Blogs

Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS manager) winner
Glen Stewart with SafeWork award

Glenn joined Calvary, a non-for-profit health organisation, in 2011. With more than 12,000 staff and volunteers, Calvary operates 15 public and private hospitals, 15 retirement and aged care facilities, and a national network of community care centres.

No sooner had he joined Calvary, Glenn set out to develop a group workplace health and safety strategy from the ground up – there was no safety system in place. A significant challenge was the geographical spread of the organisation, so he developed an intranet site that provided a single platform for all health and safety resources. He introduced online forums and discussion boards, audit tools, fact sheets, procedures and manuals.

Glenn also implemented a national safety excellence award program that recognised individuals and teams, a monthly safety scorecard, and a national management review process. He was particularly conscious of the need to engage with workers, health and safety representatives, committees and senior management.

Glenn’s initiatives have been a catalyst for other system and technological changes throughout the organisation. These same initiatives have also resulted in the frequency rate of lost time injuries falling from 60 to three since 2011.

An inspiration to us all
David Nugent in a factory

Twenty years ago, David was seriously injured when his arms became caught in a hay baler as he was trying to fix a fault. As the baler pulled his arms in with such force, he suffered chest and head injuries along with extensive injuries to both arms. He was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued by a passing motorist and rushed to hospital.

David spent five months in hospital, had his right arm amputated above the elbow and numerous surgeries to save the left arm, including orthopaedic reconstruction, skin grafting, vascular grafting and infection control.

David knew nothing other than farming and was widely known in his community for solving problems and finding solutions. And this horrific tragedy did not deter him. His motto: the farm will not beat me.

With the help of a rehabilitation provider, prosthetic technician, case manager, family and friends, he developed a comprehensive return to work program and purchased modified equipment through SIRA’s vocational rehabilitation program. He made changes to the farm set-up, re-designed his work practices, and researched widely to find equipment that would satisfy his needs.

David credits a determined, problem-solving attitude and a great team as the principal reasons for his remarkable achievements.

Although the incident happened 20 years ago, David continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries but has returned to his pre-injury duties as a self-employed cattle farmer, hay contractor, bob-cat operator and earth mover.

David’s achievements were recognised last year when he won the 2017 SafeWork NSW Award for Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers.

Tech savvy consultation improves safety culture

We know that good workplace cultures improve employee mental health, increase productivity and boost workplace morale.

But how do you bond as a team if you don’t all work in the same place?

It’s a challenge faced by many NSW businesses who have mobile workers, operate across multiple states or rely on contractors.

The problem often falls on the shoulders of the HR or wellbeing manager to find an efficient way to coordinate the wellbeing of an organisation spread over multiple locations.

Retail construction company, Prime Build, faces this challenge everyday.

Technology therefore plays a big role for the team at Prime Build.

It allows all of their workers to remotely join in on conversations with the whole team and have their say.

Ronnie Boukaram, their WHSEQ Manager said staff work everywhere; in the office, on the road and throughout work sites across Australia.

“We work in a fast-paced, 24-hour environment,” Ronnie said.

“It can be exhausting and negatively impact our workers’ professional and personal lives if not managed properly.”

Ronnie got the ball rolling on new ways for people to connect and talk about safety and wellbeing.

“We have a Skype meeting once a month with the Prime Build Safety Team, which can be joined by anyone, to discuss all things safety related – including concerns, injuries and ideas for improvement.”

“We also have an online platform that enables employees to catch up on anything they missed, and a monthly newsletter that shares wins and upcoming projects.

The more connected we are, the better it is for morale.”

Ronnie is a firm believer in little changes making a big difference to overall workplace culture.

He saw how introducing a form for employee suggestions was pivotal in slowly improving processes throughout the company.

“It’s all about making small changes and constantly improving until you start seeing better outcomes.”

“Consultation doesn’t need to be an expensive or time-consuming process. Just listening to your team is a good first step to improving safety and culture.”

Managing Director, Dean Willemsen, emphasised that Prime Build’s consultation process was a constant learning process and encourages other workplaces to take it one step at a time.

“We are not perfect and have work to do,” Dean said.

“Here at Prime Build we are committed to continually improving and while we have made mistakes in the past, we are committed to learning from them.”

How we're tracking - at a glance

Since the release of the Work Health and Safety Roadmap 2018-2022, we’ve been working towards defined targets to reduce the number of fatalities, serious injuries and workplace illnesses.

We’re keeping zero fatalities in our sights and tracking our progress on a range of safety fronts.

We want you to follow the numbers too, be involved in changing the safety landscape, and remain motivated to make NSW workplaces the safest places to work in the country.

Each quarter we will publish our status report so you can see how the Roadmap is influencing workplace safety in NSW.

An inspiration to us all
David Nugent in a factory
David Nugent, SafeWork Award winner

David Nugent owns a cattle farm near Wagga Wagga and does some contract work supplying hay and operating heavy machinery to supplement his income when times are tough.

Twenty years ago, David was seriously injured when his arms became caught in a hay baler as he was trying to fix a fault. As the baler pulled his arms in with such force, he suffered chest and head injuries along with extensive injuries to both arms. He was trapped for more than an hour before being rescued by a passing motorist and rushed to hospital.

