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SafeWork NSW focusing on falls from heights

September 21, 2020

SafeWork NSW announced yesterday that inspectors will be targeting construction sites for their working at heights compliance. The focus of the inspectors will be on verifying compliance in relation to scaffolds, voids, roofs, edges and skylights.

This new program follows on from inspections undertaken earlier this year where over 800 breach notices were issued.

Tragically in 2020, three people have died and 25 others have had serious falls on construction sites in NSW. Eight of these incidents involved workers falling through brittle polycarbonate roofing material or skylights.

As an industry it is critical that everyone pays attention to the risks involved in working at heights, so that every single one of us can go home safely at the end of the day.

How to be safe when working at heights

  • Always asses the risks before carrying out work at heights (Any construction work that involves working above two metres requires a Safe Work Method Statement).
  • If possible, carry out the work on the ground, eliminating the need to work from a height.
  • Use compliant and safe working platforms such as scaffolding, boom lifts and scissor lifts.
  • Install appropriate edge protection.
  • Check guardrails (and all other components) of scaffolding are in place before commencing work on the scaffold.
  • Cover voids in floors and roofs and clearly mark their location.
  • Ensure there is a safe access point such as a secured ladder with handrails were needed
  • Only rely on a harness when there are no other options.

Penalties for Business and Individuals

SafeWork NSW can issue on-the-spot fines of $3,600 for businesses and $720 for individuals if they find workers are at serious or imminent risk of falls from heights. Fines of $3,600 can also apply to workers and their supervisors who perform unlicensed scaffolding works including erecting, altering or dismantling a scaffold.

Resources to help your business

SafeWork NSW’s Falls from Heights Checklist is a free resource for builders, principal contractors and site supervisors which provides practical tips to identify and address height hazards.

Principal contractors and scaffolders can also use SafeWork NSW’s Scaffold Inspection Checklist to ensure safe and compliant scaffolding onsite. 

The Preventing falls in housing construction Code of Practice also provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to eliminate, or if that is not possible, minimise the risk of falls from height in housing construction

Looking for more tailored help?

HIA Safety Services can assist you to ensure you have the right systems in place to manage workplace safety, and you can always call us on the below number with any safety related questions. 

Contact HIA

Or email nsw_enquiry@hia.com.au for more information