SafeWork NSW launches campaign to prevent falls from height

Wednesday, 07 June, 2023

SafeWork NSW launches campaign to prevent falls from height

SafeWork NSW has launched a 12-month campaign of surprise inspections to reduce fatal falls on NSW building sites. This comes after a district court judge raised concerns, in the final weeks of the former government, on the alarming rise in ‘fall from heights’ incidents leading to serious injury and death. The ‘anytime, anywhere’ campaign will see inspectors on the ground visiting construction sites across the state and will not hesitate to stop work onsite, issue fines and consider prosecution against businesses and individuals breaking the law and flouting critical safety regulations.

Falls from height are the number one cause of traumatic fatalities on NSW construction sites, with 16 people killed between 2018 and 2022. On 8 February 2023, His Honour Judge Russell published the judgment in a prosecution of an employer following a serious fall from height incident. Russel made comment about the number of falls from height matters the court has observed in recent years and requested that SafeWork NSW send a copy of the judgment to the Minister for Work Health and Safety Sophie Cotsis.

Cotsis said that there is a zero-tolerance policy for putting worker safety at risk, with the government, employers and unions playing an important role to better protect workers. “As I have received incoming briefs and information I have read of horrific injuries and deaths in NSW workplaces. A fall from as little as two metres can cause catastrophic injury or even death. My message is this: expect an unannounced visit from an inspector who will throw the book at anyone breaking the law. Falls from heights are completely preventable with tried and tested measures such as using roof guard rails, harnesses and covering voids. There is no excuse,” Cotsis said.

Workers aged between 20 and 29 experience the highest number of falls and those aged over 50 make up the highest number of fatalities. Contractors and builders are obligated to protect workers at heights by offering training and safety equipment as well as identifying height risks and taking steps to control these hazards, as far as reasonably practicable.

SafeWork inspectors will educate employers and workers on safe height practices during the campaign. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers can book a workplace visit with a SafeWork inspector to identify risks and how to manage them. Safety information, which can be translated into a number of languages including Chinese, Greek and Arabic, is also available on the SafeWork NSW website. Workers can report workplace health and safety issues by calling SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 or through the Speak Up app.

Head of SafeWork NSW Natasha Mann said that falls from heights injuries account for more than 50% of all injuries in the construction sector and 44% of falls from heights workers compensation claims are from the construction sector. “The average cost of heights-related workers compensation claims is $167,000, which is three times the cost of non-height related claims — and 60% of falls from heights in construction were major claims. SafeWork NSW offers up to $1000 to businesses to help pay for safety solutions, such as roof guard rails, to ensure workers get home safe. Businesses and workers need to take the time to plan and manage risks before starting any work at height,” Mann said.

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