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Tools, vehicles, and heavy equipment all create vibrations that can affect your body. This is a normal part of any tradie’s day, whether you’re picking up power tools or jumping in the ute. It’s so common that many don’t realise the potential harm these vibrations can cause. However, it’s something you should start thinking about and being aware of.

How are workers harmed?

Vibrations are a natural part of working on any construction site but they do create a risk to you and your workers. Repeatedly using vibrating hand and power tools, or being around vibrating vehicles and machines can lead to serious and lasting harm to your blood vessels, nerves, and joints. Many of the most commonly used items give off some form of vibration. Here are  the most common ways tradies are exposed to vibrations:

While these are the most common forms of exposure, the below should also be considered as they increase the risk of overexposure to vibrations:

Early warning signs 

We understand that for many tradies, working with vibrations is a natural and unavoidable part of the job. With that in mind, there are a few warning signs and symptoms of overexposure to keep an eye out for: 

If you are continually exposed to vibrations especially in your hands and arms you can develop hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Symptoms of HAVS and CTS caused by Bad Vibrations

What you can do to manage risk

It is up to everyone on-site to look out for each other. Consultation with your team should take place to make sure an environment can be created where excessive exposure to vibrations are eliminated or minimised.

Below are simple yet effective ways to either eliminate or minimise the effects. 

 

Above all else, be aware that vibrations can be extremely harmful, especially when you’re exposed for lengthy periods of time. 

Your best tool for minimising the effects of vibrations is to start a conversation with your boss, or your team, and put steps in place to look out for each other and your equipment. 

If you have any questions please reach out the the HazardCo team 

Engineered stone ban summary

On 1st July 2024 an engineered stone ban will take effect in all states and territories. The ban prohibits the use, supply, manufacture, processing or installation of engineered stone benchtops, slabs or panels.

Further information is yet to come on:

 

New crystalline silica regulations

Until now, the focus has been on engineered stone, however crystalline silica can be found in many other building materials. It has just been announced from 1st September 2024 changes to the crystalline silica regulations will be made to further protect workers. Changes include:

A new Code of Practice will be released in all states to reflect these changes. During its development, Safe Work Australia will provide guidance to help businesses and workers understand and comply with the new regulations.

 

Engineered stone FAQ 

What is engineered stone?

Engineered stone is an artificial product that:

What’s not included under the definition of “Engineered stone”?

Is there a transitional period?

What about already installed engineered stone?

If you need to repair, remove, dispose of or make any minor modifications after 1st July 2024, you will need to notify your state regulator first. Notification forms will be available from your state regulator along with any other specific information such as timeframes and re-notification requirements.

VIC – A licence is no longer needed to work with engineered stone from 1st July 2024 and no notification will be required to work with already installed stone.

NSW, SA, WA, TAS, QLD – Notification forms will be available from your state regulator before 1st July 2024 and you will need to submit the form before starting any work.

NT – Written notification will be required every 12 months. The form will be ready before 1st July 2024.

ACT – Notification is required from 1st November 2024 and you will only need to notify once.

Remember, before starting any of the work you must have control measures in place to minimise the dust and you must wear respiratory protection.

Creating a SWMS in the HazardCo App can help you with selecting the right controls for the task such as using water suppression or on-tool dust extraction, and a minimum P2 dust mask or respirator.

Are there any alternatives out there?

There are plenty of silica-free options out there to suit every budget such as timber, stainless steel, and laminate options have come a long way, such as these Contact Sheet options from Laminex.   

 

Resource links

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/esban 

https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/esban/faq 

https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/frequently-asked-questions-engineered-stone-ban 

Work Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation Ministers’ Meeting – 10 May 2024 – Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, Australian Government (dewr.gov.au)

 

Information correct as of: 24th June 2024

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is essential gear for protecting you from inhaling hazardous substances. In this blog, we’ll explore the important role of RPE, whether you are dealing with airborne contaminants like asbestos, fumes,  dust, or working in a confined space, RPE is an essential personal protective equipment (PPE) that makes sure you can breathe safely. Join us as we deep dive into the different types of RPE, their applications, and how they can protect you from potential health risks.

