AWCI ANZ National Safety Awareness Week

Safety is No Accident

With the theme of Safety Is No Accident, the AWCI’s inaugural Safety Awareness Week will run from 5 to 9 August. The purpose of Safety Awareness Week is to raise awareness around important topics such as working at heights, personal protective equipment, manual handling, silicosis and electrical hazards.

The AWCI urges all members to support this new initiative in their workplace.

Make sure you and your entire team Stay Alert—Don’t Get Hurt.

Working at Heights

Working at heights is a high-risk activity and a leading cause of death and serious injury in Australia.

Between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2015:

  • 359 workers were killed following a fall from a height—11% of all workers killed. Half of these falls involved falling three metres or less
  • The greatest number of fatalities involved falling from roofs (59), ladders (54), vehicles (27) and horses (33)
  • 30% of serious claims for falls from a height were caused by ladders
  • Workers aged 45 years and over made up 65% of those who died
  • The construction industry accounted for 37% of falls-related fatalities

Tips for Managing & Minimising the Risk of Working at Heights

  • Ensure any work involving the risk of a fall is carried out on the ground or on a solid construction
  • Provide safe means to access and exit a workplace
  • Provide a:
    • Fall prevention device, like a harness and anchor points or a safety net
    • Work positioning system, like travel restraints
    • A fall arrest or prevention system, like guard rails or barriers, roof safety mesh, scaffolding or elevating work platforms

Personal Protective Equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (or PPE) covers anything used or worn to minimise risk to workers’ health and safety, including: boots, ear plugs, face masks, gloves, googles, hard hats, high visibility clothing, respirators, safety harnesses, safety shoes and even sunscreen.

PPE is actually one of the least effective safety control measures because it does not control the hazard at the source, and it relies on human behaviour and supervision. Workplaces must not rely on PPE to satisfy their hazard control requirements. Instead, PPE should only be used: as a last resort, as an interim measure, and as a back-up.

Before relying on PPE, you should perform a risk assessment to see what other controls can and should be used.

Where PPE is used, it must minimise risk to health and safety, including by ensuring equipment is:

  • suitable for the nature of the work or hazard
  • a suitable size and fit for the individual who is required to use it and that it is reasonably comfortable
  • Maintained, repaired or replaced, which includes ensuring the equipment is:
    • clean and hygienic
    • in good working order
  • Used or worn by the worker, so far as is reasonably practical.

Manual Handling

If poorly designed or done incorrectly, manual tasks can become hazardous. A hazardous manual task is where you have to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, hold or restrain something. It can include:

  • repetitive movement
  • repetitive or sustained force
  • high or sudden force
  • sustained or awkward postures
  • exposure to vibration.


  • 43,555 serious claims were lodged in 2014-15 for body stressing
  • 10% of all serious body stressing claims are lodged by labourers

Tips for Managing & Minimising the Risk of Manual Handling

You should carry out a risk assessment for any manual tasks that have the potential of being hazardous or you have identified as being hazardous. The only time this may not be necessary is when the risk is well known and you are already aware of how to effectively control it.

A risk assessment of manual tasks will help you identify:

  • Postures, movements and forces that pose a risk and at what point they may become dangerous
  • Why they are happening and how to fix the problem

The best and most cost effective way to eliminate or minimise the risk of manual handling is to consider manual task hazards and risks during the design and planning stage of a workplace or a job. During this stage, hazards and risks can be ‘designed out’ before they are introduced into a workplace.

Move it – the GBMA Way

A Guide to Safe Site Delivery of Plasterboard and Associated Products

  • If you’re looking for information on the safe site delivery of plasterboard and associated products, we suggest you take a look at the Guide from the Gypsum Board Manufacturers of Australasia (GBMA). 
  • The purpose of the Guide is to help minimise hazards associated with the delivery and on-site storage of plasterboard.
  • GBMA is the industry body for plasterboard manufacturers. Members include BGC, USG Boral, CSR, Winstone Wallboards, Rondo and Knauf, all of whom are committed to health and safety. 

Electrical Hazards

Electricity is one of the most important power sources that we all use every day. But if it’s not properly managed it can cause serious injury and death.

Between 2003–2015:

  • 142 workers died as a result of contact with electricity (an average of 11 workers each year)
  • 87% (123) of these deaths happened when installing electrical infrastructure
  • Almost half of worker deaths occurred in the construction industry

The risks associated with using electricity must be controlled and the control measures clearly communicated. Electrical risks in the workplace must be managed so that they are eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable. Or, if this isn’t possible, minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.

Tips for Managing & Minimising the Risk of Electrical Hazards

  •  Inspect, Test and Tag:
    Regular inspecting and testing of electrical equipment can save lives. It helps identify damage, wear and electrical faults.
    You can detect many electrical defects such as damaged cords just by examining them, but regular inspection and testing will make sure you detect electrical faults and deterioration you can’t see.
    Inspections and testing must be carried out by a competent person, which depending on your jurisdiction might be a licensed or registered electrician or a licensed electrical inspector.
    If you are a business, inspecting and testing can help you meet your WHS duty to ensure electrical equipment is safe.

Drugs & Alcohol in the Workplace

The fact that some people use substances such as alcohol or illicit drugs, or that some people misuse prescription drugs is not new.

The use of alcohol and other drugs, even in small amounts, can impair a person’s performance, judgement, coordination, concentration and alertness, and can cause incidents and accidents, and interfere with the accuracy and efficiency of work.

For employers, there can also be a range of economic impacts on their businesses. Drug and alcohol abuse can result in general absenteeism and illnesses, and a lack of productivity.

Workers Responsibilities

All workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and ensure they don’t adversely affect that of others. This means they must be fit and well enough to do their job, not be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or use alcohol or illegal drugs while at work

Employers and Businesses Responsibilities

Employers and businesses cannot ignore the issues created by drug and alcohol use. By law, employers and businesses are required to manage the work-related risks associated with alcohol and other drugs.

Some companies have explicit policies to test their workers for alcohol and illicit substances. This is particularly important if a worker could kill or seriously injure themselves, another worker or a member of the public.

With many insurance companies now requiring businesses have policies and procedures in place that cover this issue, it is important that you not only have a policy in place, but that you clearly communicate to workers what is considered acceptable behaviour.

The policy can cover substance use issues, or it can use an overall approach such as impairment in the workplace. The main goal is that workplaces are encouraged to establish a procedure or policy so that help can be provided in a professional and consistent manner. It is important for supervisors and managers to have a resource or procedure that they can rely on if the need arises.

For further information on how to develop a Workplace Alcohol and drugs policy, visit the SafeWork NSW website.