Falls from height is Australia’s fourth biggest workplace killer (per SafeWork Australia), but effective controls are poorly understood by many, according to Simon Butt of No Bolt Operations Pty Ltd. A recent article on the WorkSafe Victoria website states in part “a labourer has fallen to his death. Initial inquiries indicate he may have fallen up to 5m onto the floor of the building”. Could this have been avoided?
Practical tips for safe access around the workplace:
- Cost of Falls
Falls from height not only cause fatalities, but numerous serious injuries and many traumatic debilitating (both physically and psychologically) injuries. These injuries are very costly to the victim, families and the organisation.
- Legislative Requirements
With the new WHS legislation and its adoption in most jurisdictions in Australia, the requirements for falls prevention will change significantly. From now on you will need to assess all processes where there is a risk of a fall from one level (of any height) to another.
- Hierarchy of Control
The ‘hierarchy of control’ is specified in your state’s current OHS/WHS legislation to guide your determination of what controls should be implemented to control a risk. Organisations must always minimize the risk based on what is reasonably practicable, where reasonably practicable is defined as ‘what was reasonably able to be done at the time’.
- Codes of Practice
Gary Rowe, CEO www.safetyaction.com.au © 2012 Safety Action Pty Ltd® Page 3 December 2012 ® News There is a more solution based ‘hierarchy of control’ available in the relevant code of practice or compliance code for your state, so that the solution with the lowest rate of risk is always selected first when it is reasonably practicable to do so e.g. ‘Basic steps to preventing falls from heights’ – Vic, June 2005, ‘Preventing falls in housing construction’ – NSW, June 2012 or ‘Managing the risks of falls at workplaces’ – NSW, December 2011.
- Select Best Solution for the Purpose
Do not undervalue your operator’s life; the cheapest or easiest solution is not always the best one. For example a worker needs to get on and off the trailer of a truck for loading and unloading the cheapest solution may be to attach a harness to the operator and a rig to an overhead beam. However, does the harness may now present a tripping hazard, and can you guarantee the worker will use the harness? If there is more appropriate and lower risk solutions available that fall higher in the hierarchy of control they must be considered first before making the final decision. Go for a solution that is designed for the purpose. If the process changes, check if the solution still fits and that no new risks have been created. This also applies if the solution is deployed elsewhere.
- Maintain Controls
Controls fail and equipment deteriorates, perform regular risk assessments and inspections to keep this from happening. Create an inspection plan, keep it updated and stick to it.
Train your staff in correct equipment usage and controls, make sure they are constantly using equipment correctly and when required.
As an organisation, you need to determine if you are doing enough before it’s too late. The easiest option is not always the safest option and there are many resources at your disposal. Working at heights can be very dangerous without the correct safety solutions being deployed and don’t just consider the risk of a fatality, even a fall of less than a meter can result in a serious injury. By applying the tested and tried methods and not taking shortcuts or ignoring the legislation, your organisation can become a safer place.