Work Health and Safety

Posted 23 January 2017

Work Health and Safety

The New Year welcomes a new “intake” of apprentices to MBA Group Training. As part of the initial block of training to prepare these young workers for their first placement, they will undergo preliminary health and safety training; but, what are the important points to highlight in this training and do these points apply to the construction industry as a whole? The answer to second part of the question is yes. So what points should this additional health and safety training highlight?

Firstly, the conversation needs some perspective. A number of pieces of legislation that regulate workplaces in Australia. For work health and safety, the principal piece of legislation is the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT), enacted by the Territory Government. The Act provides for “a balanced and nationally consistent framework to secure the health and safety of workers and workplaces”, and imposes a set of duties upon both workers and employers (referred to in the Act as person conducting a business or undertaking, or PCBU). In general, a worker must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and make sure their actions do not adversely affect the health and safety of co-workers and others (the term used for everyone else under the ACT). In addition, a worker must comply with any reasonable instruction given by the PCBU and cooperate with the PCBU’s policies and procedures. For PCBUs, their primary health and safety duty is to ensure the health and safety of workers and others, by providing a safe workplace and safe systems of work.

The regulator (WorkSafe ACT) has highlighted site inductions as an area of concern. They recommend site inductions include: hazards onsite and their control measures; site safety rules; site safety documents and plans; who to report incidents and hazards to, and how to report them; emergency and evacuation procedures; and layout of the workplace including entries and exists, location of facilities, first aid and security requirements. More important than the content of the induction; does the worker receiving the induction understand the information presented. If receiving the induction, ask questions to make sure you understand the information provided, or to obtain information not covered in the induction. If delivering the induction, make sure the recipients fully understand and comprehend the induction by asking open question about it, and answering all questions honestly and succinctly.

The perennial subject of safe work method statements (SWMS) is also an important point. If developed correctly, they are an important administrative tool in assisting in providing a safe work environment while carrying-out high-risk construction work. If signing on to work under a SWMS, again ask questions to understand the tasks involved, hazards and risks, and control measures. If responsible for the SWMS, make sure the signatories fully understand and comprehend the SWMS by asking open question about it, and again answering any questions honestly and succinctly.

Finally, for this conversation, the simple message to apprentices is “if it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t.” For all of us, when identifying something we believe is a hazard, fix the hazard (if possible, and trained and capable of doing so) and report it (as outlined in the site induction). If you cannot fix the hazard easily, make the area as safe as possible and report it (as outlined in the site induction). If unhappy with the response to the hazard, raise the issue with someone who can assist. For a MBA Group Training apprentice, with one of the Field Officers. For a contractor’s worker on site, with their (the contractor’s) management. For any other worker, with the Principal Contractor’s management or Master Builders ACT or WorkSafe ACT. If responsible for the site, respond to the report. If you believe it is not a hazard, explain to the worker why it is safe. If it requires work to fix, organise the work, and inform the worker of the work progress and when fixed.

By their very nature, construction sites are dynamic environments, with hazards onsite constantly changing. As an industry, we need look after each and support each other in identifying and fixing the hazards. While there are more points that can highlighted, improving health and safety in our industry is matter ensuring we question when we are unsure, and maintain intelligent and constructive communication.

Philip Edwards – Work Health and Safety Advisor, Master Builders ACT

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