26 June 2023
Working at Heights and mitigating risks
It’s an obvious statement but working at heights is an inherently dangerous activity with many risks that must be accounted for and managed. At Remedial, workplace safety is something we take very seriously, with our team educated on, and reminded constantly about the necessity of taking all safety precautions to protect workers from injury or death.
No matter who you are, if you work for Remedial, you know about the risks of working at heights, are educated in mitigating risks for you and others, and are reminded to do all that is necessary to ensure that safety at work comes first. Encouragingly, earlier this month – and testament to our ongoing focus of safety – one of our senior estimators shared his new work motto, which encourages workers on site to remember nothing is more important than going home safely.
Ultimately, at Remedial we proudly stand behind our unwavering focus on safety and stand behind a recent announcement from Minister for Work Health and Safety Sophie Cotsis who kicked off a 12-month campaign focussed on working at heights and the reduction of fatal falls on NSW building sites.
In this blog, our focus is to share our knowledge (almost as a how-to guide), continue the conversation and ensure that as many people as possible are made aware of the risks and requirements when it comes to working at heights.
Overview of working at heights risks
The potential for serious injury or death due to falls from height is a major risk associated with working at heights. According to Australian statistics, falls from height account for 28 percent of all workplace fatalities in the country. At a more granular level:
- Falls from heights is the number one cause of traumatic fatalities on NSW construction sites, with 16 people killed between 2018 and 2022.
- Most serious falls are from roofs, ladders and scaffolds, and from a height of less than 4 metres.
- Workers aged between 20 and 29 experience the highest number of falls and those aged over 50 make up the highest number of fatalities.
- Despite an increase in workplace safety messaging, interventions and requirements,
- interventions, the incidence rate of serious construction workers compensation claims has risen from 15.60 in 2015/16 to 17.47 per 1,000 employees in 2019/20.
Mitigating the risks that are associated with working at heights — something Remedial Building Services staff do almost every day — is critical. But it is more than providing safety equipment or access to safety training. We recognise workers must be provided with the appropriate protective equipment, that tools are secured properly, that they are given electrically tagged tools and that risks have been mitigated.
In fact, lack of proper planning or awareness of hazards in the work environment can lead to problems further down the line, which is why training, weekly or daily reminders and signage all play an important part in protecting all on site.
Assessing building structures for repairs
When it comes to building remediation, before any repair work begins, it is essential that a site risk assessment is undertaken, and that all risks, mitigation procedures and steps to take if something does go wrong are identified and documented. Consulting with workers, checking who has the correct training and licences and understanding their feedback is critical to this process as their input will be essential to the development of Safe Work Method Statements and knowing who can and cannot undertake specific tasks.
Detailed and shared SWMS are critical and cannot be overlooked. At Remedial, we ensure that given we are undertaking building rectification works, that our process involves assessing both the exterior and interior of buildings as well as any existing infrastructure or equipment that could be impacted during the project.
After completing an assessment, it is essential that results are communicated with all involved parties so they can agree on how best to move forward without causing too much disruption while still keeping everyone safe. We will then provide clear instructions for the managing parties and tenants regarding what needs to be done and how long it will take, plus any additional safety precautions that may need to be taken during repair works. As possible, we will try to limit the impact on building occupants, but, that said, ensure safety is the primary concern.
In short, our focus is to carefully plan ahead and assess buildings prior to repairs, so that we reduce risks associated with accidents as well as make sure tenants remain secure throughout construction activities.
Safety measures and procedures for working at heights
Working at heights is an inherently risky activity and it is essential that all necessary precautions are taken to ensure the safety of personnel. Employers should provide their employees with appropriate safety equipment and the relevant training on how to use it, should inspect worksites for potential hazards prior to commencement of any work, and teach staff the required and correct techniques for undertaking work at heights (eg. Securing tool or debris, using hoists, anchor points and harnesses). An emergency response plan should also be established so that employers can respond quickly and appropriately in case of an accident or injury.
Staying up-to-date with the latest regulations and standards, is critical to workplace safety as well. We recommend key management personnel read and disseminate information shared by the NSW government including:
- A new white paper on Reducing falls from heights in the construction industry
- Safeworks Working at Heights checklist
- Managing the risks of Falls Code of Practice
Choosing the right contractor and safety records
Remedial Building Services has been in the business of working at heights for over 50 years, and our track record speaks for itself. Specifically — without wanting to boast — when it comes to working at heights, we have an exemplary safety record.
In our many years (too many to list) of building rectification years we have fortunately had no major incidents or falls on our sites and our Days lost due to workplace injury statistics are negligible (almost nil). This is a record we are both proud of, but which we constantly are working to maintain.
When combined with our experience, our highly qualified team and our size, we are able to confidently offer our clients the assurance that they are engaging a company that not only meets all legal and industry-standard precautions for protecting workers from injury or death, but are ensuring that we are walking the walk on it.
The team at Remedial Building Services understands that safety is paramount when it comes to working at heights, and they take every possible precaution to ensure that all safety regulations are met. We provide ongoing training to their staff to ensure that their skills remain up-to-date, and they conduct regular site assessments before any work takes place, reducing the risk of accidents.
This impressive track record demonstrates the commitment that Remedial Building Services’ team has to providing the highest quality structural repairs service while ensuring optimal safety for everyone involved.
Conclusion: Minimizing risk and ensuring safety
Australian work culture has for too long propagated a “Don’t be a wimp” attitude, which has seen employees chided for taking risk precautions. We do not subscribe to this in any shape or form and believe creating a safe work environment should be the top priority for any employer or contractor; especially true when working at heights.
We want to continue the conversation and break down stigmas that exist around workplace safety. We will continue to take the necessary steps to mitigate risk, such as implementing safety measures in accordance with industry regulations, conducting regular inspections of structures and equipment, ensuring that appropriate safety equipment is used, training workers in the use of safety gear and procedures, and hiring experienced sub-contractors for the roles we cannot do ourselves.
For more information on our safety record, please feel free to contact our Safety Officer via our contact form.CONTACT US
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