Is Your Confined Space Rescue Plan Up To Scratch?

It is still a common, albeit not acceptable, occurrence to walk into a workplace within Australia and review a confined space entry permit, only to find that the ‘rescue plan’ only states ‘Call 000’.

This so-called ‘rescue plan’ does not meet the Australian regulatory requirements and does not adequately account for any unique considerations the confined space presents, let alone safely plan for the rescue of injured personnel.

Confined space emergencies often occur when confined space entry control measures fail, or control measures are not adhered to. A failure in confined space entry control measures can lead to a fatality, or multiple fatalities if teams are not trained well and a robust SWMS is in place.

Sadly, data shows us that approximately 50% of confined space fatalities are ‘would-be’ rescuers who endeavour to rescue persons from confined space emergencies, often without the appropriate training, equipment and experience required.

1. When was the last time you reviewed the confined space rescue capability at your workplace?

Do you have a documented and rehearsed rescue plan, with adequately trained rescue personnel and the capability to rescue an injured person from a confined space if an emergency occurs?

PCBUs must ensure that adequate emergency procedures are in place for all confined space entries, and that these emergency procedures are documented and regularly rehearsed. For your organisation to have a well-developed confined space rescue capability, you should have the following three key measures in place:

  • A confined space rescue plan is completed for every confined space entry that occurs.
  • Confined space rescue training is undertaken by relevant personnel based on the site-specific hazards and risks.
  • Confined space rescue exercises form part of the overall emergency management and emergency preparedness strategy for your workplace.

2. A confined space rescue plan is completed for every confined space entry that occurs

All confined space entries are different, and each requires a documented emergency response plan that covers the types of emergencies that may occur and the specific rescue procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency. The rescue plan should be written by a competent person who analyses the confined space work, the types of emergencies that are foreseeable and the emergency rescue procedures to be implemented.

By having an effective confined space rescue plan in place (which should be attached to the confined space entry permit at the confined space entry location), you can ensure that if an emergency occurs, a safe and effective emergency response can be undertaken that has been documented. This prevents rescues that could expose rescuers to hazards that they are not aware of from being undertaken without proper planning.

Generally, a confined space rescue plan should cover at least the following:

  • Activation of the rescue plan (who will activate the emergency response and who will attend, and who will contact emergency services).
  • PPE required by the rescue team prior to entry (eg, SCBA, retrieval equipment, medical response, etc).
  • Rescue method (non-entry rescue such as a tripod and winch, or an entry-rescue that may require rescue personnel to wear breathing apparatus and other PPE).
  • Pre-positioned rescue and first aid equipment required, inspection of equipment, and location of equipment and anchor points, etc (eg, tripods, harnesses, stretchers, rope rescue equipment, breathing apparatus equipment, gas detectors, communication equipment etc). Note: Consideration should be given to locating this equipment at the confined space entry and pre-rigging equipment where practicable.
  • How the casualty will be extracted from the incident to medical assistance and who will provide the medical assistance.
  • Does the complexity of the rescue plan require the confined space entrants to wear specific PPE such as a confined space harness throughout the work, or do workers need to remain attached to ropes or winch lines as an additional safety consideration?
  • Specific hazards and control measures that must be known and understood by the rescue team prior to entry, such as isolations. The rescue team must also review the confined space entry permit prior to entry.

Note: If the assessed work within the confined space changes, or if items of rescue equipment noted within the rescue plan are not available on the day of the work, then the confined space work should cease until a new rescue plan is completed.

3. Confined space rescue training is undertaken by the relevant personnel based on the site-specific hazards and risks

The selection of the type of confined space rescue training to be carried out must be based on the types of confined space rescue scenarios that your personnel may be required to respond to. Expert advice should be sought to ensure that the confined space training is based on the types of rescues that must be undertaken and the equipment available.

