I am getting a lot of questions from our owner builders asking why they can no longer complete the White Card course (General Safety induction Training) online.
That is a question that you would need to ask WorkSafe.
To be quite honest, I know the answer...
There were simply too many RTO's out there not doing the right thing by owner builder students or anyone else need to do the training. There were many offerings of 'shonky' course which did not provide the fundamental thing required of a training course. They simply did not transfer knowledge. They were only interested in your money.
It is very sad that operators out there exist and that they make it impossible for the good operators to complete. Not only is it sad, but it is incredibly worrying when the knowledge and skills that need to be transferred to a student are for the sole purpose of keeping them safe. Achieving genuine transfer of knowledge through online learning is not easy. It takes a skilled and experienced course writer to author a course and set assignments, task and questions that truly allow the candidate to demonstrate competence.
Over the years we developed a great system for achieving this and expended an enormous amount of effort and resources to make certain not only our students (owner builders and others) got value for money and truly developed skills and knowledge that would help to keep them safe in a construction workplace. Importantly, as the vast majority of our students were owner builders, we contextualised the course over the years to ensure it had even more relevance to them in their role as Persons in Control of A Business Undertaking (PCBU) or as a Principal Contractor.
An owner builder has the added responsibility to ensure eveyone employed on their sites remain safe and have access to appropriate facilities. Further, they are responsible for ensuring each of the contractors engaged on the owner builder site that is undertaking a High Risk Construction Activity, is doing so under the provisions of a Safe Work Method Statement or similar.
All that said, the rest of the states have not yet followed suit, even though Work Health and Safety legislation is supposed to be harmonised across the states and territories.
So,guess what? Those same RTO's who did not do the right thing by their previous students, continue to wrought the system by offering the White Card online and issuing a Western Australian card. (they have the least stringent requirements in respect to ID and record keeping).
Hopefully, sanity will prevail at some time soon and we will be able to compete again in this very competitive market.
Sales even for our owner builder courses have dropped off considerably because we can non longer offer a package deal.
Is that fair? Probably not, but we will continue to only offer a quality product to our students, so if you can get to our offices, we are more than happy to offer the course face to face.
Best Regards and Happy Owner Building
Another Day, Another Blog !!!
Someone asked me the other day why we try to do a blog as often as we can.
Simple reason is, we like to share information with our owner builder students, to ensure they have the best learning experience and have accesses to the latest information that is available.
It does not always work, at times we get so caught up in the day to day business matters and RTO compliance works, that we just do not get time.
This time of year though, student numbers can get a bit slow so it makes sense to catch up on the latest owner builder news and make the information available to our owner builders.
I just had an email from one of our students and again, the question came up about whether the White Card is mandatory for owner builders.
The answer is simple.
As an owner builder you will be considered the Principal Contractor and the person in control of the site.
That means you are absolutely responsible for the WHS and OHS matters on your site.
The confusion comes about because the requirement is covered under different legislation and not referred to in the building code other than talking about the requirement to complete General Safety Induction Training.
The White Card is the resultant document from the completion of this training and is satisfied by successfully undertaking CPCCCOHS1001 Work Safely in the Construction Industry.
For our NSW Owner Builder students, Services NSW make it very clear, without the White Card (and you must present the physical card) you will not be granted your owner builder permit.
In Queensland, the QBCC have not placed this pre requisite, which causes confusion, but let me assure you the legislation applies equally in QLD and it does in NSW and owner builders must have completed General Safety Induction Training to comply.
Recently the requirements changed in respect to the assessment for the White Card and I will cover that in another post.
Best Regards and Happy Owner Building
So, I know I give NSW a hard time about the validity of their owner builder educational requirements not covering vital legislative information to ensure owner builders run their projects compliantly, but ....
One thing they have right, is they require owner builder applicants to provide proof of having completed General Safety Induction Training (White Card) before being issued a permit.
Other states are still to make this a requirement and they should.
The reason is, that whilst covered by separate legislation, as an owner builder, you have defined responsibilities in your capacity as the Principal Contractor or PCBU for your site.
Last week, I was told of an owner builder in Queensland (one of our past students), who was paid a visit by a WorkSafe Queensland inspector.
The owner builder was asked to provide the following:
The owner builder could not provide any of the required documents and was forced to cease all works on the site immediately till the shortcomings were addressed and rectified.
I understand that the owner builder was fined for not having appropriate safety signage and for not providing the required amenities on site for the contractors.
Now this might sound harsh, but I think the owner builder in question was possibly very fortunate.
