Safety Alert

Tampering with stair void protection

This Alert highlights the danger of tampering with stair void protection systems and provides guidance on managing the risks.

Print or download a PDF version of this document Date Published: February 2015 Keycode: ALE0180/01/02.15 Division Author:


Falling down stair voids on multi-storey housing sites is a significant safety risk that has resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.

Recently, workers on a number of sites have been seriously injured when the stair void protection they were standing on collapsed.

Figure 1 – Collapsed stair void protection

Tampering with stair void

To prevent stair void falls builders will often hire a stair void protection system, which is fitted and signed off by the hire company's specialist installer.

After installation, onsite workers may alter or remove the stair void protection to:

  • get large or bulky construction materials to upper floors, eg plasterboard, flooring sheets, bags of insulation material or scaffolds
  • allow construction works to proceed, eg plastering or floor laying.

When the altered or removed stair void protection is reinstated, it may not comply with manufacturer installation requirements, if:

  • under sized or incorrect fasteners are used
  • fasteners are not installed correctly
  • some or all fasteners are not reinstalled
  • adjustable support elements are not secured.

Control measures

The builder as the person with management or control of a workplace must ensure the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.  

Prior to hiring the stair void protection, discuss with subcontractors their requirements to ensure it will be suitable for the work to be performed. This can also reduce the risk of the stair void protection being altered after installation.

Ensure the structural integrity and effectiveness of the stair void protection is not compromised by:

  • establish and enforce void protection site rules,
  • induct workers on the process for arranging alteration to the void protection
  • provide alternative methods to get bulky materials onto upper floors, if reasonably practicable
  • monitoring the site as necessary to detect stair void protection tampering

If stair void protection is to be removed for any reason, ensure:

  • other fall protection control measures are implemented to prevent stair void falls. These controls must be documented in the safe work method statement (SWMS) for any work on the upper floor,
  • if the stair void protection is reinstalled it is done by a competent person in accordance with the manufacturer's installation specifications
  • the stair void is not left unprotected by reinstalling the void protection at the earliest opportunity.

Further information

For further information see the Code of practice - Prevention of falls in housing construction.

This Alert contains information following the WorkSafe Victoria's inquiries into the incident at the date of this report. The information contained in this report does not necessarily reflect the final outcome of the WorkSafe's action with respect to this incident.  The WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this report is complete or up-to-date, and does not accept any liability to any person for the information in this report, or its use.