Confined space rescue courses are normally 3–5 days in duration (depending on the modules covered) and normally comprise the following subjects:

  • Confined space hazards and control measures.
  • Confined space rescue systems (rigging rope rescue systems, use of tripods and davits, stretcher usage, anchor points and re-directions etc).
  • Rescue team duties, rescue size-up and planning (team leader, safety officer, rescue team members).
  • First aid and patient packaging knowledge and skills.
  • Breathing apparatus usage in emergency response environments (self-contained breathing apparatus and/or airline breathing apparatus operations in areas of restricted movement).
  • Gas detection knowledge and skills.
  • Various practical rescue scenarios based on the specific hazards of the workplace.

Confined space training should involve an emphasis on practical rescue skills, rigging skills and patient packaging skills. Multiple scenarios should be run so that rescue team members can apply their skills and knowledge to varied scenarios, and participate in the various rescue team member roles. At the conclusion of the course, participants should be able to respond to reasonably foreseeable confined space rescue situations on-site, develop a rescue plan and complete a rescue of injured personnel within a confined space environment. Training should be refreshed at least annually to retain core skills.

4. Confined space rescue exercises form part of the overall emergency management and emergency preparedness strategy for your workplace

For confined space rescue teams to conduct safe rescues of injured patients from a confined space, exercises must occur regularly. Confined space rescue exercises give rescue teams the ability to hone their knowledge, skills and experience in a variety of circumstances. Rescue scenarios should mirror real-world, site-specific scenarios that may occur at your workplace and make use of actual workplace confined spaces wherever practicable.

Where possible, have confined space rescue exercises supervised by a confined space rescue trainer who can provide practical guidance and feedback to improve the performance of the rescue team. Plan out the exercises a year ahead, involve your safety team and have the goal of increasing the complexity of the rescue exercise on each occasion to develop the rescue team’s skills.

Summary

Confined space rescues are a very technical form of rescue that often involves setting up complex rope rescue systems, utilising breathing apparatus equipment and gas detection equipment. To ensure that you have a tried and tested capability to rescue injured personnel from confined space emergencies, ensure that you put in confined space rescue plans, conduct appropriate confined space rescue training and regularly carry out confined space emergency response exercises.

Article by Scott Barber – CEO, Australian Working at Height Association (WAHA)

Key WHS Statistics – Australia 2022

Each year, Safe Work Australia produces national work health and safety statistics, providing important evidence on the state of work health and safety in Australia.

Key Work Health and Safety Statistics, Australia 2022 provides an overview of the latest national data on work-related fatalities and workers’ compensation claims. This includes trends, gender and age comparisons, and industry and occupation breakdowns.

Understanding the causes of injury and the industries most affected can help reduce work-related fatalities, injuries and disease. Work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses have a devastating impact on workers, their families and the community.

Tragically, 169 workers died in 2021 – of which 19 were killed due to a fall form height, and 16 from being hit by falling objects.

For the last 5 years straight, falls from height remains one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities in Australia.

2017-18
28 falls from height (15%)
15 being hit by falling objects (8%)

2018-19
18 falls from height (13%)
15 being hit by falling objects (10%)

2019-20
21 falls from height (11%)
21 being hit by falling objects (11%)

2020-21
22 falls from height (11%)
17 being hit by falling objects (9%)

2021-22
19 falls from height (11%)
16 being hit by falling objects (9%)

Worker fatalities by mechanism of incident, 2021.

The Construction Sector remains one of the leading industries work workplace fatalities and incidents / workers’ compensation claims.

Whilst we can see a promising decrease in Australia’s overall rate of fatalities, from 2003 to 2021, there is worrying increase in the number of worker’s compensation claims.

There were a total of 114,435 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia in 2018-19.

There were a total of 120,355 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia in 2019-20. Body stressing was the leading cause of serious workers’ compensation claims in 2019-20, accounting for 37% of all serious claims.

