25 January 2023
By Jeff Anderson
Over the Christmas shutdown I, like so many others took some time off. In fact, I recently returned from an overseas trip. It was needed; not only because it rejuvenated me, but because it gave me a true appreciation of just how advanced the state of building repair is in Australia.
To give you some much-needed context, which I think is important for the purpose of understanding my argument, I was not holidaying in a third-world country, and was not in Asia, where I will admit, building safety practices leave a lot to be desired at times. In fact, I was in America, a country that you would be forgiven for thinking would be more advanced than it seems they were. As I walked around I saw multiple buildings with swinging stages hanging off the side, saw scaffolds erected up elevations, and saw teams of labourers working to grind, jackhammer and repair. At first, I thought to myself, the world is crazy FOR talking about an impending recession, with all this work going on, it is hard to fathom it is as imminent as it people make out (for the record, I am not making any economic commentary here). However, as I walked around more, it dawned on me, these works had been ongoing for a while and were not an indication of the economy per se, but what I did notice was just how poor the WHS practices were on the multiple sites I saw was.
In fact, it would be safe to say on many sites I saw a complete disregard for employee and even tenant safety. Here are a few of the things I noted:
- No protective mesh encapsulating the scaffolding or swinging stages
- No hoarding to protect people underneath the stages
- Tradespeople without protective footwear
- No use of safety goggles by people using grinding equipment
- No site safety instructions or contacts
There were other things I noted, but you get the general idea — safety was not a priority on these sites, nor, would it seem in this country in general.
What we have, we take for granted
For all we complain about the WHS (and other) protocols put in place by regulatory bodies such as Safe Work Australia, can I tell you, seeing firsthand just what the alternative is (and was even here just 20 years ago), I was quickly reminded that the reason Australia is a good place to work. Not only are construction staff paid well compared to the world, but workplace accidents are on the lower end of the scale. In fact, according to a report from the United Nations (United Nations Global Compact) the occupational mortality and morbidity in the Americas account for 10.9% of the world’s total. In the total Oceania region, we account for just 0.6%.
Now I know that the America’s is broad and accounts for much more than just North America, but the truth is, their rate of workplace injury or death is grossly disproportionate compared to our region and indeed, Australia itself. By no means am I ignoring that grievous injury and death occurs on our own doorstep, but the measures implemented here in our own backyard means, Australian workers are protected to some of the highest levels possible. Some laws may seem onerous, but, frankly, the time taken to ensure everyone on a workplace is as safe as can be, as compared to alternatives should pale into nothingness.
At Remedial, we take Workplace Health and Safety very seriously — and in fact, we have for years. We hired our first OH&S (as it was back in the day) manager 19 years ago recognising just how important safety at work is and should be. And we have maintained this attitude since. In fact, whilst we do not want to jinx ourselves, we have had only one significant workplace event on any of our managed workplaces in 3 years. Furthermore, whilst the person involved was injured, the injuries were neither permanent, life-threatening, nor did they require surgery. It is nothing to boast about because frankly, this is a record we plan on improving upon.
Our Approach to WHS
At Remedial, our approach to Workplace safety is simple:
- We never compromise
- We prioritise the safety of all those under our care, including tenants and casual passers-by
- We take the time to analyse a job site before we commence work, and then on a regular mandated schedule
- Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility
- We train staff on the hazards of a site and ensure they know how to mitigate the risk
- We train staff on safe work principles and undertake off-site training as appropriate
- We never assume we know it all, and work with professionals who can improve our systems
- Never take shortcuts.
We know this is not foolproof, but knowing that is part of what keeps us on our toes and vigilant to any risks that may arise.
I loved my trip and time away, but let me assure you, what I saw in America convinces me that the procedures, policies, and approaches we have here in Australia to Workplace Health and Safety, truly are the world’s best.CONTACT US
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