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Falls from height and asbestos dominate 2023 successful prosecutions

Falls from height and asbestos incidents contributed to more than 50 per cent of the successful construction-related work health and safety prosecutions in 2023.

This trend continues in 2024 with three of the four construction-related prosecutions already decided relating to falls from height and asbestos.

A company was recently fined $75,000 for an incident in 2020 when a painter fell over three metres from a balcony without a railing, balustrade, or edge protection in place. The magistrate noted the fall could easily have been fatal. Three construction workers died in 2023 as a result of a fall from height: a young worker fell through a penetration; a worker fell from an elevated work platform, and another worker fell from a roof.

It is now more than 20 years since the importation of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and the national ban on all forms of asbestos, including work involving asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACM) in workplaces came into effect from 2004.

The legacy of the widespread use of asbestos before the bans, including in houses built before 1990, is still being felt. Despite stringent regulations, publicity, and community concerns around exposure to asbestos, contractors are still exposing their workers and members of the public to asbestos fibres. A painting company was recently fined $37,500 and a conviction was recorded for using high-pressure water on an asbestos roof. The magistrate noted that health and safety duties involved taking proactive steps to identify and eliminate risks, and that simple, well-known control measures were not undertaken.

Further information

Visit Asbestos website and How to safely remove asbestos code of practice 2021 (PDF, 2.22 MB) to find out more about the requirements for managing and removing asbestos.

Visit Work at heights and Managing the risk of falls at workplaces code of practice 2021 (PDF, 3.9 MB) to find out more on how to control the risks with working at height.