Tis’ the season for complacency as holiday rush puts tradies safety at risk

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
5 Min Read

Aussie tradies are reminded to leave any extra trimmings for Christmas dinner and steer clear of safety shortcuts ahead of the festive rush.

December has become synonymous with complacency regarding workplace safety, with tradespersons and job sites in a hurry to finish work before the holiday season.

The Christmas-time carelessness has led to several tradies suffering avoidable workplace accidents this month due to workers skipping safety and rushing through jobs to meet those December deadlines.

One NSW concrete worker is in for an extended Christmas break after he fell into an open excavation ditch, landing on an unprotected reinforced steel bar which went through his thigh and into his hip and abdomen.

The 22-year-old’s two-meter fall could leave him with permanent mobility issues, with doctors saying he will require a minimum of six months off the tools.

However, he can count himself fortunate compared to some, such as a 54-year-old painter who died after falling off his ladder and through an open hole earlier this month.

The NSW tradie was painting a ceiling dangerously close to the open void when he slipped and fell through to the ground floor. He was rushed to hospital in a critical condition and eventually passed away.

Safety tops Xmas wishlist

SafeWork NSW has put “tradie safety” at the top of their Christmas wishlist to avoid any more fatal accidents, with Head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin telling tradespeople not to cut corners and risk having their Christmas cancelled altogether.

“Our tradies are widely considered the backbone of our state’s economy, and SafeWork is committed to ensuring they make it home safely until the end of the year,” he said.

“We want all our workers to make it to this break safely, so SafeWork is asking those working on construction sites across the state to continue upholding safe work practices despite the festive season approaching.”

SafeWork NSW’s free online pocket-size guide to construction safety has readily available information on avoiding the most common health and safety issues on construction sites, such as working at heights, falling objects, moving plants, and electricity.

Leave job-sites secure

The safety watchdog has also warned site managers to ensure job sites are adequately secured before closing for the holiday season and to double-check all fencing and gate locks.

With the Christmas and New Year break being the longest shutdown in the construction industry, unsecured work zones can pose a significant risk to the community should children or unapproved members of the public enter them.

“This is a time of year a lot of people in the construction sector look forward to, and we don’t want it dampened due to a serious incident caused by a construction site not being properly secured and shut down,” Mr Curtin said.

“We are urging all workers and site managers across the state to lock their sites up, shut down all plant and machinery and ensure hazards are covered to the best of their ability to minimise the chance of injuries on-site during the holidays.”

Site closing checklist:

• Power is switched off to their site,
• Debris is cleared,
• Access is blocked to elevated floors, scaffolding, and ladders
• Plant and equipment, tools, chemicals and dangerous goods are secured
• Water drums are emptied,
• Appropriate signage is erected, including an after-hours contact number,
• Cover voids, pits, trenches and pier holes,
• Cap all exposed reinforcement bars.

SafeWork invites all site managers and workers to use SafeWork’s online and interactive site shutdown tool to make sure leaving their site unattended during the Christmas break is safe.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.