David spent five months in hospital, had his right arm amputated above the elbow and numerous surgeries to save the left arm, including orthopaedic reconstruction, skin grafting, vascular grafting and infection control.

David knew nothing other than farming and was widely known in his community for solving problems and finding solutions. And this horrific tragedy did not deter him. His motto: the farm will not beat me.

With the help of a rehabilitation provider, prosthetic technician, case manager, family and friends, he developed a comprehensive return to work program and purchased modified equipment through SIRA’s vocational rehabilitation program. He made changes to the farm set-up, re-designed his work practices, and researched widely to find equipment that would satisfy his needs.

David credits a determined, problem-solving attitude and a great team as the principal reasons for his remarkable achievements.

Although the incident happened 20 years ago, David continues to receive medical treatment for his injuries but has returned to his pre-injury duties as a self-employed cattle farmer, hay contractor, bob-cat operator and earth mover.

David’s achievements were recognised last year when he won the 2017 SafeWork NSW Award for Recovery at Work Achievement Award for Injured Workers.

More information on farm safety

Get it right: ask an inspector
A stack of timber pallets

Based in St. Mary’s, Enviro Pallets manufactures timber pallets. It’s a small business, with just six full time workers – plus a handful of labour hire workers from Ability Options, an agency that supports people with disabilities.

Manufacturing pallets is a high risk industry and, following a request for service, a SafeWork inspector visited the premises and met with Mark Duffin, the factory manager, to offer some health and safety advice.

‘The workplace had a number of safety hazards,’ said Cris Jelley, Assistant State Inspector.

‘These included issues relating to poor housekeeping, machine guarding, traffic management, forklift safety, and handling and storage of hazardous chemicals.’

‘I issued numerous improvement notices,’ said Mr Jelley.

Regardless the severity of the notices, Mr Duffin saw it as a wake-up call and, over the next three months, he encouraged and welcomed further interactions with Mr Jelley.

Mr Duffin organised a massive clean-up of the workplace, fixed his chemical issues, fitted and improved guarding on machinery, improved traffic management, made walkways for pedestrians, issued personal protective equipment to everyone and, most importantly, sought his workers’ input on safety improvements.

‘The improvements have made my business safer and more productive,’ said Mr Duffin.

‘I have realised through your help, Cris, that it is more beneficial to be proactive than reactive, and I thank you for that – never too old to learn.

Book an advisory visit to your workplace

The best way to improve employees' mental health
Group of people sitting around talking

A world-first study published in Lancet Psychiatry, led by researchers at the Black Dog Institute and University of NSW, suggests that basic mental health training for managers can result in significant benefits for employees.

The research looked at the effects of a four-hour mental health training program delivered to Fire & Rescue NSW managers.

It found that the training was associated with a return on investment of $9.98 for each dollar spent on training and major reductions in work-related sickness absence. It is also the first study to show that training managers about mental health can have a direct impact in improving occupational outcomes for workers.

‘Having a supportive manager can make a huge difference to a person’s mental wellbeing, and as this study shows, giving basic mental health training to managers can bring significant changes to both confidence and behaviour among staff,’ says Samuel Harvey, who leads the Workplace Mental Health Research Program at the Black Dog Institute.

Jason's story: A young life lost
Sunset in a rural area

In this video, produced by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Jason’s family and friends share their experiences to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety, the need for effective communication between subcontractors on construction sites, and appropriate supervision and supportive mentoring for young workers.

It also brings to attention the importance of housekeeping in preventing incidents, and allowing emergency access to sites if an incident does occur.

Statistics show how vulnerable children and young people are in the workplace. They can be oblivious to hazards in their surroundings, are often unaware of their rights and responsibilities, and may not be confident to speak up about safety concerns.

On 28 April each year, countries around the world pause to commemorate workers who have died as a result of a workplace incident or occupational disease.

Each year, Unions NSW and SafeWork NSW hold a service on the 28th of April, which is International Day of Mourning to honour and remember those who lost their life at work.

At the service, families are invited to add ‘memory cards’ and flowers to the Memory Lines sculpture in honour of their loved ones.

We encourage employers and workers across the state to take time on International Day of Mourning to think about the significance of work health and safety and how workplace incidents can affect those around them.

For more information about young workers, read the Young Workers eToolkit which has information for parents, young workers and employers.

Managing hazardous chemicals
Hazardous chemicals warning label

There are literally thousands of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace – paints, pesticides, cleaners and fuels, to name a few. They come in various forms – powders, solids, liquids and gases.

You must manage health and safety risks when storing, handling or using hazardous chemicals at a workplace by using the hierarchy of controls.

This video demonstrates what to consider when applying the hierarchy and how to go about choosing the appropriate controls.

You should review your chemical management strategies and use controls higher in the hierarchy in combination with lower level controls for the greatest effect.

You should also ensure that your workers receive training and supervision and consider the risks associated with storage, handling and disposal.

Through the implementation of the Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy, the level and impact of workplace exposures to hazardous chemicals will be identified and reduced.

A priority list of 100 chemicals, based on national and international research has been developed, in which formaldehyde and crystalline silica rank first and second.

Read the codes of practice for more information on how to manage work health and safety risks and managing risks of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Safety improvements raising the bar
Saving improvements raising the bar

Following an incident where a worker sustained serious injury from being hit by a steel beam, Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd (formerly Brookfield Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd) agreed to undertake significant business safety improvements that would also benefit their industry and the wider community.

