SafeWork launches campaign targeting unsafe work at heights, following judicial call for action


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Minister for Work Health and Safety Sophie Cotsis recently joined SafeWork inspectors in Sydney’s West to launch a 12-month campaign of surprise inspections to reduce fatal falls on NSW building sites.

This comes after a district court judge raised concerns, in the final weeks of the former government, on the alarming rise in ‘fall from heights’ incidents leading to serious injury and death.

The ‘anytime, anywhere’ campaign will see inspectors on the ground visiting construction sites across the State and will not hesitate to stop work on site, issue fines and consider prosecution against businesses and individuals breaking the law and flaunting critical safety regulations.

Falls from heights is the number one cause of traumatic fatalities on NSW construction sites, with 16 people killed between 2018 and 2022.

On 8 February 2023, His Honour Judge Russell published the judgement in a prosecution of an employer following a serious fall from height incident.

His Honour made comment in the judgement on the number of falls from height matters the Court has observed in recent years and requested that SafeWork NSW send a copy of the judgement to the Minister with responsibility for workplace safety who holds office in the next Government.

Workers aged between 20 and 29 experience the highest number of falls and those aged over 50 make up the highest number of fatalities.

Contractors and builders are obligated to protect workers at heights by offering training and safety equipment as well as identifying height risks and taking steps to control these hazards, as far as reasonably practical.

SafeWork inspectors will educate employers and workers on safe height practices during the campaign. Businesses with less than 50 workers can book a workplace visit with a SafeWork inspector to identify risks and how to manage them.

Safety information, which can be translated into a number of languages including Chinese, Greek and Arabic, can also be found on the SafeWork NSW website.

Concerned workers can report workplace health and safety issues by calling SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50 or through the Speak Up app.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Work Health and Safety Sophie Cotsis:

“As I have received incoming briefs and information I have read of horrific injuries and deaths in NSW workplaces.

“A fall from as little as two metres can cause catastrophic injury or even death.

“My message is this: expect an unannounced visit from an inspector who will throw the book at anyone breaking the law.

“There is zero-tolerance for putting worker safety at risk. The Government together with employers and unions have an important role to play to better protect workers.

“We have to end this “she’ll be right mate” mentality.

“Falls from heights are completely preventable with tried and tested measures such as using roof guard rails, harnesses and covering voids. There is no excuse.”

Quotes attributable to Head of SafeWork NSW Natasha Mann:

“Falls from heights injuries account for more than 50 per cent of all injuries in the construction sector and 44 per cent of falls from heights workers’ compensation claims are from the construction sector.

“The average cost of heights-related workers’ compensation claims is $167,000 which is three times the cost of non-height related claims – and 60 per cent of falls from heights in construction were major claims.

“SafeWork NSW offers up to $1,000 to businesses to help pay for safety solutions, such as roof guard rails, to ensure workers get home safe.

“Businesses and workers need to take the time to plan and manage risks before starting any work at height.”

Sophie Cotsis

Minister for Industrial Relations

Minister for Work Health and Safety

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