The recent judgement on a fatal workplace incident that occurred in 2015 returns the spotlight to a real issue in the height safety industry – the failure to carry out risk assessments at project sites, which can potentially lead to accidents, injuries and even death.

This particular case involved the tragic fall of a contractor on 5th November 2015 when he was working at height at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. Investigations revealed that the worker had removed himself from abseil ropes while cleaning the duct and had stepped on an inspection hatch, which could not support his weight and gave way, resulting in his death.

At the sentence hearing on 5th June 2018, the company involved was fined $250,000 and its director $30,000. In his judgement, Magistrate Mark Howden found that the director “did not use due diligence to ensure his company carried out an adequate risk assessment. If this had been done the hatch would have been discovered to be not load bearing and workers could have been advised of the danger and suitable preventative issues could have been taken”.

This particular case highlights the importance of safety measures that must be carried out prior to and during any work being done at height.

Conduct a risk assessment

A risk assessment of the project site for potential risks and dangers must be conducted prior to commencement of work. Though it is normally conducted by the person who is responsible for carrying out the task, it is imperative to consult with the workers directly engaged in the work as well as other key stakeholders including the PCBU (Person Conducting the Business Undertaking) and health and safety representatives. Key points to address are:

  • How will the site and work areas be accessed?
  • What equipment is being used and is it adequate for the application?
  • What is the condition of the equipment?
  • Have the workers executing the work been properly trained in the correct use of the equipment?
  • What is the general condition of the work area?
  • Are there any identifiable risks or hazards such as brittle roof surfaces, fragile and/or unprotected skylights, or unprotected roof hatches?
  • What actions will need to be implemented to control, reduce or eliminate the risks?

Control the risks

Once the risks or hazards in the workplace are identified, specific controls and measures will need to be actioned to ensure the highest level of safety for workers. In the risk control hierarchy, the first step is to eliminate the hazards completely. Since this is not always possible in work at height scenarios, the focus must be on minimising the potential risks involved in the work.

Read the Working At Heights Manual by Sayfa Group, which details your requirements and gives system design criteria for access and fall protection equipment.

Complete a Safe Work Method Statement

A Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) details the work to be carried out, and lists out the hazards relating to that work as well as the control measures that will be implemented to minimise or remove the risks. An SWMS must be completed for any high risk construction work. 

Every stakeholder in a building project from owners, managers and employers to employees, is responsible for ensuring there is no risk to health and safety in the workplace.

Take Sayfa Group’s 3-minute Height Safety Health Check to obtain a detailed report and see if you are meeting your workplace obligations.