Headlining Multiplex’s achievements is their development of the Practical guide to the safe erection of steel structures, the principles of which have since been adopted as part of the Australian standard for structural steel fabrication and erection (AS/NZS 5131:2016). The guide was developed in consultation with the Australian Steel Institute, engineers and the construction workforce to bridge the gap between documented procedures and workplace practices.

Multiplex has also spent more than $100,000 on the evaluation and distribution of the guide across its organisation and the wider steel erection industry through the Australian Steel Association and the Australian Contractors Association. A training video summarising the detailed processes contained in the guide was also produced to help deliver safety awareness training for all workers and contractors in the steel erection industry.

Since the incident in January 2013, Multiplex has also spent over $50,000 on rectifications, which included developing a tool to conduct audits on structural steel erection work and updating their steel erection checklist.

Benefits to the community from the completion of the undertakings to SafeWork NSW include the funding of graduate scholarships at Wollongong and Newcastle University for work health and safety students.

Multiplex Constructions Pty Ltd continues to promote the use of the guide to improve safety practices to benefit both the industry and wider community.

Read more about enforceable undertakings.

Use power tools safely
An older electric drill, angle grinder, jigsaw etc

Early this year, SafeWork inspectors attended an incident in southwest Sydney after a 15-year-old construction worker got severe lacerations to his thigh, down to the bone, while using a circular saw to cut lengths of timber. It was his first day on the job.

Power tools come in various shapes, sizes, voltages and varieties. Yet, irrespective of the size of the tool or how it’s powered, the principles of safe use apply equally to all.

First, remember that a power tool’s effectiveness is proportional to your level of training in using the tool, as well as your diligence in following safety guidelines.

Before starting any job, go through a pre-start process and ensure everyone who is using power tools is trained and competent. And always check to make sure tools are in good working order.

Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts, keep others a safe distance away, and wear the correct personal protective equipment for the job.

Finally, employers and experienced workers need to ensure new and young workers receive the correct training and supervision.

Watch the following video safety alert on how to keep you and your workers safe around power tools.

Working safely with power tools - video safety alert

You can also watch this short video by the Roofing Tile Association of Australia. This video is relevant to all residential and commercial building constructors, and in particular, roof tilers.

Take a nap. Eat a snack.

Naps can help improve alertness. Many shift workers nap before and during their shift, and often before driving home in the morning.

Generally, when shift workers are sleepy, they turn to food for comfort. Tests have shown that those who eat a large meal during their night shift feel sleepier than those who don’t eat at all. The best advice is to eat a snack and avoid large meals.

Read the full article.

Use power tools safely
Power tools

Power tools come in various shapes, sizes, voltages and varieties. Yet, irrespective of the size of the tool or how it’s powered, the principles of safe use apply equally to all.

First, remember that a power tool’s effectiveness is proportional to your level of training in using the tool, as well as your diligence in following safety guidelines.

Before starting any job, go through a pre-start process and ensure everyone who is using power tools is trained and competent. And always check to make sure tools are in good working order.

Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts, keep others a safe distance away, and wear the correct personal protective equipment for the job.

Finally, employers and experienced workers need to ensure new and young workers receive the correct training and supervision.

Watch this short video by the Roofing Tile Association of Australia.

Your safety: it starts with you
Various workplace hazards

Coming home safely to loved ones is generally everyone’s number one motivator to keep safe at work.

But it is all too easy to become blasé about workplace safety, believing the chances of being hurt are very slim.

Aside from the implications for employers – down time, low morale, and hiring and retraining a replacement – the consequences for the worker reach far beyond the workplace.

If lucky, an injured worker will be back at work within days, but if not, and recovery drags on – in some cases, indefinitely – the emotional and financial impact on their family can be devastating.

Life as they know it is never the same again and things normally taken for granted, such as walking the dog, driving a car, socialising or playing sport, may no longer be possible. Even what initially appears to be a minor injury sustained via a common workplace incident, a slip or trip, can have a major impact.

An arborist, for example, suffered a permanent and serious brain injury when he fell 11 meters to the ground while cutting a tree with a chainsaw.

A 49-year-old man suffered head, spinal and chest injuries when he fell three metres down a set of stairs on a Sydney construction site.

Another worker whose life will never be the same again, an 18-year-old labourer, sustained horrific injuries when a steel bar pierced his skull while he was operating an excavator on a Sydney demolition site.

All these incidents, like most workplace injuries, could have been prevented if the employers and workers had not let their guard down on work health and safety priorities.

No matter what you do, safety starts with you.

Watch this video.

Manage the risks of falls - or risk a fine
Men on  building ledge

Over the past three years, most serious falls were from two to four metres – or about a single storey.

In November 2017, in response to alarming statistics regarding falls from heights, we introduced new on-the-spot fines – where employers can be fined up to $3600 for failing to control the risk of falls adequately – and launched a 12-month blitz on NSW construction sites.

Astonishingly, our inspections revealed more than 50 per cent of sites had unsafe scaffolding, more than 40 per cent didn’t have proper edge protection, and nearly 25 per cent didn’t provide a site safety induction to their workers.

Recently, a 20-year-old apprentice plumber died after suffering a broken neck and fractured skull when he fell six metres through a hole in a roof and landed on a steel beam. ‘In a spilt second your whole life changes forever,’ said his devastated aunt.

