Since 2003, when Safe Work Australia first began collecting statistics, the average number of fatalities resulting from falls at height has hovered around the 26-28 deaths per year. While this is still a totally unacceptable amount of lives lost, we have felt to a certain extent that things were relatively stable.
However upon the release of the figures for the last six months, from 1 January to 30 June 2017, it has been revealed that falls from height fatalities now stand at 20 deaths. It would appear that the working at height industry is in very real trouble.
Apart from incidents involving vehicles, falls from height is the highest cause of workplace death. Since 2003, 425 people have lost their lives.
As an industry we need to be looking at what we are doing, and not doing, to protect our workers. If these figures continue it is not unrealistic to think that by the end of 2017 we may have the highest recorded number of deaths since 2003. Unlike many records, this is not one that should be broken.
In an age with so many technological advances, operational procedures, checklists, protocols and seemingly a much higher duty of care what is the industry doing wrong?
It will be interesting once more statistics come to light when the real evaluation can take place, but for now we should all do some basic housekeeping to see how healthy our working at heights practices are.
Check your systems
- Conduct a system audit to see if your systems are still complying with industry standards and regulations.
- How often is work undertaken at height and are the systems installed satisfactory for this level of usage?
- If you do not have any fall protection systems in place contact a height safety consultant to obtain advice on what you need to put in place.
Check your height safety management practices
- Do you have all the documentation in place when work is conducted at height – SWMS, operation manuals, layout plans of your systems?
- Are all of your workers (including sub contractors) correctly trained and familiar in the use of the fall protection equipment you have installed?
- Do you have an up to date rescue plan in place should it be required and is it easily accessible to all staff?
Check your height safety awareness
- Are you aware of the WHS Act 2011 and are you meeting all the obligations?
- Are you knowledgeable in what other Standards, Regulations and Codes of Practice you need to adhere to?
This is just a brief checklist to get you started but the most important thing to bear in mind is that we all need to take action.
From managers through to the worker on the roof, we are all responsible and we can all make a difference. That difference could be saving the life of someone you know.
Why not use our Height Safety Risk Calculator to see how healthy your working at heights practices are?
Contact SAYFA on 1300 301 755 or [email protected] to learn more about your responsibilities and the options available to ensure your buildings are compliant and safe.