Blackwoods’ comprehensive safety approach – Inside Construction

In November 2020, construction was underway at the West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP).

Industrial and safety equipment provider, Blackwoods focus on ensuring workers are protected when it matters most. The company’s approach to safety extends far beyond supplying safety products.

Blackwoods invests time and expertise in their customers, an approach that resulted in a quality solution to worker safety on Victoria’s West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP).

“It’s what we refer to as our assess, inform, equip model,” says Drew Dauncey, Technical Safety Specialist, Blackwoods. “At each stage of the process, we collaborate with customers to make sure they receive the correct products, information, and training.”

Assess

Blackwoods work with their clients to identify hazards, review safe work practices, and check safety equipment usage to deliver expert recommendations. Their team of Technical Safety Specialists leave no stone unturned when it comes to safety, from producing workplace and product-in-use surveys to facilitating product trials and fit-testing.

“During assessment we also identify any hazards and conduct work practice and safety equipment usage assessments,” says Dauncey. “We then implement solutions based on a workplace’s specific requirements.”

Inform

Blackwoods customers each have access to a library of online Blackwoods Knowledge content, industry insights and key resources relating to new and emerging safety issues.

“We help our customers stay informed by sharing our technical expertise, as well as giving product training and presentations,” says Dauncey.

Equip

By providing technical expertise and implementation support; product identification, selection, and sourcing guidance; and access to fit-for-purpose products that comply with applicable standards; Blackwoods ensure their customers are equipped for any project.

“We aim to provide customers with product selection guidance, sourcing, delivery, and post-purchase support in line with the relevant standards,” says Dauncey.

West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP)

Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS or Silica dust) is a significant safety issue for many in the construction industry, and a leading cause of lung cancer and other illnesses. It’s not surprising an Australian syndicate of safety orientated businesses are leading the way with an innovative home-grown solution, including Blackwoods.

In November 2020, construction was underway at the West Gate Tunnel Project (WGTP). As with all Tier 1 construction companies, health and safety is a core value and WGTP (CPB Contractors) were looking at an effective engineering solution to control Silica dust exposure whilst undertaking jackhammering activities.

“Civil construction requires significant concrete structures to create the infrastructure needed for road and tunnel construction,” says Richard Cain, Senior Health & Safety Advisor at the West Gate Tunnel Project. “Jackhammering is a large component of the work, particularly during pile break back activities.”

“Workers’ health and well-being is our top responsibility, and new innovative solutions need to be found to keep Silica exposure levels below the Occupational Exposure Standard.

“Taking into consideration the lessons from the stone masonry industry, we were keen to find industry changing solutions to combat the risk to health of construction workers. We’ve worked with Blackwoods for many years and have assisted in solving many of the unique problems our projects typically present.”

Following the launch of Safety Spotlight late in 2020, the WGTP team looked to Blackwoods to improve respiratory protection on site. With PAPR systems making their way to workers, a desire to find an ‘Above The Line Control’ and engineer Silica dust out of the process entirely (and not just rely on PPE), was now on the table. Once again Blackwoods was engaged to help solve the problem.

“We knew dust suppression systems were being trialled in the USA but with nothing available here in Australia, the WGTP team shared photos and links on the system and asked the question ‘can we make it here?’,” says Terry Meachen, Major Projects Manager at Blackwoods.

“So, we engaged our supply partner, Dixon, and they jumped to the idea in a bid to develop a retro-fit system specific for jackhammers.

“The WGTP team were very keen on a locally developed and manufactured system to promote local content on the project. Currently an additional person must be available to spray water on the job to keep the dust down.”

Following the launch of Safety Spotlight late in 2020, the WGTP team looked to Blackwoods to improve respiratory protection on site.

With Dixon, an innovator in the hose coupling industry, onboard, trials began in March of 2021 and continued through to June.

“Many configurations and spray nozzles with varied spray patterns and flow rates were used and tested on site at WGTP. Instead of just a simple spot test here and there, we trialled it day and night, in different weather conditions and over long periods with a goal to be below the Australian exposure standard of 0.05mg/m3,” says Meachen.

After much trial and error, one flow nozzle proved successful, keeping the concentration of RCS below the Australian occupational exposure standard of 0.05mg/m3 over eight-hour work shifts during the month-long final trial.

“There was a tremendous amount of effort applied to getting this right amongst the parties involved,” says Matthew Dicker, Health & Safety Manager, West Gate Tunnel Project. “It took a bit of time, but we eventually got there.”

In fact, we achieved consistent average readings below 0.05mg/m3 over the month. This was a pleasing and exciting discovery for all.”

“The hard work and perseverance of all those involved needs to be recognised. The continued collaboration with our contractors, HSRs, and Blackwoods was integral to ensuring an effective and practical solution.”

CPB Contractors has now mandated that controls must be in place that meet or exceed the benefits of the Dixon system across its Victorian sites.

Cain adds, “We believe this will spark a number of initiatives to suppress Silica dust across a variety of different applications. We thank Terry, Blackwoods and Dixon for all their efforts in working to reduce the risk to our workers.”

Blackwoods Technical Safety Specialists

Blackwoods’ team of Technical Safety Specialists are experienced in a wide range of industries and invest time with customers to understand the specific hazards they face. They share knowledge so that customers are equipped to ensure that every employee, contractor and visitor returns home healthy and injury-free.

“Our solution to control Silica dust exposure on the West Gate Tunnel Project is a great example of our end-to-end safety solutions,” says Dauncey.

“The Blackwoods technical safety team help customers get the right product, technical knowledge and training, to achieve the best result.”

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