Construction safety inspections reveal problems with falls and electricity

Monday, 27 April, 2009

WorkSafe WA Inspectors conducted 23 investigations in the area from Rockingham to Pinjarra over the first two weeks of April, visiting demolition sites, tilt-up construction projects and general and commercial construction sites.

Inspectors issued 21 improvement notices and five prohibition notices, along with verbal directions to inform the industry of their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act and Regulations.

WorkSafe WA Commissioner Nina Lyhne said that feedback on the levels of compliance with workplace safety and health requirements given by WorkSafe inspectors was mostly positive, but with some concerns: “Despite the satisfactory performance of the construction industry, there were areas of concern, specifically electrical safety and falls from height. These seem to be quite persistent, and I’m not sure that the messages on electrical safety and prevention of falls are getting through as well as they could be.

“After a similar campaign two years ago, inspectors reported that it had been difficult to get portable electrical equipment tested and tagged because local electrical contractors were not providing this service. But the situation has changed since then; and testing and tagging of electrical equipment can now be undertaken by a suitably trained competent person using a portable appliance tester.

“Despite the fact that an improvement was noted in testing and tagging, concerns remain about electrical safety, especially residual current devices on construction sites.

“The other continuing area of concern is the prevention of falls from height — this was one of the most common hazards found on construction sites. It’s really disappointing to see a lack of fall protection in some workplaces because falls are readily preventable and it need not be difficult or costly to ensure that suitable barriers or fall arrest systems are organised before a tragedy can occur.

“Falls are one of the most significant causes of workplace death in the construction industry, and five WA workers have died in less than two years as a result of falls. A further 1260 are injured each year, many seriously and permanently.

“It is absolutely crucial that action is taken on every risk in the workplace and that safe work practices are in place on every construction site.”

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