Border blitz focuses on mental health and falls safety

A safety blitz in Albury and Wodonga has identified falls risks and raised the profile of work-related mental health hazards at construction sites on both sides of the border.

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WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW conducted a joint operation from 15-19 April – visiting 49 building sites in the area.

The operation had a strong education component, including presentations at a trade breakfast attended by dozens of local workers and information sessions for more than 300 TAFE students and young apprentices.

WorkSafe inspectors issued four improvement notices during site visits, including two addressing falls hazards, one electrical safety issue and one for not having a Safe Work Method Statement.

Another 14 issues identified were able to be immediately addressed. Common themes included incomplete scaffolds, site security, elevated work platforms, secondary guarding, safety observers and amenities.

Inspectors also spoke with employers about their obligations to address psychosocial hazards that could create a risk to health and safety, including bullying and fatigue.

WorkSafe Director of Construction and Earth Resources Matt Wielgosz said inspections were an opportunity to talk safety and share information and resources as well as identifying issues.

"Getting the word out about safety is a big part of these operations and it's in everyone's interests to ensure that construction sites on both sides of the border operate safely," Mr Wielgosz said.

"While the majority of employers do the right thing, it's particularly disappointing to see a small number continue to turn a blind eye to the risk of falls."

"The spate of falls in construction that we're seeing at the moment is really distressing – every injured or killed worker probably thought 'it won't happen to me', but falls in construction are happening, and more often."

SafeWork NSW issued one penalty notice and two prohibition notices for falls issues such as incomplete scaffolding and working at height without fall protection.

Another 36 improvement notices were issued for site security, amenity, electrical, excavation and licence and registration issues.

SafeWork NSW Regional Director Construction Services Laurence Richey said it was disappointing to see common risks such as falls and electrical hazards, as well as amenities that were not up to standards.

"SafeWork NSW has been working with WorkSafe since 1988 to ensure workers and tradies along the border are working safely, and we have targeted areas like Albury/Wodonga, Echuca Moama and around Yarrawonga," Mr Richey said.

"Falls from heights, in particular falls of between two and four metres, are the number one killer in the construction industry and SafeWork Inspectors will continue to focus on this risk, and issue improvement and penalty notices where people are not taking the right precautions."

More information on preventing falls from height:

More information on promoting safe and mentally healthy workplaces visit the WorkWell Toolkit: