Falls from heights are the leading cause of fatalities and injuries in the construction industry. Understand how you can put controls in place to protect your workers on site.

First, you must identify any task that involves a fall hazard and implement the highest level of protection using the hierarchy of control. Start at the hierarchy’s highest level and only move to the next level if the highest level isn’t practicable. The type and duration of the work will significantly impact the level of control chosen.

Level one is the elimination of the fall risk and offers the highest protection. This can be achieved by working at ground level or on solid construction.

“Level one is the elimination of the fall risk and offers the highest protection. This can be achieved by working at ground level or on solid construction.”

If level one is not practicable, move to a level two control. Assess if a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolding, guard railing or an elevated work platform (EWP) can be implemented. A level two control is used in most tasks where a high risk of a fall exists.

“A level two control is used in most tasks where a high risk of a fall exists.”

Where a level two control is not practicable, move to level three. Consider if using a work positioning system such as industrial rope access or a travel restraint system is possible. This is a lower level of protection, and workers using these systems must be trained in the safe use of the equipment and understanding how the system works.

“This (level three) is a lower level of protection, and workers using these systems must be trained in the safe use of the equipment and understanding how the system works.”

Where a level three control is not practicable, move to level four. Evaluate if using a fall arrest system such as an industrial safety net, a catch platform, or safety harness fall arrest system is viable. A fall arrest system differs from a travel restraint system as it won’t prevent falls. Workers of these controls must be trained in the safe use of the equipment and understand how the system works.

If the above measures are still not reasonably practicable for the task, implement a level five control, the use of a ladder. It’s essential to take the correct steps when using this control measure.

When implementing any control in the hierarchy, a safe work system must be made in conjunction with the control. A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) must be developed when the fall risk exceeds two metres.

“When implementing any control in the hierarchy, a safe work system must be made in conjunction with the control.”

Additionally, if a control level between two and five is used and the fall risk is greater than two metres, an emergency procedure must be established to:

  1. Enable the rescue of a person in the event of a fall; and 
  2. Enable the provision of first aid to a person that has fallen; and
  3. Can be carried out immediately after a fall.

Using the hierarchy of control can help you select the safest measure to prevent injuries or fatalities on your site. Protect yourself and your workers.

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