Spate of falls incidents prompts SafeWork warning

Media Release | 11/02/2016

SafeWork NSW is urging businesses and workers across the State to take extreme care after two workers were killed and eight others seriously injured in falls from heights since the beginning of the year.

On 31 January, a 62 year old asbestos removalist died when he fell approximately eight metres while removing sheets from a factory roof at Greenacre and on 7 January, a 73 year old Newcastle builder died when he fell approximately 1.3 metres from a mobile scaffold while repairing a property at Hamilton East near Newcastle. Other incidents included a 62 year old barman at a Manly golf club suffering a fractured skull after falling from a ladder while attempting to clean gutters and a 33 year old labourer at Orange breaking his leg after falling approximately three metres while removing sheeting from a roof.

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said working from heights was hazardous and businesses needed to have safety systems in place.

“These incidents highlight that a fall, even from a relatively low height, can result in serious injury or death,” Mr Dunphy said.

“Tragically, most of these incidents could have been prevented had safe work systems such as safety harnesses or work platforms been used.

“During 2013/14 there were 4,170 workers compensation claims for falls from heights at a cost of more than $49 million.

“We’re urging NSW businesses to review their safety systems so that no more workers are injured.”

Under NSW work health and safety laws, workplaces must have safety systems in place to prevent workers falling from heights. Businesses must provide workers with information, instruction, training and supervision in risk control procedures and workers are required to follow those procedures.

Businesses can prevent falls from heights by:

  • Carrying out work on the ground or on a solid construction;
  • Providing a fall prevention device such as a secure fence, edge protection, working platforms or covers;
  • Providing a work positioning system which includes any plant or structure, other than a temporary work platform, that safely holds a worker in a work position; and
  • Providing a fall arrest system such as an industrial safety net, catch platform or safety harness system.

“Whether it’s making sure a step ladder is positioned properly or that a new worker is inducted and aware of the risks, everyone in needs to work together to prevent falls from heights.” Mr Dunphy said.

More information on falls and falls in the construction industry is available on our website along with codes of practice for managing the risk of falls at workplaces and safe work on roofs part 1.

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