted by collisions with moving vehicles or equipment, so it's crucial to ensure you have a thorough WHS policy in place. 

There are many ways traffic in the workplace can cause injury or even a death. Employees may be hit by load shifting equipment or other moving vehicles, pinned underneath a piece of machinery or affected by a malfunctioning item of plant.

The cost of these types of incidents can be very high and it affects not only the victim but the employer, surrounding family and the wider community as a whole. The first step to minimising these risks, controlling and even preventing them lies first in identifying who is responsible for undertaking WHS initiatives in the workplace.

Who has responsibility?

There are several levels of responsibility when it comes to safe traffic management in the workplace. First and foremost, the PCBU shoulders the primary duty for ensuring that every worker is protected from risks as much as possible.

This includes PCBUs who have a management or other controlling role within a workplace, and PCBUs who have management or control of powered mobile plant. 

However, a principal contractor also has some WHS duties if the cost of the construction work is $250,000 or more. He or she needs to prepare a written WHS management plan for the specific construction project and manage the risks associated with the traffic in the workplace, if it is likely to be affected by his or her construction work. 

Next, the designers, manufacturers, suppliers and importers of plant or structures have a responsibility to ensure their products aren't creating risks to health and safety, as far as is reasonably practicable. 

Officers in the company have a responsibility to ensure their business or undertaking complies with WHS regulations, to the best of their knowledge. Workers themselves must also follow the WHS policies and procedures in place at their organisation, which is where traffic management training can be particularly useful. 

Last but not least, other people within the workplace (such as visitors for the day) need to care for their own health and safety by following any instructions given to them by the PCBU. Once these levels of responsibility have been identified and established, a suitable WHS policy targeting traffic management can be created.

Focus on warehousing

Traffic in warehouses can pose specific risks to both workers and members of the public who may have cause to be in the area. Everyday activities in warehouse environments include receiving and unloading goods, transferring goods into storage, physically placing items into the correct storage facilities or areas, loading orders onto vehicles and readying them for transport. 

All of these tasks involve a degree of traffic management, to ensure that pedestrians aren't in danger of an injury or fatality. The main issues to consider when creating your traffic management strategy include pedestrian safety, work area layout, signs and warning devices, visibility and the use of powered loadshifting equipment. 

The first step in any WHS policy is to assess where hazards can be eliminated entirely. If this is not possible, the risks need to managed and minimised as much as possible, to lessen the dangers inherent in the flow of traffic around the warehouse.

There are many ways you can get rid of or minimise traffic hazards in warehousing. For example, you can prohibit the use of vehicles in pedestrian spaces or create separate traffic routes where pedestrians will not be present.

You can also plan ahead and control vehicle operations and pedestrian movements within the warehouse, to reduce the amount of interactions that need to take place between humans and vehicles or powered mobile plant. 

Managing traffic hazard risks: creating a strategy

When creating a WHS policy for traffic management, it's important to take into account the input of your workforce. Consultation throughout the process can encourage a more positive reception from your workforce and ensure they understand the principles behind the strategy.

You should also set up a consistent review and evaluation process to make sure the strategy is still effective even after implementing it. Regular reviews can help you identify any areas where improvement is needed and highlight practices that are particularly successful. 

When it comes to managing traffic hazards in the warehouse, you can put several control measures into place. For example, overhead walkways or separate paths can ensure any vehicles and pedestrians are kept away from each other. If this isn't feasible in your workplace, physical separation structures such as barriers and fences can help to lower the risk of interaction on a daily basis.

Separate pedestrian doors are also essential at each vehicle entry and exit point. Signage around these points should be clearly visible so everyone can see and follow the instructions – after all, even the best safety measures won't be effective if they are unable to be understood.

It also helps to know where the 'blind spots' are in your warehouse. Spend time identifying where pedestrians may not be able to see vehicles and concentrate your efforts on improving these sites. Safety railings at a blind spot can ensure any employees are prevented from stepping out into the path of oncoming traffic.

If you have staff members who need to work with vehicles, providing them with sufficient safety training can help them identify, minimise and avoid the risks they face. Warning signs and high-visibility gear can provide additional protection, but it's also useful to ensure non-trained and non-essential staff members aren't able to enter areas where these vehicles operate. Visual warning systems such as flashing lights, sirens or other attention-grabbing cues can help to raise awareness around moving vehicles in the warehouse.

For more information about safe traffic management in warehouses and other workplace environments, contact the AlertForce team today. 

Creating a successful WHS policy: Focus on confined spaces

Creating safe workplaces should be a priority for every Australian employer. According to Safe Work Australia, the national body overseeing workplace health and safety (WHS) initiatives around the country, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and diseases amounted to $57.5 billion during the 2005-06 financial year.

This equated to around 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product during that period, and the costs are even greater when you consider the human impact of these unfortunate incidents. In 2010-11, Safe Work Australia states there were 132,570 workers' compensation claims for serious work-related injuries or illnesses – leading to an incidence rate of 13.1 serious claims per 1,000 employees.

Labourers and related workers recorded the highest incidence rate, over double that of other occupations. Men were also at a greater risk, recording a 25 per cent higher rate of claims for serious injury or disease for every hour worked.  

While accidents can and do happen while in the workplace, it is the employer's responsibility to ensure the risk of these events is minimised and prevented as much as possible.

This means taking the issue of WHS seriously and putting safe working practices and policies in place to create a healthy workplace for every staff member. Australia as a whole has been putting a greater focus on this area in recent years, with the release of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 guiding the way for every business and organisation in the country.

The strategy aims to achieve healthy, safe and productive working lives by 2022 through a number of measures. While the basis lies in improving national WHS infrastructure, it will be up to employers to do their part to ensure this goal becomes a reality.

As part of this, the strategy sets out specific targets to provide a measure for national progress. This includes reducing worker fatalities from injury by 20 per cent, as well as reducing the incidence rate of claims resulting in one or more weeks off work by at least 30 per cent. In addition to this, the strategy sets a goal of reducing the incidence rate for musculoskeletal disorder claims resulting in one or more weeks off work by at least 30 per cent. 

If these goals are to be achieved within the timeframe, every Australian employer will need to do his or her part to support the effort. This is particularly important for those whose work involves operating in confined spaces.

Safety in confined spaces

Confined spaces can pose particularly high risks to safety because they are not typically designed to allow enough room for humans to work in. The problem can also be compounded by a lack of sufficient ventilation, which accelerates the development of hazardous atmospheres and presents further complications for those required to work in these types of areas.

Essentially, confined spaces are those that are either fully or partially enclosed and were not intended to be occupied by a human person. Confined spaces are likely to be risky for health and safety due to having an atmosphere without a healthy oxygen level, the presence of harmful airborne contaminants such as gases, vapours and dusts, and the potential for engulfment.

As such, confined spaces may result in fires or explosions from the existence of flammable contaminants, asphyxiation from a lack of oxygen or immersion in free-flowing materials, loss of consciousness, impairment, injury or even death.

WHS regulations state that confined spaces do not include a mine shaft or the workings of a mine, or any workplaces that were designed to house humans and have sufficient means of ventilation and lighting as well as dedicated safe entry and exit points. 

What are the WHS duties in confined spaces and who do they relate to?

As always, any person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) is primarily responsible under the Australian WHS Act to make sure that any workers or other people in the area are protected from any health and safety risks related to the business's activities. 

However, other people have important duties to take note of as well. For example, officers in the company (such as directors or executives) are obliged to exercise their due diligence to make sure that the business or undertaking is fully compliant with the relevant WHS regulations and legislation.

Workers themselves also need to take some responsibility for their own health and safety. This means following instructions, complying with risk control measures and emergency procedures. If they need to operate within the risky area, confined spaces training can be vital for equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe. 

In addition to this, designers, manufacturers and suppliers of any plant or structures including confined spaces are also responsible. They need to do their best to eliminate the need for any person to enter confined spaces. If this is not possible, they need to do what they can to create safe entry and exit points while minimising WHS risks for anyone who needs to operate at the site. 

Creating a successful WHS strategy for confined spaces

To successfully manage the risks inherent in any confined spaces, it's important to first identify any of the foreseeable hazards that could arise from the area. Once you know what risks your workforce is facing, you need to take the appropriate steps to eliminate these as much as you possibly can.

However, if you can't prevent this risk entirely the next best thing is to minimise it. Control measures will come in handy here, but you will need to revise and review these regularly to ensure they are still meeting the WHS needs of your workers in regards to the spaces identified. 

For most confined spaces, the hazards will arise from restricted entry or exit points, as well as the presence of hazardous airborne contaminants. To counteract these dangers you could implement a variety of control measures, from issuing personal protective equipment and gear to every staff member or changing the work practices involved so that only the workers with relevant confined spaces training can operate inside. 

It's also a good idea to consult your workers when devising your confined spaces WHS policy. They may be more familiar with the risks at the site than you are, and may be able to offer more insight in regards to creating the right control measures.

Factors to consider

Of course, for any WHS policy to be successful it must be put into practice by the workforce. It's important to review, improve and evaluate your WHS policy on a continual basis so you are always up to date on its effectiveness. 

If your workforce isn't responding as positively as you would have hoped, seek their feedback as to where the policy may be lacking in depth or scope. Make sure to set concrete goals or targets so you have something to measure your policy against.

If your policy requires changing work practices in or around confined spaces, it's vital to remember that staff members may be resistant to significant change. Consult them as much as you can during the process and ensure they understand why any changes are necessary, to provide a smoother transition between old and new working practices.

Sometimes you may need to provide something more to encourage compliance with the new WHS policy, whether that's an incentive or the opportunity to take specialised training courses.

For more information about managing the risks of confined spaces, talk to the AlertForce team today. 

Minimising accidents in the traffic control industry

The road traffic control industry has grown exponentially over the past five years, according to WorkCover Queensland. While this is encouraging for those working in the sector, it has also led to an increase in workplace injuries.

Traffic management is a high-risk occupation and failure to follow safety standards can lead to death or serious injury in motorists or road workers, including the traffic controllers themselves.

To combat the rising prevalence of accidents, WorkCover has been working closely with the Traffic Management Association of Queensland (TMAQ).

TMAQ President Paul Kelly explained his organisation’s relationship with WorkCover is a valuable partnership, helping to manage workers’ compensation claims and develop effective occupational health and safety (OHS) procedures.

“It’s important that safety systems keep up with the growth in the traffic control industry,” Mr Kelly said in a March 27 media release.

Pablo Aviles, WorkCover Queensland’s customer advisor, attended a TMAQ meeting on March 13 to present his findings on injury and accidents within the traffic control industry.

“Total claims costs for the industry have continued to rise since 2011, which has impacted on the industry’s premium rate,” he revealed. “This means that there’s more work to be done to prevent injuries and ensure safer work environments.”

WorkCover’s guidance over the industry has enabled employers to reduce the amount of time employees require off work after a workplace injury, falling from an average of 33.7 days in 2009-10 to just 19.2 last year.

However, these figures show the management of injury claims and recovery is being supported, while preventing accidents has taken a back seat.

Ensuring your employees are protected and minimising the risk of injury is an important factor in reducing workers’ compensation claims. The average time and productivity lost from workplace injuries would be drastically diminished if there were fewer accidents in the traffic control industry.

Preventing traffic control accidents and injuries

According to the December 2013 Traffic Management In Workplaces Code of Practice, it is the employer or business owner’s responsibility for ensuring, as far as is reasonably practical, that workers and other people are not exposed to health and safety risks in the workplace or during business duties.

Additionally, workers have a duty of care for their own health and safety in the workplace. This means they are required to follow all reasonable policies and procedures related to OHS.

In the traffic control industry, this responsibility can be covered by following national and state standards and legislation related to traffic management plans.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires all persons engaged in high-risk construction activities, such as traffic control, to undertake official and specific training in any relevant areas.

