Falls from heights are some of the most common causes of workplace fatalities in Oz and in fact the entire world, yet many companies still fail to guard against this hazard. This is a big mistake because not only do companies place themselves at risk of receiving huge fines and penalties, they also risk losing valuable production hours if workers are injured or killed.
Quite a large number of scaffolding deaths occur each year and the cause for most of them is usually fatal falls from the scaffold. Another common cause of scaffolding injuries and deaths is when components of the scaffold fall and injure people on the ground or objects fall from the scaffold and hit people below.
Regardless of the risks involved scaffolding is still vital to most construction projects and are an irreplaceable component of building works. Since they aren’t going away anytime soon, employers and workers need to learn to manage scaffold hazards effectively.
An incident which happened on a British construction site highlighted the danger of not managing scaffolding hazards. A worker fell 13 metres while working on scaffolding, this excerpt from PPConstructionSafety.com explains what happened:
S&S Scaffolding Ltd has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs following the death of a workman who fell 13m through the roof of a Merseyside warehouse in December 2010. Tony Causby, 42, was helping to dismantle scaffolding when he stepped onto a fragile rooflight and fell to the floor below.
Liverpool Crown Court heard Mr Causby was involved in erecting the scaffolding at the end of October ahead of work to replace damaged cladding and guttering on the roof. He returned to the site on 14 December as part of the dismantling team, although he was employed by S&S Scaffolding as a labourer rather than a scaffolder.
Mr Causby returned to the roof with another labourer after a lunch break when he stepped on the skylight, which broke and gave way. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
The court was heard there were some 80 fragile skylights on one half of the roof. However, the company failed to arrange for load bearing covers to be put over skylights nearest to where persons were working.
Later it was revealed that the company involved was aware of the risks beforehand but failed to guard against and provide a safe plan for the dismantling process and for work from heights.
The employer’s failure to provide workers with a safe system of work for work from heights led to the injury of a workman. When you consider that the scaffolding company was specialised in scaffolding work, they should have been more aware of the hazards and the need to guard against them. That is what makes this incident even more serious, that the employer blatantly ignored its responsibility. Other employers should learn from this example and ensure they identify all hazards beforehand and develop the control measures to ensure workers aren’t unnecessarily placed in harm’s way.