Safety Blitzes on Australian Construction Sites
A safety blitz is a thorough, no-holds-barred WHS inspection of a construction site. A safety blitz will take apart, examine and critique a workplace’s handling of a variety of on-the-job hazards. These include the management of electrical and fire hazards, potential flooding, working at height and the incorporation of appropriate protective working gear.
A safety blitz seeks to arrest and eliminate any breaches in workplace health and safety protocol. A good blitz will crack down on unsafe practices and hand out warnings – and on-the-spot fines – wherever necessary. These practices aim to reduce the numbers of injuries and deaths that take place on construction sites in Australia, and make the safety of vulnerable workers the top priority of all contracting companies.
Workplace health and safety breaches are disturbingly more prevalent than one may think. For example, recent blitzes in Victoria – covering sites in Mildura, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Warrnambool – highlighted 91 dangerous breaches in protocol. These prevailed in spite of the fact that inspectors warned contractors of pending visits from the organisation Worksafe Victoria.
Over thirty-nine violations of WHS practice were identified and fixed during the inspection. Fifty-one improvement notices were also handed out, demanding that specific problems be fixed before the follow-up inspection. Most of the problems were focused on dangerous scaffolding and unsafe practices regarding work at considerable heights. Some sites did not have adequate temporary fencing and signage. All of the breaches in question could have caused serious on-the-job injuries and even instances of death.
In Canberra, similar disappointing results were uncovered in recent blitzes in the residential construction sector. Not only were 75 improvement notices handed out, but over 20 000 dollars in on-the-spot fines were distributed.
What should be considered in preparation for a safety blitz? Most companies tend to disregard the maintenance of scaffolding structures, which are vulnerable to wear-and-tear over the years. Fencing and signage is another oft-neglected aspect of work in the construction industry. Many sites fail to clearly delineate dangerous and uneven areas in the layout of the site. This can be easily rectified by constructing temporary walkways through hazardous areas, and using bright tape and signs to surround and fence off dangerous patches of land.
Companies also tend to inadequately store heavy tools and other pieces of equipment. This has the potential to injure workers if not properly controlled. Many disreputable construction companies also fail to conduct routine inspections of heavy machinery, opting instead to tag them with fake notices of approval. Not only is this a gross violation of WHS in construction, but dangerous to the lives of the workers who operate the tools.
Construction blitzes therefore seek to root out irresponsible contractors who cut costs by sidestepping essential safety protocol. Most blitzes operate within the residential and housing sectors of construction. This is because inspectors hope to arrest bad building practices on smaller projects first, before they spill out into larger civil and commercial endeavours where the risks are far greater. Research has shown that blitzes have played a major role in bringing notorious companies to account with regards to WHS. They continue to strive to bring down the numbers of on-site injuries, ensuring better working environments for all involved.