In another incident, a 67-year-old man sustained a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, collarbone and neck, and a punctured lung when he fell through an unprotected stairwell void on a Sydney construction site. He was in hospital for two months.

While working at heights is clearly a risky business, there are plenty of ways you can help avoid workplace tragedies and ensure your workers go home in one piece at the end of the day.

As with any high-risk activity, the best solution is to eliminate the need to work at heights where possible. If you can’t, you must provide a stable and securely guarded work platform or a suitable alternative.

Some typical examples are scaffolding, perimeter screens, guarding, fencing or other barriers capable of withstanding the loads that may be placed on it. Harness systems, such as fall restraint or fall arrest devices, should only be used as a last resort.

Last year and throughout 2019, our blitz on construction sites will continue. So, ensure you protect your workers – or risk a fine!

For more information on managing the risks of falls, visit our working at heights page.

Q fever awareness
Man standing with a horse

Given this alarming statistic, the growing threat of Q fever, and the fact that many cases go unreported, we are educating those in the veterinary industry about the dangers of the bacteria. It can leave you immobile for many months, with the possibility of life-long effects. Fatigue, fever, headaches and muscle pain are just some of the symptoms.

If you work in the veterinary industry – or other high-risk industries where you may come into contact with infected animals – and have not been exposed to Q fever, we recommend you consult your GP and ask if a vaccination is suitable for you.

Learn more about Q fever.

If it's not safe, speak up!
Cartoon of construction workers

One in 10 workers were too afraid to report safety issues because they might be fired and one in 20 have been demoted after making a safety complaint at work.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of workers have witnessed a colleague not reporting their injury at work for fear of losing their job.

Consultation is a good way to use the knowledge and experience of your staff to achieve a safer and healthier workplace.

Through talking about safety, you can become more aware of hazards in the workplace and workers can provide suggestions about how the work could be done safely.

This page outlines the basics of consultation at work and is available in Arabic, Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese.

Let's talk safety in the supply chain
Let's talk safety in the supply chain

The transfer of work health and safety information in a supply chain includes identifying and controlling risks during the life cycle (including disposal) of buildings, products, substances, machinery and equipment. It includes transferring and consulting on work health and safety information to each of the duty holders during the design, production, supply and sale.

From 2018 to 2022 and beyond, we will work with industry to identify areas to influence the exchange of health and safety information.

Our strategy is to collaborate with industry and educate supply chain stakeholders of the role they can play in improving the exchange of safety-critical information.

We want to help you understand your responsibilities.

Together, we can educate everyone in the supply chain, and ensure the safe installation and supply of equipment and materials.

Tackling trees after wild weather
Tree worker

The rain and wind may be gone, but many of us are still cleaning up after the huge storms that thrashed eastern NSW last week. If you work in clearing fallen or broken trees, you may have a busy few weeks ahead. Here are some reminders on how to keep yourself, and your workers, safe.

Determine the safest way to tackle the job

When you get to a new job, work out whether it is safer to work from ground level, to climb the tree, or to work from an elevated platform. If the weather or anything else changes, check the method you are using is still the safest one.

Inspect the tree

Check its condition before you start. In addition to any storm damage, look for signs of pest infestation, decay, dead wood and bark inclusions. A lack of foliage, soil movement, cracking at the base or a leaning tree could mean it has weakened or shifted roots and is unstable.

Inspect the site and your equipment

Check for hazards such as uneven ground, electrical lines, underground services, bad weather, nearby traffic, and people. Also check in on your own energy and alertness levels – fatigue and dehydration can be hazards too.

Inspect your machinery and climbing equipment before every use. If you are using wood chippers or stump grinders, it is particularly important that the emergency stops are working and workers are trained on how to use them. Make sure you mark exclusion and drop zones, that no one enters them, and that ground workers have an escape route.

Conduct a toolbox talk

All workers need to know what approach you will be using for the job and their role.

Train, equip and prepare your workers

Staff should always have the right protective gear, be fit for work, and not affected by drugs or alcohol.


Each year more than 150 people are seriously injured while doing tree work because of things like falls, working around power lines, working with equipment or being struck by falling objects.

By following the steps above, those helping our community clean up after the storms can plan to avoid injury and get home safe.

Read more about staying safe while doing tree work.

Working safely with trees

6 tips for a healthy workplace
a person writing  notes about health

Well, aside from a big morale boost, business benefits could be up to three times more productivity, less sick leave and fewer injuries. In a nutshell, a healthy workplace is very good for your business.

Research reveals healthy workers are fitter, more aware, alert and resilient against illness, and less likely to sustain manual handling injuries and strains.

While bigger businesses with more resources can afford to establish a formal health and wellbeing program, such an expense is probably a bit of a stretch for you. But fear not, there are still plenty of inexpensive things you can do to help make a difference.

Even small changes can have a huge impact, so here are six ideas:

  1. Target workers’ eating habits, especially if lunchtime fare is fast food high in saturated fats such as burger and fries. Install a larger fridge and an extra microwave so more staff can bring in meals from home to reheat – also saving them money.
  2. Offer more flexible working hours so workers go for walks, runs or swims, or attend a gym at lunchtime. Speak to a local fitness club about offering discount memberships for your workers.
  3. Print out simple exercise guides to place around the workplace.
  4. Establish a ‘break-out’ room where workers can make personal phone calls or have some quiet time.
  5. Help workers to quit smoking.
  6. Establish a workplace zero injuries target and promote this over one month, progressing to three then six months.

