In February 2023, a roofer was fatally injured when he fell over 5 metres from the roof of a shed under construction. Early investigations indicated he was installing roof sheeting on a portal framed shed when for reasons yet to be established, he lost his balance near the live leading edge and fell to the ground.
Investigations are continuing.
These findings are not yet confirmed, and investigations are continuing into the exact cause.
Fall hazards are found in many workplaces where work is carried out at height. Before commencing work, you must identify all locations and tasks that could create fall risks, including access to the areas where work is to be carried out. Some key things to look for:
- edges - open edges of floors, working platforms, walkways, and walls
- holes and openings
- levels - where levels change, and workers may be exposed to a fall from one level to another
- the ground - the evenness and stability of the ground for safe support of a scaffold or work platform.
Particular attention should also be given to work tasks that are carried out:
- near an unprotected open edge, for example near incomplete stairwells or leading formwork edges.
- on any structure or plant being constructed or installed, demolished, or dismantled, inspected, tested, repaired, or cleaned.
- on or alongside a fragile surface, for example cement sheeting roofs, rusty metal roofs, fibreglass sheeting roofs, and skylights.
- on a sloping or slippery surface where it is difficult for people to maintain their balance, such as on glazed tiles or wet surfaces.
Ways to manage health and safety
Taking steps to manage risks is a condition of doing business in Queensland. Effective risk management starts with a commitment to health and safety from those who manage the business. If an incident occurs, you'll need to show the regulator that you’ve used an effective risk management process. This responsibility is covered by your primary duty of care in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
Use the hierarchy of controls to help decide how to eliminate and reduce risks in your place of work. The hierarchy of controls ranks types of control methods from the highest level of protection and reliability to the lowest. It’s a step-by-step approach to eliminating or reducing risks. You must work through the hierarchy of controls when managing risks, with the aim of eliminating the hazard, which is the most effective control.
Possible control measures to prevent similar incidents
For PCBU's operating in the construction industry, you must put additional controls in place to manage the risk of falls. Part 6.3, Division 4, Subdivision 2 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, gives detailed information on the requirements you must meet. The Code of practice for managing the risk of falls at workplaces (PDF, 3.9 MB) provides practical guidelines to meet requirements. You must know how to meet the requirements and read all other relevant sections of the regulation.
The controls you must put in place depend on:
- how far the fall risk is, and
- the angle of the slope if the construction work is on a roof.
The most effective control measure is to eliminate the risk of a fall, so far as is reasonably practicable by working on the ground or from a solid construction. An example of a task that may be carried out on the ground to eliminate the risk of falls, includes prefabricating roofs at ground level.
If you can’t eliminate the risk by working on the ground, you will need to minimise it. In most cases, a combination of the control measures will provide the best solution to minimise the risk to the lowest level reasonably practicable. This includes:
- Working on solid constructions. A solid construction has:
- a surface that can support all people and things that may be located or placed on it. When in doubt, have a structural engineer determine the safe load capacity before use.
- barriers to prevent a fall around its perimeter and any openings. The barrier must be designed and constructed to withstand the force of someone falling against it. Barriers should consist of guardrails, solid balustrades, or other structural components.
- an even surface and gradient that’s easy to negotiate. Surfaces of a solid construction must be non-slip, free from trip hazards and should generally not exceed 7 degrees, (1 in 8 gradient).
- a safe way to enter and exit. For example, permanently installed platforms, ramps, stairways, or fixed ladders.
- Providing and maintaining a safe system of work. This can include, but is not limited to:
- a fall prevention device (for example a secure fence, edge protection, work platform or cover), which must be used to provide and maintain a safe system of work where persons are working near and around holes, penetrations, and openings through which a person could fall.
- a ‘temporary work platform’. This is a working platform used to provide a working area for the duration of the work. The design of the platform prevents workers from falling. Examples of temporary work platforms include but are not limited to scaffolds, elevating work platforms (EWPs), workboxes.
- a work positioning system, which includes any plant or structure, other than a temporary work platform, that enables a person to be positioned and safely supported at a location in such a way that a fall is prevented. Work positioning systems require a high level of competency by the user and supervisors to ensure safe use. Users, including supervisors, should undertake a relevant competency-based course of training before using a work positioning system.
- a fall arrest system. Fall arrest systems, such as catch platforms, safety nets and individual fall arrest systems (including anchorage lines or rails), are intended to safely stop a worker falling an uncontrolled distance and reduces the impact of the fall. Fall arrest systems are primarily a form of personal protective equipment but also rely on engineering controls (i.e., anchorage point strength, harness, and lanyard design), and administrative controls (e.g., making sure the lanyard is connected and not too long).
Administrative controls may also be used to support other control measures. However, the exclusive use of administrative controls to minimise the risk of falls is only appropriate when it is not reasonably practicable to use a higher order control.
The control measures you put in place should be monitored and reviewed regularly to make sure they work as planned.
- Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Managing fall risks on roofs in housing construction (PDF, 3.14 MB)
- Safe work method statements
- Work at heights
- Heightened focus - eSAFE article
Have you been affected by a workplace fatality, illness or serious injury?
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