News 15 August 2019

The Importance of having Safe Work Method Statements (Construction (OHS Alert))

A Victorian demolition company that failed to develop a safe work method statement for a high-risk construction task has been convicted and fined $100,000, plus $3,187 in costs, after a worker sustained arm injuries.

One of the most useful and important safety procedures is the SWMS or Job Safety Assessment (JSA). These are task and activity specific planning methods to identify and control the task related hazards of the job at hand. It is so useful, in fact, that the Victorian OHS Regulations (Construction) 2017 mandates a SWMS is prepared, kept current and all on site are trained/briefed in the safe methods described by it.

A key requirement is it is up to date for the day and time of the work being performed.

In December 2017, PB Construction Services Pty Ltd workers were tasked with removing a dock leveller from a shopping centre basement, and planned to use a forklift's tines to support the leveller's metal plate while they cut the plate's supporting arms with an oxy acetylene kit.

However, they found the forklift wasn't practical for the purpose and decided to use a 5.5-tonne excavator with a ripper attachment instead. As the second supporting arm was being cut, the metal plate shifted on the attachment and fell on a worker, lacerating his hand and crushing and bruising his arm.

WorkSafe Victoria found PB didn't have an SWMS for the task, and issued it an improvement notice.

The employer, now in liquidation, was found guilty of breaching the Victorian OHS Act 2004 and Regulations 2017 at an ex parte hearing in the Ringwood Magistrates Court.

The Court heard it would have been reasonably practicable for PB to secure the metal plate so it couldn't move by, for example, using an excavator with a grabber rather than a ripper attachment, and to use a longer oxy wand to provide a safe distance between the plate and workers.

Using a SWMS to plan the job in advance, and keep it updated for the hazards and risks on the day of the work, would have provided one of the best opportunities to avoid this type of unwanted incident and subsequent prosecution.

How we can assist

The Victorian Chambers Health Safety and Wellbeing team are highly qualified and experienced in reviewing, preparing and improving your procedures and practices, and upskilling your staff in these complex safety management needs.

For more information and support for this area of HSW consulting, training and other support please contact us on 03 8662 5333 or to discuss your needs.

Media Contact

All media enquiries may be directed to the Media and Communications Manager

03 8662 5310

0423 883 945

For all other enquiries please contact the Victorian Chamber on 03 8662 5333

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