Worker critically injured after slipping off roof and falling through guardrails

WorkSafe is issuing a safety alert following an incident where a worker slipped off a roof and fell through the guardrail system on a catch platform at a housing construction site.
Safety alert published

Thursday 10 Sep 2020

Industries and topics
  • Construction
  • Labour hire
  • Electrical
Click here to view more industries and topics
View more

Background

A young worker has been critically injured from a fall that occurred while he was performing metal roof installation works on a double storey house under construction. The worker slipped, then slid down the metal roof sheeting off the roof, through the guard rails that were on the perimeter scaffold, and fell approximately 6 metres to the ground.

Possible contributing factors

Wet conditions can impact the effectiveness of the control measures in place for working at height.

Possible causes of this type of incident include:

  • the fall control measures (scaffolding/catch platform) have not been assessed for new or changing site conditions, including changes in weather conditions
  • working on a roof where roofing materials are slippery (for example, rain, dust or oil on roofing)
  • not reviewing or revising safe work method statements to ensure controls are adequate (for example, specifying the weather conditions when work can be done)

Safety issues

Falls are a leading cause of serious and fatal incidents in construction. In recent months, the Victorian construction industry has seen a number of serious and fatal fall incidents where risk control measures are not in place or not adequately controlling the risk of a fall.

In the housing construction sector, scaffolds and proprietary catch platform systems are often set up before the high risk construction work commences and are in place for the duration of the works.

Recommended ways to control risks

Catch platform placement

Where the roof pitch is no greater than 26 degrees, the catch platform should be positioned as close to the underside of the roof as possible, and never more than 1 metre below the roof edge.

Where the roof pitch is greater than 26 degrees or roofing materials are slippery (regardless of roof pitch), the catch platform should be positioned as close to the underside of the roof as possible, and never more than 300mm below the roof edge.

Where the slope of a roof exceeds 35 degrees, the roof is an inappropriate surface to stand on even with guardrailing or a catch platform.

Summary of catch platform positioning requirements

  • Roof pitch 26 degrees or less: As close as feasible to the underside of the roof and not exceeding 1 metre below.
  • Roof pitch greater than 26 degrees: As close as feasible to the underside of the roof and not exceeding 300mm below.
  • Slippery roofing materials, regardless of pitch: As close as feasible to the underside of the roof and not exceeding 300mm below.

For more information on safe setup configurations for catch platforms please see the Compliance code: Prevention of falls in housing construction.

Safe work method statements (SWMS)

Construction work involving a risk of a fall from more than 2 metres is high-risk construction work.

An employer or self-employed person must prepare a SWMS for high-risk construction work before the work commences. The work must be performed in accordance with the SWMS.

If the high-risk construction work changes or if there is an indication that control measures are not adequately controlling the risks, the SWMS must be reviewed and, if necessary, revised.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, 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.