SA: construction sector cautioned about working from height

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 24 April, 2022 - 12:45
Industry news
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently called on the construction industry to manage the risk of falls, the leading industry for risk and injuries associated with working at height.

SafeWork SA 2021 data shows that the construction industry contributed 48 per cent of all notifiable serious injuries associated with a fall from height and 86 per cent of identified non-compliances.

Compared to the 2020 results, the data shows workers within the residential construction sector are still most at risk with 35 per cent of serious injuries and 64 per cent of non-compliances compared to all other industries.

The 2021 data further identified the following trends in construction:

  • There were 237 non-compliances identified in the construction industry associated with working at heights
  • 86 per cent of serious injuries were from falls below 3 metres
  • 61 per cent of injuries below 2 metres were from falls off a portable ladder
  • 50 per cent of injuries between 2 and 3 metres were associated with falling through fragile roofing material
  • 80 per cent of serious injuries were caused by a fall from a roof or a portable ladder
  • 92 per cent of identified non-compliances were from work activities above 2 metres
  • 64 per cent of identified non-compliances related to working on a roof, a scaffold or a portable ladder
  • 41 per cent of identified non-compliances were associated with high-risk construction work requiring a safe work method statement

ReturnToWork SA data reveals a 6.7 per cent increase in claims on the previous financial year and the numbers in construction are more than 40 per cent higher than any other industry

in 2020-21.

ReturnToWorkSA claims cost the construction industry nearly $4 million, the highest of any industry, and the costs for this financial year have grown to $6.4 million.

To assist the construction industry in minimising the risk of falls, SafeWork SA is supporting the South Australian Construction Safety Alliance (SACSA) working at heights initiative.

“The continued use of portable ladders to work at height in the residential construction sector is of great concern,” said SafeWork SA executive director Martyn Campbell.

“It should be foreseeable to builders and contractors that the continued use of portable ladders will result in a serious injury due to their instability. Portable ladders are only suitable for light-duty work for short durations.

“I have advised my inspectors to take greater enforcement action against duty holders that are not following the hierarchy of controls and allowing portable ladders to be used inappropriately.”