10 Things To Consider When Choosing A Location for Your RTO

There’s no denying the registered training organisation (RTO) market is a crowded one.  How can you make your business stand out from others? A poor choice of location could see prospective students choosing another RTO, even though the training you offer is superior.

We’ve chosen 10 reasons why we believe locating your business at a specialist training centre will help your business grow.

  1. Parking

What – too lowbrow? Having free and ample car parking capable of accommodating 100’s of cars a day means that all staff and students on any given day can park safely and securely on site. Gold! Try matching that in the CBD? Your students will thank you for the money they will save on parking fees and the flexibility of driving to their training.

  1. Value for Money

How reasonable is your rent and is your lease agreement easy to manage based on gross rental payments? In other words, what you see in your lease is what you pay? Or are there hidden outgoing amounts (apart from electricity which is pretty standard). A specialist training precinct such as The Construction Training Centre adopts a collaborative leasing approach to work with their tenant partners, because your continued success is there’s too.

  1. Close to the CBD

No-one wants to be far from the action but being in town is a real hassle. See number 1 above for example! CTC’s precinct in Salisbury is ideally located for inter-connectivity (little wonder it’s a hub for major logistics companies), and it’s close to public transport for the environmentally minded as well.

  1. Large Campus style facilities

When you have a large precinct you need space to breathe. Plenty of green space gives a feeling of a relaxed but well-maintained training hub, with purpose-built campus style facilities. It’s an attractive place to attend and do business and the amenities reflect the large numbers who can be in attendance at any one time.

  1. On Site Café

A vibrant café on site will stop your students wandering off at breaks. In this day and age where worker well-being is considered important, the Café should offer healthier choices to help address poor nutrition and obesity among workers. CTC has worked with the on-site Café to provide calorie and nutrition information on menu options to help workers make healthier choices. An on-site café should also provide in-house catering if you offer this to your students.

  1. Dark Fibre

Sorry…dark what? That’s code for uber-fast internet connection. In the future you won’t be able to do business without it. A state of the art training precinct should offer this to their tenants to future proof your business.

  1. Concierge Services

The Precinct Management Office at a specialised training centre might offer additional services to make life easier for you – not a hotel but as helpful as any front desk! Do they collect your mail from the local post office and deliver to your door? Do they accept courier deliveries on your behalf? Some might even have a Justice of the Peace on site – how convenient would that be?

  1. Their place – your brand

You want your brand to be easy to find – whether it be through signage or via a Google search. A specialised training centre should make it easier for your customers to find you with effective way-finding signage. And  a web portal from their website to your business focused on helping your business to grow.

  1. Safe and Secure

Everyone knows the benefits of being certified to the well-known international standards for quality, safety and the environment. It’s difficult and costly for a small business to achieve this, but you want to know that your landlord is across this for the safety and well-being of your staff.  What assurance is there that your landlord is on top of safety, quality and environmental issues? A triple ISO certified and externally audited management system is a robust means of underpinning the everyday activities and your precinct management team should be responsive in terms of safety, compliance and meeting your needs as a customer.

  1. Caring about your talent

Attracting, then retaining good staff is one of the greatest challenges of business owners today. Competing with much larger organisations can be hard. A Training Precinct should be looking to provide added value to your business in the ‘talent stakes’ like a competitively priced 24/7 gym with twice weekly boot camps, a relaxation and reflection room with sleep centre, free library and journal club, free annual skin checks, flu jabs and hearing tests on top of lifestyle initiatives like annual nutrition challenge and quarterly bio-scans. In such a case you know your workplace will compete with the best ‘big end of town’ can throw at you. The extra cost? Well at top quality training precincts just expect this to be within the overall competitive rental envelope.

By now you will have worked out that CTC’s purpose-built facility in Salisbury offers everything any organisation or individual worker could need to conduct or participate in specialist industry training … in one place.

So if you need the complete leasing package, try us by calling us on 07 3216 6711 or email info@ctc.qld.edu.au. Not quite big or established enough to take out a lease? Call us about our award-winning disruption called Hot Leasing or short-term conference and training room hire. We have all bases covered.

Safety Series Seminar focuses on Materials and Personnel Hoists

The latest in the series of Safety Seminars was held in CTC’s Hot Leasing facility on Wednesday, 25th May. Around 60 people representing various sectors attended the seminar which highlighted safety issues and concerns around Materials and Personnel Hoists.

Industry experts Stuart Davis, Principal Adviser from Workplace Health & Safety Queensland and Dave Van Der Poel, QLD/NT Sales Manager with Alimak Hek shared their knowledge and provided interesting insights around construction hoist safety.

materials hoistIn his talk, Stuart advised that there are very few incidents involving hoists, partly due to the good safety standards. The danger though is that complacency can develop.

He noted that there had only been two serious incidents, both of which related to equipment failure. The first event was catastrophic – the counterweight came off killing the operator, and the second the drive plate locked and the hoist fell, resulting in the operator’s back being broken.

