WA: regulator urges caution in post-cyclone clean-up

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.
Wednesday, 14 April, 2021 - 12:45
Industry news
National News
Western Australia

As towns on the coast of Western Australia clean up in the wake of tropical cyclone Seroja, Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) said employers and workers need to be prepared for the risks associated with cleaning up after a natural disaster.

Towns such as Geraldton were hard hit by the cyclone, with wind gusts up to 170km/h causing widespread damage and power outages, while authorities also warned of flash flooding from heavy rains.

Cyclones, storms and floods can be traumatic events for those involved and there is naturally a sense of urgency around clean-up activities, the DMIRS said in a statement.

“However, the most important part of a recovery operation is the wellbeing of workers, volunteers and the community – the last thing the community needs at this time is a serious or fatal injury,” it said.

“By being vigilant and maintaining safety during this difficult time, you can help reduce the risk of death, injury and illness to yourself, workers and others involved in the clean-up and repair effort.”

Occupational safety and health laws apply to clean up activities where paid work is occurring, or where volunteers are working under the control of an organisation that includes paid work.

DMIRS released a comprehensive information sheet for those involved in the clean-up, which addressed key areas including:

  • Planning work
  • Electrical safety
  • Working at a height
  • Stability of damaged structures and trees
  • Demolition
  • Asbestos
  • Chemical hazards
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Biological hazards
  • Fatigue management
  • Psychological stress
  • Manual tasks
  • Displaced fauna
  • Safe use of tools