Get more great ideas about how you can help your workers get healthier and your business better.

Insider tips

In this feature, seasoned SafeWork inspectors, Anthony Nicholson and John Mizzi, provide helpful tips and pointers.

John: One catchphrase I often tell clients is that if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth documenting. Work health and safety laws don’t require employers to document day-to-day activities such as worker consultation or training for most workplace tasks. However, documenting these things, as well as risk assessments, provides evidence they have actually been done. So if an inspector responds to a particular health and safety issue, then the employer will be able to show they have addressed the issue by producing a supporting document. I advise clients to get safety messages over to workers by holding a toolbox talk and document it, using templates from our website.
Documenting a toolbox talk does not need to be complex. All you need to do is simply note the date, attendees and key messages discussed with workers.

Anthony: Some employers will spend a fortune hiring a consultant to develop a health and safety system or buying an off-the-shelf one. Often, these are generic and not directly related to a specific business. Honestly, the best systems are ones developed by a business in conjunction with workers. It’s not rocket science, just a method of delivering simple safety messages, information and support to workers.

John: If you are documenting training or safe work procedures and recording a worker’s name to confirm they’ve been trained, then they are also more likely to comply.

Anthony: The idea is to keep it simple and not to over-complicate it.

John: If you are unsure how to document a toolbox talk, and have 50 workers or less, then call SafeWork and request a free workplace advisory visit. An inspector will happily show you how to do it and even provide the templates.

Anthony: All it costs employers is some commitment and their time.

John: Plus small employers who request an advisory visit are eligible to apply for a $500 rebate for the purchase of equipment or solutions they buy to improve workplace health and safety.

Find out more about our small business rebate program and search for ‘templates’ on our website.

Solvents can affect your memory
Sign on a wall: Danger. Solvent fumes may be present

Author Erika L. Sabbath said the findings were significant as workplace exposure to solvents was extremely common and posed a real risk both in the present and the future.

“And as retirement ages go up, the length of time that people are exposed is going up, too,” Dr Sabbath said.

Chlorinated solvents can be found in dry cleaning solutions, engine cleaners, paint removers and degreasers, while petroleum solvents are used in carpet glue, furniture polishes, paint, paint thinner and varnish.

Researchers assessed the lifetime exposure of 2143 retirees, as well as their last exposure to chlorinated solvents, petroleum solvents, and benzene, which is used in synthetics manufacturing.

Participants took eight memory and thinking skills tests 10 years after they had retired at an average age of 66.

Researchers found those with high and recent exposure at the greatest risk for memory and thinking deficits regardless of other factors, such as education levels, age, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Dr Sabbath, of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said retirees with high exposure within the past 12 to 30 years had demonstrated impairment in virtually all areas of memory and thinking.

For more information about using solvents, visit the hazardous chemicals page.

10 things you should know
A graphics printer in a workshop

Here are 10 things you can do that will help your business comply with work health and safety regulations and keep your team safe.

  1. Get a workers compensation policy if you need one.
  2. Talk about safety and get input from your workers.
  3. Make sure everyone is properly trained and understands how to do their work safely.
  4. Establish safe working procedures.
  5. Provide adequate workplace facilities.
  6. Use personal protective equipment if no other controls are available.
  7. Record any workplace injuries in a register.
  8. Notify us of serious incidents.
  9. Have a recover at work program
  10. If in doubt, ask for help – give us a call on 13 10 50.

Work health and safety made easy

We have developed the ‘Easy to do work health and safety toolkit’ to make it easier for small businesses to understand and meet their work health and safety obligations. Check it out today.

Find out more
6 ways to stay safe
A person in a protective suit with goggles and gloves closing the lid on a large stainless steel vault

Store and handle chemicals properly at all times.

Depending on the quantity and type – paint, glue, cleaning agents, fuel, pesticides or solvents – the consequences could be catastrophic.

Not only could your workers be exposed to harmful fumes or toxins that may cause chronic illnesses such as cancer or asthma, but leaks or spills can cause costly environmental damage such as water contamination.

Unchecked, a gradual-release or prolonged exposure could come years down the track, via financially crippling legal action by affected workers or environmental watchdogs.

Some potential hazards might not be obvious, such as a spray painter working in a booth listening to a portable radio – a possible ignition source for flammable fumes.

Often the risk has never occurred to them because it’s how they’ve always done it or been told how to do it. And unfortunately it’s often only when an accident does occur that the penny drops.

Nathan McDonald

SafeWork Assistant State Inspector

Aside from the risk of an explosion or violent chemical reaction, simply inhaling vapours could render your workers drowsy and more likely to make errors or suffer an injury.

Here are some pointers.

  • Make sure chemicals delivered to your workplace are clearly labelled.
  • Make sure workers understand safety data sheet and labels.
  • Make a list of all your hazardous chemicals – and always keep it up to date.
  • Isolate hazardous chemicals from the rest of the workplace, restrict access to dangerous areas, and use exhaust ventilation for fumes.
  • Develop an emergency plan and provide appropriate personal protective equipment.
Exercise helps prevent depression
Woman exercising by skipping a rope

The results show even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.

