Fall From Height Fatality Results in Prison Sentence For Company Director

Fall From Height Fatality



Read a brief summary of the event – CLICK HERE 

Like many adverse workplace events there is a cocktail of absent processes and/or present processes that are not fully understood and/or followed as they were developed or written.

There may always appear to be things that we're not in control of - the workers, the Managers/Supervisors or whoever is responsible for planning and resourcing a task - but ultimately a person has to make a decision to do or not to do something.

We are all in control of our workplace when we choose to be.

What are the lessons?

1. Some fundamental training opportunities were missed

Ensure your team maintains (and uses) current knowledge related to working at heights. Most courses have a 3 year refresher term, but what about all the time in between?

  • Do you have opportunities in your business where you discuss any changes to working at heights requirements? 
  • Do you have a process to confirm that your team is competent, or are you relying on their external education and subsequent following of what has been learnt? 
  • Have you validated the training that is provided to your team by the external training provider? 
  • Have you checked the experience and training syllabus of the external training provider? 


Suggestion: Following risk based principles determines a frequency with which you would conduct internal reviews/conversations. These demonstrate that as a Director (and/or responsible person) in the business that your team has the required competency to undertake working at heights activities.  

2. No evidence of a safe system of work to protect workers from a fall from height

Ensure your business has systems in place that trigger the development and provision of safe systems of work, including procedures and resources. 

  • Have you considered how you verify that your team are following the safety systems of work as designed? 
  • Are your procedures and resources easily accessible and available to the team? 
  • Are your procedures understood by the team?


Suggestion: Similar to above, following risk based principles determines a frequency with which you would conduct internal reviews/conversations. As a Director (and/or responsible person) in the business you must know that your team is following the safety systems of work that have been agreed to. This also includes inspection regimes for equipment.   


3. Security of equipment and environmental conditions 

Leaving items not secured on the roof is creating hazards for your team or other workers on the roof. 

  • Do you track the weather before and during works? 
  • Do you have written procedures on what to do when certain weather conditions are forecast or being experienced while working at heights? 
  • Do you have all the fit for purpose equipment to secure items to the roof and does your team know where to find, how to check its condition and how to effectively use it?


Suggestion: If not already in place, make checking on the weather a part of your safe system of work. Have clear instructions that determine when items need to be secured, under what weather conditions. You should also include when the team is to evacuate the area when working at height. 


For further documentation on safe working at height practices, read our article, Working At Height - Safety On A Page.


Where to from here when working at height?

As an Employer, Manager, Supervisor and/or responsible person it is your Duty of Care, "so far as is reasonably practicable", to ensure that any workplaces where your personnel are carrying out their duties have adequate equipment, systems and procedures in place.

As we have recently seen, authorities are now enforcing Workplace Manslaughter Laws and holding those accountable from Designer, Builder, right through to Building Owners/Managers and Employers.

If you are concerned about the height safety systems on the buildings where work is required, why not suggest that a Height Safety Audit be organised? These can easily determine the level of risk by:

  • Highlighting areas of concern by conducting a risk assessment
  • Checking current systems for compliance to Australian Standards and other relevant industry guidelines
  • Ensuring existing components and equipment have had recertification and inspections carried out as per manufacturer’s requirements
  • Offering practical and compliant solutions in accordance with the hierarchy of control for working at height

Contact SAYFA on 1300 301 755 or [email protected] who can put you in touch with a qualified Height Safety Specialist. They can inspect the current systems for any compliance issues and will provide a report of suggested improvements or modifications that need to be implemented to ensure your obligations are being met.


Rob has been involved in workplace health and safety for over 17 years. In this time he has worked across different States of Australia and spent time working with USA based mining companies. Rob's industry experience is wide, having spent time working in or consulting to the construction industry, infrastructure, gas, power generation, hospitality and rail systems management. In most recent times Rob has focused in on the manufacturing industry as there is great opportunity to integrate lean and safety to protect people in the workplace. Rob's partnership with SAYFA is a result of his passion to provide practical and repeatable solutions for high risk work activities, specifically working at heights.