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Preventing falls on building sites

Falls are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury in construction. Even if a fall from height does not result in fatality, it often results in serious injury that can have life-changing consequences.

How to manage fall risks

Construction fall incidents are often associated with working on or near unprotected edges.  For example, falling through stair voids, falling from roofs or through fragile roofs or skylights, falling into trenches, holes or pits. Many falls also occur while using ladders unsafely or using a ladder that is inappropriate for the task or using unsafe or incomplete scaffolds.

Victorian OHS laws require risks of falling in construction work to be eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a fall risk, the risk must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable. This applies to risks of falling from any height, including falls from less than two metres.

Where there is a risk of a fall of more than two metres, the risk must be reduced by following the specific prevention of falls hierarchy of control specified in Part 3.3 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017.

Information and guidance about how to address fall risks in construction work and what WorkSafe inspectors will expect is included in publications available on the Victorian government’s WorkSafe website.

Compliance code – Prevention of falls in housing construction

This code applies to construction of buildings and related structures that are classified as 1, 2 or 10 of the Building Code of Australia, and will be of three habitable storeys or less when completed.

This code is specifically tailored to housing construction and should be used in the first instance for such work. It provides information about the duties and obligations under Victorian OHS laws, as well as information about how to identify hazards and control risks associated with falls in housing construction, including the fall prevention methods that apply for common housing construction tasks.

Other guidance and information

  • Compliance code – Prevention of falls in general construction
  • Guidance Note, Fall Protection for Roof Work
  • Guidance Note, Preventing Falls from Earth Moving Equipment
  • Guidance Note, Prevention of Falls in Construction – Selection and Safe Use of Portable Ladders
  • Preventing slips, trips and falls: A health and safety solution
  • Guidance Note, Fall Prevention for scaffolders.

As a general rule, the provisions in the prevention of falls compliance codes should be followed, as this will be taken as compliance with the OHS laws in relation to the matters covered by the compliance codes.

Provisions in guidance notes and other guidance published by WorkSafe should also be followed if it is reasonably practicable to do so.

Australian Standards are not mandatory unless referenced in OHS regulations, in which case they form part of the regulation and must be followed.

Non-mandatory Australian Standards may be referenced in WorkSafe codes and guidance to provide directions to help manage risks in specific circumstances. The information in these standards may be relevant to determining what is reasonably practicable for compliance with the OHS laws and should be considered.

HIA Safety has a team of qualified specialists who can provide one-on-one tailored consultancy and can develop unique solutions to meet your business’s needs.

To find out more, contact HIA’s Building Services team.

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