Safety reminder issued after spike in construction falls

Wednesday, 10 April, 2024

Safety reminder issued after spike in construction falls

WorkSafe Victoria has urged members of the construction industry to check fall prevention measures after a worker died and several others were injured in a spate of serious incidents. WorkSafe is investigating the death of a 56-year-old worker after an incident at a residential construction site in Doncaster East on 26 March 2024. The worker is believed to have been pouring concrete when he fell more than two metres and sustained life-threatening head injuries — the man died in hospital two days later.

The death is the 11th confirmed workplace fatality for 2024; there were 18 work-related deaths at the same time last year. WorkSafe has responded to a range of incidents on construction sites since the start of the year. A 28-year-old worker sustained serious spinal and head injuries on 7 March, after falling 3.7 metres from a ladder at a construction site in Carrum Downs. A day later, a 32-year-old working from first storey floor joists fell approximately three metres onto a concrete slab in Glen Waverley, sustaining head and shoulder injuries.

On 18 March, WorkSafe responded to an incident at a building site in Brunswick East after a 31-year-old worker was seriously injured after a three-metre fall from roof trusses. On 25 March, a 27-year-old carpenter was taken to hospital after falling 3.1 metres when a ladder slid out from under him at a construction site in Dromana. A 53-year-old worker suffered back and pelvic injuries after falling from the second storey of a house under construction in Portarlington on 27 March.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it is frustrating because falls from heights are preventable, yet remain a top cause of workplace harm. “A fall can happen in just seconds but the consequences can last a lifetime, including devastating injuries and loss of life. It might be easy to think that a tragic incident will never happen on your site, but if safety is not the top priority every day then the chances are high that it will,” Beer said.

According to Beer, nine workers died in Victoria in 2023 as a result of a fall from height, including four in the construction industry. More than 400 claims were also accepted from construction workers injured in a fall from height in 2023. Of those injured, 160 fell from ladders, 46 from steps and stairways, 31 from buildings or structures, 27 from scaffolding, and 13 from openings in floors, walls or ceilings.

WorkSafe inspectors have conducted more than 4700 visits to construction sites so far this year, issuing more than 1100 notices. WorkSafe has also carried out 39 prosecutions relating to the risk of a fall from height in 2023, with the courts imposing fines totalling more than $1.9 million. “We have a dedicated team of inspectors visiting sites across the state and there is zero tolerance for employers who fail to take the well-known risks of falls seriously,” Beer said.

To prevent falls from height, WorkSafe advises employers to implement the highest possible measures from the five levels in the hierarchy of controls. Level 1 controls include eliminating the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction. Level 2 controls include the use of a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.

Level 3 controls include using a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure employees work within a safe area. If Level 3 controls are not practicable, employers should consider implementing Level 4 controls, which include the use of a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall. Level 5 of the hierarchy of controls includes the use of a fixed or portable ladder, or the implementation of administrative controls.

Image credit: toker

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