This means that employers operating in the traffic control industry are obliged to provide their staff with traffic management and control training from an accredited provider.

What’s involved in a traffic management plan?

A comprehensive traffic control course will enable an individual to correctly implement a traffic management plan, including the process of identifying and resolving risks to workers and the public.

When creating a traffic management plan, it is important to consider every individual that may be put at risk – including visitors to the site, employees and the general public.

The vast majority of traffic control activities involve working with both public vehicles and industry machinery. Ensuring these channels of traffic can operate safely in the same space can be one of the most difficult processes. Additionally, when pedestrians are added in to the mix, a traffic management plan can become a complicated practice.

Reducing the risk of accidents can often be as simple as separating the channels of traffic from one another. This includes creating independent pathways for work vehicles, public motorists and pedestrians. These pathways must be clearly marked and easily followed, to avoid an individual becoming disoriented and taking the wrong route.

For additional safety, installing high-impact barriers, guardrails and elevated walkways is recommended. These safety measures ensure that the people on foot are separated from vehicles and machinery and are forced to pause before stepping into roadways.

When considering the safety of the traffic controller, it is important to be mindful of the inattention of other people on the road. While the controllers’ colleagues will most likely be aware of their presence, a member of the public is likely to not be prepared.

It is therefore important for all individuals likely to be standing on a shared roadway to be highly visible. This includes wearing reflective, brightly coloured clothing, setting up cones and bollards and displaying warning signs.

If you would like to minimise the risk of traffic control accidents, get in touch with AlertForce today about our extensive traffic management and control training.

Spotlight on mining traffic management

The need for comprehensive traffic management plans in the mining industry has been placed in the spotlight following a number of high-profile incidents in New South Wales mines.

Last year, 24 Australian workers died in vehicle incidents not on public roads, according to Safe Work Australia. These accidents often occurred in locations where traffic management plans were in place, yet workers either failed to comply with occupational health and safety procedures, or environmental issues were not taken into account when forming a traffic management plan.

This has highlighted the need for all employees to be made aware of traffic management requirements and processes, to make sure correct policies are in place and are being followed. To improve the safety of your employees, it is important to invest in traffic management and control courses. This will ensure your organisation's traffic management plans are industry compliant and fulfil the regulations of your state.

The importance of radio communication

A report from the NSW Mine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) has found that one accident in particular could have been avoided if a driver had followed the mine's comprehensive traffic management plan.

On October 18 last year, a 100-tonne D11 dozer reversed over a light vehicle (LV) that had entered the work area of the dozer at the Mount Arthur Coal Mine. Fortunately, the LV driver escaped without injury. 

The MSIU's report found that the LV driver had discussed work with the dozer operator and they had agreed that the LV driver would wait in a designated parking area until the dozer operator had completed his task. However, the LV driver – incorrectly assuming work had finished – moved his vehicle behind the dozer.

While the LV driver claims he hailed the dozer operator on his radio to confirm the work had been completed, the operator was using a different channel at the time and was not aware the LV had been moved behind his vehicle.

The dozer reversed 2.5 metres over the passenger side of the LV before stopping and moving forward. Both workers were then taken to the mine's first aid room for assessment and each later underwent drug and alcohol testing. The LV driver was terminated the next day, for breaching occupational health and safety procedures.

The MSIU found the LV driver was at fault in this incident, as he failed to achieve positive radio contact before moving his vehicle from the designated parking area. The driver revealed that other calls over the radio from other locations within the mine may have confused him and led him to believe the operator had ceased work.

This highlights the need for effective transport rules and radio communication protocols, including establishing clear and unambiguous radio communications systems.

Tailor your traffic management plan to the environment

Just before midnight on November 30, 2013, a large haul truck collided with a light passenger vehicle at Ravensworth Surface Operations near Singleton, NSW. The incident resulted in the death of the LV driver.

The LV was being driven by a trainee plant operator, heading into the mine to begin the weekend shift. She entered a T-intersection and collided with the fully laden truck and suffered fatal injuries.

Initial investigation from the MSIU has revealed that the intersection in question is not illuminated by specific lighting and drivers are reliant on ambient illumination from a nearby workshop. 

While a specific cause for the accident has not yet been determined, the MSIU has hesitantly placed a focus on the night-time driving conditions at the mine, as well as other environmental issues. The investigation will continue into the road design, visibility and communications systems used to manage traffic in that area.

Additionally, the MSIU identified that the large haul truck has a significantly wide blind spot, which the LV driver unintentionally entered when driving through the intersection. Because of this, the unit has agreed to investigate the presence of collision avoidance and proximity detection systems.

While the LV had a visibility flag on its bonnet, enhancing visibility, it is likely that the lack of light in the area made this feature difficult to see. It is therefore crucial for all vehicles with large blind spots to be fitted with proximity detection systems, particularly when driving at night or during adverse weather conditions.

As the investigations for this incident are ongoing, it is difficult to highlight a specific area where the traffic management plan could be improved. However, ensuring the plan is adjusted to suit the time of day, weather conditions and road type are all important factors to consider.

If you are interested in improving the safety of your drivers, talk to AlertForce about traffic management and control training today!

Minimising combustible dust risk in a confined space

The danger of a combustible dust explosion is a serious occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many industries across Australia, particularly in those sectors with confined space.

"Over the centuries, dust explosions have claimed many lives and caused significant injuries and property damage," said Graeme Cooper, managing director of industrial parts supplier Tecpro Australia.

"To many, dust can seem harmless. But if certain conditions prevail, it can pose a deadly problem," he said in a July 2013 statement.

Combustible dust is a common risk in contained environments – such as underground mines, mills and storage facilities – as the confined space allows dust to collect in high concentrations. Additionally, these industries often introduce friction, heat and sparks into a confined space, which can result in an explosion or flash fire.

In the past, materials that have caused a combustible dust explosion include coal, grain, flour, sugar, sawdust, magnesium, cotton and even powdered metals such as titanium and aluminium.

Employers in high-risk industries are encouraged to offer their employees sufficient confined space training to ensure the hazard of a combustible dust explosion is minimised.

When do dust explosions occur?

For a combustible dust explosion to occur, a number of factors must be in place. This includes a high concentration of dust, the presence of an oxidising agent – such as oxygen – and an ignition trigger. The source of ignition could be a flame or even just static electricity off an employee's clothing.

Dust is particularly dangerous due to its massive amount of total surface area – this means the material is highly flammable. Combustible dust becomes a more significant hazard in confined space, where it is easy for dust to collect in high concentrations.

"In settings where there is the odour of gas or flammable vapours, it's obvious that there is an explosion risk and people are usually quick to respond and combat the problem," Mr Cooper explained.

"In contrast, where there is a large build-up of dust, it may not necessarily make people in the area think about the possibility of an explosion risk."

Even when dust is not collected in a confined space, there is also the risk of a flash fire or other damage-causing event. Due to the highly flammable nature of some forms of dust, any introduced flame can cause fire to spread quickly through a dusty environment.

Combustible dust explosions are also a significant OHS risk due to the added danger of multiple explosions. The first blast may unsettle more dust around the worksite and the highly combustible material could be ignited by the heat or shock wave resulting from the first explosion.

"Smaller dust explosions can unsettle dust elsewhere, causing rolling explosions which can of course do great damage. It's best to be vigilant and proactive by eliminating or minimising the factors that can contribute to a dust explosion," Mr Cooper revealed.

Another danger posed by combustible dust explosions is the varying size and impact of an event. When low grade dust explosions occur, it can create a false idea of the danger of combustible dust. In particular, when no damage is sustained to property or people, employers often downplay the risk of dust in the workplace.

"If relatively minor dust explosions occur, sometimes people feel complacent and that the problem is more or less manageable. However this doesn't necessarily mean that future explosions won't escalate into a larger disaster," said Mr Cooper.

How can you minimise the risk of a combustible dust explosion?

There are a number of important methods to reduce the risk of a dust explosion in your workplace, including offering your staff confined space training and improving your cleaning procedures.

– Train employees to identify the hazards.  Ensuring all employees are adequately trained to identify the hazards in their workplace will enable them to protect their own health and safety, while also reducing the risks to their colleagues. This includes identifying when dust poses a risk of combustion or explosion.

However, due to the diverse nature of dust particles, it is not always possible to correctly identify when dust may be combustible or not. It is therefore recommended that employers and employees assume all dust is a risk and keep their workplaces as dust-free as possible.

There can be similar issues when attempting to identify the ignition source. While it may be simple to avoid introducing flame into a confined space filled with dust, the presence of material likely to cause a static spark could be less manageable. This is because a number of everyday clothing items can cause static electricity, which means even an employee's clothing could pose a risk in a confined space.

An in-depth knowledge of confined spaces training is also important so employees are aware of what to do if and when an emergency situation occurs. 

– Separate dust-causing processes from other work areas. If possible, removing the presence of dust from the worksite completely may be the simplest way of reducing the risk of an explosion. Similarly, preventing the introduction of an ignition source will have a similar effect.

This could include ensuring dust-causing processes – such as grinding and sawing – are performed in a separate building or room to machinery that could create sparks or heat from friction. Additionally, removing all dust from an environment is recommended before any welding or hot work is undertaken in a factory or other site.

– Ventilation and dust-collection systems. An adequate ventilation or dust collection system will reduce the risk of airborne dust in a workplace, minimising the hazard of explosions. These systems could include direct air out-takes in confined spaces, dust capture hoods on machinery and filters. It is important not to use fans or other devices that may just disturb the dust and increase the risk of airborne particles.

– Regular cleaning. When cleaning the worksite, it is crucial to identify all surfaces where dust could settle, including on top of machinery and any overhead structures. These hidden areas can pose a significant risk if a small explosion was to occur. The shock wave from any smaller event could disturb the dust in these locations, causing a second, larger explosion that results in more damage than the first.

Regularly clearing dust from the worksite will minimise the risk of explosion, so it is important to invest in a thorough housekeeping program. This cleaning process also needs to be tailored to a dusty environment, including using approved vacuums instead of brooms and water instead of compressed air. Cleaning in a high-risk area can also be performed wet to stop the combustible material from becoming airborne – for example, mopping a floor instead of sweeping, as the use of a broom can kick up dust.

You may also want to consider substituting any rough surfaces on machinery or the work site for smoother platforms and facades. This should help to make cleaning easier and will also discourage dust from settling on these surfaces.

If you'd like to learn more about minimising the risk of combustible dust explosions in a confined space, get in touch with AlertForce today!

February OHS news round-up

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a significant issue in all Australian workplaces, so it's not surprising this topic is frequently reported on.

Despite the wide acceptance of OHS requirements in the workplace, the headlines often reveal a significant need for further training and knowledge among local business owners, employers and employees.

To help you stay up to date with the latest OHS news and developments, here are the articles that hit the front pages in February this year.

Scaffolding collapse in NSW

A five-storey scaffolding rig collapsed in a busy Sydney suburb on February 25, fortunately resulting in only two injuries and no deaths.

Two construction workers rode the scaffolding to the ground as it fell from the Mascot building site. One sustained chest, leg and arm injuries, while the other walked away with cuts and bruises. A bystander was also treated for shock at the scene and around 100 people were forced to evacuate the site, halting construction for the rest of the day.

As the news hit headlines, WorkCover revealed they had inspected the site approximately five times over the past year of its operation, finding no safety issues.

However, representatives from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) had visited the site in December and raised concerns about the scaffolding.

"One of our officials visited this site just before Christmas last year and shut down the scaffold in respect of safety concerns," CFMEU Assistant Secretary Rob Kera told ABC Australia on February 26.

The construction company working on the site, Toplace, said it was cooperating with the CFMEU investigation, but denied CFMEU stopped work at the site.

