Inspectors from both WorkSafe and WorkCover NSW will visit construction sites in and around Mildura and Wentworth as part of the ongoing Cross Border Project, which aims to educate builders and sub-contractors about workplace safety requirements in both states.

During the visits, which begin on 16 March, inspectors will assess site safety, paying particular attention to fall protection controls and UV sun protection.

WorkSafe Regional Operations Manager Trevor Butler said that while the rate of injuries on Mildura construction sites had fallen in the past two years, construction workers were still over-represented in local workplace injuries.

“Over the past five years, on average, one worker was seriously injured every fortnight on a construction site in Mildura. More than 11 per cent of those injuries were caused by falling from heights,” Mr Butler said.

“Falls from ladders and roofs, or falling into stairway voids were far too common. Sometimes it was incomplete scaffolding that led to a fall. The disappointing thing was that none of these incidents would have happened if the risks had been properly managed.”

Mr Butler said there were three key elements to reducing risks when working at heights:

  • Plan the work to be completed by developing safe work method statements (SWMS) and document the fall protection controls such as guard railing and scaffolding;
  • Implement fall protection controls listed in the SWMS and;
  • Supervise the work to ensure the controls are effectively managing the risks.

“Work at heights can be performed safely with appropriate planning and the right safety controls in place,” he said.

Mr Butler said UV protection for workers would also be a topic of conversation with employers and workers during the visits.

“We're urging the local construction industry to take more care when it comes to managing exposure to UV rays,” Mr Butler said.

“If you're working outdoors, it’s no longer acceptable to be bare chested or sporting footy shorts and a singlet. Long sleeve tops and knee length shorts provide better protection from UV rays. And don't forget to wear a hat and regularly reapply sunscreen to exposed skin. Don't let your guard down when it comes to being sun smart.”

Executive Director of WorkCover NSW’s Work Health and Safety Division, Peter Dunphy, said it was critical that construction workers were on the same page regarding risks and controls, regardless of which side of the border they were working.

“Each state has the same or similar requirements for high-risk work licences, plant operator competencies and accepts the other state’s safe work method statements and management plans,” Mr Dunphy said.

House construction is one of the highest risk industries in NSW.

“In the two years to July 2012 there were 1,312 workers compensation claims at a cost of $22 million to the NSW workers compensation scheme,” he said.

The Cross Border campaign in Mildura and Wentworth will run from 16-20 March.

To be ready for the visit, builders and sub-contractors are encouraged to pick up an inspection checklist from all major hardware stores.