The tragic incident in 2009 which left a 61 year old worker disabled has resulted in $800,000 compensation for the worker. The injury occurred as the worker used a jack hammer to demolish a wall while standing on an erected platform. The worker then fell 3m to the ground which left him disabled after having to go numerous surgeries.

The incident is yet another example of the unsafe practices occurring on construction sites. The shocking part is that statistics show falls from heights are the leading cause of death on construction sites and yet employers in the industry are still not taking this hazard seriously enough.

An interesting post on had this to report on the case:

The ACT Supreme Court has awarded a 61-year-old Canberra man more than $800,000 in compensation after a workplace accident left him disabled.

 The man was injured in March 2009 while using a jack hammer to demolish part of a wall.

 He had been ordered to use the equipment while standing on a plywood platform erected as formwork for a concrete pour.

 He fell about 3 metres to the floor below when a piece of the formwork flipped.

 The Court heard he suffered injuries to his right shoulder and elbow and had not been able to resume work after having two operations.

 The man was awarded more than $100,000 in compensation for his injuries and more than $400,000 for lost past and future income.

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 a dangerous threat to construction workers and so needs to be managed accordingly. In the incident above the worker was instructed to perform a dangerous task from an unstable plywood platform erected as formwork for a concrete pour.

Even falls from relatively low height have the ability to cause very serious injuries and this incident involved a height of 3m which in itself is a risk. Injuries that can occur from falls include fractures, spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damage. Management of the risks can significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by falling.

The most common occurrence of incidents on construction sites involve workers falling according to statistics provided by authorities. This type of hazard also causes the most serious injuries which is why risk assessment and management is so important.

Extreme caution must be administered when working from a height, especially a height higher than 2 meters. Workers need to be aware of your surroundings and take note and caution of slippery boards on scaffolds and walkways, missing guardrails, openings in floors and penetrations that are not correctly protected. Workers should report all openings or missing railings so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Relating to the hazard of falling is the issue of scaffolding work. When work from heights cannot be eliminated, the use of scaffolding is necessary. To comply with the applicable scaffolding regulations, all persons erecting or altering scaffold must be competent and certified to do so.

All scaffolds must be erected in compliance with statutory regulations and such scaffold and accessories must conform to regulations. Any damaged planks must be removed, kickboards must be secured in place and guardrails installed.

Mobile scaffolds present their own hazards, in that they are frequently used and must be erected as per regulations. They should be fitted with wheel locks which must be in place whenever people are working on the scaffold so that it doesn’t roll causing a fall.

All scaffolds should have an internal ladder for access. Climbing of scaffolding standards should not be allowed and tools and equipment should not be left lying around unattended on scaffolds as they tripping hazard they present can be compounded by a fall from a height.

Personal Protective Equipment is the form of Safety helmets must be worn at all times when working from a scaffold. Workers must be provided with a safety helmet which must be worn at all times.

 Posted by Steven Asnicar

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