The Canberra construction industry has been rocked by a workplace fatality on Thursday. According to  recent data released in  Safe Work Australia’s Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2014, the construction industry is the third most dangerous vocation in Australia by fatalities, behind Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Transport, Warehousing, Storage. The industry also accounts for the third highest number of workers compensation claims. As property and construction is one of Canberra’s key industries, this arguably makes construction work the most hazardous job in the ACT.

Many safety incidents are avoidable and risk of injury and death on a worksite can be managed with appropriate safety policies. Here are the top 4 ways to manage risk on your construction site as a principal contractor.

1. Commit to safety

Talk to your site team about safety. Do it today. Discuss Thursday’s events. Commit to safety as the number one priority on your site and commit to sending everyone home to their spouses, children and friends tonight, and every night. Ask for the site team’s commitment to safety in return, and act on that commitment.

Be sure you understand whether your organisation or another party has legal control of the site and the site safety policy. Discuss site risks with your WHSO. Consider engaging a safety consultant or contacting your industry body to ensure you have the most up-to-date safety procedures in place on your site. 

2. Make safety everyone’s business 

Ensure your building contract and subcontracts articulate the site safety policy and clearly state each contractor’s safety obligations. Hold contractors to those obligations.

Find a lawyer who is a construction specialist, who understands your business and your site and can help you protect people and property through the drafting of building contracts that match your particular policies and arrangements. 

Discuss with your insurer what your insurance policies cover you for and when you should call them. Check with your lawyer whether there are any gaps between the liability that your building contract asks you to assume, and the insurance policies you maintain.

3. Improve record keeping

Implement and enforce reporting of injuries, lost time incidents, near misses and safety policy breaches. Minimise the risk of any major injuries recurring eliminating the cause, if possible. From time to time, review the data for recurring minor problems, which could be a cue to implement or improve safe work method statements for a particular activity and avoid future injuries. These records will also assist you should there be an incident which requires investigation.

4. Walk the talk 

If there is an incident on your worksite, act immediately. Even if there is no injury or fatality resulting from the incident, consider clearing that section of the site or stopping work to fix the issue. Contact your safety consultant, WorkSafe ACT, CFMEU and your lawyer for assistance or just to check in. 

Each of these steps is an investment in the safety of your team and those of the contractors on your site. If ever you can help it, you want to send them home safe.

The thoughts of the Chamberlains team are with the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased.