Inspectors target falls and toilets in construction sector blitz

04 July 2023

Residential construction sites will be the focus of a SafeWork SA campaign from next week, with inspectors focusing on risks associated with working at heights and a lack of adequate toilet facilities.

Falls prevention and a lack of hygienic toilet facilities have been long-standing issues at residential construction sites.

The latest compliance campaign will run from July to December and follows education campaigns on both issues earlier in the year.

Slips, trips and falls account for a substantial number of workplace incidents with falls from height being the second leading cause of workplace fatalities across Australia.

The residential construction industry was the focus of this year’s April No Falls education campaign.

In 2022, SafeWork SA recorded 77 notifiable serious injuries resulting from a workplace fall.

Of these, 59 were in the construction industry, with 38 of those being in the residential sector.

While the number of incidents across all industries has decreased in the past two years, falls in the residential construction industry have barely budged and remain stubbornly high.

A review of SafeWork SA’s database also found the construction industry accounted for 42 per cent of 765 complaints associated with toilets in the past decade.

Construction accounted for half of all toilet-related improvement notices.

Earlier this year, SafeWork SA also published new guidance on toilet facilities at construction sites in collaboration with the South Australian branches of the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Master Builders and Civil Contractors Federation.

It followed a 2021 Electrical Trades Union (ETU and CEPU SA) report called ‘Nowhere to Go’ that found there were inadequate bathroom amenities for workers on many work sites around Australia.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Glenn Farrell said the agency had run ‘April No Falls’ education campaigns and published injury and non-compliance data for the past three years without seeing an improvement in the residential construction sector.

‘Our data shows that a fall from as little as two metres can cause serious injuries,’ he said.

“With this in mind, builders and contractors can expect an unannounced visit from an inspector who will take enforcement action, which may include statutory notices, expiations or prosecution.

‘The control measures to reduce the risk of falls are well known and readily available so there is no excuse for not having them in place.’

Mr Farrell said SafeWork SA had also received an unacceptable number of complaints related to unhygienic toilets in the residential construction sector.

‘Having a clean and hygienic toilet at your workplace is a basic human right that provides privacy and ensures dignity,’ he said.

‘Unsuitable bathroom facilities are generally an indication that other work health and safety standards on site might also be non-compliant.

‘From July, our inspectors will also be taking action on residential construction sites that continue to provide unsafe and unsuitable toilet facilities for their workers.’

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