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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Print out simple exercise guides to place around the workplace.
- Establish a ‘break-out’ room where workers can make personal phone calls or have some quiet time.
- Help workers to quit smoking.
- Establish a workplace zero injuries target and promote this over one month, progressing to three then six months.
- Get a workers compensation policy if you need one.
- Talk about safety and get input from your workers.
- Make sure everyone is properly trained and understands how to do their work safely.
- Establish safe working procedures.
- Provide adequate workplace facilities.
- Use personal protective equipment if no other controls are available.
- Record any workplace injuries in a register.
- Notify us of serious incidents.
- Have a recover at work program
- If in doubt, ask for help – give us a call on 13 10 50.
Store and handle chemicals properly at all times.
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.
SafeWork Assistant State Inspector
- 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.
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.
- 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.
Watch the following video safety alert on how to keep you and your workers safe around power tools.
- operators failing to see the power lines (or realising the danger)
- not maintaining a safe approach distance.
What is the risk?
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?
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.
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.