Wet weather forecast prompts warning for workplaces

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, 14 October, 2022 - 12:30
Industry news

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a warning to employers about the risks associated with working in the wet after heavy rains and flooding across much of the state.

Construction sites are of particular concern, especially when it comes to the risk of falls, slips and trips, according to the regulator, which said ladders, stairs and elevated work platforms can all become more dangerous in the rain.

WorkSafe accepted 5531 injury claims involving falls, slips and trips last year, and WorkSafe Victoria executive director of health and safety, Narelle Beer, said employers should pause outdoor work during heavy rain and storms.

“Avoiding exposure to bad weather is the best way to protect yourself and your workers,” Beer said.

Builders and contractors were also urged to secure their sites before wet and stormy weather hits, with all loose items to be safely tied down or placed indoors.

“Temporary fencing, construction tools and scaffold planks can cause serious harm to workers and the public if they become airborne in wild weather,” Beer said.

“It goes without saying, but water and electricity are a lethal combination. Powered tools must be stored away in a dry place before the rain hits.”

The regulator said farmers should also be wary of the dangers that come with wet weather and were advised to inspect their property before recommencing work.

“Rain can change the texture and consistency of soil, making it easier for farm vehicles to get stuck in muddy ground,” Beer said.

When recovering bogged-down equipment, machinery or animals, workers were encouraged to seek assistance or have access to a phone or radio.

The regulator said other measures included wearing warm, protective clothing and marking soft ground or open water areas with flags or barriers.

“Regularly checking weather conditions and rescheduling major outdoor projects for milder days is a sure way employers can help keep their workplaces safe,” said Beer, who recommended a number of ways employers can help manage wet weather hazards:

  • Inspecting the work site to ensure ground stability has not been compromised and foundations are secure.
  • Spreading crushed rock on walkways, over mud and placing boot scrapers at access points.
  • Ensuring plant operators are aware of the risk posed by waterlogged ground before they begin work.
  • Ensuring electrical equipment that has potentially been affected by water is taken out of service until inspected, tested and made safe.
  • Identifying soft ground and marking it with flags, bollards or other indicators as a warning to workers.
  • Seeking assistance when recovering bogged equipment or animals.
  • Avoiding employees working alone and ensuring they have access to a means of communication, either a phone or radio.