Falls are a major cause of death and serious injury at workplaces. Risk of falling is common for many work activities. The risk of serious injury from a fall depends mainly on the height and surface below.

In December 2019, a worker suffered serious injury after falling approximately 5m. In a similar incident in February 2020, a man died after a fall from height.

There was a third falls related incident in March where on this occasion, a worker suffered serious injury after falling approximately 5m.

 

This is a familiar scene on many trawlers and other commercial vessel with booms. So often you see a deckhand climb up the boom when its raised with no safety measures in place. A fall from that height onto the deck below could cause serious injury or even death.

Preventing a similar incident

Before commencing any work at height, all surfaces must be inspected to identify any potentially fragile spots. All locations and tasks which could lead to fall injury should also be identified. This includes access to areas where the work is to be done. Close attention is required for tasks:

  • on any structure or plant being constructed or installed, demolished or dismantled, inspected, tested, repaired or cleaned
  • on a sloping or slippery surface where it is difficult for people to maintain their balance
  • near an unprotected open edge

The person conducting the business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage risks associated with falls at the workplace. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business.

 

Managing work health and safety risks associated with falls is an ongoing process and involves four steps:

  1. The identification of hazards
  2. Assessing risks
  3. Controlling risks, and
  4. Reviewing control measures to ensure they are working.

Once risks have been assessed, the next step is to control risks associated with falls. These control measures are ranked from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest and are known as the hierarchy of control.

PCBUs must work through this hierarchy to choose the controls that most effectively eliminate or, where that is not reasonably practicable, minimise risk.

In managing the risk of falls, the WHS Regulation requires specific control measures to be implemented, where it is reasonably practicable to do so. This can be achieved by doing one or more of the following:

  • elimination of the hazard
  • substituting the hazard causing the risk with something of lesser risk
  • implementing engineering controls
  • administrative controls
  • personal protective equipment (PPE).

Note: Administrative control measures and PPE rely on human behaviour and supervision, and used on their own, tend to be least effective in minimising risks.

In 2017, a business was fined $75,000 and a sub-contractor $30,000 after a young apprentice fell almost 4m

In 2015, a business was fined $52,000 after an apprentice fell 9.2m


Shorlink’s Recommendation

Don’t take the view that you are just going to do a quick task that you’ve done many times before without an incident because…that attitude is a recipe for disaster.

We strongly recommend ensuring you implement safety measures to protect yourself, your crew and/or workers.

Full Body Fall Arrest Harnesses are a good start for anyone working at height and cost as little as $105.00. Compare that to the fines and associated legal costs if involved in an incident!

A further recommendation is to assess each task before you start and determine if there is a safer way to do it or if not what control measure can you put in place to make the task safer.


Tip

Full Body Fall Arrest Harnesses are a good start for anyone working at height and cost as little as $105.00. Compare that to the fines and associated legal costs if involved in an incident!

Our tip…go buy one if you work at height!