15 September, 2022
Falls in the workplace is a leading cause of death and serious Injury in Australia.
Fall hazards can be found in many workplaces. Hazards involving increased risk can include work carried out at heights above two metres – for example, climbing up ladders in warehouses or working on roofs, temporary work platforms and elevated work platforms; or falling from ground level into holes such as service pits or bodies of water.
The primary duty of care (to keep workers and workplaces safe from the risks of working at heights) falls to the employer or person conducting the business or undertaking.
Time and time again, we investigate the same types of incidents, usually with the same types of uncontrolled risks.
Recent examples of safety breaches include:
- Workers using a makeshift work platform of trestles and aluminium planks while working on a first-floor balcony, which had an unprotected edge.
- Subcontractors working on the first-floor roof accessing materials positioned only 50cm from the unprotected roof edge.
- A plumber working on the second-floor roof with no fall protection in place.
- A subcontractor installing roofing sheets on the first floor and required to work near unprotected edges.
- Workers using stairs to access the second floor with no guardrails around the stairs or second floor landing.
To prevent falls in the workplace employers can:
- Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.
- Use passive fall prevention devices such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
- Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
- Use a fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
- Use a fixed ladder compliant with Australian standard AS 1657 or implement administrative controls including ‘no go areas’, permit systems and training in always maintaining three points of contact.
Although the primary duty of care is with the employer or person conducting the business or undertaking, there are a number of duty holders who have a role in managing the risk of falls in the workplace.
Designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers of plant, substances or structures that are used for work also have the duty of care to ensure the plant or structure is without risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Designers of plants or structures have an important role in eliminating and minimising the risk of falls in the design stage.
Officers such as company directors have a duty to exercise due diligence, to ensure the company complies with workplace safety legislations.
Workers and other persons at the workplace also have duties under workplace safety legislation, to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at the work. Workers must also comply with company regulations and procedures to not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons.
Workplace safety legislations such as the safe code of practice, provides guidance on how to manage the risks of falling from heights the workplace using the following systematic approach:
- Identify hazards—find out what could cause harm.
- Assess risks—understand the nature of the harm that could be caused by the hazard, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening.
- Eliminate risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Control risks—if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances in accordance with the hierarchy of control measures, and ensure they remain effective over time.
- Document hazards, risks and controls in a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)
Legislation varies from state to state. It is important for all duty holders to be familiar with the height-protection legislation that governs their state or territory.
Dohrmann Consulting’s expert engineers and ergonomists can advise on safety compliance, risk assessment and the design stage of plant and structures to ensure a safer workplace.
We can assist in preventing the risk of falls in your workplace.