Photo: SafetyCulture Library
Falls from height are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths in the construction industry.
Construction workers face a variety of hazards every day as they work with heavy machinery, transport construction materials and walk through busy work sites. But falls account for most of the injuries and fatalities in the construction industry.
Figures from Safe Work Australia show from 2003 to 2013 over one-quarter (28%) of construction deaths were caused by falls from a height, with most of the fatalities involving ladders, mobile ramps & stairways, and scaffolding.
Falls from a height accounted for 12% of work-related workers’ compensation claims in the construction industry from 2008–09 to 2012–13.
Most falls from height in the construction industry are caused by loss of balance while working on or near unprotected edges. These falls occur because the necessary safety measures are not put in place before commencing work. The risk of fall-related injuries can be reduced by establishing an effective fall prevention program. A fall prevention program ensures your workers remain safe so they can focus their attention on the tasks ahead without worrying about their safety.
The OHS Act requires employers to provide and maintain for their employees and contractors a working environment where fall hazards and risks, regardless of height, are eliminated or reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.
Identifying fall hazards
Ensure all locations and tasks that involve the risk of a fall are identified before commencing work, including access to worksites. Examine every task with a view to determining whether a risk of falling exists. Some of the tasks need particular attention. These include tasks carried out on-:
- Structures or plants being demolished
- Fragile surfaces
- Unstable surfaces
- Near trenches where a worker can fall
- Slippery surfaces
- Elevated work platforms
- Near an open edge
Below are some of the ways to help reduce falls
Ensure your workers are trained on proper use of equipment. Fall prevention training should be conducted every year and a current record documenting each worker’s completion maintained.
b) Limit use of ladders
Fall from ladders account for a significant number of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. To prevent ladder related worker injuries, time spent on ladders should be minimised and instead, mobile lifts used whenever possible. Additionally, all ladders should be inspected before use. When inspecting a ladder, look for the following faults-:
- Corrosion of metal parts
- Loose bolts and screws
- Damaged edges
- Cracked side rails
Ladders found to be in poor condition should be tagged and taken out of service. Remove broken ladders from the work site if repairs are not feasible.
c) Planning your work
It is advisable to ensure all work is planned as this not only ensures the successful completion of your project but also helps prevent workplace injuries. When planning your work, look at the type of work, work tools and access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Moreover, safety equipment should be included when an employer is estimating the cost of a project.
With the occurrence of each work-related fatality, Safe Work Australia records information, updates statistics and prepares various reports.
The number of worker deaths listed on this page is based on initial media reports and is a preliminary estimate for the number of people killed while working. Once the appropriate authority has investigated the death, more accurate information becomes available from which Safe Work Australia can update the workplace of the incident. A review of information for the first six months of 2014 has been undertaken using this information and the industry information in the table below has been updated. The updated information is used in Safe Work Australia’sNotifiable Fatality reports which are published monthly and the annual Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report.
Year-to-date 2014: worker deaths by industry of workplacea
|INDUSTRY OF WORKPLACE||TOTAL WORKER DEATHS 2013||TOTAL WORKER DEATHS 2014|
|Transport, postal & warehousing||52||47|
|Agriculture, forestry & fishing||50||46|
|Arts & recreation services||10||13|
|Accommodation & food services||3||6|
|Administrative & support services||1||3|
|Electricity, gas, water & waste services||7||3|
|Health care & social assistance||2||2|
|Public administration & safety||5||2|
|Government administration & defence||1||1|
|Education & training||0||0|
|Financial & insurance services||0||0|
|Information media & telecommunications||1||0|
|Professional, scientific & technical services||0||0|
|Total worker deaths||187||185|
a Ranked in descending order, and then on alphabetical order for industries with no fatalities.
b Mining fatalities include fatalities that occur in the coal mining, oil and gas extraction, metal ore mining, gravel and sand quarrying, and services to mining sectors.
c Includes notifiable fatalities that occurred overseas.
Safe Work Australia also collects and reports on a range of other work health and safety and workers compensation statistics.