An Australian safety group has visited 60 glass manufacturing businesses in New South Wales in an effort to improve safety in the industry.

The WorkCover NSW Task Force was formed following a number of recent workplace fatalities including the death of a worker at Condell Park in July 2011 who was loading a stack of glass sheets onto a truck when the glass fell and crushed him against the vehicle.

Another incident in August 2012 saw the death of a worker at Rosehill who was working inside a shipping container when they were crushed by a timber crate containing glass sheets.

General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson, said the spike in incidents could be due to a number of factors including the high Australian dollar and businesses buying direct from overseas manufacturers.

“There are a number of risks associated with the manufacturing, storage and handling of glass,” Mr Watson said.

“Over the three years to 2011, there were two deaths and 431 injuries and illnesses in the glass and glass product manufacturing industry at a cost of $7 million to the NSW Workers Compensation Scheme.

“Our data indicates that the unloading of shipping containers, particularly closed top shipping containers, the loading and unloading of glass sheets from vehicles and the removal of glass sheets from timber packaging are high risk activities that contribute to work health and safety incidents.

“Further contributing to the increased risk is the bypassing of local glass wholesalers to buy direct from overseas manufacturers, with some businesses undertaking activities they may have no experience in, such as the unloading of shipping containers, particularly closed-top shipping containers.

During the visits inspectors checked that businesses had safe work systems for the manufacture, storage and handling of glass sheet and that workers had received adequate training and supervision.

Visits took place during the first three weeks of December.