White Card Update: NSW Construction Safety the focus of Blitz

Members of the New South Wales construction industry need to be aware of the safety blitz being conducted in the state by WorkCover NSW.

According to WorkCover the blitz is progressing well and the workplace safety watchdog says that so far it has conducted 118 audits. They have also issued 32 notices to construction companies across NSW in the workplace health and safety blitz which has been running throughout Sydney and certain “hotspots” throughout regional NSW.

The safety blitz is part of WorkCover NSW’s High Risk Commercial Construction strategy because as its Work and Health Safety Division General Manager, John Watson recently pointed out monitoring construction sites can be quite a complex process.

As Watson pointed out construction sites are ultimately dynamic and ever changing worksites which means that from day to day it is being altered. In a relatively short period of time a worksite can go from safe and complying with the rules to unsafe and non-compliant. This change from compliant to non-compliant can happen even on a daily basis.

According to Watson the current blitz on commercial construction sites in the state is in response to three high-profile incidents, including the Barangaroo fire, the tower crane fire at the UTS building and the collapse of scaffolding at O’Riordan Street in Mascot. Commercial construction sites particularly those involving multi-level construction are going to be targeted during the blitz.

It has so far led to the issuance of at least 32 notices. Of the 32 notices issued so far, the most common relate to electrical leads and power points, working at heights, demolition, return to work, emergency procedures and scaffolding.

Watson said in a statement released to the media:

 “Even though an inspector can visit a site and rate its equipment and systems satisfactory, this can change if equipment is moved or modified, removed from the site or be brought to a site.  The site Management Safety plans need to take into account the changeable nature of the work environment.


“During these site visits inspectors are paying particular attention to site management safety plans, including emergency evacuation procedures, and high risk activities such as crane operation, erection, dismantling and maintenance of scaffold and ‘hot’ work procedures.


“To date we have spoken with 324 employers (Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking – PCBU), and issued 32 notices relating to identified work health and safety issues including electrical leads and powerpoints, working at heights, demolition, Return to work, emergency procedures and scaffolding.


Source: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/aboutus/newsroom/Pages/Constructionsitesafetyblitzprogressingwell.aspx

This construction blitz will hopefully not only prove to be useful in rooting out the offenders in construction but will also at the end of the blitz provide major contractors with feedback about safety issues identified by inspectors during the blitz. They will also provide information on what action contractors need to take to ensure workers in the construction industry are kept safe and healthy.

WorkCover NSW will also meet with the Building Trades Group and other unions to talk about safety concerns that have been raised during the blitz.

The work safety authority also indicated that it may extend the duration of the blitz should the need arise and any negative trends be identified in the management of work sites during the blitz.

Out of 118 audits, 32 notices have been issued which indicates that while most work sites are doing the right thing when it comes to safety, there are still those that fail in certain aspects.

This particular blitz was apparently brought on by the recent Barangaroo fire, causing WorkCover to target commercial construction sites in particular over the course of the 6 week blitz.

The key issues being concentrated on by inspectors during the blitz include site management safety plans, including emergency evacuation procedure as well as and high risk activities. These high risk activities which have resulted in a number of safety incidents taking place on construction sites recently include crane operation, erection, dismantling and maintenance of scaffold.

But contractors and companies weren’t just sprung with the news of the blitz, they were given fair warning a month ago about the blitz which gave them ample time to get their safety plans and sites up to scratch. Last month a meeting was even held by WorkCover NSW with major contractors to inform them that they are on notice of making sure they actively manage workplace health and safety at each of their sites. If this was not done in time for the current 6 week blitz, construction companies only have themselves to blame.