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27 Mar 2014

Faulty lift poses fall risk

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OneSteel Manufacturing Pty Ltd has been fined for operating a risky heavy goods lift.

SafeWork SA prosecuted the steelmaker in the Industrial Relations Court of South Australia following an investigation at the company’s Whyalla plant in July 2011.

“The charges stated that the lift was not in a safe condition due to missing door guides, a worn door lock, broken emergency access devices and a pool of water in the bottom of the lift pit,” SafeWork SA said.

“Some of these defects had been noted in inspection reports from the manufacturer.”

The company was fined $56,250. This included a 25 per cent reduction for the company’s early guilty plea.

For more details, visit SafeWork SA

Published on 27 March 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

27 Mar 2014

Blaze under investigation

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An investigation is underway at Sydney’s Barangaroo construction site following a fire there earlier this month.

The blaze required the site and nearby buildings to be evacuated and a major road, the Western Distributor, to be closed temporarily. The crane at the site was also put at risk.

WorkCover NSW served the construction site’s principal contractor with a prohibition order to ensure the site was not disturbed following the fire, and the authority is now investigating the incident.

WorkCover says the investigation is covering a number issues. Some of these include: What work activities, if any, may have led to the ignition of the fire; why the controls to ensure safe work activities may have failed on this occasion; if the evacuation of the site occurred as required; and what procedures are being used to make the site safe.

For more details, visit WorkCover NSW.

Published on 27 March 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

By Carl Sachs

The revised Australian Standard AS1657 for fixed ladders, platforms and walkways released in October 2013 plugs some serious holes. Guard rails made of rubber, for example, are now explicitly unacceptable.

While absurd, rubber guard rails technically complied with the 21-year-old AS1657 and the example shows just how sorely an update was needed.

Four big changes to AS1657

The biggest changes to AS1657 concern selection, labelling, guardrail testing and the design of fixed ladders.

Access selection
The new standard deals with the selection of access methods. It explains when to use different types of access, adopting a hierarchical approach consistent with the OHS legislation.

A new “Safe Ladder” appendix details how to be sure that ladders satisfy technical and ergonomic requirements for workplaces.

Fixed ladder design
The most significant set of changes to AS1657 concerns the design of fixed ladders. Over the 21 years since the standard was written, there has been an explosion in the sales of “cut to size” ladders, which led to several safety-related issues:

  • Rung spacing dimensions
  • Uneven rung heights at the base of ladders
  • Non-level landings
  • Fixings suitability to the structures
  • Unsuitable fitment of hand holds leading to potential safety hazards
  • Methods of mounting of cages and fixing to structures
  • Lack of suitable design criteria
  • Use of fall arrest systems

The revised AS1657 includes changes to design criteria, dimensions of rung spacing, mounting of cages, fixings to structures, inappropriate use of hand holds plus several other small issues.

The net result is a clearer and a safer set of requirements for users and manufacturers.  Additional costs to the industry are expected to be minor and will be offset by multiple benefits, including;

–        improved safety for users in terms of rung spacing, ladder strength and support fixings

–        increased rung design loadings that are now aligned with portable ladders

–        increased emphasis on the use of sloping ladders in the range of 60 to 75 degrees

–        provision for the use of complying fall arrest systems as an alternative means of fall protection

–        new ladder testing protocols as an alternative means of supplying compliant products

–        new provisions for single-stile ladders in specific applications.

Mandatory labelling
Identification assists building owners and asset owners to identify responsible parties and assist the workplace safety regulators with incident investigation and root cause analysis but was not mandatory under the old standard.

The revised standard mandates permanent product labelling to:

–        verify compliance of the installation with AS1657

–        identify the designer, fabricator, installer and certifier

–        provide for effective product recalls of faulty equipment

The labelling also allows manufacturers to deliver key information such as servicing requirements and special use instructions, will lift the accountability of suppliers, and assist with traceability and incident investigation.

