An investigation is currently underway into an incident in which a 19-year-old Queensland worker sustained fracture injuries to both kneecaps, partially severed fingers on one hand and a severe laceration to his calf when he fell approximately three metres from a roof.
An edge protection system was installed around the roof perimeter, and the system was erected by a scaffolder and consisted of a post and rail setup.
Scaffold components were used to construct the edge protections system, specifically tube and coupler.
However, early investigations into the incident indicate there may have been a failure of a mid-rail which the worker was leaning against, and the mid-rail pulled away on one end at the coupler joint, resulting in the worker falling through the gap.
Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said edge protection systems may be an effective way to manage some of the risks of working at heights, however, the effectiveness of an edge protection system depends on:
Manufacture in accordance with the designer’s specifications
Test and examination after manufacture
Instructions supporting use and maintenance of the system
Correct installation by a competent person
Each year, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland said there are approximately 46 fall from height workers’ compensation claims, where scaffolding (including edge protection systems) is involved.
Of these claims, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) result in a serious injury with five days or more off work, more than double the rate when compared to serious injuries for all claims (30 per cent).
Since 2012, there have been 181 events notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland where workers or others were injured as a result of people falling through or from scaffolding (including edge protections systems).
There have also been a number of related prosecutions, and in 2013, a company was fined $30,000 and received a 12 month court ordered undertaking after a worker fell 4.2 metres and sustained a compound fracture-dislocation of the left ankle.
As a result of a faulty scaffold erected by an unlicensed scaffolder, the ‘hop up’ bracket tie bars were dislodged and the worker fell when the platform collapsed.
In the same year, a company was fined $45,000 after a worker fell from the second level of scaffolding whilst preparing a façade for rendering.
The fall occurred because the ‘hop up’ bracket was removed and created a void that had been covered over by a piece of plywood. The fall resulted in the worker sustaining fractures to both arms.
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