There were a total of 130,195 serious workers’ compensation claims in Australia in 2020-21. Body stressing was the leading cause of serious workers’ compensation claims in 2020-21, accounting for 37% of all serious claims.

Mental health conditions account for a relatively small but increasing proportion of serious claims, rising from 6% of all serious claims in 2014-15 to 9% in 2020-21. In 2020-21, the largest share related to anxiety or stress disorders (36%) or reaction to stressors – other, multiple or not specified (34%). Workplace mental health conditions are one of the costliest forms of workplace injury. SafeWork Australia data shows that they lead to significantly more time off work and higher compensation paid when compared to physical injuries and diseases.

It stands to reason that Mental Health is one of the current focus points for SafeWork Australia, including the release of the Code of Practice for Managing psychosocial hazards at work earlier this year.

The WAHA continue to work towards a zero fatality future for those in the at height sectors. The WAHA is dedicated to supporting and influencing the ongoing development of safe practice, equipment innovation, systems and product design, continuous education of all stakeholders and the operational competency of all persons working at height and in confined spaces.

WA release Health and Safety Bulletin No. 6 Requirements for flying foxes (zip lines)

Source: SafeWork WA.

It has come to the attention of WorkSafe that there are potentially several hundred flying foxes in operation across Western Australia.

A flying fox is an amusement device consisting of an elevated rope on which a pulley or trolley system is used to transport passenger(s) between two support structures. Flying foxes are also called zip lines.

Regulation 5 of the Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 (WHS General Regulations) defines an amusement device as plant operated for hire or reward that provides entertainment, sightseeing or amusement through movement of the equipment, or part of the equipment, or when passengers or other users travel or move on, around or along the equipment. This means that a flying fox is an amusement device under the WHS General Regulations if a system for payment is in place.

A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) has duties under Work Health and Safety legislation to ensure the health and safety of workers and others in a workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable. In regard to amusement devices such as flying foxes, this duty includes passengers. 

Read the Health & Safety Bulletin N. 6

Summary of hazard

Factors such as inadequate design, installation, inspection, maintenance and training have contributed to serious injuries and fatalities from flying foxes in the eastern states and overseas.

Passengers are exposed to risks of potential injuries or death if flying foxes do not meet the design requirements of a published technical standard, or their installation, testing, inspection and maintenance do not meet the requirements specified by the designer or manufacturer. For example, the passenger could fall from a height, or hit a structure while moving at speed.

Managing hazards and risks

A risk management approach is the best way to determine the measures that should be implemented to control risks for flying foxes.

Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who operate and manage the business or undertaking. Managing work health and safety risks is an ongoing process. Risk management involves four steps:

  • identify hazards – find out what could cause harm
  • assess risks – understand the possible harm, how serious it could be, and the likelihood of it happening
  • control risks – implement the most effective control measure that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances
  • review control measures to ensure they are working as planned

The aim must always be to eliminate a hazard where reasonably practicable. If elimination of a hazard is not reasonably practicable, the risk needs to be minimised by one or a combination of the following:

Engineering – only use the flying fox in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Ensure equipment is in good condition and free from any defects. Any components or equipment associated with the flying fox should be used, inspected and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications and instructions.

In the absence of any manufacturer’s specifications and instructions, follow the instructions of a competent person. This may mean engaging a competent person to develop instructions for the use, inspection and maintenance of the flying fox.

Administrative controls – if risk remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. For example:

  • ensuring only authorised persons perform specific tasks
  • ensuring worker training, experience and competency are appropriate for the nature and complexity of their duties
  • before commencing any maintenance work on a flying fox, a competent person should inspect components and equipment to identify any wear, movement or alterations to the system that may adversely affect its safe operation.

Personal protective equipment – any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective equipment. For example, helmets, harnesses or gloves may be required when using some flying foxes.

Additional information can be found online here.

Consultation now open: Safe Work Australia

Source: Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia is calling for feedback on the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations relating to Major Hazard Facilities (MHFs).