The study involved more than 30,000 adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.

The study found that 12 per cent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

According to an Australian health survey, 20 per cent of Australian adults do not undertake any regular physical activity, and more than a third spend less than 1.5 hours per week being physically active.

At the same time, around 1 million Australians have depression, with one in five Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness in any year.

To improve your physical and mental wellbeing through exercise, see the institute’s Exercise your Mood campaign.

Understanding workers compensation

The workers compensation process can be complex – and this complexity is amplified when you have limited claims management experience, resources and cash flow.

For most small businesses, a workers compensation claim may only occur once every several years. Many employers pay their annual premium and have no further contact or relationship with their insurer.

A challenge for small businesses is the number of stakeholders involved with the workers compensation process, and the various relationships that exist between these stakeholders.

This seminar features three panel members representing the employer, insurer and regulator. They discuss the role of each in the workers compensation process, the supports available for business – eg vocation rehabilitation and work trials – and the recovery at work programs run by the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA).

SIRA has also developed a tool that helps injured workers understand their weekly payments and entitlements at different stages of their claim.

SafeWork licence register: making it easier to do business
A crane dogman carrying a wire rope to a large tower crane

Following an amendment to the WHS Regulation, the NSW Government published a register of individuals who hold asbestos, high risk work and demolition licences as well as holders of general construction induction training cards (otherwise known as white cards).

The register includes the licence holder’s name, licence number and type, the licence status, the licence expiry date (if any), licence conditions, prosecution summaries and information about penalty notices issued in connection with the licence.

The register enables better protection for workers and the community by providing licence information via a single online portal, and makes it easier for businesses and consumers to check the validity of the licences/cards and make informed decisions regarding the contractors they engage.

The changes are consistent with the NSW Government’s objective to provide a single and accountable point for the administration of business regulation schemes, which in turn provides greater business confidence while maintaining appropriate levels of consumer protection.

Find out more about the licence register

Do you get enough sleep?
Two nurses wheeling a bed down a hospital corridor

Train drivers, waiters, chefs, and shift workers in manufacturing and healthcare are most likely to suffer the greatest sleep deprivation.

Shift work, job stress, work hours and physically demanding work are also linked to sleep deprivation. Round-the-clock access to technology and pressure to work harder has increased work hours and led to an increase of short sleep.

More information on fatigue

Read the full report

If it’s not safe, speak up!
A cartoon of a supervisor talking to two employees

A recent survey of more than 2000 workers found that one in five have made a complaint about a workplace safety issue that was never fixed.

One in 10 workers were too afraid to report safety issues because they might be fired and one in 20 have been demoted after making a safety complaint at work.

The survey also found that 37 per cent of workers have witnessed a colleague not reporting their injury at work for fear of losing their job.

Consultation is a good way to use the knowledge and experience of your staff to achieve a safer and healthier workplace.

Through talking about safety, you can become more aware of hazards in the workplace and workers can provide suggestions about how the work could be done safely.

Find out more about consultation @ work

Consultation @ work - the basics

This video is also available in Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese.

Keep it cool this summer
Two construction workers having a cool drink

UV radiation causes 95 per cent of skin cancers in Australia. All skin types can be damaged by exposure to UV radiation. The damage is permanent and irreversible – and increases with each exposure.

Roughly two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70 and over 750,000 are treated for non-melanoma skin cancers in Australia each year.

Non-melanoma skin cancer is more common in men, with almost double the incidence compared to women. In 2015, 2162 people died from skin cancer in Australia, 1467 from melanoma and 642 from non-melanoma skin cancers.

During the summer months, it is easy to become dehydrated or for your body to overheat. It is very important that your body temperature stays in the range of 36.1 – 37.8°C, or you risk developing heat-related illness.

Working in a hot environment can cause you to become fatigued and physically weak, as well as slow your reaction times and affect your judgement. Any of these increase your risk of injury, and you may begin to make errors, drop tools or stumble.

You can reduce the risks from exposure to UV radiation or extreme heat by:

  • providing an air-conditioned area for frequent rest breaks
  • providing air-conditioning and window tinting in work vehicles
  • providing mechanical aids to reduce the need for strenuous physical work
  • supplying lots of cool drinking water and encouraging workers to drink frequently.
  • providing shade and shelter for outdoor workers
  • rotating tasks, to reduce exposure to UV radiation and extreme heat
  • scheduling work to cooler times of the day
  • using the SunSmart app to identify sun protection times for outdoor work
  • providing information, instruction, training and supervision
  • providing personal protective equipment, eg: for outdoor workers – SPF 30+ sunscreen, SPF 50+ clothing, long-sleeve shirts, broad-brimmed hats and the like.

Register and listen to this webinar to learn about the risks that outdoor workers are exposed to and how employers can manage these risks, with the Small Business rebate available to eligible participants.

You can also tune into this webinar to discover the top 10 ways to manage sun exposure and how to check your own skin.

This video provides handy hints about managing the risks from working in extreme heat.

More information is found on the following web page:

Other sun safety resources are available from:

Exercise helps prevent depression
Exercise fights depression

The results show even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.

The study involved more than 30,000 adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.

