Keep it clean, keep it stable

Sometimes it’s the humble broom which can be a hazard on a worksite.


Keep it clean

Site Safe contractor and health and safety consultant Kelvin Sparks says lots of bits, pieces and particles get generated on a building site and the last thing that’s needed is for them to become airborne.

“There’s silica from concrete dust, wood dust from treated timber, fibreglass fibres from Batts and it’s all lying around the site.”

He says tidy tradespeople tend to grab a broom to clean things up, but this can cause problems.

“All of a sudden you’ve created a potentially toxic cloud of silica, fibreglass and treated timber dust and workers are breathing that in.”

He says when it comes to cleaning up, people must use an effective dust mask or respirator and, ideally, an industrial vacuum cleaner, not brooms or blowers.

Workers must also decontaminate themselves, he says, changing out of their work clothes before going home.

“Otherwise all those substances get on their overalls and their hi-viz and they hop into their ute which contaminates it, and then they go home and cuddle their kids and contaminate them.

“And on weekends they all hop into the work vehicle to go to sports and breathe in a bit more. Kids lungs are smaller and they can’t cope with that stuff.”

Keep it stable

The other key thing he is always concerned about on sites is keeping people safe when they must work at heights.

He says falls are usually the leading cause of death and injury in the construction sector.

“We all have to be aware of the dangers of working at heights, of any level and make sure we take appropriate steps to ensure our safety when working at heights.

The Christchurch-based safety practitioner says he’d like people to get right away from three and four-step ladders.”

“Even the platform ladders – that have the handle that comes up above them – often make people feel a little too confident. So they over-extend and lean out to the side causing a fall.

“I would much prefer the guys use a mobile scaffold – it’s a bit more work for them but it’s certainly a lot safer.

Under review

Both health and height issues are being reviewed now.

WorkSafe is looking at silica and accelerated silicosis and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is doing a review of regulations around plant, heights and excavations.

The concerns about silicosis are part of the bigger picture of looking after individual health.

The WorkSafe review is based on concerns about the growing numbers of people affected by silica dust from artificial stone causing lung damage. As at July 130 workers in Australia had been diagnosed with silicosis, an untreatable lung disease which can be fatal.


For more info:

Silicosis and health monitoring:

The MBIE review of plant, structures, heights and excavations:

Working at heights: