Lowering the risk of working at height

Wednesday, 02 August, 2023 | Supplied by: Ventia

Working at height poses a significant safety risk, but an initiative by Ventia is helping to reduce the dangers.

Working at height is responsible for at least 20% of critical control checks at Ventia, as well as generating the highest rate of high-potential (HiPo) events of any task category. A HiPo event is a subcategory of near miss, where the event could have had a catastrophic outcome.

This is especially the case for the organisation’s social housing contract in NSW, where subcontractors perform the majority of tasks at height — a total of three million hours annually including more than 13,000 roof repairs.

Ventia’s safety program — which collaborates with subcontractors on the social housing contract to develop their safety capabilities and protect employees — has seen reportable injuries related to working at heights fall to zero since its inception in early 2022.

Ian Ryles, Project Director of the social housing contract, said the fact Ventia has recorded no reportable injuries related to working at height is an incredible result.

“We continually monitor sites, incidents and near-misses to inform our risk-based approach to protecting our staff, subcontractors and the community from harm,” he said.

Ryles said the first stage was to invite subcontractors to join a working at heights panel.

“This panel consisted of subcontractors who could demonstrate their ability to correctly undertake fundamental safety planning activities related to working at heights.

“The purpose of the panel is to focus our subcontractors on this high-risk activity and engage with them to collaboratively develop better protocols to reduce HiPo events.”

The panel was invited to attend a safety forum dedicated to mitigating and managing the risk of working at heights. Speakers included a safety regulator from SafeWork NSW, who spoke on working at heights fundamentals and legislative requirements.

“The outcome of the forum was a Working at Heights Critical Risk Protocol which both Ventia and our subcontractors committed to implementing in the field,” Ryles said.

“We intend to continue to develop events in conjunction with the panel to improve our shared management of this critical risk.”

The panel reconvened later in 2022 to join an interactive forum with all working at heights subcontractors. One in particular had good insights to share.

“A session led by Kitely’s Roofing generated important discussions between subcontractors,” Ryles said.

Endeavour Energy also led a session, highlighting the critical risks around working at heights near energised services.”

These earlier sessions were followed by a masterclass which promoted Ventia’s working at heights safety framework, using specific examples from the social housing contract as to how the risks can be managed.

Ryles said the forum and masterclass content has been collated to create a working at heights safety resource for subcontractors.

“It contains guides, recorded talks, posters, toolbox talk guides and other materials to support subcontractors effectively communicating with their teams,” he said.

“We intend to continue to develop events in conjunction with the panel to improve our shared management of this critical risk.”

Image credit: iStock.com/Oranat Taesuwan

Online: www.ventia.com.au
Phone: 1300 836 842
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