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Shaun Maree
Head of Construction, OX2 Australia

What specific health and safety hazards are there on construction sites in Australia?

I've been doing EPC in construction in Australia for over four years, and Australia has some pretty unique hazards, health and safety hazards, on construction sites. Some of the ones I thought mentioning especially are high temperatures.

Some of the locations in Australia have in excess of 50 degrees Celsius temperatures, especially in the summer seasons. This contributes to several hazards on construction sites like heat exhaustion, heat stroke. These are considerable factors to consider on construction sites.

Another hazard which exists due to the high temperatures in summer is bushfire risk. A lot of the construction sites are exposed to external and internal bushfires, which is a large hazard.

Another interesting hazard on Australian sites which is unique is dangerous or hazardous wildlife. Australia has several species of some of the most venomous snakes and spiders in the world. Even some of the sites have crocodiles on.

Another wildlife that has such a large contributing factor is kangaroos. Kangaroos actually create the most single cause of vehicle incidents and accidents on construction sites.

How do health and safety standards in Australia compare with other countries?

Building construction projects in Australia is also complex due to the state and federal legislation which differs and the regulatory authorities which govern construction law in each of the different states. This results in a much higher standard of health and safety requirements.

In my previous role as Vestas Head of Construction, I'd already noticed the difference and the high level of standards required in Australia from a health and safety perspective than European or global requirements.

You have built onshore wind as well as solar. What are the main differences in terms of health and safety?

With onshore wind construction projects, you have a large number of heavy components, cranes, and erecting these components at heights contributes to the complexity as well as the health and safety risks that exist on wind construction sites.

On solar construction sites, the hazards are a lot different. These are as a result of the large workforce required to erect solar modules and tracking systems.

To give you a perspective, on wind farms where we're erecting maybe 15 or 20 or 30 turbines, on a solar project we're putting up to 250,000 individual modules on a project which are put into position by human hands.

Another hazard which is unique to solar farms, which we don't have on wind, is electrical shock hazards which are amplified. On wind, we normally control these hazards by using lockout and tagout procedures. On solar farms, the potential of electrical shock exists the minute you plug in a PV module, long before the electrical cables are even connected to energy.

What does health and safety mean to you on a personal level?

I've always had a strong health and safety culture and discipline due to my construction and mining background, but the importance of implementing strong health and safety systems and management plans on the projects we build only became a reality to me in 2013, when I experienced a fatality on one of my first solar projects that I built back in Africa.

I then understood fully the importance of implementing these systems on the projects and the responsibility that lies with each one of us to make sure each person goes home safely after each construction shift.

View the interview with Shaun!

Duration: 00:04:25

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