An Australian-made solution to the occupational lung disease epidemic, including silicosis, has received strong early support from some of the biggest players in the construction industry as the company pushes ahead with an accelerated national roll-out.
Gold Coast-based startup Trieste Global launched the neXtrack platform earlier this year and has recently secured support from building giants Multiplex and Hutchinson Builders. The builders are rolling out the platform across several sites as part of their strategy to tackle occupational lung disease and a range of other worker hazards.
NeXtrack is a new end-to-end solution for hazard control and real-time compliance monitoring that was created by construction industry expert Paul Brennan to help the industry respond to the devastating rise in occupational lung diseases such as silicosis that has now affected more than 500 workers across the country.
The platform can be utilised by Builders, Subcontractors and individual tradies and has multiple levels of subscription with the basic subscription available for free to subcontractors.
Mr Brennan said NeXtrack had been designed as an automated monitoring platform for hazard control and validation that digitises processes, provides real-time feedback, and protects workers from occupational Illnesses.
“Construction sites by design have lots of workers, constantly moving work areas and potential safety threats,” he said. “For too long the monitoring of safety has been done largely on an ad-hoc basis with a lot of manual, paper-based systems.”
“Project owners, builders and their subbies now have the ability to automate the process of hazard monitoring and implementing controls. We believe it won’t just save time and money; it will save lives. For the first time, the industry can truly demonstrate that controls are validated and effective.”
Regional WHSE Manager at Multiplex Ryan Alexiou said the company was focused on the long-term health of workers on its projects and is constantly looking at new and innovative ways to minimise risks.
“Occupational diseases are a significant contributor to serious workers compensation claims, and the prevention of these diseases is a strategic priority for our business,” he said. “NeXtrack is enabling us to provide real-time validation of the effectiveness of our controls, providing certainty to our workforce and stakeholders”.
Hutchinson Builders National Health and Safety Manager Danny O’Reilly has supported Trieste Global’s development of the neXtrack solution.
“Working with Trieste we set up site trials of engineered controls that enabled us to create a controlled work zone for workers to carry out hazardous tasks in a controlled safe manner,” Mr O’Reilly said.
“Trieste combined their neXtrack monitoring platform so we were able to see remotely the controls working effectively. After successful trials, we have introduced Trieste engineered workshops to our modular yards providing a safe solution for our contractors to use. Hutchinson Builders is dedicated to introducing ways to help our contractors protect their people and the community.”
Along with the support of the major builders, so far this year neXtrack has secured a multi-million-dollar investment from a global software business and recently appointed safety industry executive Naomi Kemp as a member of the Trieste Global advisory board. Ms Kemp is also the Chair of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety (AIHS), bringing industry expertise and strong governance to the Trieste business as we begin to support the industry.
Using the neXtrack platform, workers can now check-in at a site using a QR code that registers them to equipment, checks licenses, and prompts safety messages and required control measures. All controls are monitored and linked through IoT devices. The platform can be supervised by managers and safety professionals who can observe real-time data, and take appropriate action to monitor compliance and improve controls.
Mr Brennan said the idea for neXtrack had been borne out of a desire to help the construction industry address the rising rates of occupational lung disease.
“The re-emergence of silicosis as a significant workplace risk took a lot of people by surprise,” he said. “After an extensive career in the construction industry, I knew we had to find a better way of managing these risks and hazards.”
“We think NeXtrack is the ultimate solution. We have combined site, activities, and people to help businesses get a clearer picture of hazard controls, workplace exposures, and health of site monitoring.”
ln 2019 the Federal Government established the National Dust Disease Taskforce to address concerns about the emerging trend of new cases in accelerated silicosis in Australia.
Silicosis is caused by inhalation of respirable crystalline silica generated when cutting, grinding and polishing material with silica. The re-emergence of silicosis has been mostly driven by the popularity of engineered stone material used in benchtops since the early 2000s.
While silicosis can take decades to emerge after exposure, the Taskforce found more than 500 cases of silicosis had been identified from 2000-2019. Overall, people diagnosed with silicosis lose on average 11.6 years of life, so prevention is vital.
The Taskforce handed down a final report in July this year that contained seven recommendations that support a range of regulatory and non-regulatory actions designed to have an impact in the short to medium term on improving worker health and safety.