Had this site suffered a serious incident that resulted in death or injury, there exists a very real possibility that the owner builder may not have been covered by insurance.
You could argue that the individual contractors should have workcover and other related insurances that cover themselves and their staff, but given the owner builders lack of attention to detail in other matters, I doubt they would have made the required checks to satisfy themselves that this was the case.
So if you think I am trying to drum up business when I suggest that our owner builders complete General Safety Induction Training, you are right.
However, it is also largely based on my knowledge that to complete a project as an owner builder without this training is both non compliant and carries serious risk.
Abacus training provides access to all of our owner builder students, considerable resources to help you manage WHS obligations on your site.
Take care out there and Safe Owner Building!
Worker run over by forklift
Whilst not an owner builder site, the following incident highlights the dangers of operating mobile plant at a workplace.
In May 2018, a forklift ran over a worker who was standing in a loading dock where material handling was taking place.
The worked suffered considerable injury to his legs and shoulder and requires intensive rehabilitation.
Owner builders should always consider the movement and proximity of all persons engaged on their site when mobile plant is operating.
Preventing a similar incident
Where mobile plant is in use at your owner builder site it is your responsibility as the Principal Contractor to ensure a traffic management plan is implemented.
Owner builders need to recognise the risk and ensure mitigating defenses such as physical barriers, bollards or railed walkways are installed to separate pedestrians and mobile plant
Owner Builder Must Consider:
If you think these are isolated events, then as an owner builder consider the following:
Compensation claims for incidents involving forklift alone have exceeded 400 since 2011.
Forty per cent of these involve serious injuries with five or more days off work.
Most common injuries are sprains and strains with the next most common injury being hit by plant or its load.
During the same period, WHS have been notified of 137 incidents involving workers or bystanders being struck by, run over or trapped by plant and equipment. Two of these involved a death and 88 involved a serious injury requiring hospitalisation.
Fines and Prosecution
As the owner builder and Principal Contractor, worksite safety remains your responsibility.
If you fail to ensure your workplace is safe, you may be fined, have civil or criminal proceedings taken against you.
Maintain worksite safety plans, insist on accurate and complete Work Method Statements from your contractors and ensure they work in accordance with same.
This post is certainly not meant to scare our owner builder students, but hopefully it will raise awareness of the hazards and risk associated with the use and operation of mobile plant.
Keep Safe and Happy Owner Building,
Owner Builders, Fall from Heights and Ladder Safety
I thought it was a timely reminder to post about ladder safety and Owner Builder responsibilities.
Again recently we have seen yet another serious accident on an owner builder site relating to the misuse of ladders.
Whilst we cover this in depth in our safety topic, I still see inadequate answers that require me to requiz the owner builder in respect to the correct way to set up and use a ladder.
I occasionally have the owner builder student tell me it is not a concern as they are not going to be using a ladder. Those jobs will be undertaken by qualified tradies.
Well, I need to remind everyone, that as an owner builder, you are the Principal Contractor and responsible for the actions of all those engaged on site.
Please take a minute to review the basics of ladder safety.
Look at the angle at which it is set up.
Consider the security of the ladder at top and bottom.
Do you need someone to 'foot' the ladder?
Does it extend high enough past any area you are trying to access?
Are those using the ladder up above the safe limit (rung height)?
All owner builders need to consider these points, observe what your trades are doing and ensure the performance of any activity is in accordance with the relevant Work Method Statement.
To all our owner builder course students, stay safe and,
Happy Owner Building
Well, as promised, we have totally re developed our WHS Management Plan for use by our owner builder students.
This is free to all of our owner builder course students and is a fully functional iPad based checklist proforma that produces full Management Plan in .pdf form that will satisfy the requirements where a project is legally obliged to have one.
So what projects require a WHS Management Plan?
As the Meerkat says: "simples"
Any construction project where the value of the labour and materials exceeds $250,000.00.
To access the template follow the instructions on the website at:
WHS Management Plan
For those of you who do not use iPads, we are in the process of producing a text based template you can download.
The benefit of the app is that owner builders are able to work through the checklist and where it is appropriate, take photos to include in the plan.
It really is a great application and not only walks you through the process, but provides prompts to help you identify hazards and associated risk on your specific project and the tasks that are being carried out.
We look forward to getting feedback on the application and we will be continuing to make improvements as we move forward with this exciting resource.
Over the next few months, our owner builder course students will benefit from the redesign of our resources, including new instructional videos and potentially podcasts with owner builder students who want to share their experience with the rest of the cohort.