At the time of collapse, the scaffolding was in the process of being dismantled. There is no consensus on why the rig fell during dismantling – investigations are currently ongoing.

"We're lucky we didn't have multiple fatalities down here this afternoon. There would have been a lot of workers on this site, a lot of building workers who can count their lucky stars they are going home this afternoon," Mr Kera said to the Sydney Morning Herald on February 25.

This news has highlighted the need to make sure all people working on scaffolding have received adequate working at heights training to ensure individuals know what to do when the worst happens.

Trade and construction workers, farmers and professional drivers most at risk of skin cancer

Research from the Harry Perkins Institute at the University of Western Australia revealed that those working in trades, construction, farming and transport are the most at risk from skin cancer. This hazard has been attributed to the significant sun exposure experienced in these professions.

"Solar UV exposure is the leading cause of melanomas, basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas and the workplace is a significant setting for exposure for many Australians," research leader Professor Lin Fritschi explained in a February 7 media release.

The research found that, overall, around 37 per cent of males and 8 per cent of females are exposed to solar radiation at work. This represents almost 2 million Australian workers.

"Although 95 per cent of the people we spoke to said they used sun protection, the level of protection varied and in reality, less than 9 per cent were fully protected from UV radiation," Ms Fritschi said.

Ms Fritschi urges employers and employees to ensure they understand and account for the risk of sun exposure on their site.

"Workers also need to be aware that reflective surfaces can also create significant levels of (UV radiation), which is why tradespeople on roofs, near water or next to a glass window in a vehicle are exposed," she said.

These results show there is a significant need for employers to protect their workers against the dangers of sun exposure on the worksite. This includes providing adequate protective clothing and equipment, such as hats with brims, sunglasses and sunscreen.

It is also important for employees who spend significant amounts of time outside to remain prepared all year round. It is possible for sun damage to occur even during the winter months as temperature does not affect the levels of UV radiation in sunlight.

Introduction of the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014

On February 13, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie introduced the Work Health and Safety and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 into the Queensland government.

This bill was created to amend legislation surrounding the ability for WHS permit holders to enter a worksite and hand out penalties for suspected breaches. 

These changes are important knowledge for all business owners and OHS-trained staff, as they address the troubling trend of WHS representatives using 'safety as a weapon' and harming productivity.

During consultation with the government, the construction industry had raised serious ongoing concerns about the misuse of right of entry provisions by union officials and the impact and disruption that this had on business. Other industries also reported confusion.

"Most of these disputes related to entry without prior notice to inquire into a suspected contravention under the Work Health and Safety Act. Inspectors found that overall none of the issues identified were considered to be an immediate or imminent risk to workers or others at the workplace," Mr Bleijie said.

WHS representatives will not completely lose their ability to halt work if these amendments go through. However they will be require to present sufficient evidence of serious risk and imminent exposure to enact this capability. Altogether, this amendment has been put forward to clarify the term 'reasonable concern' to ensure work sites are not being shut down without adequate reasoning. 

Currently, this bill amendment is under review and the government is calling for industry stakeholders to comment on the legislation before a final decision is made.

For more information on WHS legislation and OHS training requirements, get in touch with the AlertForce team today.

Working in a confined space in the agriculture industry

The agriculture industry is one of Australia's most dangerous sectors in which to work, according to WorkSafe Victoria. Farmers and other employees within this industry face many risks and hazards while performing their daily tasks.

Of these hazards, confined space poses unique health and safety problems that can often lead to serious injury or death when not sufficiently prepared for.

A confined space is defined as an area that's not designed or intended for human occupation, has limited entry or exit points, is built to be at normal atmospheric pressure when a person is present or is likely to pose a danger of suffocation, engulfment or asphyxiation.

There are many potential work spaces that could represent a confined space on a farm or within another form of agriculture-based organisation – such as grain driers, silos, integrated feed systems and water tanks.

The most common confined space incidents involve a silo or tank with limited oxygen supply, or a danger of engulfment due to loose grains.

What are the hazards present in confined spaces?

In the agriculture industry, there are many reasons why a worker may need to enter a confined space, including dislodging grain blockages, cleaning tanks and making repairs.

Unfortunately, working in these conditions poses many hazards to an individual's health and safety. Identifying these risks is the first step in avoiding potential injuries and fatalities.

When working with grain, farmers must be aware of the danger of engulfment. When a worker enters a silo or holding tank that contains a bulk commodity – such as grain – there is always a risk the material will shift and trap or suffocate the individual.

Other examples of materials that pose a significant risk of engulfment include liquids, fertiliser, animal feed and sand. Often these materials can become fixed or bonded while in storage. If a worker was to enter the space and walk on or below this 'crust', any movement by the commodity could cause the crust to collapse and engulf the individual.

Unsafe oxygen levels are another major confined space hazard on a farm. Situations that require an employee to enter a manure pit, water tank or other enclosed area could be dangerous if the space has compromised air quality.

Asphyxiation occurs in these situations when the atmosphere within a confined space is oxygen deficient. An example provided by WorkSafe Victoria details how a 65-year-old dairy farmer, his two sons, a grandson and a nephew died when they entered a manure pit with an oxygen-deficient atmosphere. 

The incident occurred when one of the sons entered the pit to fix an agitator shaft and was overcome by the highly toxic gases, such as methane and hydrogen sulphide, released by the decomposing manure.

Each of the other victims then entered the pit in an effort to rescue the overcome individuals, resulting in multiple fatalities due to asphyxiation.

Another high-risk hazard present in agricultural confined space is the danger of fire and explosion caused by grain dust drifting into compressed areas.

Dust is often made from highly flammable material, which means if it drifts into an area with an open flame it can easily cause a fire or explosion. In a confined space, this danger is amplified due to the high quantity of dust in a smaller area. 

How to prevent the hazards

The single most efficient way of avoiding the danger present in confined spaces is to avoid working in these areas. Consider if there are possible ways to complete the required tasks without entering the space.

Additionally, preventing the need to work in a confined space is also important. This includes covering all tanks and pits to ensure debris and animals cannot enter and pollute the material inside, or using filters or automatic cleaning systems to minimise the chances of a build-up or blockage.

If working in the confined space is unavoidable, other measures will need to be put in place. One of the most important steps towards working safely in a confined space is to ensure you have received adequate training before entering any bins or tanks.

This includes seeking confined space training from a registered and licenced organisation, such as AlertForce. A certified confined space training course will educate workers on the necessary equipment, processes and knowledge needed to complete work safely in these areas.

Once you have received training, the next step is to ensure the area you are entering is safe or poses minimal risk to your health. This includes monitoring oxygen levels, accurately checking the stability of material within the space and turning off any machinery that could cause engulfment due to a shifting commodity or suffocation due to fumes.

If you need to enter a confined space, it is crucial that you ask a trustworthy individual to observe you while you work. It is recommended that you choose someone who has also undergone confined space training, as they will need adequate knowledge of how to safely assist you during an emergency.

Even when working with an observer, all workers entering a confined space should use any available personal protective equipment.

This includes wearing a breathing mask when oxygen levels are low and securing harnesses or lifelines to the top of the tank or silo.

A lifeline will help you avoid falling if the grain or other material present moves unexpectedly. It will also help you to find your way out or guide rescuers to you if you do become engulfed.

If your industry or occupation requires you to work in a confined space, contact the team at AlertForce about confined space training today.

Monitoring toxic atmospheres in confined spaces

Asphyxiation is one of the most common causes of fatalities in confined spaces, according to BOC Industrial Gases Australia. Due to the restricted airflow, exposure to toxic gases can create an unsafe atmosphere for workers. Additionally, asphyxiation can also occur when an individual falls into a narrow space and dies due to compression of the torso.

Almost any workplace can have confined spaces. While most do not require employees to spend extended periods of time inside the area, some occupations need workers to operate in confined spaces on a regular basis. This includes those working in mining pits, septic tanks, winery vats and grain silos.

All asphyxiation deaths are preventable if comprehensive safe work practices are followed. Tragically, almost 60 per cent of fatalities in confined spaces involve would-be rescuers acting out of haste to save a colleague, according to the American Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Safe​ Work Australia defines a confined space as a partially or fully enclosed area that is:

– Not designed or intended for human occupation

– Devised to be at normal atmospheric levels when occupied by a person

– Likely to present hazards such as unsafe oxygen levels, contaminants that could cause a fire or explosion, asphyxiation due to unsafe levels of airborne contaminants or engulfment.

Reducing the risk of asphyxiation

In order to avoid the risk of fatalities due to asphyxiation, it is the responsibility of the business owner or employer to ensure their employees are following adequate safe work practices. Additionally, the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act outlines the obligation of business operators to – as far is reasonably possible – minimise the hazards present in a workplace. 

This includes responsibilities during the design and manufacturing stages of equipment, factories and other structures. If a structure includes a space that is likely to become an enclosed space, the designer, manufacturer or supplier has a duty of care to eliminate the need for any person to enter this confined area.

If this is not reasonably possible, these individuals must ensure there are adequate entry and exit points, along with sufficient ventilation.

Officers and managers within a business are also required to take precautions to minimise the risks to their employees. This includes taking steps to ensure the organisation and workers are compliant with the WHS Act and other regulations. An effective way of complying with this requirement is to provide comprehensive confined spaces training.

Additionally, employees themselves are expected to exercise care and due diligence regarding their own health and the safety of those around them. It is important for individuals to be aware of how their actions can affect not only themselves but also the colleagues and would-be rescuers around them.

A valuable example of the importance of compliance to these WHS relations is the historic case of three fatalities in an oil field in the US state of California.

In 1994, an oil field worker entered an oil well cellar to switch off a water valve during a procedure to create perforations in the water disposal pipe.

This employee was quickly overcome by carbon monoxide and collapsed. A second worker then entered the cellar to rescue his colleague but also fell. A third individual looking into the cellar to offer assistance then also collapsed. 

These three workers were then pulled from the cellar by a group of other employees also working in the area. Unfortunately, all three were pronounced dead later on that day. Two of the rescuers were also hospitalised but survived the incident.

Investigations found the unfortunate fatalities on this day could have been avoided if the workers had been wearing any personal protective equipment (PPE). Additionally, the hasty entry into the cellar by the untrained rescuers meant two additional unnecessary deaths.

The employer was quickly found guilty of breaches to local occupational health and safety laws due to the fact that no prior confined spaces training was given to the employees working on the gas well cellar. In addition to this, no PPE was available anywhere on the worksite and atmospheric testing had not been carried out.

Since this time, OHS standards have improved and most workplaces supply adequate PPE and safety training. However, these deaths should not be forgotten, as they serve as a stark warning of how a momentary lapse in judgement can lead to a number of tragic fatalities. 

It is therefore important to ensure your workers know what to do if a toxic atmosphere is discovered in the workplace. 

How to manage a toxic atmosphere

The simplest way to minimise the risk of illness or death due to toxic atmospheres in a confined space is to provide adequate training to all staff to ensure they know the correct procedures to deal with these situations.

This will prevent employees from taking ill-informed actions, such as entering a space to rescue a coworker without the correct safety equipment.

Sufficient training will also teach individuals how to recognise and report potential hazards in the workplace, which can help prevent toxic contamination in the confined space altogether.

Additionally, employers should encourage regular atmospheric testing of confined spaces. Ideally, confined spaces should be tested for toxic contaminants and oxygen content each time an employee is allowed entry.

This can include monitoring for gases not typically expected in a particular workplace. In the 1994 case above, carbon monoxide was not considered a relevant hazard in oil well perforation. This means that even if the employees had performed the required tests, they may not have detected the high levels of CO is the atmosphere.

