Experts warn tradies to ‘slow down’ after spike in deaths on the job

By Jarrod
4 Min Read

Safety officers are urging tradies to “slow down” during the frantic holiday season after a surge in workplace deaths and injury claims. 

WorkSafe Victoria has reportedly seen a whopping 19,570 injury claims in the last two months of the year – a number they attribute to panicked contractors choosing speed over safety in a rush to hit Christmas deadlines. 

Tragically, these safety oversights also led to the death of eight people on worksites across the country over the last two months. 

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said “the right safety practice” could have prevented every death and injury. 

“We’re all familiar with the hustle and bustle of this time of year, but it’s crucial employers ensure safety measures are in place and that no one is taking shortcuts,” Dr Beer said.

“As the festive season approaches, remember that the greatest gift you can give to your family and friends is staying safe and healthy.”

But this isn’t a problem exclusive to Victoria. Similar workplace warnings are being echoed by safety organisations across the country, seeing similar spikes in holiday accidents.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director of Compliance and Dispute Resolution Tony Williams said that workplaces need to prioritise safety so “everyone makes it to Christmas injury-free”. 

“Other steps businesses can take to prevent injuries include ensuring adequate staffing levels, setting realistic workloads and work schedules, having contingency plans if work falls behind, and providing regular rest breaks,” he said.

“Construction sites must be adequately secured during shutdown to keep the community, particularly curious children, safe during school holidays.”

A not-so-wonderful time of year

Dr Beer said the hectic time of year also often saw workers facing more unacceptable behaviours, such as occupational violence and aggression.

“Employers should have systems in place to identify and control any health and safety risks, both physical and mental, that may result from a surge in customer demand,” she said.

“It is also important that any new workers – some of whom may be experiencing their first job – are adequately trained to perform tasks safely, and are made aware of their rights to a safe workplace.”

WorkSafe inspectors will pay construction sites a visit over the coming weeks to see if builders are attempting to cut corners as they prepare for the break.

“It’s far better to safely secure a construction site over the holiday period than it is to rush a job – and potentially risk lives – to meet a deadline,” Dr Beer said.

“A site left unsecured, especially over the break, poses a serious risk to members of the public. Employers must ensure a thorough clean-up and safety check has been completed before a shutdown.”

There are several things builders and developers can do to make their unattended sites safe and prevent a potential tragedy this Christmas, including:

  • Ensure site perimeter fencing is secure and locked
  • Switch off power to the site
  • Clear debris
  • Block access to elevated floors, scaffolding and ladders
  • Store plant and equipment, tools, chemicals and dangerous goods securely
  • Empty water drums
  • Erect appropriate signage, including an after-hours contact number
  • Cover voids, pits, trenches and pier holes
  • Cap all exposed reinforcement bars
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By Jarrod
Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. He has a strong passion for new and emerging consumer technology within the building sector. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.