The major danger relates to the potential of falling objects. Should bolts not be installed or tested properly, they can fall off. When commissioning, it is important to specify the tests to be conducted i.e. drop test, emergency stop, brake test and others as mentioned in the standard.  Also be conscious of wind speed. Whilst the hoist is secured to the building, this should still be considered as to when the wind speed is too great to safely operate. Another item to consider is where to place the wind meter.

Stuart also briefly reported on the potential changes to the Queensland Tower Crane Code of Practice which is part of the national processes under review. Stuart was part of the working group tasked with this review.  Key points are that major (10 year) inspections will remain and advertising on tower crane booms will no longer be permitted.

Dave Van Der Poel presented his insights on behalf of Alimak Hek – a publicly listed company which developed the first rack and pinion drive hoist.

In layman’s terms, his said a hoist is a machine developed to transport goods and people vertically.

The 300 kg materials hoist available in CTC’s Hot Leasing facility is an example of a smaller unit designed to transport materials only. People are not permitted to travel in this in Australia, however in other overseas jurisdictions, there are not the same stringent safety requirements. For example, in India, people could be transported in a 300 kg materials hoist.

The efficiencies gained by using the larger hoists are being seen by builders of the large scale towers. In the past, cranes would be required to move material such as plasterboard to the next story being constructed. This would require a crane and multiple personnel including doggers and riggers to move the boards to the desired location. It is much simpler and more cost-effective when hoists are utilised.  Hoists also minimise manual handling and potential injury.

Hoists travel up the mast, which are normally secured to the building at 6m intervals. The landing door arrangements are important requiring compliance with a number of safety regulations. The hoist has to be completely screened to full height. When travelling, the doors are locked mechanically and electronically, so the doors cannot be opened unless stopped at a landing floor. Doors on the landing and hoist are interlocked to an Australian specific standard.

In summary, the key points to take away from the seminar are:materials hoist2

  • Safety device
    • Has a maximum lifespan of 5 years
    • Critical to ensure the hoist will stop even if the drive fails
  • Maintenance
    • Critical to ensure continued safe operation
    • OEM Service is required after every 40 hours of use
    • The hoist should be checked each day as part of the start of day routine
    • Functional tests should be conducted after each project
    • Correct ties and bolts should be used to install
  • If hiring a unit
    • Installation is critical to safety
    • Check the following before allowing a unit onto the site:
      • the service records are current
      • the safety device tag is current

For information about this or CTC’s state of the art Hot Leasing facility, visit our website www.hotleasing.com.au.

Safety Seminar focuses on Confined Space Safety

The latest in CTC’s series of safety seminars was held last Wednesday, 24th February 2016.  The topic was Confined Space Safety. Presenters highlighted safety issues around practitioners entering a confined space.

Confined space 4
Guest presenters Brett Biddle of WH&SQ and Rick Millar of WAHA with Phil Diver,CEO of CTC

The first presenter was Brett Biddle, an Inspector with Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland. He spoke about issues concerning safety, and recounted incidents that highlight areas of concern.

Confined space 3
Brett Biddle recounted some insightful incidents he’d investigated around confined space safety

“Often people can overlook the obvious, which can have disastrous consequences for personnel and management”, Brett commented.

Brett mentioned a number of matters that practitioners should be aware of, namely:

  • A query often asked of him is “am I working in a confined space?’.
    • Complete a risk assessment prior to entering the area, considering the legislation and code of practice
    • Should the assessment indicate that the area might be a confined space, treat it as a confined space
  • Training
    • All persons on the confined space entry team should be well trained
    • The entry person (as the gatekeeper) is a key role
    • All staff should be rotated through various roles to ensure competency.
  • Check communications are operational
    • Communication between the rescuer and entry personnel
    • Communication between rescuer and emergency services
  • Rescues
    • All equipment (including rescue gear) should be inspected and set up prior to entry to the confined space in the event of a rescue being required
    • Rescues should be drilled and practised regularly – drills save lives
  • As things evolve, ensure that risk assessments are reviewed and re-assessed.
  • Will we have sufficient oxygen?
    • We need sufficient for life otherwise workers begin to behave erratically
    • A number of matters may change the amount of oxygen available – e.g. the addition of other gases
    • Be mindful of positional asphyxia (crushing may remove oxygen)
  • Maintain equipment
    • Recycling fans with snorkels often get damaged and shorter and shorter over time as the tubing is damaged
    • Ensure your calculations are accurate so that the above equipment will recycle air sufficiently in the confined space
  • Working in remote locations – may have other sources of contaminants that need to be considered i.e. gases from other generators
  • Water and engulfing need to be considered
  • When inspectors arrive on site, often the rescue equipment has “just left site”

Brett then shared some examples of investigations he’d undertaken as a result of confined space incidents.

1.  Investigation of safety relating to water tankers which are a confined space

  • Staff were asked where the rescue equipment was located.
  • This was some distance from the confined space and sufficiently removed to be of little use in a rescue situation.