It is also important to ensure the atmospheric testing is designed to monitor both heavy and light gases. If a toxicity monitoring system is fixed to the lower level of a confined space, it may miss lighter gases filling the higher reaches of the area. Similarly, a monitoring process that only reaches the top of the space will fail to pick up any heavy gases and contaminants closer to the floor.

Adequate ventilation is also a key component in preventing illness, injuries and death in confined spaces. Allowing sufficient air flow can reduce the concentration of toxic gases, stabilising the atmosphere at a healthier level and minimising the risk of asphyxiation.

Where ventilation is not possible or effective, employees entering a confined space must be provided with adequate PPE. This includes durable clothing, harnesses and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) – such as breathing apparatuses and masks.

A harness attached to a guide wire will allow a disoriented worker to find their own way back out of a space with minimal exit and entry points. Additionally, it may enable would-be rescuers to pull the employee from harm's way without needing to enter the confined space.

Durable and protective clothing should help prevent toxicity caused by contaminants coating the skin of employees. Some airborne particles can continue to pose a risk long after an employee has left the confined space when carried on clothing or skin for long periods of time.

RPE should always be used as a last resort. It is more effective to ensure safe levels of oxygen are present before sending an employee into a confined space. RPE is an essential measure when contaminants are unidentified or it is not possible to minimise the risks in enclosed areas.

To educate your employees on preventing toxic atmospheres and safely working in confined spaces, talk to AlertForce about confined spaces training today.

Working at heights: Addressing the dangers

There is a significant risk of injury in any industry that requires employees to work from heights, according to Safe Work Australia.

In an October 2013 report – 'Work-related injuries and fatalities involving a fall from height' – Safe Work Australia revealed that more than 200 workers had been killed as a result of falls from heights between 2003 and 2011.

This figure represents 11 per cent of all workplace fatalities during the eight-year period – the largest proportion of deaths related to any one cause. Additionally, the report found more than one-third (37 per cent) of these falls occurred during work in the construction industry.

Other occupations that record the highest numbers of fall from height injuries and deaths include painting and decorating (32 per cent), plumbing (23 per cent) and electrical work (18 per cent).

In a surprising development, at least half of these fatal falls involved a height of less than three metres, proving it's not just labourers on roofs and elevated platforms that need to be aware of the dangers of working at heights.

During the same period, 7,730 claims for serious injuries due to falls from heights were lodged by injured workers. This means that 21 employees sustain a fall-related injury every day.

The typical fall-related injury results in an employee needing more than six weeks off work, which proves that reducing the risk of falls from heights can have significant economic benefits to employers due to a decrease in absenteeism.

Furthermore, nearly 6,900 injured workers required hospitalisation following a fall from height during the three year period between 2006 and 2009. This accounts for 9 per cent of all injured employees who required treatment in a hospital in that time.

These results show that workplace injuries and fatalities caused by falls from heights are a significant issue in Australian industries. Addressing this hazard and working to minimise the risk is an important step in decreasing workers' compensation claims and potentially decreasing employee death and injury across all occupations.

In order to correctly identify and rectify the danger of falling, employers should consider offering their employees construction safety training and occupational health and safety courses related to working at heights training.

Leading causes of falls from heights

Falls from height commonly occur when safety best practices have not been followed or inadequate training leads to errors in work procedures.

This includes using ladders on uneven ground, walking on unfinished or unstable scaffolding, failing to wear safety harnesses and inappropriately climbing on unsecured shelving or platforms.

Incorrect use of ladders can involve working from an upper-level rung without a partner to spot or steady the bottom rungs, or failing to secure the ladder using multiple points on a building or the ground.

A number of falls also occur due to scaffolding and roofs not being kept clear of tools and clutter. This can lead to a worker who has their vision obscured tripping and tumbling off the elevated platform.

Working during wet or windy weather can also increase the chances of falling from height, as a damp and slick surface may cause a worker to slip and fall, or a strong gust of wind could unbalance an employee exposed to the elements.

To prevent these hazards from affecting your workplace, it is crucial to ensure your employees are sufficiently trained in safety best practices. It is also important for workers to identify the risks to themselves and to others in order to enact appropriate measures to prevent accidents and injuries.

Removing the risks

In order to reduce the risks of falling from height, employers have the option to consult an occupational health and safety representative to assess their worksite.

Beyond this, employers should also speak with their workers to identify the risks – as the employees often have more in-depth, first-hand knowledge of what hazards they are facing.

Any task that requires an employee to work above two metres presents a risk of falling, which means safety measures must be considered for all of these duties. Once these risks have been identified, there is a five point process workers must follow to establish the most efficient way to remove this hazard from the workplace.

1. Working from the ground

The first step to removing these risks is to decide whether the work could be performed closer to the ground.

This could include removing moving parts from a large piece of machinery in order to repair it on the ground, constructing tilt-up framing rather than performing construction on scaffolding or fitting vehicle covers from the ground rather than climbing over the load.

2. Passive fall prevention devices

Passive fall prevention devices – such as guard rails, scaffolding and netting – reduce the risk of falls from heights by creating a barrier between the employee and the ground.

This method can be very effective when guard rails are correctly installed. This includes ensuring rails are raised above waist height, to stop a worker's centre of gravity tipping them over the device. Additionally, rails and scaffolding should not contain large gaps below the upper guard as falls can still occur when an employee slips or rolls underneath an official guard rail.

3. Work positioning systems

If a passive fall prevention device is unsuitable, you may want to consider work positioning systems. These typically include rope access systems and travel restraints. 

This would involve workers wearing a harness attached by a lanyard to roof anchors or static lines. However, these devices often rely on the skills of the user and an effective system of maintenance. Any untrained use of such devices could still lead to a fall-related injury or death.

4. Fall injury prevention systems

A fall injury prevention system is fundamentally different to a work positioning device. This level of protection involves installing safety nets, catch platforms and individual fall arrest systems.

These devices will ensure any employee who trips, slips or falls is caught before injury is sustained. Installation of a fall injury prevention device should always be undertaken by a trained professional.

5. Fixed and portable ladders or administrative controls

When all other points have been tried and exhausted, a last resort should be relying on simple safety procedures and ladders.  

These options are unlikely to significantly reduce the risk of injuries if falls occur, but correct controls and ladder use can minimise the occurrence of serious falls in some cases.

This step should be taken to comply with Fair Work regulations, which require an employer to provide their workers with a safe and healthy working environment.

Industry-wide compliance

Working safely at heights is an important step towards improving Australia's troubling workplace fatality and injury rates. This requires an industry-wide compliance, with all occupations and businesses taking steps to reduce the risk of falls from heights.

The Working at Heights Association (WAHA) recently released a report that shows the use of fall-prevention measures is an area where many sectors require improvement.

Their February 12 statement revealed that of those businesses already using these systems, more than 60 per cent failed to comply with industry standard regulations.

This suggests a need for further working from heights training and better access to professional services to install and maintain fall prevention systems.

For more information on working at heights courses and training, contact the team at AlertForce today.

Occupational Health and Safety: Contractor Crushed By Coal Truck

A New South Wales Hunter Valley mine has been shut down for the time being following the death of a contractor.

The contractor was killed after suffering crushing injuries from a coal truck.Emergency crews were called to the scene near Singleton. A spokesperson for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) reports that the trainee pulled out from a give-way sign onto the mines haulage road when her four-wheel drive was struck by a fully packed coal truck.

The driver of the truck had to be taken to a nearby hospital for reportedly suffering shock.

All operations have been closed down until the police and NSW Government mine inspectors have finished their investigations.

A statement from the Glencore mine said its  “primary concern is for the safety, care and welfare of our employees and we are providing all possible support for the families of the people involved”.

Staff at the mine can access counseling which was supplied for by management.

The state’s Minister for Resources, Chris Hartcher,  said an extensive report is being compiled before being sent to the coroner.

“I would like to personally extend my condolences to the families, co-workers and employers of those involved in this tragic accident,” he said in a statement.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-01/worker-killed-at-hunter-valley-coal-mine/5127356?section=nsw

WA reminded to prepare for cyclone season

The Department of Commerce is reminding businesses across Western Australia to get their contingency plans sorted out as cyclone season begins.

It’s a requirement under workplace health and safety (WHS) laws for businesses to have plans in place to manage extreme weather events.

According to WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch, it’s also crucial for businesses to provide their employees with adequate WHS training, so they can protect themselves and each other if a cyclone hits.

The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted a near-average number of cyclones off the North-West coast of Australia this season, with two coastal impacts expected.

While this may not seem like much, Mr McCulloch is adamant that “it only takes one cyclone to cause significant damage and suffering”.

He drew attention to Cyclone George, one of the most destructive cyclones that Western Australia has faced since 1975.

It was designated a Category 5 cyclone as it approached the North-West coast back in 2007,  killing  three people and causing numerous injuries.

A large number of people work in the North-West part of Western Australia, and Mr McCulloch says its important that everyone knows exactly what to do if a cyclone threat is detected.

He also reminds employees on worksites that accommodate several businesses to make sure they have coordinated contingency plans, so that everyone can work together and keep safe.

“Employers should not leave anything to chance when a cyclone is threatening, and must make sure safe work practices are in place well before a cyclone is in their vicinity,” explains Mr McCulloch.

Those operating fishing vessels along the coast also need to take precautions, and make sure they have a list of sheltered anchorages on hand when out at sea as well as a contingency plan.

Recycling company fined after work fatality

A UK wood recycling company was hit with a massive AUS$342,000 fine after a worker was killed due to poor OHS practices.

The Manchester-based business accepted that it had failed to carry out a number of safety measures that would have easily prevented the tragedy.

Upon investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had no segregation methods or structures in place to maintain a safe barrier between its vehicles and workers. They failed to introduce such measures even after workers had reported near misses on multiple occasions.

As a result, the employee was run over and killed as he was walking between a pile of wood and a skip. He was hit by the load shovel of a vehicle that was moving materials across the site, and died at the scene.

HSE Inspector Bruno Porter lamented the nature of the death and condemned the negligence of the company, noting that “solely relying on drivers or workers noticing each other is not adequate control.”

“This was an entirely preventable death caused by the company failing to have a system to allow vehicles and pedestrians to move safely around each other,” he said in a November 12 statement.

“The risks of serious injury and, all too frequently, death, resulting from the failure to control the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians are widely recognised.”

He also explained that the waste industry has a high injury rate, mostly due to the presence of large, dangerous vehicles.

The situation is similar here in Australia. According to the latest figures from Safe Work Australia, the electricity, gas, water and waste services industry has resulted in five work fatalities this year as of November 11. This is already one more than the whole of last year.

To reduce the chances of tragic and preventable work fatalities, it is wise to introduce OHS training courses to your workplace so everyone is following best practices when it comes to safety.

Australians warned about the dangers of industrial rope access

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland published a report yesterday (November 11) that highlights the dangers associated with industrial rope access.

This occupational health and safety (OHS) update comes on the back of two serious accidents that recently occurred on the Gold Coast, in which workers were using rope access systems incorrectly.

According to the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, one accident saw an employee’s working line break. He fell several storeys and hit the building repeatedly before the rope grab on his additional safety line locked into place.

The working line and safety line were both incorrectly set up over the top of a glass handrail. The glass broke at some point during the operation, and partially severed the working line.

Another worker was also injured due to his working line and safety line being set up incorrectly. In addition to this , the employee was not working below the anchor point, but was instead standing on a ledge beside it. He fell, creating a pendulum effect and swinging a total of 15 metres before hitting a window.

These accidents could have both been avoided if proper OHS procedures had been followed. Workplace Health and Safety Queensland states that, to prevent such incidents from occurring again, some of the following steps must be taken.

1) All employees must receive proper instruction and OHS training before using rope access systems, and should be carefully supervised while working.
2) If a working line and safety line must pass over an edge, make sure it’s efficiently protected so that it cannot be severed. NEVER place it over sharp edges or glass panels.
3) Make sure a rope grab device has been fitted, and is in good working order.

