Bushfire recovery: Clean up of properties

As the recovery process begins in bushfire affected areas, there will be a need for people to attend the worksite to help with clean up tasks, particularly on rural properties, including re-fencing work and felling trees. In some cases, they may be volunteers or family members without a background in the relevant work, such as on farms.

Clean up of properties

Tasks required to clean up properties affected by bushfire could expose you, and others, to injury from unsafe use of machinery and equipment, and to heavy-lifting and traffic hazards. Fire grounds may also present a range of unique hazards, such as tree roots continuing to burn underground, or increase the risks associated with hazards such as falling trees or branches.

Planning

  • Ensure work is properly planned and coordinated. For example, provide means for regular communication, ensure sufficient supervision and plan rest breaks.
  • Ensure people not directly involved in work, especially children, are not exposed to hazards like vehicle movements and operating equipment.
  • Ensure machinery and vehicle operators are competent and experienced in using specific plant and equipment for the intended task.
  • Some tasks may not be suitable for volunteers or even experienced employees. Tree or branch felling or cleaning up asbestos for example, should be performed by people with specific skills and experience for hazardous tasks.
  • Planning should include a traffic management plan. This should include clear access to work areas and space to manoeuvre vehicles and to minimise traffic, storage and drop-off locations for the delivery of materials.
  • Separate work areas from nearby roads and traffic.
  • Consider arranging insurance coverage for volunteers before the work begins.

Working safely

  • Ensure items of plant and equipment are fit for purpose, not fire-damaged and have appropriate guards in place.
  • Ensure tools and equipment are well maintained with all cutting edges effectively guarded when not in use.
  • Ensure machinery and vehicle operators are competent and experienced in using specific equipment for the intended task.
  • Clear the work area of any debris or uneven terrain that could cause a vehicle rollover.
  • Organise the delivery of any materials as close as possible to where they are required to minimise manual handling.
  • Use powered machinery for heavy lifting. Reduce the size and weight of materials to be lifted. Limit lifting and carrying of heavy materials over long distances.
  • Reduce exposure to hazardous manual handling as much as possible through the use of mechanical aids.
  • Where the use of mechanical aids is not possible, rotate competent workers through various tasks to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury from unavoidable hazardous manual handling.
  • Take care with the use of wire-tensioning devices. Where practical, avoid using existing or fire-damaged materials for fencing and other rebuilding tasks. Avoid using barbed wire for fencing.

Site safety

  • Are there any hazards in your work area? For example, the risk of falling branches or trees, damaged buildings, disturbed or insecure root base or shale rock.
  • Are electrical services overhead or electrical, gas or other services underground?
  • Unload a ute or trailer from the top side or the rear when it is on a side slope.
  • Unload a ute or trailer from the top side or the rear when it is on a side slope.
  • If digging new post holes, call 1100 before you dig to check whether you will be working in the vicinity of essential services.
  • Is the ground stable and clear of debris for the workforce and equipment?
  • Is the slope of the ground too steep to safely operate mobile equipment?
  • Are there slip or tripping hazards? For example, exposed tree roots, shale rock, damaged building foundations or holes.
  • Is the work area restricted - is there enough space to work or manoeuvre?
  • Will your activity create other risks? For example, the collapse of structures, tree falls or equipment roll-over.
  • Separate free-ranging animals, including cattle, sheep or horses from the work area.
  • Are there any dangerous wildlife, like snakes for example, in the area?

Welfare of workers

  • Ensure workers have access to clean drinking water and food.
  • When loading equipment, use safe lifting techniques. Use lifting aids or workmates to help with heavy or awkward equipment.
  • Plan regular rest breaks and limit work time to avoid fatigue.
  • Provide shelter and ensure workers wear suitable protective clothing like gloves and boots and have UV protection.
  • Ensure personal protective equipment is worn for eyes, ears, hands and head.
  • Consider people’s individual abilities to work in extreme temperatures.
  • Has insurance coverage been arranged?
  • If using treated pine, provide Safety Data Sheet – Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA). Practice good personal hygiene. Minimise exposure to CCA by providing gloves and practicing personal hygiene.
  • If people are working alone or in remote areas, ensure there is a means for ongoing communication.
  • Prepare and provide an emergency plan to assist in the event of a person being injured.
  • Provide first aid facilities.