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Build Aware program heads to Ballarat

Joint teams from government agencies will be inspecting building sites across the Ballarat area from 6 to 10 May, under the Build Aware campaign.

Build Aware is designed to ensure site operators are complying with their legal obligations, to protect the environment, and ensure workplace safety and community benefit.

Teams from five key Victorian agencies that regulate the building sector – Consumer Affairs Victoria, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV), Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA), the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) and WorkSafe Victoria – will visit residential, industrial and commercial building sites.

WorkSafe inspectors will be focusing on the risks to both workers and the public of powered mobile machinery, such as excavators, cranes, forklifts, during site visits in and around Ballarat.

WorkSafe Construction Program Director Kate Maheras said each year WorkSafe investigated deaths, serious injuries and countless near-misses involving mobile machinery at construction sites.

In the past three years six people were killed by mobile plant at Victorian construction sites,” Ms Maheras said.

The construction sector uses a vast range of heavy and mobile machinery, often for short periods, making construction sites dynamic and requiring potential hazards to be constantly reassessed.

“As construction sites change and develop, so do the risks to people on the site,” Ms Maheras said.

“That’s why it is critical that employers plan ahead and outline to workers the work that needs to be done, the potential risks involved, and identify how the risks must be controlled. Appropriate training and clear exclusion zones are essential, because pedestrians and powered mobile machinery simply do not mix.”

The use of non-compliant or hazardous materials, safety issues on site, unfair contract terms and delayed building works are some of the common issues that affect construction projects.

Building sites can also be sources of environmental problems, including contaminated stormwater, sediment runoff and uncontrolled litter. Ensuring that builders know their obligations will help to protect the environment and the public.

The VBA’s Executive Director of Operations, Mark Rossiter, said Build Aware is a valuable collaboration between the five agencies, appreciated by industry for its proactive approach to inspections and education.

‘’This is a great opportunity for the VBA and fellow agencies to get a clear message out to builders regarding the importance of compliance and safety on all building sites.’’

EPA Barwon South West Regional Manager Carolyn Francis said EPA would focus on the management of construction and demolition waste, including asbestos, an area of environmental concern and a public health risk.

“Construction and demolition generates industrial waste, typically including concrete, timber, brick, asbestos-containing material, and soil that may be contaminated,” Ms Francis said.

“Disposing of construction and demolition waste properly means some of it can be recycled. But wrongly identified or illegally dumped waste pollutes the environment and poses a public health risk. EPA officers will be ensuring that sites are identifying and managing wastes appropriately.”

EPA officers will also focus on ensuring stormwater runoff is properly managed to avoid contamination of local waterways.

Inspectors from Consumer Affairs Victoria will be looking at domestic building contracts to ensure builders are adhering to important consumer protections.

“By law, owners are entitled to consumer guarantees that cannot be signed away,” said Consumer Affairs Victoria Director of Regulatory Services, David Joyner. “These consumer guarantees should be reflected in the contract to ensure transparency and allow consumers to exercise their rights.”

“Consumer Affairs Victoria’s inspectors will also be checking contract insurance details and ensuring deposit amounts requested are within the appropriate legislative range.”

The agencies have taken to social media, using the #BuildAware hashtag, to raise community awareness of the program and its message of compliance for safety and community benefit.

The agencies run the Build Aware program three times each year in metropolitan and regional locations. Since early in 2018, multi-agency teams have conducted more than 560 inspections, with most building sites found to be compliant.