Before you even get started with RPE, make sure you have other practical control measures in place first; such as local exhaust ventilation or direct dust-extracted tools with a vacuum catchment to get rid of the majority of contaminants in the air. You should also be keeping an eye on your team’s health and workplace conditions to ensure that, over time, they aren’t being made sick or getting injured by their work.

Remember, there is no such thing as a healthy dust, even if you are outside!

We’ve gone ahead and put together a quick guide of factors to consider when providing your workers with RPE. 

Types of RPE

Disposable respirators are good for short term or one-off use and when you have existing controls in place to give you extra protection. When using a disposable respirator you need to make sure a seal has been created to protect you from harmful particles such as dust, fumes and fibres.

Respirators use replaceable filters to remove contaminants to clean the air for the wearer. They come in half-face and full-face versions. The cartridge filters are specific to certain types of contaminants, ask your manufacturer exactly which cartridge you should be using for the respirator you have and the contaminants you will be facing.

 

Remember if you have stubble or any facial hair you may not be getting the seal and the protection you think you are! So if you love your bread as much as your lungs read on to find out what you can do

Man wearing half and full faced RPE

Powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) consist of headgear and fan assembly that take contaminated air, filters it, and then delivers the clean air to the user. These are also known as positive pressure systems. These not only keep you nice and cool, but offer the highest protection there is for people who have facial hair. Something to note with these is that the visors and headset can be impact rated if you need it, and don’t fog up because of the airflow.

Powered air purifying respirator RPE

Supplied air respirators provide a supply of clean air to the wearer from a source such as an air compressor or cylinder. It’s important to note that the air supply needs to be checked regularly to make sure that it is safe to use – just think about what you see coming out of your air compressor when you release the valve under the air tank! The user must also be trained in how to use the system. 

Breathing Apparatus RPE

Using RPE

It’s important for your workers to be trained in using and maintaining their RPE. They should visually check their RPE for signs of damage before each use to identify any issues, including whether it needs to be cleaned or decontaminated. 

Make sure your team keep their RPE on while working in the hazardous area. Removing it for even a short period of time is a risk to their health.

Did you know that they come in different sizes? One size does not fit all!

If your workers are using RPE then make sure they are fit tested, this way you will know who needs what size, otherwise it may not work and give the protection your workers need.
The manufacturer of the RPE can tell you who can do this testing.

There are two checks which you need to do each time you use and RPE:
1 – check for damage visually to the sealing surfaces and straps
2 – check the valves are functioning correctly like WorkSafe images below

How to check seal on RPE

Image Source: Worksafe New Zealand

Keep in mind that if your worker’s safety glasses fog up while they are wearing a half-face respirator, this is a sign that there is a leak at the top of the respirator which means they are not getting full protection. 

 

Life Shavers: Shaving your beard could save your life

When your workers are wearing respiratory protective equipment at work, they must be clean shaven to ensure it is forming a seal and protecting them from breathing in hazardous materials. Even a small amount of stubble can prevent RPE from sealing correctly which means your workers will still be inhaling harmful materials which may cause health concerns. A clean shave goes hand in hand with the correct RPE for the job.

It’s your legal responsibility to monitor your workers’ health. Make sure that you are completing regular Site Reviews on the HazardCo App, as this will help you to identify potential hazards and put effective plans in place. Your HazardCo Advisory Team is available throughout the day to guide you through this – call 1800 954 702 to talk it over.

facial hair for RPE

Image source WorkSafe

How to reduce psychosocial hazards on your work site 

The workplace hazards that create risks of harm to psychological (mental) health are known as psychosocial hazards. These hazards, when excessive or prolonged, can cause serious harm. It can have a significant impact on workers, their families and business. 

Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than an accident at work. Every year 190 Australians working in the construction industry take their own lives; this means we lose a construction worker every second day to suicide. Young construction workers are two times more likely to take their own lives than other young workers.

Psychosocial hazards can come from: 

What are some of the work related factors that affect a mentally healthy work site? 

Whose responsibility is it to manage psychosocial hazards?

Workplaces have a legal responsibly to manage risks to mental health and well-being like they do any other health and safety risk.

Knowing where to start can feel overwhelming but getting started doesn’t have to be. Take action to improve the mental health of your team today.

