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Construction safety blitz on both sides of the border

Original article published by WorkSafe Victoria

WorkSafe Victoria and SafeWork NSW are teaming up to help employers and tradies in Mildura and Buronga reduce the risks of falls, crystalline silica dust and other construction safety hazards.

The two authorities will join forces during a week-long safety blitz targeting residential construction sites on both sides of the border from 22 to 26 August.

The operation will also include a free industry breakfast at Dahlsens on Friday 26 August along with presentations to local TAFEs.

WorkSafe Executive Director Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the event would raise awareness about the risks of exposure to hazardous crystalline silica dust which, if inhaled, can cause deadly lung and respiratory diseases, such as silicosis.

“While many in the industry would be aware of the risks when working with engineered stone, fewer would know that unsafe cutting or crushing of products such as ceramic tiles, concrete, bricks and marble can also expose workers to dangerous crystalline silica dust,” Dr Beer said.

“Silicosis can have heartbreaking consequences for young workers and their families – that’s why we’re reminding employers and tradies of the steps they must take to ensure a safe workplace, no matter which side of the border they’re working on.”

Since the start of 2021, WorkSafe has accepted 88 claims from workers who have developed silica related disease and sadly six workers have died.

Victorian duty holders will be reminded that, since 15 May 2022, changes to OHS regulations mean businesses making dust when working with materials containing crystalline silica must identify and document any high-risk silica work and the measures used to control those risks.

Falls from height also remains a significant safety risk in the construction industry on both sides of the border.

In Victoria, 14 construction workers have died as a result of falls since the start of 2018, and WorkSafe has accepted 582 claims from construction workers injured in a fall from height since the start of 2021. More than half of these (52.2 per cent) were falls from ladders, scaffolding, mobile platforms and mobile stairs.

SafeWork NSW Regional Director Construction Services Laurence Richey said falls from heights remains the number one killer on NSW construction sites.

“There have been 1,126 reports of workers falling from a height in NSW since the beginning of 2021. Forty-six percent of these claims have been attributed to falls from ladders or scaffolding, which is of great concern,” Mr Richey said.

“Residential construction continues to increase. During their visits, inspectors will be paying particular attention to the basics such as site fencing, amenities, housekeeping, and work at heights to ensure safety.”

The operation is part of the ongoing Cross Border Construction Program, which aims to raise the profile of workplace health and safety issues in regional centres along the Victoria-NSW border.

For information about new duties and requirements for crystalline silica work in Victoria, visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/high-risk-crystalline-silica-work-and-duties-manufacturers-and-suppliers

For information about managing the risks of respirable crystalline silica from engineered stone in NSW visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au/resource-library/list-of-all-codes-of-practice/codes-of-practice/engineered-stone-code-of-practice

Employers should review and implement WorkSafe’s safety checklist to protect workers from the risk of falls on site. NSW Building and Construction resources can be found at the SafeWork NSW website.

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