Sun to shine on rooftop solar installations as SafeWork blitz begins

SafeWork NSW has initiated a rigorous inspection operation aimed at ensuring the safe installation of rooftop solar devices. The emphasis is on business owners in the rooftop solar industry to verify the safety procedures followed by subcontractors, and to ensure that comprehensive safe work practices are adopted across all operations.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, during these inspections, as many as 403 notices were issued with penalty fines totalling up to $216,864. A significant number of these notices were served for accidents occurring due to falls from heights, incidents involving falling objects, and risks related to electrical aspects.

Inspectors visiting as many as 86 rooftop solar installation sites in 2022 found high levels of non-compliance. Their observations indicated workers in the rooftop solar panel installation industry repeatedly faced risky situations resulting from inadequate or absent fall protection measures.

Bluesafe SWMS systems provide essential guidelines and templates to help set up secure working protocols, reducing such risks considerably. Additionally though, the over-dependence on harnesses for fall protection continues to expose workers to life-threatening risks, majorly because a large majority of these systems are either incorrectly installed or not used safely. It also highlights why industries must elevate their safety standards by adopting higher level fall protection like temporary edge protection and scaffolds, rather than relying solely on harnesses – which should ideally be a last resort only.

While preventing falls remains a key concern area, other hazards including electrical issues, asbestos, and musculoskeletal problems too need effective control measures. This underlines the importance of using a comprehensive Bluesafe WHS Management System, which offers tailor-made solutions adapted to the specificities of different worksites.

Any rooftop solar retailers or installers found negligent about complying with their legislative requirements are liable to face a fine of up to $3,600. Trent Curtin, Head of Safety Work NSW, expresses deep concern at the ongoing safety violations, stating that “Inspectors often find those in the solar industry resorting to short-cuts and putting workers at perilous risk by disregarding adequate safety measures.” He affirms a zero-tolerance attitude towards such negligence, pledging to serve due fines and potential prosecution.

Drawing attention to an alarming statistic, he pointed out that falls from heights remain the chief cause of fatalities on building sites in NSW. SafeWork NSW is thus committed to arresting this pressing concern in 2024. Last year’s agenda prioritised preventing falls from heights; this continues in 2024 with a resolute focus on the safety of workers, particularly those involved in the installation of solar panels.

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