For more information, visit the Australian Rope Access Association.

OHS high on agenda as Christmas draws near

With the busy holiday season about to reach full flow, businesses across Victoria are being reminded to keep on top of work health and safety.

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips issued a statement on November 7 urging both employers and employees to take extra caution as workplaces gear up for Christmas.

“The festive season is about to begin and Victorians are starting to think about Christmas with their families and friends and relaxing over the summer holidays,” he said.

“But we know from harsh experience that when people take their minds off safety, they risk a tragedy, and we want everyone to get home safely for Christmas.”

Mr Rich-Phillips also drew attention to some statistics to stress the importance of staying safe at this time of year. According to WorkSafe, November and December tend to be the most dangerous times of the year for workplaces. WorkSafe reported that in 2012, seven people died due to a workplace incident over November and December – more than twice the number of deaths of any other two-month period that year.

Denise Cosgrove, WorkSafe chief executive, provided a reason as to why such fatalities are more commonplace toward the end of the year. She said that people tend to switch off and focus on non-work-related things during this period, with safety less on their minds.

“We also know that many fatalities at this time of year involve experienced workers doing routine tasks, which suggests their minds may not be fully on the task at hand,” she explained.

“Together it all adds up to a dangerous mix.”

Even though the year is drawing to a close and businesses are set to get extra busy, it’s never too late to take action to make your workplace safer.

Now could be a good time to implement occupational health and safety courses for your employees to ensure they have OHS firmly in their minds in the lead up to Christmas.

Dandenong workplaces reach new OHS heights

Workplaces in Dandenong, Victoria, have recorded their best safety performance in over a decade – an indication, perhaps, that Safe Work Australia Month’s message has been received.

The Victorian WorkCover Authority released figures this week that show the number of workplace injury claims has dropped by 11 per cent over the last ten years. In the 2012/13 period, there was a total of 1,539 claims in the City of Greater Dandenong, compared to the 1,721 recorded in 2003/04.

This year’s feat also represents the lowest number of claims since 2001/02.

Encouragingly, the city’s manufacturing sector enjoyed a 24 per cent decrease in claims to set a new safety record within the industry. This sector is still one of the riskiest in the Greater Dandenong area, accounting for 40 per cent of injury claims.

“This improvement in the rate of injury claims shows that the safety message is getting through to employers and employees, but there is still more that every one of us can do,” WorkSafe chief executive Denise Cosgrove said in a November 7 statement.

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips also took the time to congratulate both employees and employers in reaching these new milestones.

“Any injury in a workplace is one too many, but it’s encouraging to see that employers and employees in the city are working together to make safety their number one priority,” he said.

“Victoria is the safest state in Australia in which to work and I congratulate every business owner and every employee for doing their part to make sure Dandenong continues to become a safer place for all workers.”

It is indeed heartening to see workplace injury cases in Victoria and around Australia continue to plummet, but workplaces and their staff can always find areas to improve their performance.

Getting employees enrolled in OHS training courses, for example, can help them take a proactive approach to managing hazards in the workplace.

Footwear retailer fined over “preventable” injury

An Australian footwear retailer has landed in hot water after its poor OHS practices resulted in an employee sustaining an injury.

SafeWork SA prosecuted the company under the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 after it failed to “provide and maintain plant in a safe condition” or “a safe system of work”. The company was thus hit with a $33,000 fine and ordered to pay extra legal costs.

The incident itself occurred in May 2011, when a retail assistant was attempting to free up a jammed hoist that was used to move stock from the basement to the shop floor. In doing so, the employee slipped, hit her head on a rail and fell to the ground, hitting her head again.

She suffered back and shoulder injuries as a result of the accident.

Magistrate Michael Ardlie, who presided over the case, did however point out that the company was cooperative during investigations and took steps to safeguard against similar accidents in the future.

These included equipping the hoist with interlocked gates, preventing access from employees while in operation, and a new measure in place to stop employees from entering the hoist shaft.

Bryan Russell, executive director of SafeWork SA, said that businesses still had to do more to protect their employees from such preventable accidents.

“A major cause of workplace injuries in South Australia arise from the lack of adequate guarding that enables people to come into contact with moving parts,” he said in a November 6 statement.

“This case highlights that engineering controls preventing people coming into contact with moving parts, or substantially reducing the occurrence, are important work health and safety initiatives.”

He also stressed the importance of providing safe equipment, OHS training and clear procedures to workers.

Deloitte highlights Australia’s riskiest industries

Deloitte recently identified three key industries that could help drive Australia’s economy in the future – and all three have been labelled as having a high safety risk.

In the wake of the declining mining boom, the global consultancy sought to identify the industries that could be next to fuel the country’s economy. Agribusiness, gas and tourism were the ones earmarked as having the potential of driving “super growth” in the Australian economy. Along with international education and wealth management, these sectors will form the new “prosperity wave” over the next two decades.

However, Deloitte was quick to preach caution and point out that the majority of these industries were earmarked as posing a high safety risk to workers during Safe Work Australia Month in October.

“These three industries also fit the high risk sectors identified by Safe Work Australia as requiring greater focus to deliver on the health and safety workplace needs of the nation over the next ten years,” Deloitte CEO Giam Swiegers said in a November 6 statement.

To manage the special risks associated with these high growth industries, Deloitte has enlisted a team of specialists from the former Brief Group to join its national Work Health and Safety risk business.

Deloitte will work with these specialists to help their clients “build proactive safety risk intelligence” and “confidently invest further in new ventures aligned to growth sectors”, with the assurance that concerns surrounding workplace injuries and deaths are being well managed.

The costs incurred by neglecting proper WHS standards cannot be ignored. According to Deloitte, $60.6 billion was a “conservative estimate” of the cost to Australia’s GDP of failing to implement proper work health and safety measures.

If you are an employer in one of the three super growth industries identified by Deloitte, it is important to ensure you are keeping your workforce safe while contributing to Australia’s economic prosperity.

This can involve getting your employees signed up for WHS training courses so they can better look after themselves while at work.

Safe Work Australia stresses importance of farm OHS

Safe Work Australia CEO Rex Hoy has praised the success of the recent Farmsafe Symposium, which was held on the last day of national Safe Work Australia Month in October.

The conference was held at Parliament House in Canberra and featured a host of community groups, farming organisations and industry and union representatives from across Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was to promote workplace health and safety in the farming sector through a range of presentations.

Mr Hoy said he was pleased with the turnout at this year’s event and the way in which presenters highlighted the importance of OHS in farming environments.

“There was a high level of commitment by presenters and attendees to improve safety and keep Australian farmers and their families safe,” he said in a November 1 statement.

“During Safe Work Australia Month we saw how much dedication exists across the nation to improve work health and safety, not just in the agriculture industry but in all industries.”

He also said it was appropriate that the country’s most dangerous industry became the focus on the final day of Safe Work Australia Month.

According to Safe Work Australia, 17 per cent of all work fatalities in Australia come from the agriculture sector – even though just 2.7 per cent of Australian workers are in this industry.

In addition, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector has seen the most workplace deaths this year, with 38 fatalities as of October 31.

Around three quarters of deaths in the industry involved vehicles commonly used on farms such as tractors and quad bikes, and Mr Hoy stressed that there was much work to be done to cut down this figure.

“Improving farm safety and in particular quad bike safety requires a concerted effort from all parties,” he said.

He urged employers to work with Safe Australia and “take action” to improve the safety of farm workers. OHS training courses, for example, can help your employees keep up to speed with farm safety practices.

SA organisations recognised for OHS achievements

A number of businesses and organisations in South Australia have been commended for their exceptional efforts in promoting a safe workplace.

The winners of the SA edition of the annual Safe Work Awards were announced at a ceremony on November 1, in celebration of their innovation and leadership in the field of workplace safety.

More than 60 entrants vied for the honours in four award categories this year, which Safe Work SA said was an indication of the ongoing commitment from the state’s businesses to improve work health and safety standards.

Tom Phillips, presiding member of the Safe Work SA advisory council, said he was pleased with the direction in which SA businesses were heading.

“Recognising and rewarding innovative ideas, practices, leadership and commitment to work health and safety is central to ensuring that all of our workers return home safely,” he said at the awards event.

“South Australia has long been home to innovators and tonight’s eight award winners remind us that this tradition is alive and well.”

FMCG company George Weston Foods Tip Top South Australia took out the title of Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System. Its achievement was aided by a series of minor but effective tweaks such as improved bread stack heights, which led to a 60 per cent reduction in injuries.

A total of three organisations claimed awards in the Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue category. These included the City of Charles Sturt, which commissioned a purpose-built truck to limit manual tasks and injuries, and Flinders Logistics, who developed an improved system of loading bulk minerals onto ships.

It is clear that to win any of these Safe Work awards, innovation and proactivity is required on the part of the employer to ensure a safer workplace. Investing in occupational health and safety courses for your workforce could be an ideal place to start in reducing workplace injuries.

Safe Work Australia publishes fatality reports

Safe Work Australia has just published two reports on work-related fatalities in the country – and the findings are more than a little concerning.

These reports focus on different timeframes in assessing the number of workplace fatalities and have provided evidence that there have been no reductions in work-related deaths, both in the short and long term.

The first report, titled ‘Work-related injuries and fatalities involving a fall from height, Australia’, showed that there has been no improvement in the number of workers killed each year as a result of a fall from height over much of the last decade.

According to the report, 232 workers died from a fall from height between 2003 and 2011. Safe Work Australia CEO Rex Hoy pinpointed the construction industry as a sector that was particularly at risk.

“These figures show why the construction industry was identified as a priority for prevention activities in the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022,” he said in an October 31 statement.

“It is important for all workers to make safety a focus in their day to day work.”

To add weight to Mr Hoy’s words, Safe Work Australia pointed out that a third of all fall-related workplace deaths in the last four years were reported in the construction industry.

The second report, ‘Work-related traumatic injury fatalities Australia 2012″, highlighted the fact that the number of people killed at work in the last two years has also remained stable. Falls from height made up 13 per cent of the toll, while the number of deaths due to a vehicle crash was triple that figure.

According to Mr Hoy, Safe Work Australia is still striving to achieve its goal of reducing workplace fatalities by 20 per cent by 2022.

If employers around the country recognise the value of promoting a safer work environment, for example by investing in OHS training courses, this goal can certainly become a reality.

WorkSafe SA provides reminder on harvest safety

National Safe Work Australia Month may have just ended, but SafeWork SA is continuing to remind the country about the importance of OHS for the remainder of the year.

Bryan Russell, SafeWork SA executive director, says those in industrial sectors such as agriculture needed to be extra cautious. As temperatures warm up with the promise of a fruitful season ahead, employers and employees alike are being reminded to keep on top of work health and safety.

“We know that farming is a high-risk occupation, and as the sector gears up for harvesting and shearing we remind everyone working at this busy time of year to ensure that they are working safely having managed known risks,” said Mr Russell in an October 31 statement.

He noted that farm workers had unique risks and hazards they had to manage due to the nature of their jobs. These arise from circumstances such as working with heavy machinery and dangerous equipment, and working alone.

Some of the most common injuries suffered by these workers included falling from height, rollovers and crashes on farm vehicles, and body stress sustained from improper manual handling.

The high risk factor of working in this sector cannot be ignored. According to Safe Work Australia, the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry has claimed the most workplace fatalities this year, with 38 deaths to date in 2013.

SafeWork SA has offered some safety tips for the upcoming harvest season. Firstly, workers are encouraged to “develop a simple safety plan and stick to that plan”.

This plan can involve everything from ensuring all equipment and machinery are properly safeguarded, not entering field bins or silos when grain is being emptied, staying hydrated and taking regular breaks.

