Regulators issue safety reminders as construction booms

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 29 April, 2022 - 10:30
Industry news
New South Wales

WHS regulators across Victoria and NSW recently launched safety compliance crackdowns and warned employers to put safety first as activity in the construction sector continues to increase.

SafeWork NSW cracked down on dangerous work practices with a targeted operation in Bankstown and Rockdale, and the week-long safety blitz saw 35 construction sites visited, 86 improvement notices issued and 16 prohibition notices handed out.

NSW Minister for Fair Trading Eleni Petinos said the first priority of the NSW Government is safety, with falls from heights still the number one killer on NSW construction sites.

“We take a zero-tolerance approach to lives being placed at risk. This means a construction sector with no site taking unacceptable risks when it comes to working with heights,” Minister Petinos said.

“As a result of the SafeWork NSW inspections, two construction sites were fined $3,600 for failing to meet safety compliance around heights.

“We want to ensure construction sites have the appropriate safety systems and the right safety equipment in place to prevent incidents causing serious injury or death.”

While good results were observed in a number of areas, the risk of falls from heights, electrical, scaffold and housekeeping continue to be the top four areas where penalties and notices are issued – falls from heights risks were evident at 57 per cent of the sites visited.

WorkSafe Victoria also reminded employers and tradies across regional parts of the state to put safety first as construction activity continues to ramp up across the state.

WorkSafe accepted 772 claims from construction workers in the regions in 2021, an increase from the 715 claims in 2020 and 654 in 2019. Three construction workers lost their lives due to workplace incidents in regional Victoria last year.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a 52 per cent rise in building approvals in rural and regional Victoria last financial year to 18,072 in 2020/2021. Demand has continued into this financial year, with 9,882 building approvals in regional Victoria from 1 July 2021 to 28 February 2022.

WorkSafe Victoria executive director health and safety Narelle Beer said it was important that employers and workers maintained a strong focus on safety, even as the sector faced increasing demands and challenges.

“Every worker has the right to get home safe at the end of the day, and yet each year, hundreds of construction workers across rural and regional Victoria are injured at work,” Beer said.

“We know that the industry continues to face pressure on supply and building material costs, as well as a shortage of qualified trades to keep up with high demand, but it’s imperative that safety remains a priority for employers and workers.”

Falls from heights, contact with electricity, being hit by powered plant, structural collapses and trenching incidents are among the most common serious injury and fatality incidents in construction. Body stress (35.9 per cent), falls, trips and slips (28.8 per cent) and being hit by a moving object (22.8 per cent) were the leading causes of injuries among regional construction workers in 2021.

Young workers remain particularly vulnerable, with 35.7 per cent of accepted claims in regional construction coming from workers aged under 30.

“Young workers are particularly vulnerable as they have less experience and can be reluctant to speak up if something feels unsafe, so it’s really important that apprentices receive appropriate training and supervision,” Beer said.