Equipment operators urged to consider La Niña hazards
Inspectors from SafeWork NSW are visiting excavation sites throughout the state to ensure safety and remind those excavating about ‘Before You Dig Australia’ requirements. Head of SafeWork NSW Natasha Mann said SafeWork’s ‘Excavation and Earthmoving Plant safety Program’ will continue until April 2023 after an increase in La Niña-related excavation incidents due to the deterioration of ground conditions and a rise in other incidents involving earthmoving equipment.
Mann acknowledged that excavations on construction sites and farms are high-risk activities and said risk management precautions must be in place with conditions continuously monitored. Mann also encouraged business owners, site managers and supervisors to consult with workers to fully assess potential risk and complete a Safe Work Method Statement before commencing any excavation work, to ensure trenches are safe from collapse.
“Workers can be severely injured if they are struck by earthmoving equipment or if their equipment comes into contact with electrical assets. ‘Digging blind’ is one of the main causes of electrocution and so SafeWork NSW is collaborating with Before You Dig Australia to increase awareness of their free service. Before starting any excavation, check with Before You Dig Australia so you know the location of utilities and services. Proper planning before work begins and ongoing monitoring of ground conditions is essential, especially following flooding or heavy rain. If in doubt we recommend consulting further with a geotechnical engineer. The consequences of failing to properly to assess site conditions can be fatal,” Mann said.
In June 2022, a 19-year-old apprentice was seriously injured clearing a trench on a residential building site. He was positioned within a two-metre-high unsupported trench when a section collapsed; he sustained multiple fractures and needed to be rescued by other workers on site. Also in June 2022, a 33-year-old farmer sustained fatal head injuries while extracting a bogged bulldozer at his neighbour’s farm. He had been assisting his neighbour with the extraction when one of the two D-Shackles connecting the recovery strap failed and was propelled through the glass door of the bulldozer.
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