Roofing company fined after worker’s fall.

Source: Work Safe Victoria – Friday 10 Jun 2022

A roofing company has been fined $20,000 after a fall at a residential construction site in Mount Duneed.

CSR Building Products Ltd, trading as Monier Roofing, pleaded guilty in the Geelong Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday to one charge of failing to ensure the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The company was sentenced, with conviction, and was also ordered to pay costs of $4,950.

The court heard that in May 2018, an employee of a contractor was on the roof of the single storey site nailing roof battens in place when it is believed he stepped on an unsecured batten, causing him to fall more than three metres onto a concrete slab below, suffering serious injuries.

WorkSafe inspectors who attended the site found that the method used to install the battens was to rest each batten against a tack nail, only nailing them in once all the trusses were in place.

This was at odds with a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) prepared for the work which stipulated that, to prevent falls, a progressive battening technique be used to provide a secure platform for workers as they made their way up the roofline. However, the SWMS did not provide details on how to undertake progressive battening.

The court heard that it was reasonably practicable for the company to provide a SWMS for the roofing work which included detailed instructions on the installation of roof battens.

On 17 March 2020, the contractor who employed the worker pleaded guilty to not working in accordance with the SWMS and was, without conviction, fined $15,000 and ordered to pay costs of $5,751.59.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the dangers of falls from heights were well known and WorkSafe would not hesitate to prosecute any employer who put their workers’ health at risk through unsafe work practises.

“Even falls from relatively low heights can leave people with permanent, debilitating injuries,” Dr Beer said.

“As an employer, it’s your responsibility to keep your workplace safe, including protecting your workers by ensuring safe systems of work are being followed.”

To prevent falls from height employers can:

  • Eliminate the risk by, where practicable, 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 employees 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.

Amendments to the model WHS laws

Amendments to the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws have been published on the Safe Work Australia website:
model WHS Act and Explanatory Memorandum
model WHS Regulations and Explanatory Statement

The amendments implement a number of recommendations from the 2018 Review of the model WHS laws.
The amendments do not automatically apply in a jurisdiction. For the model WHS Act and model WHS Regulations to have effect in a jurisdiction they must be enacted in that jurisdiction.

They include amendments to:
– the model WHS Regulations to deal with psychosocial risks (recommendation 2)
– work group provisions (recommendation 7b)
– health and safety representative (HSR) training (recommendation 10)
– remove the 24-hour notice period for entry permit holders (recommendation 15)
– align the process for issuing service of notices to provide clarity and consistency (recommendation 16)
– enable inspectors to require production of documents and answers to questions within 30 days of any inspector’s entry to a workplace (recommendation 17)
– clarify that a WHS regulator’s power to obtain information relevant to investigations of potential breaches of the model WHS laws has extra-territorial application (recommendation 18)
– clarify the circumstances in which WHS regulators can share information between jurisdictions (recommendation 19)
– include gross negligence as a fault element in the Category 1 offence (recommendation 23a)
– improve regulator accountability for investigation progress (recommendation 24)
– prohibit insurance for WHS penalties (recommendation 26)
– improve record keeping and operator training for amusement devices and passenger ropeways (recommendation 28)
– compliance with Standards not mandatory unless specified (recommendation 31b)
– give effect to recommendations that are minor or technical in nature.

Go to the Implementation of the WHS ministers’ agreed response to the Review of the Model WHS Laws web page for a more detailed overview of the amendments.

For information on WHS laws in your jurisdiction, please contact your WHS regulator.

Are You Keeping Your Workers Safe?

Article by WAHA CEO Scott Barber, for Sourceable.

With workplace risk profiles constantly changing and the training & equipment maintenance requirements increasing each year, many organisations go into reactive mode with regards to managing their working at heights systems and PPE.

As a result, we see organisations adopting a “tick the box” risk management system just to meet the minimum compliance requirements.

We need to look to more effective and proactive ways to manage the changing risks of our workplaces and ensure safety protocols meet these needs. When we do this, we discover ways to remove the layers of complexity from equipment application and selection, make it more simple to train our teams and maintain their skills, ensure what we specify is fit for purpose and all while comply with any Regulatory requirements we face.

The High Cost of Worker Non-Compliance
When a decision is made to work at height without applying the basics of safe work practice, regardless if the task will take just a few minutes or is occurring at a low height, the risks, and potential costs, can be enormous.