The purpose of this consultation is to gather evidence to better understand stakeholder concerns with the model WHS Regulations in relation to MHFs. This will help us determine whether changes to the model WHS laws are required.

Submissions from all stakeholders who have an interest in MHFs are welcome. In particular, we would like to hear from operators of MHF facilities in Australia and Australian MHF regulators. Feedback from members of the community with a particular interest in MHFs in their local area is also welcome. 

Submissions are open until 11:59 pm (AEDT) Thursday 3 November 2022. Submissions can be made using Safe Work Australia’s online Engage consultation platform.

If you are unable to lodge your submission online or if you have any questions about the consultation, please email chemicals@swa.gov.au.

Construction workers seriously injured in spate of falls

WorkSafe Victoria is reminding employers of the risks associated with working from heights after a spate of serious injuries in the construction industry.

Source: WorkSafe Victoria

On 26 July, an apprentice electrician fell while loading solar panels onto a roof at a domestic premises in Coburg, sustaining a broken ankle, wrist and eye socket. 

The next day, a plumber fell more than two metres at a housing construction site in Frankston, leaving them with serious head and back injuries. 

Then, on 28 July, a worker was taken to hospital with a cut to the head after falling about four metres from a ladder at a Broadmeadows construction site.

Since 2018, WorkSafe has accepted 6340 claims from workers injured in falls from height, with construction workers accounting for almost one third (29 per cent) of these claims.

More than half of the claims from the construction industry (52 per cent) were falls from ladders, scaffolding, mobile platforms or mobile stairs.

Falls from height are also one of the leading causes of workplace deaths in the construction industry, with 14 fatal incidents since 2018.

In February, a 69-year-old worker died after falling from a height of about five metres at a construction site in Cheltenham.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer stressed that every injury and death caused by falls is preventable if the right steps are taken to eliminate or reduce risks.

“This terrible sequence of incidents – three falls in three days – highlights the very real risks of working from heights,” Dr Beer said.

“It is every employer’s duty to ensure measures are in place to control these risks, such as a passive fall prevention device and a fall arrest system.”

WorkSafe can and will take action against employers who fail to ensure their workers are properly trained and appropriate safety measures are in place.

So far in 2022, fines totalling $489,000 have been imposed against construction companies and directors in 12 WorkSafe prosecutions for failing to protect workers from the dangers of working from height.

WorkSafe supports employers in maintaining safe workplaces through site visits and guidance, with further support available through the free and confidential OHS Essentials program.

To prevent falls from height employers should:

  • Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure employees work within a safe area.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.

Managing Psychological Hazards at Work.

Course: Safe Work Australia

New model WHS Regulations and Code of Practice to help prevent psychological harm at work.

Preventing psychological harm is an essential part of creating a healthy and safe workplace.

The model work health and safety (WHS) laws now include regulations on psychosocial hazards. A new model Code of Practice on Managing psychosocial hazards at work explains the laws and how to comply with them, including practical steps to manage workplace risks to psychological health.  

Safe Work Australia Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter said that “under work health and safety laws, PCBUs have a positive duty to do everything they reasonably can to prevent exposure to psychosocial hazards and risks.

“Psychosocial hazards are anything at work that may cause psychological harm. 

“They can come from the way work is designed and managed, the working environment, or behaviours including bullying, harassment, discrimination, aggression and violence.”

Ms Baxter said work-related psychological injuries and illness have a significant negative impact on workers, their families and business. 

“On average, work-related psychological injuries have longer recovery times, higher costs, and require more time away from work when compared with physical injuries.

“Workers’ compensation claims for psychological injury and illness have increased and impose high costs to employers through time off and workers’ compensation costs.

“Managing psychosocial risks protects workers, decreases staff turnover and absenteeism, and may improve broader organisational performance and productivity.”

The model WHS Regulations and Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work were developed through Safe Work Australia’s tripartite process which includes Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and employer and worker representatives. 