Guardrail, ladder and staircase testing
The testing procedure contained in the old standard was seriously deficient for guardrail. In fact, a rubber guardrail would have passed because there were no deflection requirements.

The new standard, AS1657-2013, aligns with AS/NZS 1170.1 – 2002, requiring higher concentrated loads and line loads for guard railing systems. Importantly, it references standards to ensure the correct application of load factors and load combinations in the design and testing process.

New tests for ladders and staircases have been introduced to align with the testing regime for portable ladders.

Other changes
Updates to the standard also address the slip resistance of walkways and an alternative test method for stairways other than structural calculation. It is essential that there is a straightforward way of proving the performance of products because many of the items produced under AS1657 are manufactured by companies without the engineering resources to design by calculation.

In the case of mass-produced proprietary systems, the test method is used as an adjunct to design and is compulsory.

Step irons, too, are revisited. While they were covered by AS 1657-1992, additional provisions for sewerage applications were included in AS 4198-1994. EN 13101 is now extensively referenced.

A safer and easier to use standard for walkways, ladders and platforms
After 21 years, AS1657 was very outdated. This revision will provide increased certainty for manufacturers and specifiers of access equipment that can only lead to greater safety for users.

About the author:

Carl Sachs is the managing director of falls prevention specialist Workplace Access & Safety. He was a member of the committee responsible for the revision of  Australian Standard 1657: Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders – Design, construction and installation and represents the Facility Managers Association on standards committee AS1891 (Industrial fall-arrest devices). Carl’s business, Workplace Access & Safety, provides the full safety package for fall prevention – from risk assessments and system design through to installation, training, annual maintenance and certification.

The finalists in the ninth Safe Work Australia Awards have been announced.

Thirty-seven finalists will compete for four awards on Monday 28 April, World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

The finalists are the winners of the 2013 state, territory and Comcare awards.

They will be competing in the following categories: Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System; Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue; Best Workplace Health and Safety Practice/s in a Small Business; and Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety by an employee and a work health and safety manager.

“The level of innovation and commitment to work health and safety displayed by this year’s finalists is inspiring,” said Safe Work Australia chair Ann Sherry AO.

“The best outcomes are achieved when everyone in the workplace actively participates in making the workplace safe. These finalists prove that you can make a difference to your workplaces’ health and safety.”

For a list of the finalists, visit the finalists.

Published on 13 February 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

A physiotherapist, a resource industry reformer and a mounted police officer have received Australia Day Honours for their services to work health and safety.

Barbara Jean McPhee received an Order of Australia for significant service to physiotherapy as a practitioner in occupational health, and as an author.

McPhee is a specialist occupational health physiotherapist and the principal consultant at OHS Services Network.

Her long association with WHS includes being an independent expert member of the New South Wales Mine Safety Advisory Council since 2006, a member of the NSW Joint Coal Board Ergonomics Intervention Project from 1990 to 1991 and President of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia from 1991 to 1993.

Among her books, she co-authored Bad Vibrations: A Handbook on Whole-Body Vibration in Mining (2nd Edition Coal Services Health and Safety Trust, 2009), and she authored Practical Ergonomics: Human Factors at Work (Coal Services Health and Safety Trust, 2005).

Tania Joy Constable received the Public Service Medal for outstanding public service in the development of Australia’s liquefied natural gas and other resource and energy industries.

Among her achievements, Constable oversaw the regulatory reform that established the single national regulator for offshore petroleum in Commonwealth waters, the National Offshore Safety and Environmental Management Authority.

Sergeant Karen Mercia Owen received the Australian Police Medal.

Owen is a sergeant at the Mounted Unit of the New South Wales Police Force. She has been with the unit for 30 years.

Among her duties, she is responsible for managing the WHS risks of pairing riders with horses.

She has also led the Anzac Day parade, worked on many demonstrations and rode the Household Cavalry horses and performed for the Queen at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

Other recipients were also honoured for their WHS and other achievements.

For more details, visit the Australia Day Honours.

Published on  30 January 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.


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