“A truly successful harvest is a safe, injury-free harvest,” Mr Russell concluded.

Sawmill employee seriously injured in workplace accident

A sawmill in Scotland has been fined approximately AUS$34,000 after an employee severely injured his arm at work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the UK’s governing body for workplace health and safety, noted that the incident could have easily been avoided had the employer been on top of OHS practices.

At the time of the incident, which occurred in January 2010, the employee was operating a wood-stacking machine when he reached over a safety fence to retrieve an item.

As he did so, his arm was caught in a part of the machinery, pinning it against the fence and causing serious harm. His elbow was broken as a result, and he faced four months out of work as he recovered from surgery.

The HSE noted that while newer machines at the mill had proper safeguards in place, the employer had put staff at risk by allowing access through the safety fencing surrounding older ones. The fact they had implemented higher levels of protection on newer machines demonstrated they were negligent in not considering doing the same for the machine in question.

“This incident was entirely preventable,” HSE Inspector Russell Berry said in an October 29 media release.

“If the company had adopted a consistent approach to assessing the risks of all the machines at the site, the higher standard of protection that existed on the newer machines would have prevented this incident from occurring.”

Any business that relies on the use of heavy machinery must consider the threat it brings to its employees.

Make sure all equipment at your workplace has proper safeguards and barriers in place to protect staff. In addition, it is always wise to invest in OHS training to ensure your workers are kept up to date on the best safety practices for their line of work.

Safe Work Australia reports sharp drop in work-related fatalities

As Safe Work Australia Month draws to a close, the national work health and safety authority has announced some encouraging statistics.

Safe Work Australia released the 15th edition of its Comparative Performance Monitoring (CPM) report, which provides analysis on the trends around workers’ compensation schemes in Australia and New Zealand. One of the main findings was that work-related compensated fatalities were at its lowest level in over a decade.

Rex Hoy, chief executive officer of Safe Work Australia, pointed out that his organisation easily surpassed the long-term targets set in 2002.

“Over a decade ago the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012 set the target of a 20 per cent reduction in the incidence rate of work-related fatalities by 2012,” he explained in an October 30 media release.

“We have achieved this with a 47 per cent reduction in fatalities.”

Mr Hoy did note, however, that there was still room for improvement. He said that 199 compensated fatalities were recorded in Australia in 2011-12, and this number had to be cut down even further.

Additionally, in the same period, 12 in 100 workers were seriously injured to the extent they needed at least a week off work. While this figure represented a 28 per cent improvement from 2002, the target of a 40 per cent drop was not met.

Workplaces around the country must keep work health and safety on the top of their agenda if future targets set by Safe Work Australia are to be met. This includes enrolling staff in OHS training courses to best prepare them for the specific hazards posed in the workplace.

“To continue to see a decrease in injury and disease in the workplace we must stay committed to work health and safety and set high targets to ensure safer workplaces for all Australians,” Mr Hoy concluded.

Darwin plumbers fined over acetylene storage

A Darwin plumbing company has been fined for continued negligence in its handling of acetylene – despite repeated warnings from authorities.

NT WorkSafe reported yesterday (29 October) that the company was convicted and fined $5,000 earlier this month for storing cylinders containing the dangerous substance in enclosed vans.

It was revealed that the company was well aware of the risks of transporting acetylene cylinders in enclosed vans, but continued to neglect proper OHS safety standards even after formal warnings.

The court was told that NT WorkSafe issued an official prohibition notice to the company in May 2012, yet just a month later, found the same company breaching the notice.

This occurred when an employee of the company was caught transporting the cylinders to a jobsite in Darwin City, where he was spoken to by a NT WorkSafe inspector.

Doug Phillips, the NT work health authority, explained that although the cylinders were only stored for 30 minutes, this still constituted a breach of the prohibition notice.

“Prohibition notices are issued for a reason; one young life has already been cut short in the Northern Territory due to the practice of storing and or transporting acetylene cylinders in enclosed vehicles,” he said.

“Six months on, despite a formal warning, a company has been caught continuing to do the same thing.”

As an example of the implications involved with the improper handling of acetylene, NT WorkSafe pointed out one local incident that resulted in tragedy. A 24-year-old refrigeration mechanic in Parap died early last year after a gas explosion in a van carrying acetylene.

The importance of proper OHS training in the handling of dangerous goods cannot be underestimated, and it is concerning to see companies still ignoring formal warnings on the associated risks.

WorkSafe ACT announces innovative approach to OHS education

WorkSafe ACT is taking a unique approach to educating the state’s youngest and most vulnerable workers on the importance of work health and safety.

Mark McCabe, ACT Work Safety commissioner, has announced the launch of the Hazardman project, which aims to engage young workers and get them thinking about workplace safety.

The project revolves around the fictional character of Hazardman, who appears in a series of educational resources such as comics and fact sheets. It highlights the dangers posed by Hazardman’s ‘villains’, represented by common workplace hazards.

“This project is a fresh and original approach to a topic which is often overlooked or considered dull or unimportant,” Mr McCabe said in an October 28 statement.

“We cannot afford for the importance of safety to be devalued or under-estimated and the ACT Government is committed to making sure it stays on the agenda.”

WorkSafe cited several concerning statistics which prove the need to provide better OHS education for young and vulnerable workers. It pointed out that workers aged between 15 and 24 have the highest rate of work injuries per hour worked.

These young workers were most likely to sustain their injury as a result of manual handling and falls, including slips and trips.

Another goal of the project is to encourage workers to take a proactive approach to dealing with workplace hazards, such as discussing them with supervisors. In addition to school students, the initial focus of the project is to centre around young workers in the construction, retail and hospitality sectors.

If you have young people working at, or about to enter, your workplace, initiatives such as Hazardman will offer a welcome helping hand in ensuring they stay safe.

In addition to fun and light-hearted tactics, it is of course also important to invest in comprehensive occupational health and safety courses. These will enable your young employees to start work with the know-how to look after themselves and others.

Online OHS resources for young workers

A new initiative from WorkSafe WA is providing young workers in Western Australia with improved OHS education online.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin has announced the release of an updated version of WorkSafe’s SmartMove, a workplace health and safety resource targeted at the most inexperienced and vulnerable workers.

Senior high school students and those entering the workforce for experience, placements or apprenticeships can make use of the free resource to get a heads-up on the best health and safety practices.

“The more education we can give our young people on workplace safety and health the better, especially when they’re going into real workplaces for the first time,” WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch said in an October 25 media release.

Mr McCulloch also emphasised the need to educate new workers on proper health and safety measures as early as possible.

SmartMove provides a flexible package for both intending workers and those in charge of supervising them. Teachers are provided with instructions on educating their students, and modules can be completed as a class or individually.

Students who successfully complete the course receive a certificate, which they can show prospective employers “as proof that they have a good grounding in workplace safety and health”.

It appears that education providers and employers alike are taking SmartMove seriously and using it as a yardstick to measure one’s suitability for work.

Mr McCulloch explained that schools using the system will not allow students to start working until they have completed the program, and certain retail businesses will require students to hold a certificate before working in their stores.

WorkSafe has ensured that no student will be denied the opportunity to participate in the program, with features such as text-to-speech allowing access to students with special needs, for example.

The continued development and promotion of SmartMove is an example of the importance of properly educating workers on workplace health and safety. All employees can take advantage of OHS training courses to stay safe at work, regardless of their age or experience.

Western Australia’s safest workplaces revealed

WorkSafe WA has announced the winners of the 2013 Work Safety Awards for Western Australia, recognising the achievements of the state’s most safety-conscious workplaces.

The leading businesses were selected across five OHS categories, and will now be considered for the national Safe Work Australia Awards next year.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Lex McCulloch stated that the five winners were shining examples of the exceptional workplace innovations and systems the best businesses in Western Australia are implementing.

“These awards provide the opportunity for innovative Western Australians to gain national recognition for their achievements,” Mr McCulloch said in an October 25 media release.

“They recognise outstanding occupational safety and health management, solutions and innovation in both public and private sector workplaces in WA that reduce the risk of work-related injury and disease.”

The winning businesses transverse a broad range of industries and categories, proving that organisations across the board are increasingly savvy about workplace safety.

Technology Assisting Disability WA took out the award in the ‘Best safety and health management system in the private sector’ category, thanks to its innovation in installing customised work stations and equipment to accommodate workers with a disability.

The equivalent award for the public sector was claimed by WA Police, who worked with OHS specialists to extensively improve the policies and procedures that form the basis of the police force’s Safety Management System.

“Awards such as these are all about encouraging best practice in safety and health, and the winners are leading the way by making a significant contribution to making WA workplaces safer,” Mr McCulloch said.

The winning organisations from WA will now have the chance to have their efforts recognised by the nation as a whole, when the winners for the Safe Work Australia Awards are announced in April 2014.

Victorian businesses recognised for OHS achievements

The Victorian WorkCover Authority has announced the winners of the 2013 WorkSafe Awards, recognising those businesses that made outstanding achievements in promoting safer work environments.

A total of ten winners were selected from a pool of 323 entrants from a diverse range of industries, covering categories including Health and Safety, Return to Work and Health and Wellbeing.

Assistant Treasurer Gordon Rich-Phillips has stressed the significance of the awards program, now in its 25th year.

“Whether it is coming up with solutions to safety hazards, implementing a wellbeing program or helping an injured worker get back to work, the contributions and commitment of our finalists and winners contribute to safer workplaces,” he said in an October 23 statement.

“I congratulate the award recipients and commend them on their dedication, their innovations and their hard work in workplace safety.”

He also explained the awards provided an opportunity for others in the industry to follow the lead set by the winners and adopt similarly innovative approaches to work safety.

This year’s winners come from a broad spectrum of industries, proving that OHS training is pertinent to any field of work.

A mix of corporate and public service entities claimed awards in the health and safety category, including digital communications firm CodeSafe, Ambulance Victoria and Grampians Region Prisons.

The Commitment to Health and Wellbeing prize was awarded to timber and aluminium window manufacturer Dowell, for implementing stringent OHS policies to keep employees safe in hazardous work environments.

In the Return to Work category, Union Hydraulics won the Employer Excellence award in recognition of its unique “We Care and Prepare” return to work program.

If you have ambitions of claiming a similar award in future, it may be a good idea to invest in OHS courses to implement safer working policies across your organisation.

Managing the risk of back pain at work

Back pain is one of the most common OHS concerns reported by workers, and it affects employees across a range of jobs and industries.

It can be an especially difficult problem to prevent, detect and treat as the symptoms usually build up over time and it can be a while before you experience any notable effects.

Help is always at hand, however. DISC Sports and Spine Center, a US-based spinal health and injury correction clinic, has offered some sound advice for those most at risk of this work injury.

DISC outlined two types of job that were mostly like to lead to back pain in the long run. These were desk jobs and heavy lifting jobs.

According to DISC, people who sit in an office all day are among those with the highest risk of back pain if they don’t take preventative measures. Staying in one position for too long – even if it is sitting up straight with your back against the chair – can “contribute to deficiencies in spinal posture that create long-term health problems”, the organisation explained in an October 24 press release.

Employers are therefore encouraged to provide staff with office chairs that have sufficient lumbar support, in addition to implementing OHS training to keep employees up to speed with office best practices. For example, this includes regular stretching breaks while standing up, DISC says.

Manual handling jobs that require heavy lifting also bring with them significant back pain risks. DISC pointed out this is mainly down to poor lifting techniques, which can not only sprain ligaments and tendons but also harm the discs in the spine.

Workers may also be lifting greater weights than they can safely manage, so it is the responsibility of employers to make sure jobs are assigned to those with the physical capacity to perform them. It is also important to remind workers about the well-known lifting technique of bending at the knees instead of the back.

Public transport chief claims top OHS gong

The leader of a top Australasian public transport company has received an award for his commitment to promoting a safe working environment.

