The National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA) is committed to fostering the health and safety of everyone in the electrical and communications industry.

Recently Safe Work Australia in consultation with state regulators and industry has prepared model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, codes and factsheets with the aim of harmonising WHS in all states and territories across Australia.  To date this legislation has been adopted by the Commonwealth, New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Other states are expected to follow.

There are many thousands of electrical and communications contractors in the NECA family who need to be aware of this legislation, so NECA has pursued a number of initiatives to get the message across and to help businesses to meet their obligation to provide a safe work place.

An important initiative has been the development of short online training programs to meet the immediate challenge of making training available to all members across Australia.

The online solution has a number of key advantages:
  • Training courses are available immediately and can be accessed at anytime, anywhere; nobody need miss out – you can even use an iPod.
  • Training courses are developed for our industry; they are relevant, interactive and engaging.
  • Training courses can be undertaken at work, at home, or anywhere you can make an internet connection so regional users are not disadvantaged.
  • The programs are quality controlled and subject to continuous improvement; they are always up to date.  They reflect the new model WHS legislation but also reference other state and territory laws and circumstances.
  • Training courses are far less expensive than face-to-face sessions.
  • The courses are thorough.  Further, the programs are always available for review and re-assessment after the initial training is completed.
  • Less time is spent in training and travel time is eliminated which means less opportunity cost (non-productive hours) that eat into billable work.
The initial suite of programs cover: 

WHS Risk Management
This program provides a foundation for implementing risk management in any work situation. It is designed to provide workers with an understanding of the processes involved in developing the risk controls set out in Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and also to conduct their own hazard identification and risk assessment on the job. This is a prerequisite program for all other WHS programs.

Safe Work Method Statements
It is good practice to have a SWMS for every job: for live electrical work and high risk construction work it is legal requirement. NECA has developed model SWMS to cover most routine electrical work. All electricians must clearly understand how SWMS are developed and how and when they must be employed.

Asbestos safety
Electrical workers can encounter asbestos-containing materials in a wide variety of industrial and domestic contexts. The law requires that workers who disturb asbestos containing materials (ACMs) or undertaking minor work such as drilling holes or cutting ACMs, must be trained in the correct safety procedures.

The recently released Fary report recommends a harmonised approach to all areas of asbestos safety including training. Courses are likely to be incorporated into training for licensed operators.  All existing trades’ people are to be provided with short course training to undertake minor work on ACMs.  The recently launched online Asbestos Safety course is providing a convenient and cost-effective way to meet these requirements.

Manual Handling
Manual handling is the greatest cause of reported workplace injuries in Australia and an everyday challenge for electrical and communications workers. Musculoskeletal injuries cost industry millions of dollars each year. In 2009 they accounted for over 71,000 serious workers compensation claims at a median cost of $7,400 and an average of 4.5 weeks off work. Everyone in our industry must be aware of manual handling risks, what to do and how to avoid them.

Working at Heights
Working at heights accounts for fewer injuries but they are almost always traumatic with over 20 deaths a year in Australia. This highly regulated activity calls for high levels of competence in observing safe work practices (To be released shortly).

NECA plans to release additional WHS online programs in response to industry demand.

All of the programs feature online assessments. Trainees are presented with a variety of questions that are drawn at random from question banks. On successfully completing any of the programs, trainees can print a certificate of completion. Their results are also recorded to the server database to provide a permanent record.

This suite of modules acts as an induction and refresher program for critical work health and safety issues in the industry. NECA is also introducing a Blue Card to be issued to workers who successfully complete all the programs in the suite. This will be used to provide evidence of successful completion of the NECA Safety Induction suite where required by prime contractors.