2.  Investigation of an incident where a worker sustained a back injury while working in a confined space

  • The company had been practising their rescues, and was fully competent
  • However the emergency services rescued the injured worker as there were no other risks (e.g. fumes)
  • The company was fully cleared on investigation

3.  Investigation into a worker injury:

  • A large galvanised plate had to be removed from a switch room
  • The room was not treated as a confined space, it was treated as a room
  • He was not wearing breathing apparatus
  • The plate required 3 cuts to remove it
  • The worker started to feel ill, took a break and continued to cut. Once the job was completed the worker went home feeling ill
  • His next door neighbour discovered him slumped over the steering wheel of his vehicle, and called an ambulance. Luckily he survived, as he was drowning from the fumes.
  • On investigation, this incident occurred because all parties were unaware of confined space matters.
  • Ignorance is no defence.

The second speaker was Rick Millar, Chairman of the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) Technical Committee who presented the findings of a confined space survey the Association conducted recently.

Respondents highlighted a number of concerns:

  • Varying state regulations regarding Confined Space
    • 60% of respondents would be affected by this as they operated across state boundaries
    • consistency across company work sites
    • additional references required
    • extra burden on resources
  • Approximately 26% of respondents are unclear on the Australian Standard AS2865 requirements
  • Majority believed the training available was sufficient, however 32% still required extra support in this area
  • Most extra support was sourced from manufacturers and distributors – rather than a single source of information.

Rick Millar along with Stuart Lange from Capital Safety then presented a live demonstration of how to effect a Confined Space Rescue.

Confined space 2
Rick Millar was joined by Stuart Lange from Capital Safety to demonstrate a live rescue

Punching Above Your Weight

BSI Triple Assurance Mark 9001 14001 18001 CMYKI’m old enough to remember when boxing was real legit. The fighters were fit, the purses weren’t outrageously huge and as contests they were classic examples of the best the sport could offer. Sadly the sport is in decline and nowadays crowds seem to be drawn more to UFC and other mixed fighting forms where rules and finesse seem to play second fiddle to brutality. I can recall over the years some exceptional fighters who were capable of boxing up a weight range. Regrettably with the decline in boxing has also come a decline in language and sadly ‘punching above your weight’ has now come to mean in today’s zeitgeist someone (generally a man) who appears to be mismatched in physical appearance compared to their partner. How shallow we have all become!

Well I’m here to breathe fresh meaning back into this expression. We are going to take this back from those who have hijacked it to reflect the sometimes wafer thin veneer that makes up modern life. The challenge is, however, what examples of punching above your weight can we now proffer? Where are the credible stories of those who genuinely have done what wouldn’t seem possible given their size and scale?

Well…look no further than CTC’s recent re-certification of its integrated management system that meets the international standards for quality, environment and workplace health and safety. Almost without fail the domain of much larger companies, ISO certification is a tough and externally audited and certified system to meet standards set by the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

It’s a big deal getting one. Quite a few companies have sought to get ISO9001 the international standard for quality. It might be they needed it to win a government or international contract. They might have just wanted to ensure they can meet and exceed customer expectations and show continual improvement. Either way it’s a big deal and not easily achieved.

So think about CTC’s achievement in holding three ISO standards for quality, the environment and work health and safety (ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS18001/ASNZS4801 to be precise). First certified in July 2012 we have been working on improvements across all aspects of our operation and bedding in and maturing our system since then. It is now a fundamental part of our DNA.

It’s how we do things around here and everyone is involved from the top to the bottom of the organisation. Not that that is far mind – there’s only nine of us.

And then in June, after three years from initial implementation, we were due for a full recertification assessment of our management system.

And that is where the term ‘punching above your weight’ really starts to resonate. That is not to say there wasn’t some trepidation within the team when we were confronted with three full days of having our system scrutinised every which way by the external auditor from the BSI.

You can argue about the quality of their cricket team or how rubbish their weather is but you can’t deny the Brits know how to audit your system and find any flaws or weaknesses.

But we went one up in this Ashes stoush because we came through entirely unscathed with praise by the auditor on the sophistication of our systems and our commitment to continuous improvement and re-engineering to constantly keep ahead in delivering for our customers, keeping our site safe and protecting the environment.

The auditor commented that he had not seen a system as well integrated into the day to day work processes and he included in this all of the large companies he has audited. In fact, if I recall correctly, he might just have said we ‘punch well above our weight’ in this respect!

CTC Safety Series – EWP Safety

Fatalities caused by crush injuries and falls from elevation while operating an elevated work platform continue to be a leading cause of death for construction workers.  For this reason, EWP Safety was the topic chosen for the second CTC Safety Series Seminar held in the Hot Leasing facility on Wednesday, 25th February 2015.

The Seminar was endorsed by the Elevating Work Platform Association of Australia Inc., the peak body responsible for ensuring high standards of equipment, safety and reliability around elevated work platform operations.  We thank them for their support.

Workplace Health & Safety Queensland and the Griffith University Institute for Educational Research also contributed to the discussion.  Industry experts who presented were –

  • Brad Geinitz, Principal Advisor (Construction), Queensland Construction Strategy Unit, Workplace Health & Safety Queensland;
  • Phil Middleton, Training Director, Elevating Work Platform Association of Australia Inc.
  • Dr Tim Mavin, Associate Professor, Griffith Institute for Educational Research

Following are the notes from Mr Middleton’s and Dr Mavin’s presentations.