The study found that 12 per cent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

According to an Australian health survey, 20 per cent of Australian adults do not undertake any regular physical activity, and more than a third spend less than 1.5 hours per week being physically active.

At the same time, around 1 million Australians have depression, with one in five Australians aged 16-85 experiencing a mental illness in any year.

To improve your physical and mental wellbeing through exercise, see the institute’s Exercise your Mood campaign.

Do you work with manufactured stone?
Crystalline silica

This industry uses newer engineered stone products which contain high levels of crystalline silica, for bathroom and kitchen benchtops. Crystalline silica, which causes the lung disease silicosis, is also found in bricks, roof tiles and concrete products.

When disturbed by cutting, sanding, blasting or grinding, crystalline silica dust is released and can get into a worker’s lungs.

The disease is entirely preventable.

Effective and well maintained ventilation and dust capture systems on portable tools, wetting down stone whilst cutting, using the correct face masks, and never using compressed air to clean-up dust helps to control dust and reduce exposure.

You should also do regular air monitoring to make sure workers’ exposures do not exceed the legal exposure limit for crystalline silica dust, and offer health checks which includes lung screening to your workers.

See our Hazardous chemicals and materials exposures baseline reduction strategy.

Understanding the workers compensation system
Woman at a lap top writing

The State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) has developed a new web app to help workers understand their rights and entitlements in the workers compensation system.

If you are entitled to ongoing payments, the app will tell you how your payments and entitlements are structured.

The app will show you:

  • who is there to support you
  • what you can expect in each claim period
  • what vocational programs you can access
  • what affects your weekly payments
  • how your weekly payments are calculated
  • how your degree of permanent impairment affects your entitlements
  • what to do if you have a dispute.

Use the app as a go-to source of information on your rights and entitlements in the workers compensation scheme.

Have you been injured at work? is mobile friendly and will virtually live in your pocket, providing guidance whenever you need it.

Get started now and save the app to the home screen of any digital device.

Changing age-old traditions for a safer workplace
Mini tractor in field of flowers

Despite the generations-old method of lowering coffins, John was determined to find a safer alternative. After extensive consultation with council colleagues and funeral parlours, he designed and built a trolley on an A-frame to transport a coffin-lowering device behind a ride-on mower or small tractor.

John’s invention reduces manual handling activities by about 90 per cent and minimises trip hazards around the grave. It eliminates the need to lift the 52-kg coffin-lowering device on and off the frame and eliminates the need to push the 300-kg trailer.

Following John’s innovative creation, the council now actively encourages all staff to be proactive and provide suggestions on improving health and safety outcomes.

Fittingly, John (pictured below) was a stand-out winner at the 2017 SafeWork Awards for best individual contribution to workplace health and safety.

John Pearce at SafeWork NSW Awards 2017
Get it right: ask an inspector
Pellets in a warehouse

Manufacturing pallets is a high risk industry and, following a request for service, a SafeWork inspector visited the premises and met with Mark Duffin, the factory manager, to offer some health and safety advice.

‘The workplace had a number of safety hazards,’ said Cris Jelley, Assistant State Inspector.

‘These included issues relating to poor housekeeping, machine guarding, traffic management, forklift safety, and handling and storage of hazardous chemicals.’

‘I issued numerous improvement notices,’ said Mr Jelley.

Regardless the severity of the notices, Mr Duffin saw it as a wake-up call and, over the next three months, he encouraged and welcomed further interactions with Mr Jelley.

Mr Duffin organised a massive clean-up of the workplace, fixed his chemical issues, fitted and improved guarding on machinery, improved traffic management, made walkways for pedestrians, issued personal protective equipment to everyone and, most importantly, sought his workers’ input on safety improvements.

‘The improvements have made my business safer and more productive,’ said Mr Duffin.

‘I have realised through your help, Cris, that it is more beneficial to be proactive than reactive, and I thank you for that – never too old to learn.’

Enviable health and safety landscapes
Construction worker on road

Sailfish Catamaran

Established in 1993 and based in Alstonville in northern NSW, Sailfish Catamarans builds aluminium boats. From a staff of two producing five boats a year, the company has grown to a staff of 19 full time tradesmen and apprentices building about 30 custom-built catamarans a year. Today, it is a successful manufacturing and exporting business.

It is also the envy of many small businesses, having won the 2017 SafeWork award for excellence in workplace health and safety culture for small business.

‘It’s a great achievement,’ said Ian Drew, Purchasing and Administration Officer.

‘We’ve come a long way and everyone’s on board with our new culture.’

The company is proud of its young workforce and employs a new apprentice every year – and from day 1 a safety culture is embedded. New employees are taught the company’s values, what they will learn, work ethic and workplace expectations.

This, coupled with a no bullying policy and apprentice buddy system, allows everyone to understand and own their responsibilities in the workplace.

The owner, Darren Foster, says the company has undergone significant cultural change in its commitment to health and safety. There is now an open door policy with all senior management regarding health and safety issues, and daily tool box talks in which all mangers participate.

The company’s consultation process recently resulted in new equipment being introduced to address risks associated with working at heights.

Today, Sailfish Catamarans boasts a dynamic workforce that is committed to safety.

Port Stephens Council

Testament to Port Stephens Council’s outstanding safety culture is a work health and safety audit score exceeding other regional councils by more than 20 per cent.