 

Tips to help build a mentally healthy work site

Create a more positive and supportive work site 

Establish awareness and support for workers experiencing mental health issues 

Celebrate workers and their efforts 

Take steps to improve role clarity and job satisfaction 

 

If you have challenges on your work site related to psychosocial hazards, give us a call for advice. As a HazardCo member you can have a chat with the experienced health and safety Advisory Team for no extra cost.

Lithium batteries are common in everyday life and on the worksite, their lightweight, long life, interchangeability and quick charge benefits mean that they are now used in everything from laptops to power tools to EVs. But did you know that they pose a significant risk and need to be a part of your health and safety plan?

What’s the risk?

Lithium batteries of all sizes have the potential to overheat and catch fire. The fire is hotter, harder to put out and the smoke from these fires is incredibly toxic. Lithium batteries generally overheat if they get wet, damaged or are used with incorrect charging equipment. 

Damaged batteries can explode at any time giving off flames that burn anywhere between 500 and 1000 degrees celsius. These fires are very difficult to extinguish as both water and CO2 will only suppress the fire, not extinguish it. Even if the fire has been suppressed it can still ignite again if the battery still contains energy to burn. Because of this, lithium batteries need to be properly cared for according to the manufacturer’s instructions to minimise the risk, aside from that, you need a plan in place in case of a fire. 

Hot tip: The bigger the battery the bigger the risk 

Ways to minimise the risk:

Safe lithium battery disposal

Never dispose of Lithium batteries in general rubbish as it can result in a fire in your bin or on the way to a transfer station, creating a risk to those transporting them. The manufacturer should be able to advise safe disposal or check out your local battery recycling centre. 

Lithium batteries are going to continue playing a crucial role in our workplaces and lifestyles, so it’s necessary to recognize the potential hazards associated with them. By having awareness of these risks and good practices, we can work together to reduce the potential dangers, resulting in safer working environments where Lithium batteries are used.

If you have any questions, give the Hazardco team a call today!

Making sure your scaffolding is safe and ready for action is key. Here are the times you have to give it a good once over: 

All scaffolds must be checked by a competent person before handover and scaffolds taller than 4m must be erected and inspected by someone who holds a high risk work license. Handover checks can involve completing a handover certificate and should be kept at the workplace until the scaffold is taken down.  Scaffold tags are a great way to identify whether a scaffold is safe to use or not, and are used after it has been checked. Tags should be clearly displayed where workers can see as they approach the scaffold. The tags should be at every access point to the scaffold or at least at eye level on the ladders.The tag should include the following:

 If there’s no tag, it might not be safe to use! Get in touch with your scaffold installer to sort it out and get it tagged.

Every 30 days a licensed scaffolder (if over 4m) or competent person (under 4m) should be checking the scaffolding to make sure it is safe. If the inspector has found any damages or non-compliant areas of the scaffold, then access needs to be stopped  and the tag updated stating the scaffold is not compliant and should not be used.

A thorough inspection of your scaffolding should also be conducted after any tweaks, fixes, or wild weather. And don’t forget to keep records of all these inspections.

If you have any questions get in touch with the team at HazardCo or have a look at our other working at heights blog here

MSDs, also known as Musculoskeletal Disorders are one the most common types of work-related injury in Australia, with construction accounting for 14% percent of all serious workers’ compensation claims in 2021-2022.

Musculoskeletal pain refers to pain felt in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, or nerves, and you can feel this pain in just one area of the body or throughout your whole body. The pain can range from mild, to severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day life. 

There are numerous risk factors to address: Time pressure, ageing workforce, awkward postures for a start. We need to change mindsets that pain and injury are unavoidable and make our younger workforce understand the cumulative nature of these problems- something that most ‘broken´ builders will know very well 

It is well known that there are a range of factors that contribute to MSDs. It’s not just about a single factor such as the lifting technique (although for industries such as scaffolding and roofing, lifting and handling techniques are an important factor).

