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Working at heights remains a leading cause of work fatalities

Working from heights continues to be a high-risk activity and leading cause of death and serious injury in Australia, according to the latest figures from Safe Work Australia.

Safe Work Australia has crunched the numbers for the past five years (2015-19) and says the data shows there were 122 fatalities from falls from heights—13 per cent of all fatalities.

Workers most at risk were those in the construction industry, with most fatalities caused by falls from buildings or other structures.

Serious workers’ compensation claims that resulted from falls from heights reduced 17 per cent between 2009-10 and 2018-19, but still accounted for six per cent of serious claims.

If you manage or are in control of a workplace, you have a responsibility to eliminate or minimise the risk of falls from heights. Failure to do so can be costly. A company was recently fined $75,000 in Toowoomba over a 2017 incident on the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing for exposing workers and others to fall from height and falling objects.

Eliminating the risk may include working on the ground or on a solid structure. Minimising the risk may involve using:

  • fall prevention devices (e.g. fences, edge protection)
  • work positioning systems (e.g. an elevating work platform)
  • fall arrest systems (i.e. safety nets, harnesses).

In most cases, a combination of control measures will provide the best solution to minimise the risk to the lowest level reasonably practicable.

For practical guidance, read the model Code of Practice: Managing the risk of falls at workplaces and model Code of Practice: Managing the risk of falls in housing construction.

SWA has also published three infographics for downloading and sharing at your workplace: