Harmonising a national approach to safety

AfPA Executive Director for Queensland and Northern Territory Mark Piorkowski.
AfPA Executive Director for Queensland
and Northern Territory Mark Piorkowski.

The Australian Flexible Pavement Association (AfPA) is consolidating its approach to safety and risk reduction for the flexible pavement industry nationally. Mark Piorkowski, AfPA’s Executive Director for Queensland and Northern Territory, explains.

For more than 50 years, the Australian Flexible Pavement Association (AfPA) has been an advocate for safety within the flexible pavement industry.

As part of this advocacy, the association has been responsible for the development of training courses, delivering industry events and technical advice to industry. AfPA has also been pursuing a set of national safety priorities, through the actions of its National Health & Safety Committee (NHSC).

As the convenor of the NHSC, Mark Piorkowski, AfPA’s Executive Director for Queensland and Northern Territory, says these priorities reflect areas where industry could better meet shared safety challenges.

A key part of that effort is adopting a consistent approach to engaging with key stakeholders and advocating for improved roadworker safety.

“We really want to focus on who’s the most vulnerable and that is our people working on roadwork sites,” he says.

With these priorities comes a focus on establishing a national attitude to health and safety. Piorkowski says that achieving a “harmonious” approach is the main goal.

He says that operators who work across multiple states and territories currently face different rules and regulations around workplace safety and working standards. A national approach helps to ensure that safety requirements, innovations and improvements are utilised across the board.

“Ultimately the end game is to create the safest work environment regardless of the jurisdiction,” he says.

Safety incidents on road worksites are a major concern, which is why a national approach is a priority.

“Trying to raise the standard of health and safety across the board is the main objective, through training and programs, as well as policy and advocacy,” he says.

Priority Areas

AfPA’s national priorities cover four main areas: separation of people and plant, safety through the tender box, separation of people and traffic, and keeping communities safe through road management.

The first focus area involves ensuring people are trained before they enter a worksite. Piorkowski says that knowing the risks and being prepared for them is critical for work with hot bitumen, large plant and equipment while dealing with moving traffic.

“It’s about getting the states and territories to increase their commitment to staff training and ensuring they are confident that their contractors are also adequately resourced for safety,” he says.

“Initiatives like the AfPA Flexible Pavements Industry Skills Card provides them with a recognised skills set that are embedded into a traineeship or Apprenticeship qualification, ensuring consistency in the delivery of bituminous materials nationally.”

The AfPA Industry Skills Card introduces the recognition of competency-based units delivered under a registered training organisation framework, in conjunction with industry.

If packaged correctly, the qualification offers an outcome similar to those completed for trades such as trades such as the plumbing and carpentry industries. This also provides a career pathway in an industry that has lacked this for operational employees.

The skillsets are transferable between employers, state and territory boundaries and recognised nationally.

AfPA has already implemented its ‘Be Bitumen Safe’ online industry course in Western Australia, which is a pre-requisite for any units falling under the Certificate III Bituminous Surfacing qualification.

It provides instruction on safety for all personnel who work within 15 meters of hot bituminous and asphalt materials at any time.

AfPA is advocating for a national approach to reduce safety incidents occurring on roadwork sites.
AfPA is advocating for a national approach to
reduce safety incidents occurring on roadwork sites.

Procurement and traffic

The focus on achieving safety through the tender box focuses on safety throughout procurement. AfPA is proposing that state road authorities and local governments reframe major transport procurement, to separate investments in traffic management and safety from other bid costs, to ensure safety items are included in their own schedule of rates.

“Prices drive tenders and contracts, which sometimes means that safety is pushed to the back. We’re saying, ‘separate these costs’, so the value of safety is more transparent,” Piorkowski says.

“If safety was separated within the tender documents, there would be more transparency on how it was being achieved. Clients would have a better understanding of how safety was being managed, not only for contractors but also for motorists”.

The priorities also include the separation of people and traffic to reduce the dangers presented by live traffic – firstly by using technology, such as speed cameras, to deter dangerous driving near worksites.

“If a vehicle exceeds the speed limit in a construction zone at present it is difficult to enforce and there is often no consequence for those breaking the law,” Piorkowski says.

“AfPA is working closely with state road authorities to address this issue, recognising that roadwork sites feature a high number of vulnerable road users and at times, difficult locations to deploy speed cameras.”

New technologies and techniques are currently being explored through joint research and testing which would boost speed enforcement.

These cameras will be able to track all units moving through the area, providing valuable data and statistics, as well as vision of non-speed related traffic incidents in roadworks.

“Last year, two traffic controllers tragically lost their lives just doing their jobs. There aren’t many work environments where people work as close to cars travelling 100km an hour. Our workers have a right to be safe,” Piorkowski says.

Piorkowski says that data could help to identify key areas which need attention, on both a state-by-state and national level. This data would also be used to provide information on the risk exposure of roadwork sites and provide support evidence-based decisions.

AfPA is advocating for the state road authorities to collect statistics nationally from road incidents at roadworks sites, to provide data on this risk exposure to road workers.

“If everyone is on the same page, collecting the same data, you get a clearer picture,” he says.

A similar approach will be used collectively with other organisations, helping to evaluate traffic control measures around roadwork sites.

Such work is being carried out in Queensland, with the National Asset Centre of Excellence (NACOE) project undertaken by the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) already making progress in assessing these measures and technologies for worksites. AfPA will look to apply the learnings from these works nationally.

“We will continue to work towards the harmonisation of traffic control measures and technologies at roadwork sites nationally, referencing the current work being undertaken in Queensland through the NACOE project by ARRB,” Piorkowski says.

Taking safety on the road

AfPA’s national approach also highlights the importance of maintaining roads in rural and regional areas.

It encourages both state and federal governments to address the funding shortfall in road maintenance, improvements and upgrades. This would aim to address dangerous and poorly maintained roads.

“It’s about making sure that funding is getting to the roads in these regions where communities are forced to travel along treacherous roads,” Piorkowski says. “The large funding commitments made by the Federal Government in the lead up to the 2022 election are testament to the importance of this investment.”

As part of the proposed national approach, in 2022 AfPA has planned to take safety on the road with its ‘National Safety Series Event’ in October and November.

The event will focus on safety training, products and processes. AfPA will also look to incorporate mental health into the event’s agenda.

The event is the first of its kind for AfPA, with national events being taken to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. At each city, attendees can expect to see modern and future industry innovations in training, products and processes within the safety space.

The events will also include national and international exhibitors, product demonstrations, leading practice presentations, onsite training for mobile plant, as well as plant site setup and movement.

The event series will also support the Industry Card initiative, which AfPA will be seeking to develop in each state/territory to help improve staff safety performance.

To learn more about AfPA’s safety initiatives, visit: www.afpa.asn.au

This article was originally published in the May edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.



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