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What Is Required To Manage The Risk Of Falls At Work?
Many Australian workplaces expose workers to the risk of falling. Fall risk can be a very serious hazard, with falls regularly causing serious injury or even death.  Fall risks are particularly dangerous in any workplace or job where work must […]

What Is Required To Manage The Risk Of Falls At Work?

Many Australian workplaces expose workers to the risk of falling.

Fall risk can be a very serious hazard, with falls regularly causing serious injury or even death. 

Fall risks are particularly dangerous in any workplace or job where work must be conducted at height such as scaffolding.

Other examples include roof work, shelf stacking, silo work, or loading and unloading trucks. 

There is often a risk of falling even when work is conducted at ground level, thanks to below-grade hazards such as service pits and trenches.

Where Does The Burden Of Responsibility For Fall Safety Lie?

The WHS act obliges any person or organisation operating a business or conducting an undertaking to protect workers and other individuals from health and safety risks related to the business as far as is reasonably practicable. 

WHS regulations lay out more specific obligations for persons conducting businesses or undertakings to manage risk appropriately in any situation where a person may fall from one level to another. 

Regulatory requirements for managing fall risk include:

  • Arranging any job involving fall risk so that, as far as is practicable, work is carried out either on the ground or on a solid construction.
  • Ensuring that access to and exit from the workplace is safe.
  • Minimising the risk of falls where possible by providing workers with fall arrest systems, fall prevention devices, or work positioning systems.

Companies and individuals that design, build, import, supply, and install equipment and structures that may be used for work have a responsibility to ensure that the equipment, plant, and/or structures that they supply present minimal risks to health and safety. 

Fall risks can be reduced or eliminated entirely by planning appropriately while designing plant and structures.

Officers (e.g. company directors) associated with a business or undertaking have an obligation to exercise due diligence and thereby ensure compliance with the WHS Act and Regulations. 

All reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that the proper resources and processes are made available and used to minimise the risk of injury-causing falls from one level to another.

Workers themselves are obliged to protect their own health and safety and refrain from behaving in ways that might negatively impact the health and safety of others. 

Any reasonable instruction given by the person conducting the business or undertaking must be obeyed.

Definitions of Key Terms

A “fall” is any fall which drops a person from one level to another. 

A “fall risk” is any circumstance, in or near a workplace, where a worker or other person is in danger of falling in such a way that injury to the falling individual is reasonably likely. 

Circumstances that qualify as a “fall risk” include any of the following in which a person is:

  • Inside or on top of plant or structure at an elevated level
  • Insider or on top of equipment used to provide access to an elevated level (e.g. scaffolding, ladders, lifts, hoists, elevators)
  • In proximity to an edge over which a person can fall
  • In proximity to an opening through which a person can fall
  • On or close to a surface which is slippery, unstable, or sloping
  • On or close to a surface which a person could fall through

“Risk control” consists of the reasonably practicable actions that can be taken to eliminate health and safety risks where possible and otherwise to minimise them.

Note that eliminating a hazard entirely will eliminate associated risks caused by the presence of that hazard.

In a workplace health and safety context, a “competent person” is one who possesses the skills and/or knowledge required to execute a task. 

Competence of this sort may be acquired through training, experience, qualifications, or a combination of these means.

What Must Be Done To Manage Fall Risk?

The WHS Regulations oblige duty holders to take the following steps:

  • Identify hazards (reasonably foreseeable ones) that might cause risk
  • Eliminate the hazard and/or risk if practicable
  • When elimination is not practicable, duty holders must implement control measures (according to the control hierarchy) to minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Maintain the control measure in an effective manner following its implementation
  • Review risk control measures and revise them when necessary/practicable

In order to manage fall risks, this Code provides guidance for managing health and safety risks according to a systematic process:

  • Identify hazards with the capacity to cause injury
  • Assess the risks associated with such hazards as necessary
  • Implement measures to control the risk
  • Review the risk control measures to confirm that they are effective

Worker Consultation

Worker consultation is a process of sharing health and safety information with workers. 

It provides them with a reasonable opportunity to express their views on health and safety matters. 

The consultation process must also provide duty holders with sufficient time to take workers’ views into account before they make any final health and safety decisions.

You have an obligation according to the WHS Act to consult with your workers in any situation where they are likely or certain to be affected by a work health and safety issue. 

If the workers in question have a health and safety representative, that representative must be included in the consultation.

Worker consultation (with health and safety representatives) must be carried out at every step of the risk management process. 

Your workers’ knowledge and experience are powerful tools for identifying fall risks and developing effective measures to control them.

Consultation With Other Duty Holders

According to the WHS Act, you are required to consult, cooperate, and coordinate with other WHS duty holders when your duties relate to the same matter.

Responsibility for health and safety issues may be shared amongst multiple business operators if they share the same workplace or conduct the same sort of business activities. 

So far as is practicable, you should identify shared health and safety issues and collaborate with other duty holders to eliminate and/or minimise all risks which may be likely to occur.

Here is a basic example: a transport company owner whose workers operate large trucks has a responsibility to consult with both suppliers and delivery recipients about controlling fall risks while the company’s trucks are being loaded and unloaded. 

The transport company owner may, for instance, want to check each loading or unloading site to confirm that suitable equipment is available.

Proper equipment would free workers from any need to climb on top of loaded trucks; this eliminates one potential fall risk from the loading and unloading process.

If you are looking for knowledgeable and experienced scaffolders, who have leading-hands that work together with you and offer expert advice, please contact us at Skelscaff today on 1300 266 607 or email us at contact@skelscaff.com.au.