In any case, pleas take a look at the WHS Management Plan application and
put it to good use.
The best way to iron out the bugs and make it really useful is for us to react to the comments and suggestions made by our owner builder students.
As always, happy owner building.
Owner Builder Blog Post – Safety Management Systems
An owner builder course student recently asked me whether the ‘free’ Workplace Health and Safety Management Plan offered by one of our competitors represented value.
Answer is simply YES, any resource that promotes safety in the workplace adds value and should be embraced.
We have always been of the opinion that any safety resource should be free and should be readily available to our owner builder students at no cost where possible.
That question got me thinking about the Safety Management System (which includes a WHS Management Plan) that we make available to our owner builder students, and whether or not it needed to be revised and updated to include the latest thinking in respect to site safety and the management of the workplace.
First question I asked myself was;
What makes our safety resources better than those of our competitor?
What can we do to make it even better?
Fact is, Safework Australia makes available, free on its website a WHS Management Plan that is set up to help contractors and Persons Conducting a Business Undertaking (PCBU) maintain compliance in respect to work health and safety on their construction sites.
This resource is a great resource and is supported by text and information including worked examples that help anyone develop a compliant document.
So, what is the value in Abacus Training developing its own WHS Safety Template to offer to our owner builder students?
I think the answer lies largely in the fact that our system is presented in a way that is consistent with the way we provide all other resources and learning materials.
In saying that, I mean we want you to have ‘ownership’ in your learning. We want each of our owner builder students to have developed the skills to identify and apply the components of the Abacus Training Owner Builder Safety Management System, to meet the individual and specific needs of their project.
I have witnessed the production of many Operations Manuals for companies to simply meet compliance requirements or to satisfy provisions in a tender to demonstrate operations under a Quality Management System.
Nine times out of ten, if I questioned the accountable manager as to the contents of their Operations Manual I would get the same answer;
“No idea, we had a Consultant come in and produce it for us (at huge cost to the company), now it just sits on the shelf.”
To me, this is just not good enough, if you are responsible for a Project, you need to understand how to use the tools available to help you manage the project in the best way possible. This will result in a safe and efficient work site, one that you can truly take pride in.
That is why we have structured the Owner Builder Safety Management System the way we have.
It starts with the information you need to consider in your role as an owner builder in respect to work health and safety on your site.
It then provides tools, guidance and a simple format which will direct you to establish an appropriate WHS Management Plan for your project.
As an Owner Builder, it is important to remember the following:
In addition to the above, I encourage each of our owner builders to visit the Safework Australia website and download any of the Model Codes of Practice that are relevant to your site and the range of activities or tasks to be completed.
Work through our Safety Management System to identify potential hazards on your owner builder site and to develop the processes and documentation to manage the safety of your project.
Develop strategies that will ensure you communicate the site specific dangers to all contractors and visitors to your site and have an effective process for collecting and reviewing Safe Work Method Statements for all contractors conducting High Risk Activities on your owner builder project.
Even if your owner builder project has a value less than $250,000.00 you are still responsible under WHS legislation for the safe operation and conduct of the site. Make certain you fulfil all your obligations in this area and do not take safety lightly.
Unfortunately, there have been many deaths on owner builder sites in recent years. The number is considered disproportionally large when consider against similar construction projects run by registered building companies. This has resulted in a focus on owner builder project safety by the relevant regulators.
As always, be prepared, be informed and remain disciplined in your overall approach to your owner builder project and always be vigilant in respect to the hazards and associated risks that exist on your site.
If in doubt seek professional or experiences advice.
Owner Builders and Asbestos
As owner builder students, you need to be well versed in your obligations in respect to any asbestos containing materials (ACM)found on you site or disturbed as a result of the work on your project.
Legislation is quite specific in regards to ACM, its handling and disposal.
Safework Queensland provides a range of resources and fact sheets to assist our owner builder students to meet their obligations under the relevant legislation.
In addition, Safework Australia has developed a series of Model Codes of Practice which included, How to Safely Remove Asbestos.
It provides a complete set of definitions and outlines procedures to be followed when removing small (less than 10 Sam) of ACM.
I encourage all of my owner builder course participants to download this model code and refer to it if they suspect they may encounter ACM during their works.
The problems with ACM generally occur when the material is disturbed.
The loose particle become airborne and if not controlled, pose a risk to anyone exposed to the contaminated environment.
The particles enter through the respiratory system and can cause irreparable damage to the lungs.
Be careful to ensure you isolate and control the ACM risk and where there exists any doubt or concern, contact a professional removalist, at least for advice.
