Workplace health and safety is a phrase we hear so much that it risks losing meaning.
While practices are continually improving, the brutal truth is that more could be done to protect the individuals working on industrial sites across Australia. This article provides a one-stop-shop to underscore the importance of industrial safety. We'll look at the critical reasons why this topic needs to remain at the forefront of our minds, and we'll highlight some steps you can take to promote safety on your projects.
1. Safeguarding personnel
First and foremost, industrial site safety is about looking out for employees.
As of 28 April, 51 Australians have lost their lives on the job in 2019 (Safe Work Australia). Last year the total number of fatalities was 157, in 2017 it was 190. This isn't acceptable, and as a community we need to be doing more to bring these numbers down.
As of April 28, 51 Australian workers have already died on the job in 2019.
This is especially true when you realise that, from the 2017 figures, the top work-related fatalities by occupation were machinery operators and drivers, and labourers. Both of these fall under the industrial sector umbrella.
So, what steps can be taken to better protect staff?
To answer this question we need to examine the most common causes of fatal injuries. Safe Work Australia's 2017 data provides the best data here, showing the top four causes of workplace fatalities as:
- Vehicle collision - 31 per cent.
- Being hit by moving objects - 18 per cent.
- Falls from a height - 15 per cent.
- Being hit by falling objects - 8 per cent.
1. Vehicle collision - The presence of vehicles and heavy machinery is a fact of life on many industrial sites, so instead of removing this risk you'll have to manage it. There are a number of steps you can take here:
- Provide full briefings to all personnel on what equipment or vehicles are in operation, where, and what risks they pose.
- Clearly demarcate areas where these vehicles are frequently working to stop staff inadvertently walking into high danger areas.
- Ensure all employees operating vehicles or equipment have the correct (and up-to-date) qualifications.
- Provide additional training if required.
- Don't allow staff to work without all the necessary PPE.
- Make certain that maintenance and safety checks have been carried out on all equipment before it arrives on site.
2. Being hit by moving objects - Many of the above points also apply here, however you could also look to implement safety barriers. Webforge's offerings in this space aren't designed to protect vehicle traffic, but are ideal when it comes to safeguarding pedestrian workers. The Monowills Link is a particularly popular modular safety barrier, and is easy to transport and install, with no welding involved.
Machinery operators and labourers were among the occupations most likely to die at work.
3. Falls from height - Fall and edge protection should be a top priority for any industrial project where heights are involved. You have plenty of options to choose from in designing for this aspect of site safety, including:
- Walkways and ramps - Effective walkways and ramps should factor slip resistance, guardrails, load bars and drainage into their construction.
- Stairways - Stairways from Webforge can come with a range of anti-slip nosings to meet the requirements of Australian Standard 1657.
- Platforms - These provide stable and secure stations from which staff can perofm work at height.
4. Being hit by falling objects - When work at height takes place, you also need to think about how it will impact those working at ground level - tools or masonry dropping from above can pose a serious risk to personnel passing underneath. For example. Webforge's maintenance production platforms feature Webmesh below the grating to stop small items and equipment from falling through.
2. Protecting long-term business success
While very much secondary to worker safety, you should also consider how lapses in industrial safety could impact the long term success of your business.
As well as being a source of friction between staff and management, compensation claims can be a serious drain on your financial resources. In 2016-17, there were 106,620 serious workers compensation claims in Australia, with the median settlement totalling $11,500. It's easy to see how repeated incidents resulting in payouts of this scale could quickly cause financial problems for industrial companies.
The median compensation claim for serious injuries in 2016-17 was $11,500.
If an employee involved in a workplace incident believes that their injury was the result of negligence on the part of the company, you risk legal action. This can be a long, expensive and stressful experience.
As an employer you have a duty of care towards your staff, and it's in the interest of your company, as well as your workers, that you meet your obligations. In extreme circumstances, should a company be found to regularly endangering its employees, it risks forced closure.
In the industrial sector, reputation counts for so much.
The vast majority of projects involve multiple stakeholders - clients, architects, suppliers and specialists at a minimum. If your firm has a poor reputation for safety compliance, it's going to be a lot harder to find partners willing to work with you. Furthermore, given the potential financial implications that are associated with safeguarding incidents, you may also find it more difficult to win tenders for work, as these processes place great emphasis on keeping costs low.
The impact on productivity
You also need to consider how serious incidents can impact the productivity of your business. This can happen in a number of ways:
- Pauses to the operation - Serious incidents are normally followed by an investigation. Work is often halted in order for these to be carried out.
- Replacing injured workers - If staff are injured and have to take time off, you'll need to recruit personnel to replace them. This is a costly and sometimes lengthy procedure.
- Decreased morale - Don't underestimate how injuries to personnel can affect the morale of those around them, which in turn can impact their productivity.
- Reduced loyalty - If you don't show your staff the care they deserve, they aren't likely to stay with you. A proactive stance on health and safety, on the other hand, is a big draw for workers.
Hopefully these points have hammered home the importance of industrial safety. Webforge has been supplying the sector with safety products for over 70 years, and we know what it takes to minimise risk and keep employees safe on the job. To discuss your specific project needs, or for more information on what we offer, get in touch with our friendly team today.