Two fatal falls in construction within a seven day period

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the potentially deadly risks associated with working from heights without adequate fall protection, after two construction employees have died in separate incidents.
Safety alert published

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Industries and topics
  • Construction
  • Fall prevention

Background

In separate incidents, two construction employees have sustained fatal injuries after falling from height.

A male employee at a residential construction site fell from scaffolding to the ground. He suffered severe head injuries and passed away in hospital two days later.

A self-employed male was undertaking work on a pergola under construction at a residential site. Roof sheeting had been removed from the pergola and he fell through an opening to the ground below, suffering fatal head injuries.

WorkSafe is investigating both incidents.

Safety issues

Falls are a leading cause of fatalities within the construction industry. Falls often occur as a result of inadequate fall prevention or incomplete systems of work.

Recommended ways to control risks

Where there is a risk of falling more than two metres, employers must eliminate that risk so far as is reasonably practicable. For example, by undertaking work on the ground or on a solid construction.

If the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated, employers must reduce any remaining risk as far as is reasonably practicable by implementing the below controls in the following order:

  • passive fall prevention device such as guard railing or scaffolds
  • work positioning systems such as a rope access system or travel restraints
  • fall arrest systems such as catch platforms, safety nets or safety harnesses
  • fixed or portable ladders or administrative controls

When working near perimeter edges ensure that:

  • perimeter edge protection is in place (scaffolding, guard rails or catch platforms incorporating guard rail systems) and
  • safe access is provided to the work at height location(s)

When undertaking work on roofs where there is risk of internal fall, ensure that internal fall protection is in place, such as:

  • guard railing around openings and a travel restraint system  
  • safety mesh installed across openings
  • mobile scaffolding set up beneath the work area
  • an appropriate fall restraint system

When using scaffolding, ensure that:

  • the scaffolding is complete
  • all scaffolding components are compatible
  • internal access (stair or ladder) is provided
  • scaffold planks are secured
  • scaffold is fit for purpose and can withstand the intended load
  • the scaffold is adequately secured to the structure (tie-ins)

Legal duties

Under the OHS Act, employers must:

  • So far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors.
  • Provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
  • Ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct.

Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of their undertaking.

Where there is a risk of a person falling from a height of two metres or more employers have additional duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017, including establishing emergency procedures and preparing and following a safe work method statement.