Spate of falls from height across Vic prompts safety reminder

Thursday, 18 August, 2022

Spate of falls from height across Vic prompts safety reminder

Victorian employers have been reminded of the risks associated with working from heights following a spate of serious injuries in the construction industry. On 26 July, an apprentice electrician fell while loading solar panels onto a roof at a domestic premises in Coburg, sustaining a broken ankle, wrist and eye socket. The next day, a plumber fell more than two metres at a housing construction site in Frankston, sustaining serious head and back injuries. Then, on 28 July, a worker was taken to hospital with a cut to the head after falling about three metres from a ladder at a Broadmeadows construction site.

Since 2018, WorkSafe Victoria has accepted 6340 claims from workers injured in falls from height, with construction workers accounting for 29% of these claims. More than half of the claims from the construction industry (52%) were falls from ladders, scaffolding, mobile platforms or mobile stairs. Falls from height were also one of the leading causes of workplace deaths in the construction industry, with 14 fatal incidents since 2018. In February, a 69-year-old worker died after falling from a height of approximately five metres at a construction site in Cheltenham.

To prevent falls from height, employers should eliminate the risk by, where practicable, doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction. Using a passive fall prevention device (such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms) or a positioning system (such as a travel-restraint system) can help ensure employees work within a safe area. Fall arrest systems, such as harnesses, catch platforms or safety nets, can also help limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall. Employers are also advised to use a fixed or portable ladder, and implement administrative controls.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said that every injury and death caused by falls is preventable if the right steps are taken to eliminate or reduce risks. “This terrible sequence of incidents — three falls in three days — highlights the very real risks of working from heights. It is every employer’s duty to ensure measures are in place to control these risks, such as a passive fall prevention device and a fall arrest system,” Beer said.

WorkSafe will take action against employers who fail to ensure their workers are properly trained and appropriate safety measures are in place. So far in 2022, fines totalling $489,000 have been imposed against construction companies and directors in 12 WorkSafe prosecutions for failing to protect workers from the dangers of working from height. WorkSafe supports employers in maintaining safe workplaces through site visits and guidance, with further support available through the free and confidential OHS Essentials program.

Image credit: Taesuwan

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