Managing crush, wearing of harnesses in scissor lifts and compliance around VOC’s

By Phil Middleton, Training Director, Elevating Work Platform Association of Australia Inc.  

Managing Crush

Crush injury is a silent killer, catching the unaware operator with little or no warning. Operators often find themselves working at height in unfamiliar and changing environments and the likelihood of a crushing event can be a real and present danger to the complacent or untrained operator.

Commonly identified situations where crushing hazards are present are:

  • driving the EWP at height around or under structures
  • manoeuvring into or around a confined area
  • rough operation of controls
  • distraction while operating.

We could argue these hazards exist on every work site and operators are aware.  But the fact remains – operators have continued to fall victim to crush injuries. Awareness is only part of the solution and awareness is in fact the first step. There is no single solution to controlling crush hazards on all work sites.

While EWPs are very efficient at providing an elevated working platform, it’s the operating environment that creates the hazard and only sound knowledge and procedures for the operator will manage this issue.

Crushing is preventable when a collective, concerted effort is made by management, workers, manufacturers and regulators. An all-encompassing management strategy should not be centred on only one or two controls.

It is common to hear some sites are requiring secondary guarding being fitted to EWPs in an attempt to manage crush. What is uncommon, is hearing sites require a crush management strategy. Making secondary guarding a mandatory site requirement may help but it is definitely not the solution.

Let’s consider what could make up an effective crush management strategy!

CTC Hot Lease 03
Crushing injuries can occur when operators are caught unaware of potential hazards

Training is the grass roots of the strategy. For example

  • Does the operator have the appropriate licence or training?
  • Is crushing addressed within the training content?
  • If the operator is to demonstrate competence through a VoC assessment, does the assessment address crushing?
  • Is the site safety controller appropriately trained in the equipment being used?
  • Has the most suitable EWP been selected for the task?

Identifying the circumstances of how or when the likelihood of crush may occur and the planning of a rescue procedure is of the utmost importance.  Selecting the correct EWP for the task is vital and in a lot of cases the selection process is far too simplistic.

Commonly, selection is based upon electric vs diesel, 4wd vs 2wd, height and reach when in fact there are far more factors to consider such as platform size, capacity, boom deflection, over run when travelling, smooth controllability, physical dimensions, weight and drive functions.

Consideration must be given in the rescue plan to include the rescuer’s knowledge of how to reactivate controls.

Even the type of secondary guarding must be considered. The common types of guarding are physical barriers and pressure sensitive pads.

Physical barriers offer in most cases the best protection but have a large presence which may limit the operator’s ability to carry out work and in some cases create a crush situation.

Pressure sensitive pads remove the bulkiness but this type of device means the operator must be crushed between the sensors and the structure before it will activate.

Site safety officers, should have relevant training and possess the appropriate skills and knowledge to safely manage crush.

Finally the management of crushing sits firmly with the operator, to minimise the likelihood of a crushing injury, the operator must:

  • Remain vigilant when operating and not allow themselves to be distracted
  • The operator must stay wholly within the basket while the platform is being repositioned or the EWP is moving
  • Never place their body between a hand rail or physical barriers or structure
  • Never climb hand rails
  • Never lean or hunch over the control panel while operating
  • Where necessary, make use of a spotter to assist with guiding the operator.

To minimise the likelihood of crush the operators, must to be aware of how they will manage the risk of crush in their workplace.

Wearing Harnesses in Scissor Lifts

The issue of whether a fall-arrest system is advisable or indeed required, in scissor lifts has been a commonly asked question put to the EWPA office.  For example:

  • Should I be wearing a harness in a scissor lift?
  • The scissor lift I’m operating has harness anchorage points, does that mean I must wear a harness?
  • The site I’m working at requires the wearing of harnesses in scissor lifts, is this a legal requirement?

To clarify the use of the terminology, in the Australian standard for EWP’s, Clause 2550.10 identifies 2 types of height equipment that can be used to help control the risk of injury from catapult in boom type EWP’s. Fall arrest and fall restraint – out of these 2 systems, fall arrest has been the preferred system.

The fall arrest system consists of a full body harness, a lanyard and shock absorber with a maximum length no greater than 2 metres. Commonly the industry refers to both systems as harnesses. For this article “fall arrest system” is referred to as a harness.

The reason this issue continues to raise its head is because many scissor lifts feature anchorage points for the attachment of a lanyard. Safety officers see these anchorage points and believe the operator is required to wear a harness. This reasoning is given weight by these same managers understanding the need for fall arrest harnesses in boom type EWPs.

In a scissor lifts, under normal circumstances they have no identified hazard of being ejected because there is no catapult effect.

Remember, if an EWP of any type tips over, there is no harness that will save you.

Should a harness be worn while operating a scissor lift?

Hence, when being requested or considering whether or not a harness is to be worn in a scissor lift, one must identify what hazard the wearing of a harness is controlling.