Fall-related injuries and deaths can be devastating on a physical, emotional, and financial level for the worker, the worker’s family, and the employer. In addition to the potential loss of life or serious life-altering injuries, a fall can easily cripple or bankrupt a business.

What do you need to do?

Applying the Hierarchy of Controls is the first step in addressing the risk:

  • Avoid work at heights, where possible.
  • When it is necessary to work at heights, ensure that workers are not exposed to unnecessary risks.
  • Where it is not possible to eliminate fall risk, use a suitable fall protection system to minimize consequences of a fall.
  • Choose PPE and access methods that allow workers to perform their tasks with minimal interference.

How do you decide what equipment to use?

The nature of the work being carried out needs to be the starting point as not all harness and connection methods will be suitable for all tasks. As part of the risk profiling, the potential for passive protection measures needs to be addressed before prioritising personal protection (PPE) measures.

When addressing equipment selection criteria look at all the risks, not just those associated with the ‘use’ phase. Duration and frequency of use will help determine  whether permanent solutions are required, or if the application of a PPE based access method is more suitable.

What is passive protection?

Passive protection is a system design which can protect more than one person and, once properly installed or erected, requires minimal actions by the user to make sure it will perform. Examples include hand rails, scaffolds and Elevated Work Platforms (EWPs) which use guard rails to reduce the risk of a fall.

What is personal protection?

Personal protection is equipment which provides protection to the user/wearer only and requires actions by the individual, including correct fitting and adjusting, for it to perform appropriately. Examples include fall arrest equipment including harnesses, lanyards, Personal Fall Limiters (PFLs) and Self Retracting Life Lines (SRLs) which minimise the consequences of a fall.

This also includes fixed/engineered systems like Horizontal Life Lines and Vertical Life Lines (ladder systems) to provide permanent connection means in collaboration with appropriate PPE.

This method is termed “Collective Protection” as it involves multiple elements from the Hierarchy of Controls.

Please note, the use of personal protection requires appropriate training in working at height, and consideration for skills maintenance should be accommodated in any ongoing training matrix.

What else do you need to do?

Ensure all personnel who select, assemble, use and supervise the use of the equipment have been suitably trained and have access to all the relevant information relating to their safe use. This includes understanding equipment cross-compatibility and the inspection and maintenance requirements as per the manufacturer’s guidelines and all relevant Standards.

Fall Clearance

If you have not determined the available clearance below the working surface and calculated your total fall clearance properly, then a fall leading to potential serious or fatal injuries may still occur regardless of the fall arrest system being used.

Safe fall clearance is required to ensure that any fall from a working platform will be arrested before a worker can impact the ground or any other obstruction such as building extrusions, machinery or pipework.

Scott Barber is Chief Executive Officer of the Working at Height Association of Australia

Australian Government Announce Skills Reform

To support the future growth and prosperity of our nation, the Australian, state and territory governments are committed to improving the vocational education and training (VET) system through reform: a strong VET system is critical for Australia’s long-term economic recovery from COVID-19.

Skills reform consultation

Skills Ministers have agreed to progress the immediate reforms under the Heads of Agreement for Skills Reforms, including enhanced industry engagement, qualifications and quality reforms.

On the skills reform consultation page you can:

  • provide your thoughts on improving the VET sector
  • find the latest information on skills reform consultation.

Proposed “Industry Cluster” for Building, Infrastructure, Construction, and Property. 

The Australian Government is establishing Industry Clusters to provide industry with a stronger, more strategic voice and broader role in ensuring Australia’s VET system continues to deliver on employer and learner needs. The initiative forms part of the broader Skills Reform Agenda, which aims to improve the quality, accessibility and relevance of the VET sector. 

The Industry Clusters will be groups of aligned industries with a strategic leadership role to identify, forecast, and respond to the current and emerging skills needs and workforce challenges of industry. 

Industry Clusters will be established through a two-stage grant opportunity approach to market. The first stage will involve an open competitive process seeking proposals to establish and subsequently operate an Industry Cluster. The second stage will involve a closed non-competitive process to enable the newly established clusters to put forward detailed proposals to deliver on their full functions. 

Industry Cluster Composition – Building, Infrastructure, Construction and Property (BICPIC) 

There are five industries that are nominated in the Building, Infrastructure, Construction and Property Industry Cluster. This Cluster covers property services and small- or large-scale construction services, including traditional building and construction trades (e.g. plumbing, tiling, carpentry) as well as large scale civil infrastructure services (e.g. road, dam, bridge and tunnel construction). 

