Ask those who work in construction if they have a dangerous job, and most of them would scoff at the idea. Dangerous? Nah.
After all, the longer you work around dangerous conditions, the less dangerous they feel. From working at great heights to handling dangerous materials, construction workers can often become complacent with their safety, and the safety of their workmates.
But two separate tragedies in recent months has put the spotlight back on the construction industry and the importance of safety within it.
In Brisbane, two workers were killed when a panel fell from the roof of the Eagle Farm Racecourse development, whilst a female construction worker fell to her death in Perth just a week earlier. In November on 2015, three separate workers were also killed on site in Perth.
Not following the guidelines.
These are preventable deaths. Australia works hard – harder than many countries – to keep its construction workers safe. But not following the rules can have tragic consequences.
In Canberra alone, five stop work prohibition notices were issued in 2016, with an audit of crane activity revealing massive non-compliance across the industry. And this is even after the tragic death of a 62-year-old Sydney construction worker at the University of Canberra public hospital construction site in early August.
The construction industry has the third highest rate of mortalities in the nation. So how can any more deaths be prevented?
Know the rules.
The ‘rules’ for safety within construction are constantly changing and being updated. Make sure you are subscribing to industry-specific publications to be across the changes.
For example, did you know the National Code Of Practice for the concrete industry has actually been withdrawn? Yep, the National Precast Concrete Association Australia has withdrawn support of the National Code because it now conflicts with the revised AS 3850 guidelines.
Many of those working in the industry shy away from ‘causing trouble’ on a job site should they notice anything awry. Especially if you are a subcontractor, it is hard not to feel like you are putting your employment at risk by complaining about conditions. But it is your responsibility to protect yourself and those around you by speaking up if the site feels unsafe.
Approach your site manager face-to-face, and voice your concerns without being accusatory or threatening. Outline the dangers, and follow up with an email so they have it in writing. A fair site manager will be compelled into action immediately, but if not, don’t be afraid to escalate your concerns to more senior levels.
Don’t rely solely on your employer to educate you in construction site safety. If you ever have a question mark about how to handle a certain situation at work, read up on how you should handle it. There is endless amounts of information available online, and it’s up to you to find it.
Websites such as Safe Work Australia and Fair Work Building and Construction are great resources for industry issues, discussions around safety, and information on where you can further your own knowledge of site safety guidelines.
Subcontractors must be their own boss.
If you are a subcontractor in the construction industry, it is up to you to monitor your own behaviour when it comes to safety. Whilst other workers who are aligned with a major agency will be receiving constant updates to their training and worksite education, it’s up to YOU to continue your own.
Set yourself some simple goals: once a year, read up on the latest version of the industry guidelines. Take a day to refresh your knowledge, and if necessary, attend some training days.
Of course, health and safety is just one of the many considerations of a subbie. Because we know that it’s a tricky career choice to navigate, we’ve put together an original eBook that guides you through the process of becoming a subcontractor.