To add to the confusion, and depending upon the manufacturer, some operator manuals recommend the wearing of a harness. However it does not state the type of system e.g. fall arrest or restraint or the type of harness such as full body or half and in most cases these manuals are not produced in line with the Australian Standards but with the country of origin.

The requirement of mandatory wearing of a harness when operating a boom type EWP means the EWP must be able to withstand the forces placed upon it when a fall is being arrested. This being the case, the Australian standard requires that the EWP undergoes a fall arrest overturning test. The overturning test determines if the EWP will remain upright, in the event of the occupants being ejected from the basket and swinging freely from the harness.

Operators of scissor type EWPs are not required to wear a fall arrest harness, because there is no identified risk of catapult like that identified with boom types.  There is no requirement as part of Australian design registration for the manufacturers to submit their scissor lifts to any tip-over testing.

Based upon the above reasoning, the EWPA DOES NOT support or recommend the wearing of a fall arrest system when operating a scissor type EWP unless there is an identified risk that can be appropriately controlled by the use of a fall arrest or restraint system and, in the event that a fall has been controlled by the system, the EWP will remain upright.

Verification of Competence

We are all aware of the emergence of Verification of Competencies (VoC’s) over past years.  It could be argued as to its place in industry and to whether or not it is the prime contractors demonstrating due diligence under the Act or are they simply following global company policy?

As we are all aware, and unlike other countries in the world, Australia would have some of the most stringent WHS laws surrounding operation of high risk plant in the workplace.

Having said that, is the very existence of the VoC assessment discrediting our national training frame work?

Does it mean operators, who have attained a HRW licence or have successfully completed Yellow Card training or any other national recognised training, require their competence to be regularly challenged?

The EWPA has remained silent on its position of VoC assessment because of the apparent lack of clear guidelines. The need for a VoC was unclear as to its function or relevance when placed alongside valid reliable training.

A person who has successfully undergone training and has been deemed competent should always be assumed to be competent unless through unsafe actions or the lapse of an extended period of time.

Historically the Association considers if there was any doubt to an operator’s competence, then they should undergo retraining.

In his search to establish how VoC’s fit into our industry, Mr Middleton needed to gather information and points of view from stakeholders. First he needed to clarify what WHS legislation[1] says about the use of VoC’s.

From previous research he was fairly confident that the Act and Regulation did not place a duty upon companies to assess competency of an operator on their work site. Whilst reading through both the Act and the Regulation Mr Middleton was looking for clear links to VoC’s.

His findings were as expected; the Act and Regulation do not mention a requirement or place a duty upon a company to assess competency of a person that has received appropriate training or holds a high risk licence.

What it clearly states under Section 19 of the Act is “the PCBU will provide relevant information, training, instruction and supervision to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety arising from work carried out”.

Operators are faced with a variety of EWP Control Panels.

Regulation 39 states the same but covers more on the type, suitability and relevance of information, training and instruction.

Even though the Act was silent on VoC’s, perhaps it could be found in a code of practice. Unfortunately EWP’s do not have their own code of practice; however there is a code of practice entitled: ‘Moving plant on construction sites’.

Under section 3.3: Controls for the safe operation of plant it states: ‘A system should be adopted to verify that personnel, who are required to hold a certificate of competency, hold a valid certificate and are authorised to use the plant.’

To summarise Mr Middleton’s findings, so far the Act and Regulation do not place a duty upon a company to assess competency of operators that hold high risk work licences or a certificate of competence.

However there is a duty placed upon the company to verify that their licence is valid and relevant to operate the plant they are using.

Even though Mr Middleton felt confident about is legislative findings, he thought he should validate them.  So he approached two regulators asking them to give him some reference that he could use as support to the VoC assessment process. Both were at a loss to be able to concisely reference the requirement of a VoC assessment.

However both agreed any process that could potentially identify or assist in managing risk has merit.

For those who have worked with any of the regulators will understand they are very guarded about making statements unless it’s quoting a creditable document.

Mr Middleton received the following “unofficial draft comment” from one of the regulators in response to the question “what is VoC’s purpose in the workplace”.

VoC’s could work within an organisation, providing that competency was assessed by a competent person, supported with prior qualifications; years of operator experience etc. and applied to certain roles and operations within the group.

VOC’s should not have any portability unless they are used by an RTO, with trained assessors, based on training packages/elements of competency which have been demonstrated or assessed.’

As the VoC assessment process is not driven by legislation, it must be driven by industry. Mr Middleton sought feedback from two large companies; the first response was a statement from a HSE manager from a large principle contractor who said:

‘A large number of companies require some form of verification of competency for plant operators, both where a certificate of competency is issued or not. My experience has been the Principle Contractor obtains some form of verification and does not rely solely on the certificate or training record.’

Seeking an opinion from a different prospective, Mr Middleton put the question to a large company that provides services to principle contractors. The response was this;

‘As they conduct regular training and have a retraining program in place and they keep up to date records of an operator’s qualifications and currency; and even though the company can provide evidence of competence and currency, their employees are still required to undergo VoC to enter a site. What’s more annoying is at the next site they enter, they require the same VoC again.’

