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Joint initiative aims to reduce plumbers’ risk of injury


18 September 2023

WorkCover Queensland is investing in the construction industry’s injury risk reduction, with its recent collaboration with Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland (MPAQ).

This collaboration has been named a Work Well Awards 2023 finalist.

As part of its Injury Risk Reduction Initiatives program, WorkCover funded a project to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries sustained by plumbers.

WorkCover Queensland Head of Partnerships Sharon Stratford said reducing musculoskeletal injury risk in the construction industry was a clear way to support Queensland workplaces to be safer.

“Muscular stress and handling objects caused around 40 per cent of construction industry WorkCover claims in 2021-2022,” Ms Stratford said.

“Around 60 per cent of these claims involved the injured workers having to take time off work, resulting in disruption to their lives, as well as to their workplaces.

“We identified there was real potential here to collaborate with others to make a difference in the industry.”

The initiative focused on robust risk controls, including consultative work design and development of engineering solutions.

WorkCover and MPAQ worked with industry employers CC Group and Beavis and Bartels Group, as well as occupational health physiotherapists to identify specific concerns regarding hazardous manual tasks and musculoskeletal injuries.

The initiative aimed to promote appropriate control measures and materials to educate workers on how to apply a risk assessment approach to hazardous manual tasks onsite.

Following a series of worksite visits and engagement with workers at all levels from frontline plumbers to management, a series of ‘Own safety onsite’ toolbox talks and materials were then developed to help plumbers take ownership of their health and wellbeing by using a hierarchical approach to hazard control onsite.

This included using and promoting higher order controls, such as lifting aides and engineering controls, to reduce the manual task risk to workers. Lower order controls, such as technique-based lifting advice, team lifting protocols and pre-start warm-ups, were also included where higher order controls are not practicable.

Training was delivered to project managers on manual task risk management and leading toolbox talks and exercise sessions relating to physical demands of jobs.

In a post-training survey of the project managers:

  • 100% said they were satisfied with the training received and believed the resources were well suited
  • 100% felt confident to deliver the developed content in toolbox talks
  • 93% believed the project will reduce injury risk among plumbers
  • 100% would recommend this project to other employers in their industry.

Master Plumbers’ Association of Queensland Executive Director Penny Cornah said, “MPAQ is proud to be involved in this program alongside WorkCover Queensland and its partners. The pilot initiative showcases the significance of collaboration efforts between WorkCover, MPAQ and their members, enabling active participation and delivering tangible benefits.”

Feedback from safety and business leaders involved in the project included the following:

  • “I think this pilot program will add value to our business and also provide education to our workers, to keep them safe when undertaking a variety of tasks.”
  • “Engaging in this type of program gives you access to people with a skill set that enables new perspectives to be gained on procedures currently being used in your own company.”

The toolbox talk resources will soon be shared more broadly in Queensland’s plumbing industry, so that other workers and businesses can use these in their own workplaces and benefit from the tested approach.