Transdev Australasia CEO Jonathan Metcalfe has been named Safety Ambassador of the Year, in recognition of his efforts to keep both employees and users of his services safe.

Criteria for the award include evidence of leading by example to raise awareness of keeping the workplace safe, as well as actively encouraging peers to get involved with work health and safety.

For instance, getting workers to speak up about potential hazards was an example of the type of behaviour the award sought in candidates.

With more than 4,800 staff members working across a variety of public transport services across Australia, this was never going to be an easy task – but Mr Metcalfe’s “passion, innovation and influence” allowed him to take the award, according to Safe Work Australia.

“Leading from the top down, Jonathan displayed true leadership by pushing safety as a priority for Transdev Australasia,” Safe Work Australia CEO Rex Hoy said in an October 24 statement.

“Driving his motivation for safety excellence is the philosophy that great organisations are differentiated by the culture and values underpinning what they do. He has worked tirelessly to improve the safety culture within Transdev.”

This safety culture was ingrained in every aspect of the business, from safety topics in every internal newsletter and meeting and regular safety campaigns led by Mr Metcalfe himself.

One need only look at the figures reported by Transdev to see the true impact Mr Metcalfe has had on the organisation. Transdev recorded its lowest ever lost time injury frequency rate in 2013, and this number is well on its way to reaching new lows at the end of this year.

There is no doubt that Mr Metcalfe also recognised the value of occupational health and safety courses in achieving this feat. By keeping staff up to speed with OHS best practices, any organisation can aspire to the standards set by Mr Metcalfe.

Narrogin death highlights importance of OHS training

The work-related death of a Western Australian man on Tuesday is serving as a reminder of the need to implement stringent OHS practices.

WorkSafe WA reported that the 48 year-old employee was operating a forklift to move bales of hay at his Narrogin workplace when he was struck by a pitchfork attachment on another machine.

He was immediately airlifted to Perth but passed away on Tuesday night.

WorkSafe sent inspectors to the site to speak with witnesses and assess the circumstances surrounding the death, and to determine what could have been done to prevent the incident.

Lex McCulloch, WorkSafe WA Commissioner, issued a statement on October 23 to express his condolences to the affected family and remind the public that all work-related deaths are tragedies.

With Safe Work Australia Month now edging towards it conclusion, it is concerning to see such preventable deaths still abound in this country.

OHS compliance is especially important for workplaces that rely on heavy machinery and vehicles such as forklifts. In fact, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector is the industry with the highest number of work-related fatalities this year, according to Safe Work Australia.

Worker deaths in this industry totalled 37 as of October 21, seven more than the next highest sector – transport, postal and warehousing.

Deaths are still possible even in jobs perceived as relatively safe and free of physical labour, as a fatality has been recorded in both the information media and telecommunications and administrative and support services sectors in 2013.

These have contributed to a nationwide toll of 132 workplace deaths to date this year.

Whether you are an employer or employee, and regardless of which industry you are in, you can help limit the number of work-related injuries and deaths by investing in OHS training for your workforce.

CFA trucks to be upgraded to protect volunteers

The Victorian state government has announced plans to upgrade 130 trucks from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) fleet in a bid to better serve the OHS needs of firefighters.

Speaking on October 22, Minister for Police and Emergency Services Kim Wells said that the crew protection retrofit program, which had the aim of protecting volunteer firefighters in the event of a burnout, was well ahead of schedule.

A total of 74 trucks had already been retrofitted before this fire season, with a further 130 trucks lined up to be upgraded by June next year. The number of upgraded CFA vehicles now stands at 1,048.

Mr Wells explained just how the modified trucks would help protect workers.

“Retrofitted trucks are fitted with protections including radiant heat protective curtains, water-spraying systems, heat-shielding panels and upgraded intercom communication systems,” he said.

The new trucks will therefore better protect firefighters in the event of a burnover, allowing them to safely take shelter in the truck itself.

“We’re proud of the vital work performed by the CFA, one of the world’s largest volunteer organisations with more than 60,000 members – 98 per cent volunteers,” Mr Wells said.

“It is vital that we are providing them with the facilities and equipment they need to save lives and property, and the protection they need to stay safe on the frontline.”

With temperatures across Australia picking up and heightening the risk of bushfires, the upgrades represent a sensible move on the part of the government to protect some of its most important workers.

Protecting the employees of your own organisation shouldn’t stop with providing the safest possible vehicles, however. Investing in regular occupational health and safety courses can help keep everyone up to speed with the safest work practices.

Safe Work Australia warns of musculoskeletal injuries

As Safe Work Australia Month draws to a close, the organisation is issuing a final reminder about what it claims to be Australia’s most common work-related injury.

According to Safe Work Australia, musculoskeletal disorders are still rife in workplaces around the country, and employers and employees alike must continue to take steps to avoid these preventable injuries.

The organisation says the most common types of musculoskeletal injuries are those related to the back, knee and shoulder. Such injuries are mainly caused by the lifting and handling of practically any heavy item, from crates and cartons to even other people in hospital settings.

“Every day over 200 people injure their joints, muscles or tendons at work seriously enough to require at least one week off work,” said Safe Work Australia CEO Rex Hoy in an October 21 media release.

With affected workers needing around five weeks of recovery, Mr Hoy went on to stress the wider impacts these injuries could have on business, such as lost productivity.

He also pointed out that the costs involved with implementing warehouse safety procedures, such as OHS training courses, are much less than those incurred by not having these systems in the first place. Poor work and health safety standards cost the nation over $60 billion every year, according to Safe Work Australia.

In light of this, Mr Hoy urged workers and employers to make a joint effort in reducing such incidents. Employees can reassess and correct their lifting techniques to alleviate strain on their bodies. On the other hand, those in charge can make improvements to their organisation’s manual handling procedures to reduce the physical stress on staff.

Health and safety inspections for ACT cafes and restaurants

WorkSafe ACT has announced it will be conducting an inspection program on cafes and restaurants in the state, in order to ensure they are complying with relevant health and safety standards.

Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe has confirmed that the inspections will get underway on Tuesday October 22. Inspectors will be specifically looking for unsafe behaviour that may put the wellbeing of employees at risk.

The campaign is expected to look specifically at common issues such as first aid education, chemical storage and handling, working conditions, personal protective equipment and OHS training.

According to the Department of Employment, Training and Industrial Relations, employees working in the cafe and restaurant industry are at constant risk of preventable injuries such as burns, back injuries, falls and cuts.

It is hoped that this initiative will help lower this risk by raising awareness amongst ACT eateries about applicable OHS legislation contained within the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

“Injuries arising from manual tasks, fires, slips, trips and falls in this industry impose a burden on employers and particularly on workers,” said Mr McCabe in a statement.

“Generally, our inspectors will take an educative approach. More serious issues may however lead to the issuing of Improvement or Prohibition Notices. If the matters are serious enough, some breaches could result in Infringement Notices (i.e. on-the-spot fines).”

The inspections follow a special WorkSafe ACT seminar on cafe and restaurant health and safety, which was held last month at the Waldorf Conference Centre.

A full summary report containing the results of the inspection program – which is expected to run for one week – will be published on the WorkSafe ACT website once assessments have been completed.

Harvest workers urged to stay safe as summer approache

Summer is fast approaching in Australia, and farmers and grain growers across the country are currently preparing for what will hopefully be a prosperous harvest season.

But while this time of year may be an important and busy period for harvest workers, WorkSafe Victoria is reminding everyone in the industry not to let good health and safety practices fall by the wayside.

“Nobody – workers, family, friends or the wider community – should have to suffer the trauma of a workplace fatality,” said WorkSafe Health and Safety General Manager Lisa Sturzenegger in a statement released October 18.

According to Ms Sturzenegger, there have already been three farm deaths recorded in Victoria since June. In September, a Robinvale man was killed when he was run over by a tractor when trying to climb down from the vehicle.

Incidents such as these should serve as a timely reminder about the high-risk nature of the farming industry.

WorkSafe Victoria has offered a range of safety tips for farm workers to keep in mind this harvest season, in order to ensure they stay safe and avoid injury while on the job.

These include understanding the limitations of any equipment you are using, taking extra care when conducting repairs and maintenance, keeping the lines of communication open and making sure that operators are all trained and competent.

Care should also be taken to ensure fatigue is managed carefully and that harvest workers are given regular rest and hydration breaks – particularly when working in hot conditions.

“We want everyone to put safety at the front of their mind, reassess their systems of work and, if there’s a safety risk, make changes,” said Ms Sturzenegger.

“Don’t be the next workplace fatality. Identify and control the risk before it’s too late.”

Fatigue management for truck drivers under the spotlight

The health and safety of Australian truck drivers is in the spotlight this week, as WorkSafe WA issues a warning about the correct use of sleeper cabs during long distance journeys.

According to the Western Australia Department of Commerce, WorkSafe WA is currently investigating problems with the use of truck sleeper cabs as a form of fatigue management.

Sleeper cabs are small sleeping quarters that drivers use to rest in while on the road. They are often employed during urgent “hot shot” services, in which two drivers work in shifts in order keep urgent freight moving around the clock.

WorkSafe Director Joe Attard has urged truck drivers to ensure that anyone sleeping on board a moving vehicle remains securely restrained at all times in a legitimate sleeping cab.

“Inspectors have found instances of trucks without sleeper cabs where the second driver is resting or sleeping on the vehicle’s parcel shelf or sleeping in a swag on the tilt tray of the vehicle, which is far from a satisfactory arrangement,” said Mr Attard.

The comfort of drivers sleeping while on the road is also important, says Mr Attard, as drivers need to ensure they get enough quality rest to avoid fatigue and safely operate their vehicles.

The WA Office of Road Safety says that fatigue is a “silent killer” on WA roads, potentially contributing to nearly a third of all road deaths in the state. The Office notes that driving after a period of 20 to 25 hours without sleep equates to driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 – twice the legal limit.

“Even when there is a single driver resting while the truck is stationary, it is important that the sleeping berth complies with design rules so the driver is properly rested and does not have consequent issues with fatigue,” said Mr Attard.

More information on appropriate workplace conditions for truck drivers can be found in the WA Commission for Occupational Safety and Health’s new Code of Practice on Fatigue Management for Commercial Vehicle Drivers.

Safe Work Australia Month reaches milestone

We are officially half way through Safe Work Australia Month, which is running throughout October in order to raise awareness about the importance of proper occupational health and safety.

The event, which is organised by Safe Work Australia, has already been deemed a success, with hundreds of informative seminars and sessions being held across the country.

However, even as we enter the second half of October, Safe Work Australia Chief Executive Officer Rex Hoy says it is still not too late for people to get involved and sign up to play a key role in Safe Work Australia Month.

"Safety Ambassador registrations don’t close until next Monday 21 October so there is still time register and promote safety in your workplace," said Mr Hoy in a statement released October 14.

Anyone working in Australia as a full- or part-time employee can sign up to be a Safety Ambassador. Volunteer workers are also eligible.

People who sign up to be Safety Ambassadors prior to the cut-off date will be provided with a free Safety Ambassador Information Kit, containing useful tools and information that can be used to educate other employees on the importance of workplace safety.

Mr Hoy will present the award for 2013 Safety Ambassador of the Year on Thursday October 24. 2012 Safety Ambassador of the Year Jacinta Macaulay will also be on hand to help honour the recipient.

Entrants in the 2013 awards will be judged based on a number of factors, including how effective they have been in communicating the importance of health and safety, and how successful they were in initiating cultural change within their organisation.

"Thank you to the 822 registered Safety Ambassadors who have held events like wellness activities, hazard identification games and safety workshops to highlight the importance of work health and safety," said Mr Hoy.

