$900k in fines handed out as SafeWork cracks down on falls from heights threats

Halfway through SafeWork NSW’s 12-month focus on reducing falls from heights, the total fines issued have already reached almost $1 million. This ‘Working at Heights in Construction’ campaign was instigated due to an unsettling increase in severe injuries and fatalities resulting from such falls. Between 2018 and 2022, falls from height accounted for 17 deaths.

At its outset in May 2023, SafeWork Inspectors made their presence known at 1,218 worksites, which amassed a total of 1,499 Improvement Notices, 727 Prohibition Notices, and 352 Penalty Notices tallying to $972,000. Commercial and residential sites across the state have been subject to visits by inspectors, with additional high visibility checks conducted in manufacturing and warehouse industries, plus inspections within the transport industry during the bustling Christmas period.

During these onsite inspections, inspectors found that 65% of the workforce utilised optimal safety measures, like fall prevention devices including roof guardrails and scaffolding, rather than fall arrest systems such as harnesses. Workplace safety remains high on the agenda for SafeWork into 2024, with a continued emphasis on protecting workers operating at heights.

Contractors and builders bear the responsibility of identifying height risks and taking necessary steps to mitigate these hazards. The best way to do this is by integrating higher order controls wherever possible, such as a Bluesafe WHS Management System.

For workers who may be apprehensive, they can anonymously contact SafeWork via their hotline or the ‘Speak Up Save Lives’ mobile app.

SafeWork NSW’s Head, Trent Curtin, commented on the ongoing situation:
“Now we’re halfway through our ‘Working at Heights in Construction’ initiative, it’s important to understand that falls from heights remain the leading cause of traumatic fatalities on NSW construction sites. While we have seen a promising uptake of top-tier safety measures, with 65% of the industry on board, it means that 35% are lagging behind and this has to change.

Neglecting to adopt these precautions, such as the Bluesafe SWMS, not only increases the risk of workplace accidents but also exposes businesses to financial penalties and potential prosecution.”

Curtin also provided a stark warning:
“During one site inspection, a SafeWork Inspector noted a worker on a roof without a harness. When asked why, the worker said they’d been roofing for 30 years with no incidents. An attitude like this can lead to tragic consequences. We will not hold back when it comes to stopping work, issuing fines, or considering charges against businesses and individuals that disregard the rules.”
To learn more about safe practices for working from heights, visit our information page.

Original article link: https://www.safework.nsw.gov.au/news/safework-media-releases/$900k-in-fines-handed-out-as-safework-cracks-down-on-falls-from-heights-threats

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