How to Create a Safety-First Culture in Construction

Everyone deserves to feel safe while at work, however, it’s no secret that some industries pose a greater risk than others. With more than 1.5 million trades workers throughout Australia, it’s never been more important for the industry to prioritise the safety of all workers – from on-site tradesmen to the team responsible for transporting equipment to and from the site.

James Oxenham, CEO of EWPA

To keep all staff as safe as possible, your workplace must nurture a safety-first culture. This means ensuring all employees have the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe on the job.

Stay up to date with essential training

In the fast-paced world of construction, it’s crucial that your employees are up-to-date on all their safety skills. This is not only critical for personal and team safety but ensures that your organisation is compliant with all necessary safety regulations.

 

While the required skills will vary from sector to sector, two common training requirements throughout the construction industry include EWPA Yellow Card training for the safe operation of Elevating Work Platforms (EWPs), and TSHA Gold Card training for the safe operation of Telescopic Materials Handlers (telehandlers). Note – boom lifts over 11m require a separate high risk licence and state Regulators have varying requirements for telehandlers depending on their capacity and the attachment fitted. 

Employees must have the required skills, knowledge and relevant qualification and this can be achieved through an accredited organisation, such as the EWPA for the Yellow Card and TSHA for the Gold Card. These courses delve into the intricacies of safe EWP and Telehandler operation, ensuring that operators are adept at handling the machinery and well-versed in the latest safety protocols and best practices.

Establish a chain of responsibility

On a busy worksite, it can be easy for safety protocols to fall through the cracks if each employee isn’t aware of the role they play in maintaining a safe workplace. When it comes to the transportation of equipment to and from worksites, Heavy Vehicle National Law outlines a clear Chain of Responsibility to ensure that all necessary safety procedures are followed.

For roles that fall into the NHVR Chain of Responsibility (CoR) legislation it is worth investing in CoR training for employees. The Hire and Rental Industry Association (HRIA) offers a Chain of Responsibility online awareness course that focuses on the transportation of hired plants and equipment. The courses ensure that all operational and administrative staff, including Directors are aware of the Chain of Responsibility law and understand their responsibility to safely handle the transportation of equipment.

Make sure you beat the heat

It may not be what you immediately think of when you consider workplace safety, but in the sweltering heat of Australian summer, all employees should be encouraged to practice sun safety. This is especially important for construction workers who spend long periods outside exposed to the sun’s heat and UV radiation, although sun-safe practices should be considered even when working outside for short periods.

Your state Regulator will provide comprehensive guidance on how to stay safe when exposed to extreme heat or sun, covering everything from appropriate clothing to hydration strategies that will keep your team safe and healthy. These practices will protect employees from threats such as sunstroke, dehydration, and sunburn, ensuring they can do their job without compromising their health and well-being.

Mental health matters

While working in construction is a very physically demanding job, it’s important for there also to be an emphasis put on mental health and well-being. The unfortunate truth is that construction workers are at an increased risk of mental illness compared to other professionals. Research shows that one in four construction workers have symptoms of depression and anxiety, while only 25% of those affected were likely to seek help for their condition.

The good news is that there is a wealth of resources available that can help employers support the mental health and well-being of their staff. Organisations such as Beyond Blue offer helpful tools and initiatives to promote open dialogue about mental health challenges in the industry and encourage construction workers to take care of their mental well-being. With the right education and awareness, you can ensure your employees feel supported and listened to when they need it most.

Cultivate skilled supervisors

Site managers and supervisors play a pivotal role in maintaining a secure working environment, especially when heavy machinery and EWPs are in operation. With this in mind, taking care to ensure all supervisors are adequately trained and skilled to safely manage their team is essential to prevent on-site accidents. 

Encouraging all site supervisors to prioritise safety is not only important for reducing the risk of injury while on-site, but it also allows your leaders to create a safety-first culture from the top down. The EWPA’s Mobile Elevating Work Platform Supervisor course not only teaches the necessary skills supervisors should have but empowers them to demonstrate the highest standards of safety to all staff operating EWPs.

As the construction industry evolves, it’s essential that our commitment to safety and well-being evolves with it. By encouraging the right mindset and ensuring all employees are adequately trained and skilled, it’s possible to create a culture where safety is not just a priority but a way of life.

Article by James Oxenham, CEO of EWPA.

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