Safety alert issued after three serious fall injuries at residential sites

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.
Monday, 29 November, 2021 - 12:30
Policy & legislation
South Australia

SafeWork SA recently issued a safety alert about the dangers of working at height on residential sites following a number of incidents in which workers were injured on residential construction sites.

On 26 October 2021, SafeWork SA received notification of a serious incident involving a worker at a residential site.

The worker was installing roof fascia/flashings and fell approximately 2.5 metres onto the concrete ground and was airlifted to the Flinders Medical Hospital with a serious head injury.

On 19 October 2021, SafeWork SA issued a similar safety alert after two workers received serious injuries after falling through fragile roofing material on a residential site.

SafeWork SA released a 2020 Health and Safety Snapshot with data relating to falls from heights which showed 45 per cent of serious injuries notified to SafeWork SA were in the construction industry, the highest of all industries.

The data further identified that workers in the residential construction sector sustained the most injuries and were at most risk of a fall from height.

All three incidents were the result of a fall less than 3 metres and could have led to fatal injuries. In 2020, 90 per cent of serious injuries associated with a fall occurred below 3 metres.

Earlier in 2021, SafeWork SA undertook a compliance campaign on managing the risk of falls in residential construction, visiting 97 sites. 103 prohibition notices and 83 improvement notices were issued due to poor management of fall risks.

To manage the risk of falls, the safety alert said to:

  • Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.

  • Use a passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • Use a positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system, to ensure workers work within a safe area.
  • Use a fall arrest system, such as a harness, catch platform or safety nets, to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall.
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder, or implement administrative controls.