none

NEW CHANGES TO SAFE WORK AT HEIGHT RULES

15-05-2015
by 
in 

By Carl Sachs

 

The extra risks associated with roof anchors on single-storey buildings has again been highlighted in the newly revised workplace falls model code of practice.

Safe Work Australia published a revision of the model Code of Practice, Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces (“Code”) in March.

Chief among the changes to the code are fall distances for harness use.

Fall distance for harness use explained

A worker wearing a harness attaches it to a shock absorber and lanyard system.

During a fall, the shock absorber deploys and extends.

This extended distance is added to the person’s height, lanyard length and a safety factor, which allows for harness stretch.

Under the revised code, a person who falls can be expected to travel 6.5m before their fall is arrested.

Effectively, that eliminates single-storey buildings and typical warehouses.

Those around 6m to 8m high do not provide enough fall clearance if there are obstacles below like trucks or canopies.  

Using a technique of restraint, it is possible to use a harness-based system on a roof that is less than 6.5m from the ground safely but equally as easy to get it horribly wrong.

Simply use the incorrect length lanyard on an anchor close to gutters, for example, and a system design intended to prevent any risk of fall can unravel in an instant – with fatal consequences.

Practical and commercial considerations and solutions

In fact, the Code points out that harness-based systems should only be used if it is not practicable to provide a barrier such as a guardrail.

In many cases, guardrail is the most practicable and commercial solution.

Consider the lifetime costing of equipment and all of the administrative, inspection, maintenance and training requirements for anchor and static line based systems.

The code makes 34 references to rescuing people in harnesses and dedicates an entire section to suspension intolerance, highlighting the importance of having a second person on site and trained to implement a site-specific rescue plan, equipped with the right equipment.

Also known as toxic shock and suspension trauma, the risk of death is real, explain Dr Bill Wheems and Dr Phillip Bishop of the University of Alabama in “Will Your Safety Harness Kill You?

“Harnesses can become deadly whenever a worker is suspended for durations over five minutes in an upright posture, with the legs relaxed straight beneath,” the paper said.

Using higher-order controls like platforms, catwalks and guardrailing satisfies the legally powerful hierarchy of controls.

Importantly, such passive height safety equipment reaps cost savings with lower lifetime costs, reduced administration and ready access for maintenance without the need for specialized height safety skills.

How the code and standards fit together

The Code offers practical guidance to reduce or eliminate the risk of falls.

Workplaces that adopt the code methodology are deemed to have met their requirements under the regulations.

Australian Standards AS/NZS1891 (anchors and static lines) and AS1657 (Ladders, platforms, walkways, guard railing) are referenced in the code.

Deviating from them would need to be justified if an incident was examined in court.

Document reasons for any deviation in a risk assessment, reviewing the likelihood and consequence of a fall, comparing the cost of safe and compliant control measures versus the cost of injury.

Standards are undated in codes of practice, ensuring that revisions to standards are always referenced.

This is particularly relevant to AS1657, which was revised in 2013 and AS/NZS5532 (Anchors), which was published as an addition to AS/NZS1891 dealing with testing of anchorage points.

Code is the key to practical safety and compliance

The model Code of Practice, Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces, together with the Australian Standards it references, is a neat package.

Together, they spell out sensible height safety rules that make it clear how workplaces can increase the safety of workers at the lowest possible cost while minimizing legal liability.

It’s essential reading for any workplace with a roof that needs maintenance, especially if it’s less than 6.5m off the ground.

*Carl Sachs is managing director of fall prevention market leader, Workplace Access & Safety. He is the Technical Chair of working at height peak industry body, the Working at Height Association (WAHA). 

Related news & editorials

  1. 27.10.2021
    27.10.2021
    by      In
    ‘Buy Australian Now’, the latest campaign from Australian Made is urging all Aussies to support local jobs and economic recovery by backing our local makers and growers as the country begins to open up and prepare for the festive season.
    According to Australian Made Chief Executive, Ben Lazzaro,... Read More
  2. 26.10.2021
    26.10.2021
    by      In
    Work, health and safety are fundamental to our lives and are, more than ever, a central focus for organisations.
    The Hunter region in NSW is well-known for leading the way in industry; this in turn has led to the region becoming champions of WHS.
    The Hunter Safety Awards were born out of desire to... Read More
  3. 19.10.2021
    19.10.2021
    by      In
    There is no doubt that the recent AUKUS agreement between Australia, USA and the UK was a surprise to just about everyone on the planet!
    Taking a closer look into the government’s decision to commit to the AUKUS alliance, much of what has been reported by mainstream media has been inaccurate or... Read More
  4. 18.10.2021
    18.10.2021
    by      In
    Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA welcomes today’s intervention of the Australian Government seeking to put an end to three months of damaging strikes at Fremantle Port.
    It has been reported the Australian Government has stepped in, utilising its powers under the Fair Work Act to seek an... Read More
Products
Suppliers