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How Can Employers And Employees Work Together To Reduce The Number Of Work-Related Injuries?

Published March 06, 2017 (last updated June 24, 2020) -
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The construction industry is one of Australia’s highest risk industries. Every year, thousands of workers are injured on construction sites – or killed because of unsafe work practices. Employees have the right to stop work if there is an imminent risk to their health and safety. If this occurs, employees must follow any reasonable direction of their employer to perform other work that is safe and appropriate for them.

Due to the large number of work-related injuries, fatalities and illnesses in the industry; construction has been a large priority for Safe Work Australia and the various state-based health and safety regulators. There are specific laws about working on construction sites safely. Here, we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.

Prepare safe work method statement

If your business carries out high risk construction work, you must ensure a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before work commences. If you engage a principal contractor, they must take all reasonable steps to get a copy of the SWMS before the work commences.

Take into account all relevant matters, including circumstances that may affect the work, and work health and safety management plans that may be prepared in connection with a construction project.

If the SWMS is not followed, stop work immediately and only recommence when the statement can be followed.

The SWMS must be understandable to those who use it and should outline:

  • the work involved
  • the hazards and risks
  • the control measures and how they will be implemented, monitored and reviewed

Give a copy of the SWMS to the principal contractor before the work commences. Keep a copy available for inspection and readily accessible to workers until the work is completed, or for at least two years if there is a notifiable incident.

The SWMS must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised when control measures are changed after a notifiable incident.

If you would like a SWMS template for your business or would like us to review your existing documents, talk to an Employsure specialist about what documentation we can provide you with. Call us on 1300 651 415.

Communication is key

It is important for employers and employees to communicate openly with each other. Consulting employees is not only the most effective way to manage health and safety in your workplace, it is a legal requirement. Safety meetings (also known as ‘toolbox talks’) are a practical way for employers, builders, and subcontractors to speak openly about any issues and receive feedback from each other about how to identify, manage, and address hazards.

Some helpful topics to cover during these sessions include:

  • new high risk construction activities
  • changes in access and site security
  • changes that may affect members of the public or site visitors
  • report on incidents and preventative actions taken

Tips for employers

Outside of toolbox talks, employers should consider the following guidelines to improve the health and safety of their workplace:

  • enforce wearing masks and goggles to reduce exposure to disease causing hazards. Such as exposure to dust and gases, vapours, and fumes
  • reduce exposure to whole body, hand and arm vibrations caused by pneumatic tools, grinders, drills, excavation machinery, trucks, tractors and utility vehicles. Employees should be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, vibration dampeners and vibration absorbing seats
  • be wary of exposure to high noise levels among technicians, trade workers and labourers. High quality, noise-cancelling ear muffs and ear plugs, are some of many ways to reduce exposure to high noise levels
  • enforce anti-stress, anti-bullying policies and other control measures to reduce exposure to high job demands
  • provide employees with PPE and similar control measures to reduce exposure to chemicals

These safety measurements are important not only for established workers in the industry – but apprentices and contractors too.

Tips for employees

All employees – whether they are a permanent, casual, apprentice, or contactor – have responsibilities for the safety of the workplace. Employees should be reminded to:

  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions in the workplace
  • cooperate with management to ensure all health and safety obligations are complied with
  • ensure all health and safety equipment is used correctly
  • report any injuries sustained in the workplace and seek appropriate first aid
  • report any unsafe conditions, equipment or practices to management as soon as practicable
  • cooperate with any health and safety initiative, inspection or investigation

Employers and workers have obligations to ensure that the workplace is safe. We all play a crucial role in achieving a workplace that is free of injury and illness. Work towards achieving this goal by implementing the right policies, procedures, and necessary resources. Stay informed about your workplace health and safety requirements, speak to a specialist on 1300 651 415.

About Employsure

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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