Approved disposal facilities and techniques are also covered in the code.
Do yourself a favour and download it for future reference.
To all my owner builders, take care and don't risk exposing yourself, your loved ones, your workers or public to this real threat.
Till next time,
Owner Builder Safe Work Method Statements
Owner builders need to understand that as previously discussed, as the Principal Contractor, they are totally responsible for the safety of their owner builder project site.
One of the responsibilities is the requirement to sight all Safe Work Method Statements that relate to High Risk Activities undertaken on the site.
A Safe Work Method Statement is a control document which identifies the hazards and risks associated with the tasks associated with the High Risk Activity. Further the owner builder needs to be aware that the SWMS details the controls which are to be put in place and how the works are to be carried out to ensure the risk management principle of As Low As Reasonably Practical (ALARP) is maintained.
The document (SWMS) is generally prepared by the contractor performing the works.
The owner builders responsibility is to ensure the required SWMS are in place, recorded and retained on site and available to all affected persons working on or visiting the site.
The owner builders obligation does not stop there. Once the SWMS are collected and retained, it is then necessary to ensure the specified controls and methods of work are complied with. If not, it is the Owner Builders responsibility to ensure affected works are stopped immediately, the area made safe and not re commenced until the appropriate controls are put in place.
It is important to understand that a SWMS is not the same as a task specific detail such as a Job Safety Analysis or a Safe Operating Procedure. It is rather, a tool to allow the owner builder or person responsible for the work site to monitor the control measures.
A SWMS must identify the High risk Activity, specify the associated hazards and risks, describe the control measures or mitigators to be implemented and how they are to be monitored and reviewed.
Whilst generic SWMS are useful and can even be used to assist in identifying hazards and risk, it is important for the owner builder to ensure they are relevant and specific enough to cover the works as they are to be carried out.
In respect to maintaining the SWMS records, legislation requires the SWMS to be on site or in a place that they may be quickly retrieved. Electronic copies are acceptable.
In upcoming blogs, we will discuss the methods owner builders can use to identify hazards and risks on their projects and how to decide on appropriate controls that need to be implemented.
Abacus Training provides it's owner builder students with templates which can be used to form the basis of a SWMS, this helps in reviewing contractor produced SWMS to check for completeness and appropriateness of controls.
Remember, safety is everyone's responsibility but as the owner builder and therefore the Principal Contractor, the buck stops with you.
Owner Builder Work Health and Safety
A frequently asked question that owner builders need answered is in regard to their responsibility for Work Health and Safety issues on their owner builder project.
The answer is simple.
As an owner builder, you are considered to be the Principal Contractor or the Person in Charge of the Workplace. With this 'lofty title', comes considerable responsibility.
You are ultimately responsible for all aspects of Work Health and Safety on the site.
This includes ensuring every person employed on the owner builder project holds a White Card.
The White Card is awarded to persons who have completed mandatory General Safety Induction Training as legislated in each state and territory. This generally requires the completion of CPCCOHS1001A Work safely in the construction industry and the issue of the White Card by the RTO on behalf of the state regulatory body.
The owner builder has a legal obligation to sight and keep records of proof of General Safety Induction Training for each person engaged on work tasks on their site.
Additionally where owner builder controlled works include High Risk Activities, the owner builder must sight, approve, record and maintain available on site, a copy of the associated Safe Work Method Statements. These SWMS are generally prepared by the contractor responsible for completing the high risk activity. The owner builder must accept the proposed method of completing the works as detailed in the SWMS and associated controls and monitor the contractor to ensure the statement is followed and complied with.
Owner builder WHS responsibilities go further than this, including responsibilities where common plant or equipment are available for use by others and the provision of amenities including toilets, fresh water, shade etc.
When it comes to Work Cover and workers compensation, the regulations are a little confusing. Whilst strictly an insurance issue, it is worth a mention in this post.
As a rule, if you employ contractors, they will be responsible for covering each of their employees. There are however a couple of traps for the owner builder. If a contractor fails to carry sufficient appropriate work cover for their staff, you could be responsible. Additionally, if you employ a person on an hourly rate for labour only, it may be deemed that you are the employer and responsible for the worker compensation coverage for this person.
This is a short discussion only and an insight into the responsibilities and legal obligations of an Owner Builder in respect to WHS.
We cover this topic in detail in each of our owner builder courses and offer General Safety Induction Training at a discounted rate to our students.
Happy Owner Building
Rick Heaton is a Building and Construction Industry professional with formal tertiary qualifications in management and training.