You don’t have to be on top of a 12-storey building to be at risk of death or serious injury. A fall from just two metres – or even into a hole, trench or off the back of a truck – can prove fatal.

Early this year, a bricklayer died when he fell five metres through a void at a construction site. A piece of plywood had been thrown across the void and left unsecured, leaving an ad-hoc, unplanned and totally inadequate safety system.

The principal contractor was fined $425,000 and its director $85,500.

In another incident a worker fell through a trapdoor at a bottle shop and broke both of her legs. The publican was fined $150,000 for not having safe systems of work, something as simple as a barrier or alternative access to the cellar.

On top of potential legal action if you’re found to be at fault, a workplace injury opens a can of worms – downtime, poor morale, replacement worker hire and more headaches you don’t need.

Over the past three years, 19 people have died after falling from a height in NSW workplaces. More than 13,000 were injured and about 200 were permanently disabled.

But don’t panic, there are plenty of ways you can help avoid mishaps and ensure your workers go home in one piece.

Here are three steps to remember:

  1. If the work can be performed from ground level, do so. Wherever possible prefabricate roofs at ground level, reduce shelving heights, pre-sling loads so you don’t have to get on the tray to load or unload trucks, and design windows so they can be cleaned safely from the ground.
  2. If it’s not possible to work on the ground, use a fall-prevention device such as an elevated work platform, guard rail or scaffolding.
  3. A fall-arrest system is the next best option but it must include a lanyard, harness and anchor. Check the buckle, webbing and D-rings before using it. And, make sure you’re hooked up and not just wearing a harness – yes, it happens.

It’s really simple to stay safe, so check out our simple safety page on falls – and discover how easy it is to comply with your legal obligations.

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Workplace safety

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