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SafeWork NSW blitz targets North Coast construction sites

New South Wales North Coast construction sites from Ballina to Tweed Heads have been subjected to a SafeWork inspection blitz, targeting unsafe working systems across all building trades.

SafeWork Inspectors focused on site housekeeping, height safety, falling objects, electrical, moving plant operations, and controlling risks related to silica and asbestos.

The inspectors visited more than 60 construction sites, issuing 96 notices including eight on the spot fines, 16 prohibition and 72 improvement notices.

Department of Customer Service Executive Director of Compliance & Dispute Resolution, Tony Williams, said inspectors aim to keep those most at risk from workplace injury safe.

“Far too often our inspectors identify concerns with the way scaffolding is set up and other dangers involving working from heights so we will be targeting this area in particular,” Williams said.

“Falls from heights are the number one killer on NSW construction sites with most people who are seriously injured or killed falling from a height of four metres or less.”

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Williams said cleanliness of a site can be a good indicator of safety and work standards.

“A safe construction site starts with a clean site and we’re seeing an unacceptable drop in standards across the construction industry,” Williams said.

“Having a well-maintained site is also a good indicator of the quality of the work being done. If the site managers won’t remove trip and fire hazards like piles of rubbish from the site, there’s a good chance that building standards will be haphazard as well.”

Inspectors can issue on the spot fines of $3600 for corporations and $720 for individuals for businesses that place workers’ lives at risk through inadequate protection from falls from heights, or for those who undertake high risk work requiring a licence, or those undertaking high risk silica practices.

SafeWork NSW Director of Regional Construction, Laurence Richey, said there were serious risks on a number of construction sites including no fall protection, poor hygiene standards as well as significant electrical compliance issues.

“It was really disappointing to walk onto sites which have serious falls risks, as well as scaffolds with missing parts or evidence that unlicensed workers had altered or removed scaffolding components,” Richey said.

“Builders can expect further ongoing visits as we continue to check compliance, take enforcement action, and apply sanctions where any risks are observed.

“We want to remind the construction industry that falls from heights are the number one killer on NSW building sites. More than 12,000 workers were injured after a fall from a height between 2014 and 2017. Sadly 25 died, while more than 240 were permanently disabled.”

Ongoing blitzes will be occurring across NSW in 2021.

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