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NSW quarries and concrete health and safety seminar talks silica

 

The New South Wales divisions of the IQA and Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia held the recent Quarries & Concrete Health and Safety Seminar, headlined by the NSW Resources Regulator’s Garvin Burns and HeidelbergCement’s Klaus Hormann.

Burns is the chief inspector of Mines for the Regulator and gave an industry update to the hundreds of live viewers at the virtual seminar, held over Zoom.

Burns discussed a spike in incident reports through June and July 2020, which he said was a reactionary response to COVID-19 sentiment.

“We attributed it to people becoming more cautious because of fear of the unknown and fear of the future to try and protect their job,” Burns said.

This spike in incident reports then died off before returning strongly in late 2020 as more businesses were allowed to increase their workforces once more.

Burns also discussed the trend in respirable crystalline silica data, after July 2020 saw a modification to the exposure standard, limiting the acceptable level of silica dust in the air to 0.05mg per cubic metre.

An expected jump in exceedances by quarries was seen after the reduction took hold, but not as much as may have been expected.

“There was quite a low number of notifications from the sector prior to 1 July [2020], typically we would have seen one or two a month. There has been a substantial increase since,” Burns said.

Burns emphasised, however, that the free sampling program offered by the Resources Regulator through October, November and December has skewed the number of exceedances to appear much higher than was true.

“If we were to normalise that data and take away that free sampling, I would offer to the industry that there has only been a very minor change in the number of exceedances as a consequence of the reduction in standard,” Burns said.

Changing the mindset
Klaus Hormann’s contribution to the seminar centred on HeidelbergCement’s continuous path towards a zero-harm workplace.

Hormann is the manager for Group Health & Safety with the German building materials company. HeidelbergCement is the parent company of Hanson Construction Materials.

“It’s a journey and HeidelbergCement is a data-driven company. For years, production-first was a big topic, so to change the culture and the mindset is a journey,” Hormann said.

The multinational organisation has operations in every continent except South America, so a range of culture-appropriate approaches was required to achieve company-wide success.

HeidelbergCement has implemented a range of safety measures over the years, from ensuring guards and railings are in place, to more systematic changes such as a ‘key transfer system’. The latter ensures only one worker can turn the key on a piece of equipment at any one time, removing the dangers of a miscommunication.

As in any business, changing the nature of operations takes hard work and commitment from all levels of the workforce.

“It’s starts from convincing the top management, down to plant managers and frontline supervisors who get the complaints from their workers to maintain appropriate risk management and it is something we’re still working on,” Hormann said.

“But I think with all these safety actions and conversations, this helps us to move forward in this cultural change.”

The seminar also featured a presentation from Boral’s national general manager for HSE Brett McIntosh, as well as a panel discussion with representatives from OHMS Hygiene, Holcim, Safework NSW and the CCAA.

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