Why You Should Care About Height Safety

Do you know how many workers die each year in Australia as a consequence of falls? You’d probably think ‘not many’ given how regulated this country is. But you’d be wrong.

Over the last 15 years, SafeWork Australia has tracked the number of work-related fatalities as a result of falling from height and it exceeds 20. That’s each year!

The Working At Height Association tracks injury statistics from around the country and publishes the results annually. What history has shown is that fall injuries have consistently ranked in the Top 3 incident types, alongside vehicle-related incidents and being hit by moving objects.

That’s quite staggering, especially when you consider those fall injuries are preventable.

As a professional roofing company, we understand the importance of keeping our team safe and being compliant with the legislation. The same is true for our clients for whom we install Temporary Edge Protection during their construction phases.

What is temporary edge protection?

It’s a system that’s used in the construction industry and is designed to prevent workers (and equipment) from falling off the edge of a roof. You’ve probably seen it but not noticed it – it looks like hand railing and sometimes includes a toe board. 

Its role is to provide a safe work environment for people working at height. It reduces the risk of injured workers and allied hefty fines for non-compliance.

So, other than for moral reasons, why should you care about height safety? After all, isn’t it the responsibility of your prime or subcontractor? Well yes, and no.

You see, from a legal perspective, you can’t insure against negligence. By that we mean, you can’t simply shirk your responsibilities as the property owner or manager. We talked about this in an earlier blog: Choose Tradies Wisely To Reduce Your Liability.

So how do you know what your responsibilities are? 

First off, your contractors should know. That’s the litmus test with any professional roofing or plumbing company you’re thinking of using for any job that involves working from height. If you get a ‘yeah nah, she’ll be right’, then treat that as a red flag and keep looking. If, however, the contractor is able to refer to the relevant codes of practice and explain what is required to complete your project in a safe and compliant way then you’re on the right path.

But you’re still just taking someone else’s word for it …

Thankfully, we’re all living in a digital age and the relevant information is usually just a few clicks away. That is literally the case here as we’ve provided the links to The Australian Safety and Compensation Council Code of Practice and WorkCover NSW Code of Practice for you.

Let’s talk about the latter in a little more detail.

The Code of Practice for Safe Work on Roofs provides clients, employers, self-employed persons, contractors, subcontractors and workers with practical advice on preventing injury to persons engaged in work on roofs.  It applies to the planning, preparation and conduct of work for the installation and maintenance of roofs, the maintenance of roof-mounted equipment and structures, the removal of roof coverings, and the movement of those working on roofs, on commercial and industrial buildings.

So as you can see, it’s all-encompassing. It also includes very clear guidance for temporary edge protection (or guard rails). Of course, the requirements change based on the pitch and/or complexity of the roof starts but include a foundational mandate that the supporting members can support the load of a person falling against the rails. 

The temporary edge protection should be in place before work commences and remain in place until work has finished. That just makes sense, doesn’t it?

If that was the case, why are there still so many Australians falling to their death each year? 

There can be many reasons why falls from height occur but two of the more common ones are:

  1. Temporary edge protection costs money to install
  2. It feels like it’s too much hassle (it’ll only take me a minute …)

Now imagine yourself standing in Coroners Court giving evidence in the case where a worker fell to their death at your property/on your project.

Do you think either of those reasons would sound ’okay’ to the Coroner or the family of the deceased? Exactly. Of course not.

So make sure you do your own due diligence when selecting a prime or subcontractor to complete any works at height. Avoid the trap of being focussed on the lowest price possible as the lowest prices have usually been calculated by excluding costs where possible. This could mean that safety will be compromised. And as we’ve stated already, you can’t insure against negligence.

At Parrish Group, we have a dedicated team who do nothing else but advise on and install temporary edge protection. If you’d like to chat with one of our specialists about your project then give us a call. 


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