Warning issued over unsafe work at heights, following multiple falls

Friday, 16 February, 2018

Warning issued over unsafe work at heights, following multiple falls

Two serious workplace falls in less than two weeks have prompted a WorkSafe Victoria warning about the dangers of working at heights.

A 19-year-old carpenter was injured when he fell from scaffolding at a Dandenong building site, while a man in his 20s was seriously injured when he fell about 6 m at a construction site in Fitzroy.

A total of 11 serious falls have been reported to WorkSafe since 1 January, including:

  • a 21-year-old man who suffered a neck fracture after he fell through a suspended floor while carrying out renovation work in the Geelong suburb of Bell Post Hill;
  • a 61-year-old worker who fractured his hip after slipping off a 1.5 m ladder at a multistorey development in Southbank;
  • a worker in his 20s who was taken to hospital with a head laceration after falling almost 2.5 m while installing battens on the roof of an office building in Colac.

WorkSafe Head of Hazardous Industries and Industry Practice Michael Coffey said falls are a leading cause of serious injury and death on construction sites.

"Employers have a responsibility to identify the risk of falls from any height and make sure the appropriate safety control measures are in place to control the risk," Coffey said.

"WorkSafe is asking all employers, principal contractors, contractors and workers who are undertaking work at height to review and if necessary revise their Safe Work Method Statements to ensure their fall prevention controls are adequate."

Earlier this month, Ballarat construction company Myrti Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $25,000 for ignoring a WorkSafe directive to fix unsafe scaffolding.

"Our inspectors have zero tolerance for sites which do not take the risk of falls seriously," Coffey said.

"Any of the 11 incidents so far this year could have ended tragically, and what is frustrating for WorkSafe inspectors is that they see similar incidents over and over again.

"The majority of incidents occur on housing construction sites and involve falls through open stair voids, from or through roof trusses or battens, from frames, or from scaffolding and ladders.

"The control measures to reduce the risk of falls are well known and readily available, so there is no excuse for not having them in place."

Employers should control the risk of falls from height by:

  • eliminating the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction;
  • reducing the remaining risk by using fall prevention devices like scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, elevated work platforms or safety mesh;
  • travel-restraint systems, industrial rope-access systems, catch platforms and fall arrest harness systems can also be used to reduce the risk of falls.

Construction work involving a risk of a fall from more than 2 m is considered high-risk work and a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is required.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Gino Santa Maria

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