1. Fall Prevention in Construction
According to government statistics falling has proven to be the leading cause of death on a
construction site. It has been noted that between 1995 and 1999 alone, 362 falls occurred on a
construction site and with the increase in production and construction of late that number has
Typically falls on construction sites can result from using unsafe or incomplete scaffolds,
inappropriate ladders/ladder use, falling from or through roofs, falls from trucks, falls into holes,
pits or shafts, accessing shelving, accessing mezzanine areas. Falls from heights are an
extremely prevalent and dangerous threat to construction workers and so needs to be managed
Even falls from relatively low height have the ability to cause very serious injuries, including
fractures, spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damage. Management of the risks can
significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by falling.
By following the steps below the hazards can be addressed and removed before causing harm
Step 1 – Allocate responsibility to Workers in Managing Fall Prevention
For each job it needs to be decided who has specific responsibilities for particular tasks so a
safe work environment can be maintained at all times. Responsibilities that can be distributed
include ensuring adequate fall prevention is in place, equipment is used correctly, safety
measures are maintained and workers are given adequate instruction and training. Employers
have the main responsibility for ensuring that the work environment is safe and free from fall
Manufacturers, importers and suppliers of equipment must ensure that the equipment they
provide is designed, constructed and tested so it’s safe to use when used for the purpose it
was designed, manufactured or supplied. They should also provide adequate information about
how to use the equipment correctly.
Employees have the responsibility of following the instruction and training they are given, so as
to not endanger their own life or the lives of co-workers. This includes workers working alone or
supervising staff such as apprentices.
STEP 2 – Identify Hazards
One of the highly risky practices on a construction site is working on a roof.
To comply with the OHS Prevention of Falls Regulations, employers must identify all tasks that
involve the possibility of someone falling more than two metres. These tasks may include
construction, demolition, repairs or maintenance, on plant or structure, work on fragile or
2. unstable surfaces, work on sloping or slippery surfaces, work near an edge, hole, pit or shaft.
STEP 3 – Assess Risks and Risky Situations
Things that should be considered when assessing the risks include the nature, size and layout
of the workplace, The duration, extent and type of work to be done, height at which workers will
be required to access or undertake work, training and experience of employees undertaking the
work, how to get to the work area, the number and movement of people and plant on the work
site and conditions of work. Some aspects to consider include is it windy or slippery? Is there
poor lighting, sloping surfaces or other hazards above or below work area such as power lines,
impaling hazards or trees?
According to the law if it is not possible to eliminate the risk, precautions must be taken to
manage the risk and reduce the likelihood of someone falling and being injured.
Working on the ground is the most effective method of protecting workers from fall hazards. This
is not always possible, so the hazard has to be managed.
Use temporary work platforms such as properly erected scaffolds or elevated work platforms.
Isolation of the hazard using physical barriers can protect workers from falls or engineering
controls can be implemented. Use “work positioning” systems that will position and safely
support a worker at the location where the task is to be performed.
Administrative controls should be implemented if engineering controls are not practical. These
controls require a high level of training and supervision to be effective and are often supported
with other fall protection measures. Eg Use of warning signs to warn workers of falling hazard.
Construction workers need to use personal protective equipment to minimise injury in the event
of a fall or any other hazard on a construction site. Workers shouldn’t just be given PPE, but
must be trained on its correct use so that workers can get the full benefit of the PPE. This in
conjunction with other measures mentioned above, can contribute to a safer and healthier work
Posted by Peter Cutforth
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