23.07.2020

Face masks and crane crews

Since the pandemic struck and Lockdowns began to come in around the world, construction and crane work have been considered essential services, but as we begin to return to a more normal situation, or in the face local flare ups and Lockdown reimpositions, rules on the use of face masks at work or in public are becoming tighter, with some tough enforcement behind them.

As of this morning face masks are mandatory at all workplaces in Melbourne, Australia, and adjoining Mitchell Shire. A fine for not wearing a face mask is $200 and an inspection and enforcement blitz will be carried out in workplaces across Melbourne by Victoria Police and WorkSafe inspectors, to ensure that the rules are followed. If an employer is found to be discouraging the use of face coverings, they face a $9,913 fine.

The dangers of wearing face masks during lifts

The Victoria and Tasmania branch of CICA has highlighted the fact that face masks can pose a threat to the safety of crane crews, especially those that rely on whistle and radio communication to complete their high risk work.

It cites the following reasons:
• Whistles are impossible to use without removing the mask
• Voices are partially muffled by masks reducing clarity of critical instructions.
• Communications at close quarters are often significantly non-verbal making it harder to understand instruction with a face covering.
• Many construction workers have below average hearing meaning they rely partly on lip reading.
Mandatory face coverings or masks in Melbourne still apply to construction sites so a clear understanding of how to use them safely and what provisions need to be taken, is crucial.

WorkSafe Victoria’s advice to crane crews

WorkSafe Victoria has stated that:
• A mask would need to be removed for a dogger or rigger to provide whistle signals.
• A crane operator does not require a mask if he/she is in crane by themselves.
• A tower crane operator will require a mask during commissioning if anyone else is in cabin at the same time.
• Any crane operator will require a mask if multiple persons operate the crane if no cleaning is being conducted between operator changes.

Radios usage is now commonplace among crane crews, if you use a radio while wearing a face mask it is strongly advised that you do a radio check with the mask on before starting work. If there is any degradation in the level of comprehension across the channel due to the mask, it is recommended to lower or remove the mask.

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, used working in call centres and jogging for exercise as examples where the use of a mask may not be feasible, but you must have a mask to wear when you stop those activities. A face covering should be kept handy for use on site outside of the critical radio/whistle/voice dependent tasks.
There are exceptions to the rule of mandatory masks on construction sites where there are Occupational Health & Safety issues related to their usage whilst conducting high risk work.

Common sense is the key.

You can download CICA’s bulletin on the subject by clicking here: www.cica.com.au/states-vic-tas and clicking on the button Important information on face masks.

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