The model Code of Practice: Managing psychosocial hazards at work is available on the Safe Work Australia website along with other materials including new model WHS Regulations to support PCBUs to meet their WHS duties.

Background

Safe Work Australia is an Australian government statutory agency. We develop national policy to improve WHS and workers’ compensation arrangements across Australia. 

As a national policy body, we do not regulate WHS laws or administer workers’ compensation arrangements. The Commonwealth, states and territories regulate and enforce WHS laws and administer workers’ compensation schemes in their jurisdictions. 

The model WHS Regulations and model Code of Practice do not automatically apply in a jurisdiction. Find information on WHS in your jurisdiction by contacting your WHS regulator.

Mental health support 

As well as resources to help you manage psychosocial risks there are also services to help if you, your family, friend or colleague are feeling depressed, stressed or anxious.  

House moving company and director fined over workplace roof fall

Source: WorkSafe QLD

A Queensland house moving company and its director have been fined a total of $60,000 over a work safety incident where a worker fell from a roof.

The company and its sole director/shareholder both pleaded guilty recently in the Bundaberg Magistrates Court to breaching Queensland’s Work Health and Safety Act 2011 by failing to comply with their health and safety duties, exposing a worker to a risk of death or serious injury.

The company operates a business centred around the relocation, demolition, re-stumping and raising of houses.

The court heard the company was contracted to remove a double storey residential house in Wallaville. On 7 January 2021, three workers were at the site, including an 18-year-old who had worked for the company for five months but had no formal qualifications or experience, nor did he receive any induction or formal training. He was also unaware of any written procedures or safe work method statements (SWMS). The company had a generic SWMS, but it was not site specific, nor had it been updated in nine years.

A Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) investigation found that whilst the young worker was on the roof placing a tarpaulin across the ceiling for weather protection, he put his foot in the roof valley and it gave way, causing him to fall 5m to the ground. He sustained a back injury, was hospitalised for nine days and unable to work for several months, before ultimately starting a new job.

The WHSQ investigation also revealed that even though safety harnesses were made available to workers, the company did not enforce their use, nor were there any other protections or measures in place to eliminate or minimise the risk of workers falling from height such as adequate policies, procedures, or training to ensure a safe system of work. However, following the incident, the company completely overhauled its safety procedures, including engaging a workplace health and safety consultant to develop inductions, to review the safety systems and to draft a new and extensive SWMS, together with mandating working at height training and the use of harnesses and other controls.

In sentencing, Magistrate John McInnes identified that the point of the legislation was to make workers safe. His honour took into account the guilty pleas and that the director was a person of good character and had embraced the lessons learnt from the incident. However, Magistrate McInnes also considered that the victim impact statement reinforced what can occur from such incidents, as well as the lasting consequences.

The sole director was fined $15,000 and the company $45,000. Costs totalled just over $1,700, with no convictions recorded.

Safe Work Australia release Guide to Managing Industrial Rope Access

Source: Safe Work Australia

The Guide to managing risks of industrial rope access systems was released in June 2022.

An industrial rope access system is a work positioning system used for gaining access to, and working at, a workface, usually through vertically suspended ropes.

Industrial rope access, or, more specifically, ‘twin-rope’ access, is an important method for performing working at height activities and requires a high level of competency on the part of the user. Industrial rope access is a special kind of work positioning system that uses equipment to prevent a fall by vertically suspending a worker in a harness.

The Safe Work Australia Guide to managing risks of industrial rope access provides information on managing the risks associated with industrial rope access systems, including:

  • selection and installation of anchors
  • anchor access and layout
  • anchor inspection and testing
  • rigging techniques
  • rope protection, and
  • exclusion zones.

This guide is for:

  • industrial rope access service providers
  • building managers
  • building owners
  • building body corporates
  • principal contractors, and
  • other PCBSs at a workplace where an industrial rope access system is used.

