FOCUS ON FALLS FROM WORKING AT HEIGHTS
Falls from even moderate heights can leave workers with permanent and debilitating injuries. The risk of serious injury or death from a fall increases significantly if you are working at heights over two metres. While falls can occur in all industries, they are most common in construction, manufacturing, community services, trade, communications, transport and storage.
Employers have a duty to ensure their workplace is safe, and this means controlling the risk of falls from any height. Analysis has shown that the risk of serious injury from a fall is much higher in falls from two metres or more. The prevention of falls part of the OHS Regulations applies when there is a risk of a fall of more than 2 metres.
Typical falls that cause death and injury include those resulting from:
- using unsafe or incomplete scaffolds
- inappropriate ladders/ladder use
- falling from or through roofs
- falling from trucks
- falling into holes, pits or shafts
- accessing shelving or mezzanine areas.
Falls from height are a common cause of death in workplaces across Australia. Even from a relatively low height, a fall can cause very serious injuries, including fractures, spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damage.
As an employer, you have a general duty to make your workplace safe. This includes controlling the risk of falls. If there is a risk of a fall of more than 2 metres, specific duties apply. You must identify any task where a person may fall more than two metres. If it is reasonably practicable, you must eliminate the risk- (eg by doing the work on the ground or on a solid construction).
If this is not reasonably practicable, you must control the risk using the following measures in order of priority, so far as is reasonably practicable:
- use a passive fall prevention device
- use a work positioning system to ensure employees work within a safe area
- install a fall arrest system to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall
- use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement an administrative control
If you use a control measure other than working on the ground or on a solid construction, then you must establish emergency procedures covering the rescue of an employee in the event of a fall and the provision of first aid. Any equipment or materials used to control the risk of a fall must be appropriately designed and constructed for the task and the conditions it will be used in. In addition, fixed or portable ladders must be fit for purpose, appropriate for the duration of the task, and set up properly. If you are using only an administrative control, you must record what it is and the task for which it is being used. You must review (and, where necessary, revise) your risk controls if things change or at the request of a health and safety representative. Employers also have a duty to consult employees and health and safety representatives when identifying hazards and deciding on control measures.