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Falls from height continue to dog construction industry

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has revamped its guidance on managing falls from height hazards because of an increase in the number of falls in the construction industry over the last few months.

Working at height is among the most high-risk tasks, with fall injuries accounting for a large portion of workers’ compensation claims each year. A large portion of these injuries are from falls of less than two metres, or from work on a ladder.

Last month, a Brisbane construction and roofing company was fined $50,000, with a further $25,000 surety attached to a two-year undertaking, over a 2019 incident which left a man with a severe brain injury after falling through a skylight. Also in October, a 50-year-old Tingalpa construction company and its director were fined $90,000 following a 2020 incident where a man suffered a traumatic brain injury after a fall from height. And a Redcliffe solar panel installation company was fined $55,000 over an incident in which an apprentice electrician fell from an unsecured ladder and sustained head and shoulder injuries.

WHSQ is working with the Construction Industry Sector Standing Committee to tackle the issue, upgrading its guides to spell out the risks and hazards, as well as distributing information and diagrams showing how the work should be carried out correctly.

Key duty holders have a role in managing the risk of falls in the workplace as prescribed under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. These include PCBUs (including PCs), designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers of plant, substances or structures, and officers.

Workers and other people at the workplace also have duties, such as the duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety at the workplace.

Staying safe when using a ladder

Unsafe ladder practices

Further information

More information on duties and the selection, safe use and care of portable ladders is set out in AS/NZS 1892 (set)5: Portable ladders. Refer to the Managing the risks of falls at workplaces code of practice (PDF, 3.9 MB) for specific applications. For example, if a platform ladder is selected to be used in the construction of formwork, a worker’s feet should be no more than two metres above the base of the ladder.

View Managing the risk of falls while working on roofs in housing construction (PDF, 3.14 MB) and Safe Work Australia publishes a number of resources on safe ladder use.