Kevin Walker undertook the BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety* (superseded), a nationally recognised qualification which trained him to identify hazards in the workplace, assist with responding to incidents, assess and control risk, and consult on work health and safety issues.
As a worker in the QLD building and construction industry, he was eligible for a Construction Skills Queensland subsided place to undertake the program. We asked Kevin about his experience of doing the program, what he learnt and how his workplace will benefit from his new WHS skills.
Note: The BSB41415 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety has been superseded by the BSB41419 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety.
Kevin, tell us a bit about yourself and the kind of work you do?
I work as a blocklayer/bricklayer but also have experience working in mining. I finished school at Year 10 and went from school straight into a construction apprenticeship. Training in those days included TAFE. They tried to teach us the safe way to do things, but when I got onto a worksite we were just expected to get the job done – regardless of whether the job site or work methods were safe or not. I remember in the late 1980s laying bricks while standing on top of a 44-gallon drum!
When I worked in the mines, they were very safety focused – it’s a very high-risk environment so there is a lot more training and attention on risk management and hazard reduction. This safety focus really rubbed off on me and I took that thinking into my next construction job. Even though the attitude of the construction industry hadn’t changed, mine definitely had.
Why did you choose to do the course?
I was very interested in furthering my education in safety and getting a formal qualification. I saw the Workplace Dimensions advert on Facebook for Construction Skills Queensland subsidised training and it was exactly what I was looking for.
I’d seen WHS programs advertised before, they were expensive; plus I’d also have to take a whole week off work unpaid, which would make it even more difficult. The program subsidy from Construction Skills Queensland made the difference – it’s made doing my Cert IV in WHS possible and now everyone on-site benefits from the knowledge and skills I have.
What did you get out of the course?
I saw safety in a different light and I enjoyed it immensely. Previously I couldn’t really explain safety to people as effectively as I wanted to. I knew the WHS Act was a legal requirement everyone is bound by, but now I have the language and tools to break down the concepts and explain it to others on site.
I’ve now got the skills to have powerful conversations that engage people to think for themselves about what they’re doing, how they do it and to come up with solutions that make the work and environment safer. Knowing what’s safe and legally compliant is one thing, but being able to get your whole crew on board with you is a different skill. I know the course has really helped me with that and to become a safety leader.
My boss and our Estimator at work both have the WHS qualification, so we have someone at every level with the knowledge to cover our legal obligations, and most importantly send our crew home in one piece every night. I had Kevin Obermuller as the trainer and he explained everything until we all understood the concepts and used his life experiences in many industries to tell great stories to make the information hit home.
It’s amazing that spending even 5 minutes looking closely at risks can make a huge impact.
What has been the impact of you doing the course?
I have stopped work recently because of an unsafe site, even though the client pushed for us to start. In the ‘bad old days’, workers would just give in to the pressure and start the job. I’ve always known it but now I have the legal background knowledge to explain my rights and obligations and take the action needed to not start work until we are satisfied we have identified all risks and managed them.
Now that the crew know I’ve done the qualification, they come to me for advice. We now have the confidence to stop work if any new hazards come up through the day and ensure they’re managed before anyone starts work again. Previously, the boys often wanted to jump in and just start working without having safety measures in place – like wearing dust masks. Now I can’t walk past this.
Now I can explain the legal side and the more and more I talk, the more people get it. The crew now share stories about things that have happened on other sites. Combining our experiences and perspectives makes the safety message come alive.
I’m also implementing pre-inspection walk-throughs of our jobs to check the site risks. This not only ensures the site is safe before we turn up, but is saving the boss money because we don’t have crews standing around at start time because the site isn’t safe for us.
Another thing that came out of the course is that I’m now implementing a sit-down chat with all our new people to go through the SWMS (Safe Work Method Statements). Rather than just handing them the documents, I now go through it with them and have them thoroughly understand what they are signing on to. The SWMS can be long so in the past some people just sign them off without understanding they are actually signing a legal document.
On-site today, we had a contractor truck driver arrive. He’d parked ready to start work. I pulled him up and we looked at the risks – he hadn’t been aware of the powerlines as a potential hazard. Without that conversation, he would not have been ready to start work. He moved his truck out of the danger zone after that conversation and he thanked me for bringing it to his attention when he left. This is the difference this course makes – you just don’t step over anything that can put people at risk.
What would you say to others considering doing the course?
This course is like the invention of the wheel – you look back and see how things used to be before you had that knowledge. You do things and operate very differently when you don’t know what you don’t know. Now, with the knowledge of WHS, we are doing jobs completely differently when it comes to safety and the jobs are still getting done to a high standard and on time.
I wish more people were able to do the course and take the opportunity of CSQ funding. Having the subsidy available takes away a big financial barrier to doing the course and I am recommending more of our people get this knowledge. I encourage at least one person from every construction company to do the Cert IV in WHS. Put your hand up for the responsibility – this training makes all the difference. Doing the program has opened my eyes – once you have the knowledge you are never the same.
Workplace Dimensions thanks Kevin for speaking to us and wish him all the best keeping everyone safe!
Gain your qualification in Work Health & Safety
Our BSB41419 Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety program is now available face to face (where government Covid restrictions allow) or through a facilitator-led, real-time, interactive training environment – via an internet connected computer or device.
This could be the right time to add value to your role while working at home or from the workplace.
This is not a pre-recorded online program – it is the same experience as our face-to-face programs.
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