They believe that VoC’s not being recognised between different work sites is a waste of time, resources and money.CTC Hot Lease 04

To cover all aspects, Mr Middleton contacted a specialist law firm to check if were there any points of law that places a responsibility upon a company to use a VoC assessment program?

The answer from a legal perspective was that a company as the person conducting a business or undertaking has a primary duty under the Act to ensure so as far as reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking.

Whilst the Act does not specifically talk about assessing an operator’s competence, in a lawyer’s eyes the words ‘so far as reasonably practicable’, ring loud in their ears. By using a VoC assessment process, they can provide evidence of reasonably practicable and this returns the responsibility back on the operator.

It was also made clear that if a company did not use a VoC process, it would not mean an automatic loss in court. A VoC was a tool to strengthen a defence.

To conclude, there is no legislative requirement to support the VoC process. It appears to be industry driven and has the support of the regulators. From a legal perspective, it is a tool used to strengthen a defence by turning the responsibility back on the operator.

[1] Refers to Work Health & Safety Act 2011 (NSW)


Applying lessons learned from other workplace environments to improve situational awareness of operators

By Dr Tim Mavin, Associate Professor, Griffith Institute for Educational Research

Lessons learned from other workplace environments can be applicable to construction especially with reference to the safe operation of elevating work platforms. Key points to remember are:

  • There is a wide variability in the controls of EWPs. When this is the case there is a high degree of automaticity learnt by the operator. When in a stress situation, early learnt automaticity physical responses tend to be deployed. This may mean that a response on a piece of equipment/plant may be the wrong one.
  • The issue of variability of control panels creates risks. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the most complex and different control panels for operators poses less risk because the automatic response is to ‘stop’. This is because new cognitive processes need to be thought through to get the system to work. This can be explained in the grid below.

    Tim Mavins grid
    Variability of control panels may mean that a response on a piece of equipment/plant may be the wrong one
  • Complexity increases from both left to right and top to bottom. The two areas where extra caution needs to be applied is where control panels might look similar but incorporate different functions and where the function remains the same but the look is different.
  • In such circumstances times spent in familiarisation is essential, as is documentation of this. Audits have shown that where time has been devoted to familiarisation of different control panels (to build new and relevant automaticity) that this is recorded as an activity in only 50% of the time.
  • While technical expertise is important i.e. knowing the function of the panel, the operation of the machine etc., it is non-technical understanding that more often than not contributes to problems arising. Equipment failure is increasingly NOT responsible for incidents.
  • Situational awareness and team-work are two critical elements in safety in the workplace. Given that operators are seldom working alone, the interface with other team members is important e.g. with the spotter.
  • Kinetic melodies play a part in safety. If the team members are working in harmony there is likely to be greater safety. Where the kinetic melodies are not working together i.e. the kinetic melody of the spotter on the ground with the traffic controller is different to the melody between the spotter and the EWP operator then there is potential for an incident. In the same way as an orchestra working in unison creates great harmony but when the members of the orchestra work alone (e.g. when tuning their instruments before playing a piece) there is a discordant sound, so too kinetic melodies in the workplace need to be kept in mind when designing workflow and in tool-box talks and pre-starts to ensure that EWP or other high-risk plant is operated safely.


Give us your feedback on the EWP Safety Seminar

If you attended the CTC Safety Series Seminar on 25th February which focused on EWP Safety, we would love to receive your feedback.  Click on the link below to let us know what you thought, and how we might improve in the future.


Supported by the Elevating Work Platform of Australia. EWPA Logo

10 questions a PCBU should ask around Swing Stage Safety

  • Do you have sites that use swing stages?IMG_0907aa resized
  • Do you know your WH&S obligations?
  • Could you spot a problem when visiting your site?
  • What should be in your risk assessments?

The inaugural CTC Safety Series Industry breakfast kicked off yesterday with the focus on Swing Stage Safety. The event, endorsed by the Queensland Major Contractors Association had guest speakers Rob Thiess (Managing Director of Construc Pty Ltd and The President of the Scaffolding Association) as well as David Elder (from Elders Scaffolding and the Vice President of the Scaffolding Association).

The focus on Swing Stage Safety came after the deaths of two swing stage workers on the Gold Coast in 2008 that placed new obligations on principal contractors, building owners and managers to ensure the safe use of swing-stage scaffold.

Rob Thiess said the amendments to the Scaffolding Code of Practice 2009 introduced a lot more checks and balances and more engineering involvement. As a result, industry is slowly getting documentation in place to reduce the risk of swing stage incidents.  Rob and Dave spoke about these changes and gave some valuable advice for principal contractors, building owners and managers to ensure the safe use of swing stage scaffold.

Below are 10 questions a PCBU should ask at the time of initial installation of the swing stage and also during the on-going operation of the equipment.

1.  Is the stage suitable for work being done?

The correct equipment needs to be selected, sometimes abseilers or mast climbers are being used instead of swing stages, however these are not practical for all jobs.

