Residential construction sites mismanaging risk of falls

Thursday, 22 April, 2021

Residential construction sites mismanaging risk of falls

A range of trends have been identified across residential construction sites, six weeks into a SafeWork SA audit campaign focusing on falls. Since the campaign commenced on 1 March 2021, audits conducted by inspectors have resulted in 46 breaches being identified, with 22 prohibition notices and 19 improvement notices associated with managing the risk of falls.

From the notices issued thus far, a few common trends have emerged, including poor contractor management, non-compliant scaffolding, unsafe use of ladders, open voids, and working on the live edge of a roof without controls.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Martyn Campbell said falls from heights are preventable, adding that there is no excuse for not having controls and systems in place to prevent them. In March, SafeWork SA was notified of an incident where a worker fell through single-storey fragile roofing and died as a result of the fall.

“While it may seem like a house roof is not very high, statistics show that 90% of serious injuries in 2020 were sustained from falls below three metres. The residential construction industry engages many contractors, and all parties have shared responsibilities to work together for the health and safety of themselves and others. Our inspectors observed carpenters walking the top plate with no controls in place,” said Campbell.

The SafeWork SA 2020 Health and Safety Snapshot relating to falls from heights revealed that carpenters are most at risk when working at height. To address these issues, SafeWork SA has developed new guidance on Installing Prefabricated Roof Trusses.

“Builders need to understand they have the same duty of care for contractors as their own direct workers and cannot pass the risk down to contractors,” said Campbell.

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