Fall from height

Fall from height is falling from one level to another and can incorporate slips and trips. It can be falling down a gap, space, hole from the walking surface. Falls are a major cause of death and serious injury in Australian workplaces. These hazards are found in many workplaces where work is carried out at height, for example stacking shelves, working on a roof, unloading a large truck or accessing silos.

Falls can also occur at ground level into holes, for example trenches or service pits and not only in construction, offices also may have falls hazards.

There are various factors that contribute to the fall from height including risk of slips and trips. Slips usually occur when there is a loss of grip between the shoe and the floor. This commonly occurs when there is a contaminant between the shoe and the floor. Trips occur when a person’s foot hits a low obstacle in the person’s path, causing a loss of balance. Often, the obstacle is not easily visible or noticed. WHS Qld provide some guidance on this. The Work Health and Safety Officer course (WHSO) includes the Fall from Height requirements for workplaces along with numerous other safety related topics.

The Statistics relating to falls in workplaces and other places:

According to the most recent figures, there were 6,814 workers compensation claims for falls at work in workplaces in Australia in 2019–20, a decrease of 4.9% from 7,165 claims in 2018–19. Most of these claims were for falls from a height (3,859), followed by slips, trips and falls on the same level (2,737) and slips, trips and falls on stairs (218). The majority of these claims were for male workers (4,837) compared to female workers (1,977).

The rate of claims per 1,000 workers for falls at work was 2.6 in 2019–20, down from 2.8 in 2018–19. Research from Safe Work Australia shows that between 2004–05 and 2018–19 the number of falls at work decreased by 48%. This is mainly attributed to the implementation of effective fall prevention strategies in the workplace.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) collects and reports statistics on deaths relating to falls in other places in Australia. Research by the AIHW shows that in 2018–19, falls were the second leading cause of hospitalisation due to injury (17%), behind transport accidents (21%). In 2018, there were 3,157 deaths due to falls in Australia, representing a rate of 12.3 deaths per 100,000 population. This was an increase of 2.5% from 2017.

Of those deaths, 93.7% were persons aged 65 years and over. The AIHW also monitors and reports on falls-related hospitalisations. In 2017-18, there were a total of 122,824 hospitalisations due to falls in Australia, representing an increase of 3.2% from 2016-17.

How to manage the risk of Falls in the workplace

In order to manage risk under the WHS Regulation that include fall from height, a duty holder must:

  • identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk.
  • eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk – minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control.
  • maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective.
  • review, and if necessary, revise risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

Fall from Height Hazards and risk controls.

There is a legislative requirement to eliminate the problem if it is reasonably practicable to do so. Ensure that there is consultation with all the workers in the workplace. Listen to the workers views about working at heights and consider the workers experience and ideas.

1. Work on the ground or on a solid construction
If you don’t have to work at heights, don’t. Working from the ground is always the safest option.
Designers should be looking for alternatives to working at heights during the design-phase of the project.

2. Use a fall-prevention device
If you have to work from a height, you need to manage the risk of a fall. A fall-prevention device is best because it will prevent your workers from falling. Examples include temporary work platforms, guardrails and scaffolding. All help to keep you safer when working at heights.

3. Use a work-positioning
When it is not possible to use a fall-prevention device, a work-positioning system is your next best option. A work-positioning system either prevents a fall hazard being reached e.g., restraint system, or enables a person to work supported in tension in a way that prevents the person from falling e.g., industrial rope access.

4. Use a fall-arrest system
A fall-arrest system is only used when it is not possible to use either a fall-prevention device or a work-positioning system. A fall-arrest system may not prevent a fall; however, it stops a person who has fallen and reduces the impact of the fall and can reduce injuries in a fall. Examples include industrial safety nets, catch platforms or harness-based fall- arrest harnesses used with lifelines or individual anchors.

Irrespective of the level of control used workers must receive work at heights training to at least the level of work being completed. If you use a fall arrest system, you must have emergency and rescue procedures in place and test them to ensure they are effective.

Where does a Safety Consultant fit in to assist with Fall from Height issues?

Have you at identified areas in your workplace where a person may fall or has fallen. A qualified Safety consultant can assist by visiting your workplace and completing a general inspection. They can complete a safety audit to further interrogate the current safety system and procedures which are in place. In this way, they’ll identify any areas which need to be improved to bring the workplace up to standard with regulations and industry best practices.

Safety consultants may then with you to design a new system specifically tailored to the workplace risks associated with working at height. This will include any fall protection such as guardrails, engineered fall systems, and other measures. They may also provide advice on the type and capacity of equipment needed and the need for appropriate training. Lastly, the safety consultant may be called on regularly to conduct monitoring and inspections of existing equipment.

This ensures that the safety standards are being maintained and that workplace regulations remain up to date with any new legislation. The safety consultant’s expertise assists with compliance and helps to ensure that workers are adequately protected from the potential hazards of working at height. Any follow-up can be in the form of a safety audit to check implementation and adherence to the systems developed.

A safety consultant can help ensure that any work at height activity at your organisation is being carried out in compliance with the WHS Legislation and in a safe manner. They can ensure that the selection and use of equipment is appropriate and adequate, provide risk assessments, conduct training, oversee proper method statements and write reports. They can also establish and develop safety procedures and safety culture in the workplace. The safety consultant can also ensure that all staff involved in the work understand the risks and how to stay safe when working at heights.

If you are interested in our WHS Consultancy services, you can contact David, Andrew or Mark to discuss your Health and Safety Issues.

We have qualified and certified Safety Consultants that can assist you in your business and offer a range of WHS consulting services along with general and specific health and safety training courses.

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