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Construction industry to target falls from height

Workers falling from a height is a far too common occurrence on construction sites. These incidents can and do lead to serious injuries, or even death as highlighted in our last issue.

Since October 2021, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland inspectors have been focused on how the industry is managing these risks, looking at roofs, stair voids, balconies, excavations, retaining walls, scaffold, and ladders.

Inspectors have found good safety systems in place on some construction sites, but many disappointing work practices have also been observed.

A safe work method statement is much more than a piece of paper you fill in and then file. A SWMS is required for work carried out at height greater than two metres. But a SWMS that identifies all the risks associated with working at heights and control measures to manage them is worth nothing if the work is not being performed in accordance with it.

Manufacturer’s instructions and plans are also being left unused in filing cabinets. Inspectors are finding roof edge protection systems not installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and scaffolds are erected in accordance with their plans.

Almost half of the scaffolds found to be non-compliant had missing components or were being altered by different tradies coming and going. Engineering or manufacturing information is often not available for work platforms on trestle ladders and proprietary stair void protection systems are not installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

A roof edge protection system must be designed, manufactured and tested in accordance with AS/NZS 4994.1 Temporary Edge Protection. Following the designer’s, manufacturer’s or supplier’s instructions will ensure your system is safe. A handover certificate is required (AS4994.2 Temporary edge protection Roof edge protection – installation and dismantling) and this is your proof that it has been inspected and verified as complying with the instructions and the temporary edge protection standard.

It is a similar situation with scaffolds—the person responsible for the erecting or altering the scaffold should provide a handover certificate which is then kept on site until the scaffold has been dismantled. If the scaffold is under 4m, the handover certificate should state it has been erected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Inspectors are finding contractors cannot provide evidence the systems they are using are safe and installed correctly—they are unable to produce a handover certificate or evidence of periodic inspections.

Further information

Have a look at the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, the Scaffolding code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.63 MB), the Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB) and make sure you are doing everything you should be to protect your workers.