Combining these various sectors within one Industry Cluster offers vastly improved opportunities to enhance the accessibility, quality, and relevance of vocational training. 

When taken together, they cover the life cycle of the built environment, from design, construction through to maintenance. In June 2020, these sectors combined employed approximately 1,702,000 people across the country, even in the midst of the pandemic. As of December 2020, it’s estimated that there were approximately 104,000 apprentices and trainees in training within those sectors.

In terms of both scale and impact, these sectors are of vital importance to our society. Likewise, ensuring that training is fit to purpose and skills are updated to meet current and future needs around compliance, digitalisation, and sustainable development is of central importance. 

The WAHA will continue to work on involvement during the Skills Reform.

Have your say to help shape the future of Australia’s VET system.

Workplace Health & Safety Show – Melbourne

The countdown is on until the Workplace Health & Safety Show Melbourne, 25 & 26 May 2022 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

You are invited to join Scott Barber, CEO, Working at Height Association for his session ‘Height safety management; A new holistic approach’ at the Workplace Health & Safety Show. 

On average, 10% of all workplace fatalities in the last decade are related to a fall from height. This percentage has remained increasingly stubborn, but the actual numbers are increasing due rise in the number of PCBU’s conducting work at height.

Despite a focus from regulators, a more holistic approach is needed to improve worker engagement and manage risks through fall protection measures, training and environment-specific solutions.

Make sure you attend to stay up to date with the latest advice for height safety from Scott, plus meet the team from WAHA on stand J10 in the Expo. 

You can view the WHS Show Seminar Program online here.

Register for free:

Recent News from Standards Australia

The ASNZS 1891:2009 Industrial fall-arrest systems and devices, Part 4: Selection, use and maintenance is currently under review by the SF015 Committee of Standards Australia.

A proposal has also been submitted for the review of ASNZS 5532:2013 Manufacturing requirements for single-point anchor device used for harness-based work at height, with the intention of both revised standards being released simultaneously, late 2023.

The WAHA would once again like to thank our Members and Representatives who have worked on the SF015 Committee with Standards Australia over the last several years.

For more information about Australian Standards, please visit their website directly.

Know Your Duties – Construction Risk

Construction work can be hazardous, with SafeWork Australia data highlighting that 21 workers lost their lives because of a work-related incident in the construction industry in 2021.

The most common causes of worker fatalities were:

  • Vehicle collisions (41%)
  • Being hit by moving objects (13%)
  • Falls from a height (11%)

In addition, there were over 15,500 serious workers’ compensation claims in 2019-20 relating to construction work. 

Employers have a duty to keep workers and their workplace safe. Learn more about duties under the model WHS laws for construction work.

You can also contact your WHS regulator for more information related to your state or territory.

Are You Rescue Ready?

 by Scott Barber, for Sourceable.

The following is guidance from the Working at Heights Association about being ready to rescue a worker who is injured when working at height.

#1 Update your Risk Assessment:

Always start with a thorough risk assessment early. If unsure, have it reviewed or approved by a rescue specialist. Remember, circumstances on site change regularly, be it weather or surrounding works, so make sure it is updated to reflect the actual job characteristics and don’t just use a general template.

Your working at height or confined space rescue plan is only as good as your risk assessment. So if your risk assessment isn’t in alignment with the risk profile, then you don’t really have an effective plan.

An incomplete risk assessment exposes any gaps in SWMS, and consequently, your rescue plan. Not accounting for site and job specific hazards . An out-of-date or inadequate risk assessment doesn’t cater for changes in the environment, and a last minute risk assessment may leave you scrambling for safety on-site.

#2 Specify Fit-for-Purpose Rescue Equipment

Highlight all potential rescue “hot-spots” on your site. Analyse each hot spot to understand your rescue equipment needs. Work with specialists to help identify the most practical and effective solution, taking into consideration the training and skills maintenance of the rescue team.

The wrong rescue equipment specification can lead to confusion, convoluted planning, and an ineffective response to an emergency. If the gear is not suitable for the rescue, you’ll be forced to improvise and compromise, and in a rescue situation, that significantly increases the risk to everyone.