2.  Has supporting structure been approved for installation of stage?

Check that the structure on which the stage is sitting is capable of holding the stages. Whether it be a roof, or balcony etc. the Project Engineer must sign off.

3.  Has stage and rostrum equipment got the relevant documentation? Drawings, maintenance records etc.

Scaffolders must have all the documentation available. There are more components for the PCBU around the documents that you must be able to obtain from suppliers. Engineering drawings for the swing stage suspension may be generic or specific. In terms of the design certification of swing stage, they are not necessarily the same documents as mentioned above, they often are built in Europe but still must be registered in Australia. An important component is the verification that it has been installed on site. You must check that the installation has been signed off by an engineer.

 4.  Do erectors have the required training and tickets?

A specific course on erecting swing stages was introduced in 2009. There must be evidence that the personal who erected the swing stage is an advanced scaffolder or an advanced rigger.

 5.  Have the operators been through required induction and training?

Operators also need to have completed a 2 day course. They will have to complete a specific site induction as well.

 6.  Has stage been signed off and handed over with relevant paperwork completed?

Documentation must be made available at all times on site. All the documentation that is required is contained at the rear of the Scaffolding Code of Practice. Documentation must be completed not only at the initial installation of the stage but also when changes are made. Everything must be tagged and up to date especially electrical equipment. All equipment must be made identifiable and you must check for defects. The equipment is also subject to fatigue which may cause cracking. However, don’t be put off by old equipment, as long it has been checked thoroughly. The equipment specifications should be kept with the equipment on site.

 7.  What about for training organisations delivering Swing Stage training?

When referring to Hot Leasing, all stages from design, installation and services have documentation in place; just like a construction site. When an RTO is conducting an installer’s course on the Hot Leasing swing stage a competent person with an advanced scaffolding licence must sing off to verify that it has been put back correctly. All this documentation is contained in a plastic pouch that stays on the back of the swing stage.

 8.  Has access to the stage, power and rooftop support been restricted to approved personnel only?’

Workplace Health and Safety require a procedure that once the swing stage is in place the stage cannot be tampered with. There must be an exclusion zone, if the exclusion zone is a temporary fence, it must be lockable. If the swing stage is on an existing structure such as a roof, make sure that there is a system in place that no one else can access this area. In the past rostrums have been tampered with and contractors have moved the swing stage without authority and nobody knows. The updated process with the new code of practice is much safer.

In terms of workers getting safely in and out of the swing stage, it is not possible to install gates as it would impact on the structural integrity. WH&S only require a procedure detailing how to safely access and exit the swing stage. Climbing the guard rail to get into the stage has been accepted industry practise for many years and there have been no incidents of workers getting injured getting in and out of the stage.

 9.  Has rescue/retrieval procedure been documented and put in place?’

There is a requirement to have a procedure for rescue and retrieval so that if anyone is stuck on a stage because of injury or equipment failure, they must be able to get the let the stage down. For example in a power outage the equipment can be lowered without power. The stage is designed to be operated by two workers. This way, if one of them is injured, the other can get the stage down. If necessary, a crane can be utilised however this is not common in most cases as it normally is possible for the stage to be lowered. Another option is installing secondary lines or ‘gotya kits’ which can get someone up to assist if the workers in the swing stage cannot get themselves down.

 10.  Who is responsible for organising training for operators?

Painters in particular have done a lot of training on swing stage operation, but it is up to the principal contractor and not the scaffolder to organise this training.


Businessman Wearing a Hard-Hat Looking at a Hazard SignChasing the ambulance that’s carrying the nanny….

Let me start this particular bog by declaring my political leanings … well some anyway. I’m not a neo-right ‘small state at all costs’ sort of guy. I know Hayek, I don’t happen to worship him. But just lately I have been finding myself using the phrase ‘Nanny State’ in a few conversations.

Where this particularly comes into question in our line of work is around safety. The main irritations I have with the whole safety debate are:

  1. Over prescription by the state in terms of what is needed; and
  2. An ambulance chasing culture where exacting economic reparation for an injury has pushed the boundary of both common sense and good taste.

In order to be legally compliant (to cover off point 1) and to avoid being financially crippled (covering-off point 2), a whole mass of red-tape and systems are implemented to put a barrier between the business and those seeking to extract compensation from the business.

As those of you familiar with MythBusters TV show will know, a telephone directory is a pretty efficient bullet proof protection device. Using this principle, systems, that when printed out are of phonebook proportions, are put in place it would appear to absorb the impact of any projectile coming its way.

Where in all of this you may ask is the focus on safety? Rather it would appear that the focus is on risk avoidance and damage limitation.

On the face of it, safety is a pretty straightforward concept. Do whatever is necessary to get your staff and customers home safe at the end of their shift each day and every day thereafter. That’s the maxim we use at CTC.

But scratch the surface and it gets much more complex.

A few years ago, for example, Queensland Health implemented a safety system that encouraged the reporting of near misses in order to learn from mistakes and allow system improvements to become even safer.  Fundamental to this was the implementation of a ‘no blame culture’.

