Safeguarding Young Workers from Injury in Construction
We commonly hear about young workers on construction sites that are injured or cause injury to others because of a lack of training and supervision. In fact just recently a concrete worker on a Kiama site was struck by a vehicle driven by a learner driver, resulting in the worker’s death.
Employers are always being warned about the importance of providing adequate training and supervision to new and young workers yet many of these still treat these “newbies” as they do everyone else on site.
In Victoria alone, over 2000 young people are injured each year, despite the attention given to the issue of apprentice safety.
WorkSafe advises that anyone hiring young, apprentice workers must recognise that these workers are at a higher risk of being injured especially in high risk industries such as the construction sector.
It is important that employers take young worker’s age into consideration when identifying risks and controlling them.
One of the most commonly neglected aspects of apprentice safety is adequate supervision. Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers are provided with a safe work environment and safe system of work, for young and apprentice workers this involves providing them with adequate supervision until they are experienced enough to operate independently – they need to be able to demonstrate this competency before being allowed to do so. This applies to permanent workers as well as casual, holiday workers or labour hire workers.
Apprentices should be familiarised with the site OHS policies and procedures and taught their role in maintaining safety. New workers can present a hazard on construction sites if they are not properly trained and supervised accordingly. New workers can cause harm to themselves and other workers if they are not supervised when given dangerous tasks. Before awarding tasks to new workers, determine whether they have the skill and knowledge to perform the task and question whether they have been trained sufficiently to carry out the task.
A number of incidents have occurred on Australian sites where apprentice workers were given tasks that they were not sufficiently trained or experienced to perform which resulted in disaster. Workers that are undergoing training should not be left unattended, especially when undertaking something as dangerous as construction work.
Young workers tend to ignore aspects of construction work such as wearing PPE, risks with driving vehicles or equipment or the dangers of machinery that they may be using. Young workers between the ages of 15 and 25 are most at risk.
Supervising young employees and apprentices involves watching them closely and monitoring them while they work. Supervisors must also correct apprentices if they engage in any unsafe work practices and advise them on safer and better methods of working.
Employers who allow young and apprentice workers to work independently will be held accountable if an incident should occur. Fines could run into the thousands for these companies but even more costly is the injury and lives that could be lost in the process, like the concrete worker in Kiama.
Adequate induction is also of primary importance. There are three components to proper induction onto a construction site:
1. Ensure the worker has a White Card, and that their ID matches the ID on the Card. This provides the base level of construction site safety induction knowledge and competencies.
2. On-site induction. This is unique to each worksite and should be carefully conducted based on a pre-planned comprehensive approach, not a last-minute quick walk around. The on-site induction should focus on identifying hazards and risks, outlining any safe work method statements (SWMS), ensuring PPE is available and worn, and locating fire fighting and first aid equipment.
3. Ongoing toolbox topics and safety updates. These could be conducted by the WHS Committee, site foreman, or OHS Manager, or equivalent.
About the author:
Peter Cutforth is co-Director of Urban Global, including Urban e-Learning a leading national RTO and provider of compliance training both online and face-to-face. Urban’s signature courses include an online White Card course, and a full suite of Chain of Responsibility training courses and CoR compliance implementation services. Urban is an active member of the Australian Logistics Council. For more info visit the websites below:
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