Mental illness is an OHS issue, says Safe Work Australia

When most businesses discuss work health and safety, it’s natural for them to focus mainly on any potential dangers or risks that could put an employee or customer in physical harm.

However, Safe Work Australia is this month reminding Australian organisations that complete occupational health and safety awareness also encompasses mental health as well.

Safe Work Australia Chief Executive Officer Rex Hoy says that mental stress is a “serious problem” for many Australian employees, as well as the family and friends of those employees.

He is encouraging Australian workers to use the first ever Safe Work Australia Month – running during October – as an opportunity to think carefully about the importance of mental health.

“Take the initiative and leave work on time or go for a walk at lunch time to get out of the workplace and get some fresh air,” said Mr Hoy in a statement released by Safe Work Australia earlier this month.

“Help fellow workers reduce stress levels by encouraging them to take regular breaks from work or participate in workplace activities during safety month.”

Mental health and stress issues are serious problems in Australia. A study conducted by Work Safe Australia in 2012 placed the cost of workplace “burn outs” to Australian businesses at around $20 billion per year.

Furthermore, when stressed and unfocused, employees in high risk positions such as construction jobs or handling of dangerous goods may find themselves at an increased risk of physical injury as well.

It is therefore the responsibility of all Australian employers and employees to ensure that everyone on the job feels safe and happy in their position, and remains in a healthy state of mind.

NSW companies fined for poor forklift safety

Two NSW companies – a bakery and a transport company – have been fined for failing to ensure proper workplace health and safety, following a forklift accident which occurred in April 2007.

The incident involved a 51 year old truck driver, who was pinned between a forklift and a trailer after the brakes on the forklift failed, causing it to roll backwards down a metal ramp. The man suffered injuries to his lower back, abdomen and pelvis.

After a thorough investigation into the accident, WorkCover NSW has found both the injured man’s employer and the bakery at which the incident occurred were in breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division General Manager John Watson says that both parties were at fault for the incident. The transport company did not provide proper forklift safety training to the driver prior to the use of the forklift, while the bakery failed to provide workers with a safe method of loading and unloading bread.

While the bakery did provide a metal ramp for the purpose of unloading bread, it too was found to be defective. As the ramp could not be used, the truck driver instead opted to use the defective forklift.

“Machinery like forklifts should be the subject of periodic inspections with preventative maintenance systems in place so that the risk of serious injury or death is substantially reduced,” said Mr Watson.

Mr Watson says the incident is an important reminder to SME-sized trucking businesses about the need to ensure all workers are kept safe when operating machinery or transporting goods.

The transport company has been fined $80,000, while the bakery has been fined $50,000.

Sunny weather forecasts prompts heat safety warning

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is forecasting sunny weather for the end of the week, with high temperatures expected in several major cities across the country.

Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Brisbane, Cairns and Darwin are all expected to hit 30 degrees Celsius over the weekend, according to the latest BOM report issued October 10.

But while many Australians will likely take this opportunity to welcome in the start of summer with a trip to the beach, WorkCover NSW has issued a serious warning to those who will be working in these strenuous conditions.

In a statement released yesterday (October 9), WorkCover NSW emphasised that businesses and workers need to work together to minimise the work health and safety effects of working in the heat.

According to WorkCover NSW Work Health and Safety Division General Manager John Watson, the effects of fatigue brought on by high temperatures could lead to an increased chance of workplace injury.

Mr Watson says extreme heat can cause people to suffer from dehydration and a reduced ability to concentrate, communicate effectively or recognise potential risks.

“In the three years to July 2011, there were 497 claims for workplace fatigue and heat stroke [in New South Wales] at a cost of $4.3 million,” said Mr Watson.

WorkCover NSW has suggested that businesses concerned about the upcoming high temperatures consider rescheduling any necessary work to early morning or late afternoon, when conditions will be cooler.

All efforts should be taken to ensure workers at risk of heat exhaustion have easy access to drinking water and shaded rest areas. They should also be provided with the opportunity to take frequent rest breaks.

“Common heat illness symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, general weakness and collapse. If you or your workers show any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance,” said Mr Watson.

Addressing the work health and safety needs of young Australians

WorkCover Queensland has announced a special forum to be held later this month, designed to encourage greater discussion regarding the workplace health and safety of younger Australians.

The forum – entitled Young workers: Unique risks, unique opportunities – will be hosted by the Queensland government's Zero Harm at Work Leadership Program.

The Zero Harm at Work Leadership Program is an initiative designed to reduce the frequency and severity of health and safety incidents in Queensland workplaces by encouraging positive cultures.

According to a Safe Work Australia report published earlier this year, one fifth of all workplace injuries reported by Australian workers during 2009-2010 were incurred by employees aged 25 and under.

Safe Work Australia estimated that younger workers had an injury rate of 66.1 incidents per 1000 employees during that period, compared to a rate of 56.2 per 1000 for workers aged over 25. 

This is why events like the Young workers: Unique risks, unique opportunities forum are so important, providing education and generating discussion about the safety of younger employees.

A number of high-profile speakers are lined up for the event, including Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Organisational Psychologist and Manager of the Psychosocial and Cognitive Ergonomics Unit Kirsten Way.

Ms Way is scheduled to host a keynote address on why young workers are important to the Australian workforce, as well as the unique health and safety risks that apply to this demographic. She will also offer insight into how Australian employers can act to ensure the health and safety of their younger workers.

The event will take place at the Brisbane Technology Park Central Auditorium on Monday 28 October. More details are available on the Zero Harm at Work Leadership Program website.

ACCC moves to protect Australia’s most vulnerable workers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has announced the completion of a comprehensive review of the Homeworkers Code of Practice.

In Australia, a Homeworker is defined as someone who is employed in the textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing industry, and works from premises of their choosing rather than an official workplace. Usually they will work from their own home.

According to Labour Behind The Label – a group that campaigns to improve the rights of workers in the clothing industry – homeworkers are susceptible to exploitation, and often have limited employment rights.

However, ACCC Commissioner Dr Jill Walker says the changes to the Homeworkers Code of Practice will help ensure Australian businesses are complying with their legal obligations when dealing with some of the country’s most vulnerable workers.

“On balance, the ACCC considers the Code is likely to result in net public benefits. The benefits of efficiencies in risk management of outsourced supply chains and of compliance with legal obligations to workers are likely to outweigh the detriments,” said Ms Walker earlier this month.

The ACCC has cited a review conducted by Paul Harpur of the University of Queensland TC Beirne School of Law in 2007 which found that homeworkers often face poor OHS safety conditions involving poor lighting, exposure to hazardous dyes and bleaches and access to dangerous unguarded equipment.

In order to combat this, the ACCC has significantly extended the scope of the Homeworkers Code of Practice to include all workers operating in the clothing, textiles and footwear business. Previously, only outworkers in the clothing business had been covered.

Furthermore, the ACCC has “strongly recommended” that the Textile, Clothing & Footwear Union of Australia remain the auditor under the Code, as this group has sufficient power under legislation to properly assess and enforce the Code.

It is worth noting, however, that compliance with the Homeworkers Code of Practice is voluntary. Like all industries, businesses in the textile, clothing and footwear manufacturing sector must take personal responsibility for the work health and safety of employees.

Queensland acts to remediate dangerous abandoned mines

A number of potentially dangerous mine shafts in the Queensland town of Stanthorpe – some up to 10 metres deep – have been excavated or backfilled.

This precautionary measure will help limit the risk of injury to forestry workers as well as visitors to the area, according to Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps.

Mr Cripps says that the Department of Natural Resources and Mines Abandoned Mines Unit is doing an important job to help keep Queenslanders safe.

“All of the old mine features are in granitic soil, which can result in unstable ground developing around shafts and over any tunnels,” said the Minister.

“If a person had fallen into a shaft, or been in one of these tunnels when they collapsed, the consequences could have been fatal.”

In total, 17 abandoned mine shafts and six mine entrances have been remediated by the Unit. Furthermore, a number of drives linking the separate mine entrances have also been made safe.

According to a University of Queensland report entitled Managing and Prioritising Rehabilitation of Abandoned Mines in Australia, abandoned mines can be found all across the country. There are more than 15,000 abandoned mines in Queensland alone.

Abandoned mines – sometimes known as derelict or orphaned mines – can pose a significant risk to people and wildlife. Anyone aware of such a mine should report it to their nearest abandoned mine authority.

In Queensland, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines has an online form that people can use in order to raise awareness of any abandoned mines they think may pose a health and safety risk.

People working in areas where abandoned mines are present should take care to ensure proper protocols are followed at all times, to lower the risk of an incident occurring.

WorkCover NSW Safe Work Awards heat up

More than 140 New South Wales businesses have lodged entries in the 2013 WorkCover NSW Safe Work Awards, in the hopes that they will take home one of the six separate awards on offer.

In a statement released earlier this month, WorkCover confirmed that this has been the highest number of entrants ever received in the contest's 10-year-long history.

Entrants came from across both metropolitan and regional NSW. They cover a variety of diverse industries, and range in size from SMEs to large businesses, and even non-profits and government organisations.

The WorkCover NSW SafeWork Awards started in 2004 as a way of recognising NSW businesses that were encouraging high work health and safety standards, and promoting more of the same behaviour.

All 141 entrants in this year's awards have been congratulated by NSW Finance and Services Minister Andrew Constance for participating in the contest, and for actively working to improve workplace safety.

"Each entry marks a workplace safety achievement reflecting either a reduction in lost time injuries or an introduction of a new initiative to make the business safer and ultimately more productive," said Mr Constance.

The various categories that businesses will compete in this year include "Best individual contribution to workplace health and safety" and "Best workplace health and safety management system".

For the first time, this year's WorkCover awards will also feature two separate categories designed to commemorate those who have gone above and beyond to assist injured workers in returning to work.

According to Mr Constance, more than 20 finalists have been selected across the "Excellence in Return to Work for business" and "Return to Work achievement award for workers" awards.

"It is important that businesses are acknowledged for their efforts in helping those who have been injured to get back to suitable and sustainable employment as quickly as possible," said Mr Constance.

The winners of the 2013 WorkCover NSW Safe Work Awards will be announced on October 31. Judges include WorkCover NSW senior representatives, as well as experts from trade unions and specialist WHS safety organisations.

Safe Work Australia Month gets underway

Safe Work Australia Chair Ann Sherry is encouraging Australians to get involved and do their part to promote good work health and safety practices during Safe Work Australia Month. 

Speaking at the launch of Safe Work Australia Month yesterday (October 1), Ms Sherry explained that individuals need to stand up and play their part in order to change unsafe work environments.

"Safe Work Australia Month is an opportunity for us all to get involved and gain the many benefits of a strong safety culture," said Ms Sherry

"Raising awareness and encouraging people to speak up about hazards not only improves the safety culture within your organisation but can actually save lives."

According to Ms Sherry, Australia's media have already reported 118 work-related deaths in 2013, and it is up to individuals and organisations to ensure this tragic figure climbs no higher.

2013 marks the first time a full month has been dedicated to promoting work health and safety practices, following 2012's highly successful Safe Work Australia Week.

The theme of the month is "Safety is a frame of mind. Get the picture". The slogan has been designed to encourage all Australian workers to think carefully about their motivations for upholding work safety.

Anyone who wants to get involved in Safe Work Australia Month is being encouraged to register as a workplace Safety Ambassador.

By doing so, they will become eligible to receive a specialised information kit – including posters, balloons and activity ideas – designed to assist them in promoting OHS safety within their organisation. 

Ms Sherry has emphasised that there is still time for interested Australians to sign up to become Safety Ambassadors.

"It is still not too late to get involved. Register now as a Safety Ambassador and hold an activity in your workplace or attend an event hosted by your work health and safety regulator," she said.

You can apply to be a Safety Ambassador through the Safe Work Australia website.

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