This document is a guide only. It is not to be used as an industry code. 

As is a guidance document only, it should be read in conjunction with ASNZS 1891 and ISO 22846 as there are inconsistencies between the newly published Guide and Australian Standards. 

Additional guidance on rope access can be found on our website, or by contacting IRATA International.

SafeWork NSW Construction Inspectors are now targeting unsafe rooftop solar installations.

Source: SafeWork NSW 04 July 2022

From June to December 2022, SafeWork Inspectors will be targeting rooftop solar installations across NSW to address serious non-compliance.

In 2021, when checking solar installations SafeWork Inspectors found that an unacceptable 27% of installations were using no roof fall protection at all. Our Inspectors also found that of the 40% of sites that were using harnesses, more than half of these workers were still at risk due the to harness being used unsafely (57%) and/or not actually clipped onto anything (50%). A copy of the findings report can be accessed on the SafeWork website.

SafeWork NSW is working with industry to ensure rooftop solar installation workers are safe when working on ladders and roofs, and with electricity. Roof rails and scaffolds are the best type of fall protection when working on roofs.

SafeWork NSW takes a zero-tolerance approach to workers lives being placed at risk, and will issue on-the-spot fines to installers using no or inadequate fall protection. 

SafeWork NSW has developed guidance materials to assist solar retailers and installers to understand their work health and safety obligations and how to work safely with solar, including a solar safety guide and safety checklist.

SafeWork will be holding online events for retailers and principal contractors, so you can know your safety obligations and ensure your contractors and workers are safe.

Visit the SafeWork NSW website and Guide to safe solar panel installation for more information.

Company fined $600,000 following apprentice’s death.

Source: Work Safe Victoria – Friday 24 Jun 2022

A road tanker manufacturer has been convicted and fined $600,000 following the asphyxiation death of an apprentice while working inside a tanker at its Cranbourne West factory in 2018.

Marshall Lethlean Industries Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne Country Court today after earlier pleading guilty to a single charge of failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risk to health.

The court heard that in October 2018, the apprentice, who had been working at the factory less than two weeks, was asked to undertake work inside a tanker.

The previous day another worker had left a welder inside the tanker along with a wire feeder, which was in a state of disrepair and leaked argon gas overnight, reducing oxygen.

The apprentice died of asphyxiation after entering the confined space of the tanker to conduct the work.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for the company to have provided and maintained a system of work that required a qualified welding inspector to routinely inspect and maintain equipment; require workers to store the welder and wire feeder outside the tanker when not in use; and require workers to turn off the argon gas main at the end of use.

Acting WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Adam Watson said the incident was an absolute tragedy that could have been avoided.

“The dangers of working in confined spaces are well known and there is no excuse for employers who fail to control the risks,” Mr Watson said.

“This incident highlights just how important simple measures such as maintenance and storage procedures are to keeping workers and workplaces safe. Sadly a failure to do so in this case cost a young man his life.”

To control the risks of working in confined spaces employers should:

  • First, consider whether the work can be done another way without entering the confined space. For example, provide outlets and facilities for cleaning to eliminate the need for entry.
  • Test the atmosphere to quantify the level of oxygen, atmospheric contaminants and any flammable gas or vapour present in the space. Then you can determine appropriate risk controls.
  • Ensure employees do not enter a confined space unless they have been issued with an entry permit for the space and there is a stand-by person watching the work from outside the space.
  • Establish entry and exit procedures for the confined space, and emergency procedures. Ensure these are communicated to your employees.
  • Put signs on or near any confined space, and at each entry point, to warn that only people who have been properly trained and have an entry permit may enter.
  • Ensure appropriate respiratory protective equipment (air-supplied or air purifying) is used where required.
  • Provide employees with enough information, instruction and training to do their work safely and without risks to health. This may include for example, training in hazard identification and risk control methods, entry permit procedures, emergency procedures and use of respiratory protective equipment.