A hazardous materials blitz at primary schools in Western Australia has resulted in 239 improvement notices across 53 locations, with inspectors noting “worrying levels” of compliance with hazardous substance regulations and workplace safety laws.
Of the 239 improvement notices, more than half were related to the use of hazardous substances, including chemicals used by handymen, cleaners and gardeners. Another 40 improvement notices were the result of the risk of trips and falls.
WorkSafe Director Sally North explained that it had been some time since WorkSafe had looked into workers at school sites like gardeners and handymen and that while the number was high, the intention of the improvement notices was to better protect workers and educate them about workplace safety laws and regulations.
“The statistics showed that the sector had a high number of soft tissue injuries, most often caused by falls on the same level and muscular stress while handling objects, but inspectors also found worryingly low levels of compliance with the laws applying to hazardous substances in workplaces,” she said.
“Cleaners are often injured in slips, trips and falls, and also while undertaking manual tasks. They also need to be trained in the hazardous substances they deal with.
“Gardeners also need to be adequately trained in the hazardous substances they work with, and both cleaners and gardeners may lack information about infectious diseases, handling sharps and the like.
“This inspection program has certainly highlighted the safety issues around hazardous substances that exist in primary schools in WA.”
The Department of Education WA is co-operating with WorkSafe over the improvement notices.