#3 Scale-Up your Response Capability

Identify when, where and how often your team works at height. Use this frequency of work and the supporting risk profiles to inform your decisions around how much rescue cover you need. Ensure all required team members are trained accordingly in rescue techniques and procedures, or if high-risk, bring in a professional standby rescue team.

Not everyone requires rescue training but every site should have rescue-trained personnel. There should always be a rescue capability on-site, ready, with easily accessible equipment, and available to perform whenever and wherever there is work at height and/or the risk of a fall.

Maintaining a rescue capability can be challenging, particularly for smaller teams where everyone already has set roles or when rescue-trained personnel work across multiple sites.

There are alternatives to maintaining an in-house capability, but this requires utilising third-party stand-by rescue teams, which may be more viable for specialist works like shutdowns etc or when short of rescue cover.

#4 Practice, Practice, Practice

Set aside time to practice for a rescue. Ensure all equipment is on-site, inspected, accessible and ready for deployment. Have your practice supervised by a rescue-trained team member or qualified expert rescue trainer

Practice and skills maintenance is critical in assuring your team is ready to respond to an emergency incident. Assuming your team is prepared and comfortable to perform a rescue is dangerous, and places unnecessary risk

Practising your rescue plan is also a requirement under the Code of Practice, which requires evidence that your rescue plan is effective and can be implemented safely.

#5 Do a Daily “Rescue-Ready” Check

Have a pre-determined location for your rescue equipment. Inspect all items daily to confirm they’re safe and ready for use. Top-up your rescue gear as needed.

Every site has a daily pre-start procedure. Ensuring your rescue capability is intact should be a priority, alongside reviewing your risk assessments and SWMS. These go hand-in-hand, as any changes to the SWMS or risks on site may have a direct affect on the effectiveness of your rescue plan.

Is your rescue equipment secure, accessible and in the right location? Is it still intact? Is all the related PPE (harnesses, helmets, etc) complete? Is there anything about today (eg. weather, changes to the nature of work, team members away) that necessitates additional items or measures?

Remember, your rescue kit is only fast, easy and safe to use because it has everything you need and is ready to go. But, much like a first aid kit that’s been raided over time, an incomplete rescue kit could cost you dearly in an emergency.

Company and director fined $320,000 after unprotected fall

Source: WorkSafe Victoria.

A residential building company and its director have been convicted and fined a total of $320,000 after a renderer was seriously injured when he fell 3.2 metres while working without fall protection.

Palladian Three Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Melbourne County Court today after earlier being found guilty of a single charge of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The company was convicted and fined $250,000.

Director Sach Sackl was also convicted and fined $70,000 after earlier being found guilty of a single charge of failing, as director, to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that the workplace was safe and without risks to health.

The court heard the renderer fell while working from an unsecured plank on the exterior of the second floor of a unit under construction at Pascoe Vale in October 2016.

He was taken to hospital with serious injuries including a fractured skull and brain haemorrhage, broken ribs, a punctured lung, lacerated spleen, fractured arm and fractured ankle.

WorkSafe alleged that there was a risk of serious injury or death due to falling from the plank, which was 3.2 metres above ground and had no edge or fall protection.

The court found it was reasonably practicable for Palladian Three and Mr Sackl to ensure that passive fall prevention such as scaffolding was in place before the work began.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said the serious risks associated with working at heights are well-known and there is no excuse for failing to provide safe workplaces.

“This was a blatant failure to protect workers, which sadly left one worker with significant injuries that could have easily been fatal,” Dr Beer said.

“Already this year there have been three deaths due to workplace falls,” she said.

“WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who fail in their duty of care to maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.”

To prevent falls from height employers should first:

  • Consider if they can eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction.

If that is not possible, they should use:

  • A passive fall prevention device such as scaffolds, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
  • A positioning system, such as a travel-restraint system.
  • A fall arrest system, such as a catch platform or safety nets.
  • A fixed or portable ladder or implement administrative controls.

Does a Height Safety Qualification mean a Safe Operator?

Article by Michael Biddle, for Sourceable.

Does my Height Safety Qualification Make Me a Safe Operator?

It’s not always an easy question to answer, as the reality is that there are many factors that determine a person’s competency.

There is a natural deferral point to this question – if the person holds a ‘Work Safety at Heights’ qualification with a Nationally recognised competency from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO), then surely this is the simple answer? In truth, it is only part of the answer to the question, and in many respects it might be that whilst people naturally defer to this answer, they may be ignoring the deeper risk in making decisions like this without considering all the key issues.

