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Safety alert issued after waste management facility fall

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.
Date: 
Monday, 21 March, 2022 - 12:00
Category: 
Policy & legislation
Location: 
Western Australia

Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) recently issued a safety alert after a member of the public sustained a significant head injury when he fell into the pit at a waste transfer facility.

The person was pulling a heavy item from his trailer when he fell backward under the balustrade into the pit.

The alert said edge prevention at the site was inadequate, and the transfer pit had a balustrade 980 mm high with no mid-rail. The mid-rail was not installed to allow members of the public to slide heavy or bulky items into the pit without lifting to reduce the risk of manual tasks. However, this design increased the risk of falls.

Further, the transfer pit was 1070 mm deep, and there was a risk of falling onto sharp or bulky waste. A facility employee usually supervises members of the public as they dispose of waste.

At the time of the incident, there was no direct supervision, and this increased the likelihood of an incident and delayed the provision of first aid.

The alert said employers, in consultation with workers at waste transfer facilities, should conduct a risk assessment to review the risk of falls from one level to another. Where practicable, the risk of falls should be eliminated.

The following control measures may also reduce exposure to the hazard of falling from one level to another at waste transfer stations:

  • provide waste disposal at ground level where possible (if this introduces mobile plant hazards, appropriate control measures must be used to minimise the risk to workers and customers)
  • install and maintain appropriate edge protection, such as a solid railing or wall
  • install wheel stops to keep vehicles away from the edge
  • designate and implement customer exclusion zones to prevent falls and customer interaction with mobile plant
  • provide employees to supervise waste disposal, assist members of the public and administer controls
  • train employees in fall prevention and traffic management
  • provide safety information to customers and display safety signs
  • install customer assistance devices, such as chutes and slides, that allow customers to dispose of waste away from the edge of the pit
  • provide a designated ground-level set-down area for heavy or bulky items
  • consider using modular flat-floor open-faced bin systems.