The research firmly points to five groups of factors we need to tackle when addressing MSDs in construction as shown in the diagram below these are work organisation, environmental, individual, psychological, biomechanical and physical factors:

Infographic of causes of discomfort, pain and injury

It may not surprise you that physical factors often take most of the blame and focus as their connection is easy to understand, measure and observe. There are also proven strategies to overcome physical factors such as machinery, equipment and task modifications. Combining the other factors into your approach is where the construction industry will get the most benefit. Understanding how these factors can combine and influence each other to cause problems will be crucial.

 The most common solutions to dealing with MSD are:

We dive deeper into what treatment might look like and prevention tips, and the unseen costs associated with MSD in the blogs below: 

Musculoskeletal – What treatments look like and prevention tips 

Musculoskeletal: The hidden costs to workers lives and businesses.

5 things you can do to tackle musculoskeletal problems (MSDs) in your business

SafeWork NSW and WorkSafe Queensland offer a simple program called PErforM, which helps workplaces effectively manage hazardous manual tasks and reduce musculoskeletal disorders. You can contact advisory@hazardco.com for further details.

Hazardous substances are chemicals or substances which can be toxic, corrosive and can cause harm. So it makes sense that we document what’s on-site and how much we have.

If you have hazardous substances on-site, there are legal requirements you need to follow to ensure they are stored, used, and disposed of correctly to reduce the risk to anyone that uses or comes into contact with them.

There are a number of chemical specific hazards that could potentially be present on a building site but these are the most likely ones that you will come across:

 

The Hazards 

These are some of the hazards that can occur from hazardous substances

Physical hazards 

Health hazards

Remember to check the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) for your specific chemical when addressing the hazards it might present.

What this means for you

To capture what hazardous substances you are using you must by law have a hazardous substance register along with the relevant safety data sheet (SDS).

What is a Hazardous substance register?

This is a list of all your hazardous substances (including hazardous waste) that is used, handled, or stored at any of your sites or workplaces. Having a register will ensure you know the substances you have on-site, the requirements you need-to-know, and what to do in case of an emergency.

Keeping a Hazardous substance register

Keeping your register in a central location on your site means that in case of an emergency, it can be accessed quickly by anyone who needs it. There are some key bits of information that need to be included on your hazardous substance registers. Not only do you need the information below, but you must also make sure that the register is up to date and available on-site.

Because the register represents the maximum amount of the substance held, it means it’s not going to be a daily task to keep it up-to-date. But if the maximum quantity changes, the register needs to reflect this. We recommend that you review your register each time you make a change to ensure it’s up to date and accurate.

How do I create a hazardous substance register?

Creating your hazardous substance register is made much simpler with our Hazardous Substances Register, HazardCo members can access this via the HazardCo Hub in the templates section.

Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

The purpose of a safety data sheet (SDS) is to provide key information about hazardous substances to the people who handle, use or store them or who could be exposed to them.

An SDS tells you

Remember it is the business owner’s responsibility to have an up to date SDS for each hazardous substance and that their workers have access to it. You can ask your supplier for a copy of the SDS when you place an order or on the product website. The SDS should be less than 5 years old.

 

If you need a hand getting started or would like more information, get in touch with the friendly HazardCo team today – we’re always happy to help.

Tools, vehicles, and heavy equipment all create vibrations that can affect your body. This is a normal part of any tradie's day, whether you're picking up power tools or jumping in the ute. It...
Engineered stone ban summary On 1st July 2024 an engineered stone ban will take effect in all states and territories. The ban prohibits the use, supply, manufacture, processing or installatio...
Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is essential gear for protecting you from inhaling hazardous substances. In this blog, we'll explore the important role of RPE, whether you are dealing w...
How to reduce psychosocial hazards on your work site  The workplace hazards that create risks of harm to psychological (mental) health are known as psychosocial hazards. These hazards, when...
Lithium batteries are common in everyday life and on the worksite, their lightweight, long life, interchangeability and quick charge benefits mean that they are now used in everything from lap...
Making sure your scaffolding is safe and ready for action is key. Here are the times you have to give it a good once over:  After Installation: Right after it's set up. At least every ...
MSDs, also known as Musculoskeletal Disorders are one the most common types of work-related injury in Australia, with construction accounting for 14% percent of all serious workers’ compensati...
Hazardous substances are chemicals or substances which can be toxic, corrosive and can cause harm. So it makes sense that we document what’s on-site and how much we have. If you have hazard...