These tips can make all the difference when it comes to worker safety
1. The law and who's responsible
Taking ownership for your responsibilities is essential when it comes to ensuring that you are covered from all angles.
Acts, Regulations, Codes and Standards all need to be complied with and no matter which end of the process you are; designer, builder, manager or user they must be followed and adhered to. As a brief guide the hierarchy of legislation is as follows:
For links to Acts, Regulations, Codes of Practice and Australian Standards refer to our Industry Information page.
2. Correct use of ladders
According to Safe Work Australia, falls from ladders are the second highest cause of falls-related fatalities.
Whether it be non compliance, incorrect placement or overbalancing, this is a statistic that is hard to go past and shows that while many people regard climbing a ladder as a basic task requiring little skill, correct training and proper supervision is still required.
Portable ladders, due to their ease of use, are particularly prone to mishaps.
Regular inspections are vital towards ensuring that ladders are not missing any components, have not suffered any damaged to the stiles, rungs or brackets and that the structural integrity has not been compromised. It is also essential to remember that if there is a risk of a person falling more than two metres, a SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) should be undertaken.
For more details read Worksafe Victoria's information sheet, "Prevention of Falls - Ladders".
3. Stop unwanted access
While we're on the subject of ladders, a recent incident on a building site where two young boys gained access to scaffolding via an inadequately locked ladder gives food for thought - have you controlled access to unwanted areas on your building sites or premises?
The installation of a lockable ladder cage gate or door can eliminate intruders or unauthorised workers entering locations of high risk, ensuring that only trained and qualified personnel are accessing the area.
4. Check those skylights
Falls through skylights and voids still contribute to a large amount of incidents and deaths and are very much a hidden danger.
Skylights are often inadequately protected and may not be easily seen due to a build up of debris or can simply be mistaken as a solid surface. Guardrail or skylight protectors will ensure they cannot be accidentally fallen through or stood on and are the most effective form of protection.
If safety mesh is installed it is always essential to check that it offers substantial and compliant protection. For more information on this subject read The Myths of Safety Mesh.
5. Scaffolding - is it up to the task?
The erection of scaffolding can assist greatly in fall protection however, according to the preliminary findings in a recent construction blitz run by Safework NSW, many infringements for missing components or inadequate edge protection were recorded. Nothing has highlighted the deadly consequences of this more than the recent tragic death of a young worker, who was killed when the scaffolding he was on collapsed at a Sydney worksite.
Safework NSW's Construction Blitz Initial Findings contains interesting reading and statistics about the problem of falls from height. You will also find an extremely handy falls from height checklist at the back of this document which can assist in ensuring compliance around your work areas.
6. Use the correct equipment
Do you know differences between equipment that is used for fall restraint, fall arrest, fall prevention and what these terms mean? Did you know that not all anchors can be used for rope access? What is the benefit of using rigid rails vs overhead cable systems for fall arrest?
We have several reference articles which may be of assistance.
- "Understanding anchor selection and why it matters" - the differences between fall arrest and rope access anchors and why it is critical that the right anchor is chosen for the required task.
- "Why should I choose rigid rail instead of an overhead cable system? - highlights the advantages in selecting rigid rails systems for overhead fall arrest.
- "Fall arrest, fall restraint and prevention" - learn and be able to identify the different types of access and fall protection equipment.
Correct equipment selection is necessary to ensure that workers are operating in safety and the importance of it cannot be underrated.
7. Hierarchy of Control
Design and use of access and fall protection systems is governed by the Hierarchy of Control for Working at Height.
The Hierarchy of Control is a system that is used to minimise or eliminate risks associated with specific tasks or hazards.
With regard to working at height, the ultimate goal is to ensure a fall from height cannot occur. This can be achieved either by eliminating the need to work above the ground or to provide a solid elevated construction from where the work can be performed. If it is not possible to achieve this, the risk of a fall must be minimised through the application of control measures further down the Hierarchy of Control.
More information on the Hierarchy of Control for Working at Height can be found on our FAQS page.
8. Don't forget SWMS for high risk work
Working at heights is considered high risk and a SWMS is always required to be prepared before any work of this type is carried out.
For more information on SWMS and a template go to our post What is a SWMS?
9. Rescue plans - you can't afford not to have one
A rescue plan is an essential piece of documentation that must be completed before undertaking any work at heights.
This should detail:
- the type of work being undertaken
- the risks involved
- what actions need to be implemented in the event of an incident or accident occurring.
Emergency service details should be included, but their attendance should be considered as only a part of the overall rescue plan. Emergency services may take time to arrive at the scene and it is imperative that rescue procedures are commenced as soon as possible to enable the situation to be rectified and to ensure injuries are not exacerbated.
Assessment of the building, on site rescue equipment and available access to the area by rescuers and emergency services are all factors that must be considered and detailed in the plan.
Training of persons who will be conducting the rescue must also be undertaken to ensure that they are skilled in the use of the rescue equipment.
If the person being rescued sustains injuries which result in unconsciousness rescue may be even more difficult and additional procedures must be put in place to cover this contingency.
Persons sustaining a fall while using fall arrest equipment are in significant risk of Suspension Trauma and for this reason it is imperative that they are rescued as soon as possible to lessen the likelihood of this condition occurring.
10. Don't forget about PPE
PPE or Personal Protective Equipment always needs to be checked before use. This type of equipment can lay dormant for periods of time and there is always the chance that deterioration or damage could have occurred since it was last used.
Correctly fitting and adjusting your harnesses is vital to ensure that they work correctly and effectively arrest a fall should this occur. Our video "How to correctly fit a fall arrest harness" gives instructions on the correct method to ensure the right fit. And don't forget to adjust them from season to season.
Further information and links to industry websites, documents and other invaluable resources can be found on our Industry Information page. You can also visit our FAQS page for help with many industry queries.