Ongoing campaign focuses on major risks on construction sites
Most civil construction sites combine the movement of people, equipment, and vehicles in the same space. These hazards create risks that, if not properly managed, can result in serious injuries and fatalities.
A lot of effort is expended by principal contractors, subcontractors, workers, and unions to make sure that these hazards are identified and controlled. Despite these efforts, we are still seeing a significant number of workers’ compensation claims coming from incidents involving the movement of people, equipment, and vehicles.
Since 2009, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors have been auditing the use of mobile plant and construction house-keeping practices (access and egress, storage, waste management). Last year, WHSQ was part of a national campaign assessing the management of risks arising from work on or near public roads.
The 'Control of major risks on civil construction sites' campaign that started in 2011 aimed to delve deeper into the way in which these hazards and the associated risks are managed on site, in an effort to identify trends or common failures.
The campaign focussed on:
- the interaction of workers with mobile plant on site
- the management of vehicular traffic on, around, and past the site
- construction house-keeping practices.
Compensation claims data from WorkCover Queensland was used as a starting point to identify issues to be addressed, leading to the development of an assessment tool after consultation with industry. The Civil Contractors Federation organised a focus group of their members to review and critique the material prior to rolling it out. The same tool that is used by inspectors is provided to industry.
The campaign finished in June and early analysis reveals that most audited contractors had the correct documentation in place - for example, a safe work method statement that identified the relevant hazards and suitable controls, or a traffic management plan that complied with the Traffic Management for Construction of Maintenance Code of Practice 2008 and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
However, a significant number failed to comply with their own documentation - controls that had been documented on the safe work method statement or in the traffic management plan had not been implemented on-site.
Most non-compliance was found on sites that relied on either periodic monitoring by a supervisor, monitoring by a team leader, or monitoring by the workers themselves. Sites with constant supervisor monitoring had very high levels of compliance.
Workers reported that being involved in developing the documentation, either through detailed discussions or by developing it themselves, resulted in greater understanding of hazards and controls.
Workers aged 25 years and younger reported lower levels of understanding of the risks and controls stated on the safe work method statement, which is consistent with our general understanding of younger workers. WHSQ recommends that young and less experienced workers receive additional training on the hazards and controls identified by the safe work method statement or traffic management plan, as well as increased supervision while on site.
A full analysis of the campaign results is being carried out and will be published to www.worksafe.qld.gov.au later this year.