I have detailed below a summary of a number of key questions to consider when making a full assessment on whether to engage a contractor for working at height tasks or not and assess whether you’re placing yourself or your company at risk by using that person to perform tasks whilst working at height.

(1) Understand the tasks to be completed for the specific site / location – one of the first things to understand are the core tasks to actually be completed at height. Is there a possibility that these tasks can be done without having to work at height? Are there equipment or access methodologies to use that prevent the person from placing themselves at the risk of a fall in the first place? Ask your contractor to offer solutions or prescribe these methods before commencing work. That way you can assess if their proposed methods are valid / lowest risk.

(2) Are suitable documentation and procedures in existence to support the work to be carried out? – Can the contractor provide you with a suitable risk assessment of the individual site conditions that might be encountered during their work? What methods of access are they proposing and control measures will they implement to mitigate the risks? Typically the provision of well-documented Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) incorporating methods of risk mitigation including rescue will be important to see. They should also detail the types of equipment to be used to perform the tasks and how and why these methods are used to mitigate the risks identified during the risk assessment process.

(3) Are they both theory and practicality qualified to perform the work at height? – A qualification is one thing, however with the current vocational training system in place, an RTO can deliver a ‘Safe Work at Heights’ qualification in alignment with the requirements of a Nationally recognised competency, however they do not need to prove their course is delivering safety of students.

The RTO system does provide adequate and relevant frameworks for the delivery of consistent training, however it does not participate in the quality control of the training itself. Once issued, a qualification does not expire. Technically therefore you could have successfully completed a course 10 years ago, however not be obliged to re-train or refresh your skills to gain a recertification of your qualifications.

Additionally, quality training providers will also be able to demonstrate that their students have undertaken a practical assessment of a person’s ability to use height safety equipment and work safely. The qualifications for competent operators will also likely reflect training in rescue techniques, the deployment of temporary access systems and using ladder climbing techniques such as using twin lanyards, rope adjustment and diversion anchors. Vendors issuing these qualifications that do not provide practical training are not fully executing on their duty of care to their students. If you can imagine a person undertaking an online course or half day course on working at heights might be issued the same qualification as someone with the same competency issued for a 1-2 day course. There is therefore going to be a major inconsistency between the standard of both courses.

One of the best examples to illustrate why this is important is someone achieving their drivers license. You are obliged to study content and then sit a theory exam before you can then undertake a practical test of your skills to follow the road rules and perform the safe operation of a vehicle.

These conditions are mandatory for all drivers, and yet are not mandatory for people working at height. So therefore the need to assess the merits of a qualification are the responsibility of the asset owner/their representative, in the absence of a formal / mandatory assessment process.

This issue is one of the greatest faults of height safety training in the VET system, as in my view as it gives both holders of the qualifications and the customers/companies they serve a false sense of security. To mitigate this risk, review the list of WAHA endorsed training providers and request other leading providers of training to provide evidence that they conduct/recommend refresher training at least every 2 years to overcome this area of concern.

(4) Does the person have previous experience in performing the specific work required to a high standard? – Experience is always a useful indicator of competency, but again, it’s only a part of the equation. Just because you have been doing a task for 5 years – perhaps you have been taking unnecessary risks in the way you’re performing those tasks and you’ve just been lucky that something serious hasn’t happened. Therefore do not rely solely on experience to make your decision.

(5) Does the company /operator promote the use of two-person teams when working remotely and at height or are they relying on someone using their mobile phone to call for help? – There are a significant number of companies that do not engage teams of two people to perform inspections at locations. Their belief and explanation is always – ‘if there is an incident, the operator can simply make a call for help from their mobile phone’.

What happens if the person has a heart attack and cannot move? What happens if the person falls over an edge and is injured in the process or drops their phone? How will a rescue be performed on that person if they are seriously injured and no-one knows of their injury for several hours? The use of single operators for inspection work may well be deemed appropriate if the inspection task can be done without other risks however you should be encouraged to contemplate this seriously in your decision making process before relying on a single-person operator or inspector to perform such tasks.

This list of areas for review is of course not exhaustive however it should provide adequate guidance for most decision making to assess a person / company’s ability to complete work at height. So I can only encourage you to look ‘beyond the ticket’ as a sign of capability to reduce your risk when choosing a company/person to perform work at height.