Bushfire Mitigation and Hazard Works
Client: Transport NSW
In late November 2019, a lightening bolt struck brush to create the largest recorded fire in Australian history.
The threat to public safety was so instantaneous and severe, it required both immediate and ongoing works to make major thoroughfares, transport arteries and properties safe from fire, sinkholes, and hazards including debris, burnt, and falling trees, power outages, and the like.
Given the immediate danger and sheer size of the affected area, Transport NSW required support expertise that could:
- Complete risk evaluations effectively and to the highest standards
- Co-ordinate resources, mobilising sizable teams and specialist machinery
- Ensure the safety of their own people as well as the public
- Communicate effectively with the department during and after the crisis
- Act as an extension of Transport NSW and always execute expected safety reporting protocols
Through the appointment of a dedicated, full time qualified Project Manager to oversee existing contracted works across a sizable geographic area (from Newcastle to Lithgow and down to Termil), the Summit team already had an excellent working relationship with the key stakeholders within Transport NSW as the crisis unfolded.
Summit’s team were able to take existing cutting-edge methods used to document and quote work orders, and re-tool these processes to photograph, assess, prioritize jobs, and assign resources at speed, based on highest risk.
Mobile ground crews were dispatched to work around-the-clock to create fire breaks, clear debris, mark vunerable areas, evaluate burnt trees for safety hazards and facilitate restoration of power to thousands of homes and businesses. As a result, emergency services and community support could access all areas, and all major thoroughfares and properties were made safe and usable.
At all times, safety of both the public and the 20 working excavator crews was paramount. The ferocity of the fire had created additional hazards, including newly created sinkholes, for machinery and crew members to navigate.
Summit was able to provide a variety of specialist excavator sizes, from 5 – 25 tonnes to meet the variety of challenges presented by each site.
To safeguard our people, Summit required all team members wear masks for approximately six weeks after the fire had ceased to reduce the risk of exposure to harsh residual smoke.
Keeping the machinery in safe working order also proved difficult. The ash from the fire was abrasive, creating higher-than-usual wear-and-tear on consumables, such as chainsaw blades. Summit’s support offices worked hard to ensure that mobile crews had all the back-up equipment necessary to keep delivering services while maintaining our highest safety standards.
There is no doubt our longstanding relationships with Transport NSW and our approach to continuous quality assurance were certainly key factors in our performance. However, upholding the proactive safety culture that lives in our business, in such difficult circumstances, is how we judge our overall success.
At Summit, real-time safety reporting is everyone’s business. By capturing and reporting identified hazards and near misses within 1 hour of an event, we demonstrate our commitment to ensuring everyone who works with us goes home safe each day, not just when the conditions of the job suit.
Our record of 5 years without a lost time injury or major safety breech in our work with Transport NSW demonstrates our refusal to compromise on safety, even during a crisis as severe as the 2019/2020 Bushfire event.