The safety of our apprentices and trainees is our number one objective and we want to highlight the importance of this during SafeWork month. We want people to have a long, successful, and positive career in the building and construction industry. We want employees’ families to see them off to work, safe in the knowledge that they will return at the end of the day safe, healthy, and happy!
In Australia, 93% of trainees and apprentices are under 30 years old – with many entering the workforce for the first time. Out of all apprentices, 62.5% are male – though the number of females entering the industry is steadily growing. And 23.7% of all apprentices and trainees in Australia work in construction.
According to data published by Safe Work Australia, over five years to 2021, there were 11,490 serious workers’ compensation claims for apprentices and trainees. Serious workers’ compensation claims are for those that result in more than five days off work – these are significant and debilitating injuries or illnesses. Construction trade workers had the highest number of serious claims, followed by automotive and engineering trade workers.
Together the Construction Manufacturing and Other services industries accounted for more than two-thirds of all serious workers’ compensation claims for apprentices and trainees. Half of those were for the construction industry alone, a much higher proportion of serious workers’ compensation claims than accounted in the construction industry for the general working population (11 %).
With the amount of safety awareness in today’s workplaces, we have to ask ourselves, why are young people at higher risk of accidents in the workplace? Let’s start by breaking down the numbers and getting an expert take on the situation.
We talked to the Director of Work Health Safety and Training, and Master Builders Safety Trainer, Graham Stewart to get his insights on the recently published figures by SafeWork Australia. And his top tips for minimising injury on the construction site.
1 in 3 serious claims were for wounds, lacerations, amputation, and internal organ damage.
It should be noted that lacerations and open wounds not involving traumatic amputation accounted for the highest proportion of these claims at 89.4% for males and 67.9% for females.
According to Graham, in his experience and observations when conducting site safety audits, young workers:
- are not adequately trained in safety when working on-site,
- are afraid to speak up if they don’t know how to do a task/s – afraid of being called out/risking their job/being put down,
- are not adequately supervised in terms of basic and high-risk tasks.
Graham says, “You can have all the controls in the world, but if the apprentice is not supervised properly you have no controls at all”.
- a significant number of construction work sites are not fully prepared with plans and risk assessments for awkward tasks – this should include demonstrating to the workers how to do the task safely and supervising the young workers.
- Examples of demonstrating how to do a task safely can include using a chisel on door frames, a blade knife to open wrappings, to building frames using a nail gun – the incidents resulting in injury nearly all have involved awkward positioning of:
- the apprentice/ worker
- the task (e.g.building frames) and
- the tool
Slips, Trips, and Falls are generally attributed to inadequate housekeeping (well-planned set-up of the work site) height safety training, and supervision.
The 3 top Incidents involving death and catastrophic injury are:
- Falls from Height
- Hit by a moving object
“Young people entering the workforce need training not only in how to work safely but how to work with a safety consciousness that will equip them to identify the risks and dangers which might arise in the course of their work. And give them the confidence to raise any concerns with their supervisors” advises Graham.
Supervisors are to Watch and Listen at all times.
Before Master Builders apprentices start working on-site with a Host Employer, they undertake formal health and safety training at the Master Builders Education Centre in Norwest. We also encourage Supervisors to undertake the same training courses so that they can be up to date with the latest in health and safety workplace practices.
“PCBUs/builders who control work-sites have no excuse for failing to adequately protect their workers from harm, particularly when employing young, inexperienced people to work with sharp (impact) tools, plant and machinery, work at heights, and electrical,” said Graham.
A safe work environment requires a conscious commitment to health and safety and an effective risk management approach with high-order controls. Incidents like these should not be happening and businesses must prioritise the health and safety of their workers.
“More often than not, the pressure to Get Stuff Done (GSD) rushing and working under the pump relegates worker safety as a secondary concern,” says Graham.
It is very important to us at Master Builders that our apprentices and trainees know their rights and have industry-leading safety training. However, supervisors need to do more on the construction site to prevent apprentices from being injured. Our dedicated team of Field Officers is there to help our apprentices and host employers with any questions or concerns that they have about safety on their worksite.
Please be reminded that Master Builders has a range of health and safety training courses for everyone in the industry. Improve the way you work and supervise onsite.