NSW, Vic conduct construction safety blitz
WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW have inspected construction sites in Echuca and Moama to reduce the risk of falls and asbestos exposure, as part of the Cross Border program. The inspections were carried out between 30 October and 2 November to help ensure employers are aware of their health and safety obligations and are doing all they can to reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities. WorkSafe Director of Construction and Earth Resources Matt Wielgosz said construction sites pose a range of safety challenges, making proactive inspections a key part of boosting safety in the industry.
According to Wielgosz, there have been 76 fatalities in the construction industry since 2018. Falling from height is reportedly the most common cause of these deaths. Construction workers also made up almost a third of all workers injured in falls from height, accounting for 2351 of the 7999 claims accepted by WorkSafe since 2018. SafeWork NSW Regional Director of Construction Services Laurence Richey said falls from height present considerable danger to construction workers across the state, with 17 fatalities from falls on NSW construction sites since 2018.
“The vast majority of falls on NSW construction sites occur on ladders, incomplete scaffolds, falls from a truck, a roof edge or falling through fragile roof sheeting. We will be taking a zero-tolerance approach to workers’ lives being placed at risk, and will issue notices to improve work practices, stop unsafe work and [give] on-the-spot fines for serious safety breaches,” Richey said.
Construction work can include the redevelopment or demolition of asbestos-contaminated sites. If inhaled, asbestos fibres can lead to diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. “Asbestos could be present in many different forms on a construction site, including cement pipes, pits and insulation coatings on pipelines,” Wielgosz said.
Since 2018, WorkSafe prosecutions have seen 17 companies ordered to pay fines and costs totalling $235,520 for asbestos-related health and safety breaches. Richey said that asbestos is still prevalent on NSW construction sites, despite a nationwide ban on the use of asbestos being introduced almost 20 years ago. Since 2018, SafeWork NSW has issued 143 fines for asbestos-related incidents, totalling $496,642.
“Asbestos-related diseases are preventable, and inspectors will be reminding tradies to exercise extreme caution when working on homes or buildings built before the late 1980s as they may contain asbestos,” Richey said.
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