The implementation by Dr John Wakefield who brought experience back from the Veterans Hospitals in the US (who are at the leading edge of this) was a study in how to implement programs. After operating for a while they produced their findings. Such was the success of the program that they got lambasted by the Courier Mail who on their front page made alarmist claims about Queensland Health being a much less safe organisation.

What in fact was happening was an improvement in the reporting of near misses and in fact Queensland Health was much safer as a result. There was the beginning of a safety culture.

Surely we want near misses reported more often so we can learn from them? Those old enough to remember the various management initiatives over the decades will recall the ‘Learning Organisation’ fad. Clearly what was needed there and in most organisations still is some good old fashioned learning from past mistakes….ahhh I get it now – a learning organisation.

Why you might wonder is this front of mind right now for CTC?

Well, as sometimes happens, two events have come together at the same time (a bit like the Swiss cheese concept with risk).

Each January we review the legislation that relates to CTC. Managing a business like ours that has an industrial complex at its core, there is a bit of legislation to be across. Thirty-two War and Peace’s worth to be exact. As they say ‘ignorance of the law is no defence’ so refreshing ourselves on existing and new legislation is a key role of any executive.

One wonders, however, at what point does someone (presumably a judge) say that the weight of words is such that one person cannot be expected to absorb and retain all that information and at the same time remember their wife’s anniversary?

The other event conspiring against us was, unfortunately, a real workplace accident. Sure it was a ‘subbie’ to a contractor we employed, but any accident in the workplace touches us all and is cause for genuine concern.

Mindful of point one: compliance and the ‘phone book’ at our disposal, our systems kicked into gear with almost Germanic precision (which is somewhat ironic as the WH&S regime in Germany is much less prescriptive than it is here).

We thankfully had all our ducks in a row from signed contractor inductions, Safe Work Method Statements and toolbox talks. Despite all of these presumably proactive control measures, someone still got injured.

Still, following protocol, our Incident Investigation process went into full swing.

Central to this, and any self-respecting incident follow-up, was a risk assessment and fault tree analysis. As we determined, the driver of the excavator failed to look where he was going when he alighted his vehicle, stood on some of the rubble he had created and rolled on his ankle.

He was dealt with in exemplary fashion by the CTC team with foot elevated, oxygen administered, history taken and compression bandage about to be applied when the ambulance arrived. (Perhaps there is a blog here at some later stage about the first-aider – ambulance officer interface. Let’s just say I know what it’s like to be a ball-boy at a State of Origin game….not a meeting of equals!).

Pride aside when all was said and done and the paperwork completed, all in line with the comprehensive Australian Standard on Risk Assessment (AS/NZ/ISO31000:2009 for those interested), our recommendation was that the driver should have looked where he was walking.

Sledge-hammer and nut springs to mind.

Not much attention on the role of the individual in being careful in all the systems. Perhaps to emphasise individual responsibility is the important thing. Just following rules (point 1) does not deliver the culture needed.

Culture is grown not transplanted. Philosopher Charles Taylor reminds us that rules do not contain the principles of their own application. “Application requires that we draw on an unarticulated understanding or ‘sense of things’ – the background”. In other words, situational awareness, context and a deep desire to be safe for myself and my team members.

All this called to mind an interview I heard a couple of years ago on Radio National (ABC) with acknowledged world risk expert Dr John Adams of UCL. Adams coined the now infamous acronym CRAP which stands for Chronic Risk Assessment Psychosis which he identified (somewhat tongue in cheek) a mindset that gets wound-up to a tizz when addressing risk.

What he pointed to with the red-tape approach (point one) and the avoid a payout approach (point two) is an absence of a common sense approach, based, and here is the crux of the matter, on a safety culture.

Culture is often defined as ‘the way we do things around here’. It seems to be this element that is sadly missing in a lot of our approach to risk. Getting team members to think safe intrinsically is what is really needed.

The Germans do it well because they treat their citizens as competent and smart and the populace in general rises to it. If lollypop men were soldiers Germany would have been invaded by Australia. Back in Oz we tend to think lowest common denominator and our populace in general sinks to it.

The concentration on systems imposed by management as a means to avoid responsibility, blame and penalties, occasioned by the need to be compliant means that the individual doesn’t have to heft much on their own. The bosses have put everything in place is the view of the workers. ‘Once I’ve sat in at the toolbox talk, I’m safe’.

Even where this safety thinking is being advocated out into the worksite, through ‘take 5s’ and other tools, they tend to be bureaucratic and burdensome.

There must be a simpler and safer approach where each worker regardless of where they are in the organisation looks out for the fellow worker?

Creating this culture is key. What better place one might ponder to deliver such a culture than Australia where above all (well possibly behind winning at cricket) we prize ‘mateship’.

So the last week or so of trawling our way through legislation and our frenetic risk assessment and incident reporting after the accident seems a world away from making the workplace safer.

A case of a lot of CRAP and not much safety.  Work continues on building safety as part of our culture. Risk is not straightforward but let’s not confuse complex with convoluted.