The council is also the winner of the 2017 SafeWork award for excellence in workplace health and safety culture for large business.

The council boasts 13 health and safety representatives, plus deputies, a hazard ID app, a dedicated safety page on its intranet, health and safety noticeboards, ergonomic assessments, safety alerts, monthly newsletters, and a health and wellness program.

The general manager attends induction sessions for new employees and chairs health and safety committee meetings, and all senior managers are required to do two field visits every month.

The results speak for themselves: premiums are down 50 per cent over the past seven years; cost of claims are about half that of other councils; the number of claims have fallen almost 50 per cent over the past six years; and the council scored over 96 per cent in a work health and safety audit, compared with about 75 per cent for other councils.

Read more about the SafeWork NSW Awards.

30 years' bad practice bites back
Man lying down on construction site

NSW District Court Judge David Russell fined the business owner $60,000 for breaching his health and safety duties regarding safe systems of work and $1,500 for failing to notify us of a serious incident immediately after becoming aware of it.

The principal duties of the worker included making houseboats and doing general steel fabrication work. He was a first-class sheet metal worker and held a forklift and elevated work platform licence, but had no formal qualifications as a roofer and no training in relation to working from heights.

On the day of the incident, the business owner left work early to attend a funeral and, during his absence, another worker – supposedly the company’s ‘informal’ supervisor (given he’d been with the company the longest) – told his colleague to finish roofing the workshop.

The worker used a scissor lift to access the roof and convey the cladding to the roof, then climbed out of the lift to secure the sheeting. When a sheet slipped sideways, the worker fell almost three metres onto a compressor and another metre onto a concrete floor. There was no fall prevention system in place.

Immediately following the fall, the supervisor called an ambulance then contacted the owner, who in turn notified the insurer (but not us). If there is a serious injury or illness, a death or a dangerous incident, the law says you must report it to us immediately – and notify your insurer within 48 hours.

Under cross examination, the business owner revealed that for the past 30 years workers’ regularly worked on houseboats and were often four metres above the ground without fall protection or proper training. This revelation was a clear contradiction to his assurance that had he been present at work, he would have insisted on getting a qualified roofing contractor and would have forbidden anyone else from doing the job.

See our Working at heights page for further information on minimising risk.

Work near overhead power lines: the basics

In fact, contact between mobile plant and equipment with live overhead power lines is one of the biggest workplace killers – but many of these incidents have the same underlying causes:

  • operators failing to see the power lines (or realising the danger)
  • not maintaining a safe approach distance.

What is the risk?

Any voltage that causes sufficient current to pass through the heart – such as that found in live overhead power lines – can cause serious injury or death.

The discharge of electrical energy from contact with power lines can also cause serious burns, fires and explosions that can immobilise the equipment involved.

You don’t even have to have direct contact with a high voltage line to receive a fatal electric shock. Electricity can arc or jump across gaps, meaning that simply being too close can kill.

Even if a worker survives a close encounter with high voltage, their injuries can require intensive medical care and may render them out of action indefinitely.

Unfortunately, in 1999, 17 year old Tim was fatally electrocuted. Watch the video below as told by his father.

What is the impact on your business?

The effects on the injured worker and their family are obvious, but a simple lapse in concentration or supervision can also have a significant impact on your workplace. Lost time, a workers’ compensation claim, not to mention finding and retraining a replacement can all add extra burden to your business.

How can you avoid these incidents?

  • Your safest option is to relocate work away from overhead power lines wherever possible.
  • If it’s a short-term task, arrange with the electricity supply authority to have the power isolated.
  • For long term jobs, consult the electricity supply authority. They would assess the site and advise of appropriate controls that you should adhere to.

If you can’t avoid working near overhead power lines you need to properly assess and control the risks. That may mean having a supervisor on the ground to manage the risks. This will at least give you peace of mind to be able to focus on running your business and it could save a life.

Attention to detail is critical – potentially a matter of life or death – so please refer to our Work near overhead power lines: Code of practice, or call 13 10 50.

Mentor Program applications now open!

Now in its 13th year, the SafeWork Mentor Program is committed to improving work health and safety, workers compensation and injury management of NSW businesses. Small business mentees and business specialists with expertise in WHS are encouraged to apply for 2019.

The Mentor Program is an opportunity for business safety experts to share their knowledge with small businesses and network with their peers. In the program they will:

  • identify new ways to address safety
  • provide insight into the challenges facing your industry
  • have the chance to apply for SafeWork rebates to implement workplace safety improvements
  • improve business reputation
  • create a supportive network of peers.

Mentees will be paired with a mentor who has extensive safety knowledge who will then, over the 3-6 months of the program, visit their workplace and share their knowledge with their mentee.

At the end of the 2018 program, mentees had implemented practical workplace safety improvements, increased awareness, knowledge, confidence and willingness to manage safety in their workplace.

Previous mentor, Paul Lyndon, National Safety Manager for Diona spoke positively about his experience as a mentor saying, “It gives me so much pleasure encouraging people to do something worthwhile that could save someone’s life.”

All mentors and mentees are invited to SafeWork NSW supported training and network events throughout the year.

To get involved in the 2019 Mentoring Program as a mentee or mentor, apply online now.

For more information, visit our website, call 13 10 50 or email MentorProgram.Business@safework.nsw.gov.au.

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