Safety blitz targets housing construction

WorkSafe has started its housing construction safety blitz, with five suburban and regional areas to be targeted in a series of coordinated visits.
News article published

Thursday 20 Sep 2012

Industries and topics
  • Construction

The campaign kicked off in housing estates in the City of Casey last month (August).

Through media coverage and stakeholder engagement, building contractors working in the area were given prior notice of the campaign. But the exact location was not disclosed.

That is the key to the blitz program - there is an increased chance of an inspector stopping by your worksite, so it is in your best interests to make sure all risks are controlled.

Housekeeping is a big issue on housing construction sites. With many housing estates having such small blocks, there is less and less space to waste. But a bit of planning goes a long way.

At one site, the issue of electrical leads lying across the ground was raised by a building company representative as being, in his mind, a minor issue.

But the leads were lying on the ground, running through puddles, surrounded by off-cuts of bricks and other building waste.

A WorkSafe inspector calmly explained that all it took was a brick dropping on a brittle lead, damaging it, resulting in a puddle becoming live….you get the picture. And you don’t want that picture becoming your reality.

So, over the 5 days in the Casey area – during which just over 100 housing construction sites were visited - what did the inspectors find?

A total of 58 improvement notices were issued and there were 44 instances of voluntary compliance (when immediate measures are taken to fix a problem).

The main issues seen by inspectors were:

  • poor maintenance of electrical tools and equipment
  • general housekeeping of the sites, which posed risks to people entering and walking around the site
  • failing to properly secure security fencing.
  • unsafe working at height.

According to the inspectors taking part in the campaign, one of the best ways to anticipate risks on the worksite, is to carry out a SWMS (safe work method statement).

This is a legal requirement for certain high risk work activities on site, but also good practice.

According to the inspectors, doing a SWMS makes people sit down and really think about the work that is being done and the risks will be dealt with.

“Sometimes people just want to get on and do the job,” said one inspector.

“But what the SWMS does is document a system of work. It reflects the first part of discipline – we are creatures of habit and the SWMS creates good habits.”

WorkSafe’s focus on housing construction worksites will continue across 2012-13. The next campaign is due to take place in Melbourne’s western suburbs in November.