Bowens - The Builders Choice

Will You Be the Next to Fall to Your Death?

Falls from height incidents and fatalities are rising and continue to be one of the leading causes of workplace deaths.

In the housing sub sector, 50% of all falls from height fatalities are caused by falling from ladders, roofs or stair/voids. In the last three months, several fall incidents and a fatality have occurred in the housing sub-sector; this includes: A carpenter working on the 2nd storey in a housing development fell 3 metres through a stair void, sadly resulting in his death.

  • An apprentice electrician fell while loading solar panels onto a roof at a domestic premise in Coburg, sustaining a broken ankle, wrist and eye socket.
  • A plumber fell more than two metres at a housing construction site in Frankston, leaving them with serious head and back injuries.
  • A worker was taken to hospital with a head injury after falling four metres from a ladder at a Broadmeadows construction site.

Since 2018, WorkSafe has accepted 6,340 claims from workers injured in falls from height, with construction workers accounting for almost one third of these claims.

WorkSafe inspectors are taking a strong compliance and enforcement approach to ensure works at height are performed safely as they continue to visit construction sites across Victoria.

“WorkSafe inspectors are taking a strong compliance and enforcement approach to ensure works at height are performed safely as they continue to visit construction sites across Victoria.”

This year, fines totalling $489,000 have been imposed against construction companies and directors in 12 WorkSafe prosecutions for failing to protect workers from the dangers of working from height.

Common construction fall hazards include:

  • working on or near unprotected edges;
  • using unsafe or incomplete scaffolds;
  • using inappropriate ladders or unsafe ladder use;
  • falling from roofs or through fragile roofs or skylights;
  • falling from trucks or plant;
  • falling through stair-voids; and
  • falling into holes, pits or shafts

WorkSafe is driving employers to implement safety controls to prevent these hazards from occurring. As an employer, you have a duty to protect your workers.

Where there is a risk of a fall less than two metres employers must:

  • so far as is reasonably practicable eliminate risks to health and safety, for example any risk associated with a fall at the workplace.
  • if elimination of the risk is not reasonably practicable, the risk must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Where there is a risk of a fall of more than two metres employers and self-employed persons must:

  • comply with the specific prevention of falls requirements including following the “control of risk” hierarchy (see table) and establishing emergency procedures.
  • follow specific high risk construction work (HRCW) duties including the duty to prepare and follow a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS).

Hierarchy of control measures for prevention of falls above 2 metres

Note: A combination of risk control measures will usually be required

High Risk Construction Work (HRCW) duties

Where work involves a risk of a person falling more than two metres, the work is classified as HRCW which has additional specific risk control duties.

HRCW must not start until a SWMS has been developed. A SWMS must:

  • identify work that is HRCW
  • state the hazards and risks of that work
  • sufficiently describe measures to control fall risks
  • describe how the risk control measures are to be implemented
  • be set out and expressed in a way that is readily accessible and comprehensible to the persons who uses it.

If a SWMS is not being followed the HRCW must stop. Note: Affected workers and their health and safety representatives must be consulted when identifying hazards and determining risk control measures. Additional duties exist in relation to HRCW and SWMS.

Employee legal duties

Employees must take reasonable care of their own health and safety and that of others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. This includes not interfering with or misusing things provided at a workplace in the interests of health, safety or welfare (eg guardrails or scaffolds).

Learn how you can keep your workers safe on-site by visiting – https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/you-need-high-standards-when-working-heights

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