White Card Update: NSW Work Cover Warns of Dangers when Working from Heights

An increased number of onsite falls has led WorkCover to issue a reminder to workers and businesses of the dangers that work from heights presents.

The last few months, according to WorkCover, have seen an increased number of workers falling from heights on construction sites. One worker even lost his life due to the fall on a Newcastle site.

WorkCover NSW GM has warned that work from heights is extremely dangerous and should not be taken lightly. Many of the falls that occurred over the last few months could have been avoided with proper safety, according to WorkCover. The worst incident involved a worker who was not wearing a safety harness while engaging in work from an elevated work platform and fell 10 metres to his death.

SafetyCulture.com.au has the full details:

WorkCover reminds businesses and workers to take extreme care while working at heights following a number of serious incidents in the past few months.


WorkCover NSW General Manager John Watson said a worker died and several others seriously injured in separate incidents across NSW.


 “Woking from heights is hazardous work and, as these incidents show, a fall can result in serious injury or death,” said Mr Watson.


 “Recently we saw a number of falls that could have been avoided, including:


 •A fitter in Wetherill Park suffered serious head injuries when he fell three metres from the boom of a mobile crane he had mounted to conduct repairs.


 •A worker sustained serious damage including fractures to his skull, eye socket, hip, pelvis, elbow and wrist after falling eight metres through a skylight when conducting work on a solar hot water system on the roof of a commercial building in Byron Bay.


 •A labourer/boilermaker died in Newcastle when he fell 10 metres from an elevated work platform while not wearing a harness


 •A bricklayer in Sylvania, in the Sutherland Shire, lost his balance while building a wall and fell more than three metres, sustaining a concussion, fractured spine and broken ribs.


 •A tree lopper in Alstonville, west of Ballina, broke his leg and injured his hand and wrist when he fell after a tree limb struck him;


 •A volunteer in Nimbin, west of Byron Bay fell 1.5 metres from a ladder while helping build a shed, sustaining injuries to his shoulder and skull.


 “Under work health and safety laws, workplaces must have safety systems in place to prevent workers falling from heights,” said Mr Watson.


 “Businesses must provide workers with information, instruction, training and supervision in risk control procedures.


 “Workers are required to follow the procedures set out by the business, which in turn must provide a safe workplace by identifying foreseeable fall hazards and taking action to manage those risks,” he said.


 A person conducting a business or undertaking must take adequate measures to ensure protection against the risk of fall by the following hierarchy of controls where reasonably practicable to do so:


 •Carry out the work on the ground or on a solid construction.


 •Provide a fall prevention device such as a secure fence, edge protection, working platforms or covers.


 •Provide a work positioning system (any plant or structure, other than a temporary work platform, that safely holds a worker in a work position).


 •Provide a fall arrest system such as an industrial safety net, a catch platform, or a safety harness system.


 More information on working safely with heights can be accessed through the WorkCover NSW website.


Source: http://www.safetyculture.com.au/news/index.php/08/workcover-urges-businesses-workers-to-stay-safe-while-working-at-heights/

Regardless of the fact that falls have been identified as the most common cause of deaths on construction sites in Oz, employers are still neglecting to provide the adequate training, supervision and fall protection to workers. Perhaps employers and workers are not awarding the appropriate attention to the development of safety procedures in general.

Employers should identify safety hazards even before work begins. A fall hazard is easily identifiable and employers should  take the necessary steps to avoid injuries from a fall before instructing a worker to engage in an activity that may result in injury or death.

Consulting with workers is an informative way of identifying hazards as workers are in direct contact with work processes and hazards. Workers usually have the most experience with the hazard and can better identify hazards that employers may not be aware of.

Areas that Employers Often Neglect with Fall Safety:

  • The value of the safety harness – The worker that died in Newcastle, would most probably have been alive today if the proper safety harness system had been implemented and used correctly.
  • Guardrails – must be installed on all scaffolding or elevated work platforms in accordance with required standards.
  • Fall Arrest Systems – Workers on suspended scaffolds must use a fall arrest system as protection against the failure of the scaffold or its components.
  • Anchorage- Fall protection is only as good as its anchorage. If it is not properly anchored it will not serve any purpose to the worker in the event of a fall.