Admiring Australia's Boldness

Anyone who designs or oversees fall protection schemes should read this proposed plan from Down Under.

LET'S make it mandatory for building owners and designers to incorporate fall safety during a building's design stage. Please don't tell me this is impractical or too expensive--not when Australia's National Occupational Health and Safety Commission is taking this bold step right now.

The Proposed National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in General Construction will set Australia's fall protection rules on a far different course from America's if adopted as written. Comments will close Nov. 18.

I highly recommend reading the commission's draft to anyone who designs or oversees fall protection schemes. It is comprehensive, containing checklists and instructions for everything from risk assessment and training to uncovered floor and roof holes, fixed and portable ladders, guardrails, formwork, trenches, scaffolds, safety netting, and fall protection PPE such as travel restraint systems, rope access systems, and fall arrest devices. Numerous checklists and signage examples are provided. So are sample safe work method statements with columns for Work Activity, Hazard, Risk Control, Person Responsible, and Completion.

The commission posted the 90-page draft in late August at the address www.nohsc.gov.au/PublicComment/Falls/PC2PreventionFallsGeneralConstruction.pdf. The draft contains seven sections under a "Methods of controlling risk" heading: work on the ground (Level 1 control); work from solid construction (Level 1 control); passive fall prevention (Level 2 control); work positioning systems (Level 3 control); fall injury minimization systems (Level 4 control); use of ladders (Level 5 control); and administrative controls (Level 5 control). The document begins by listing the duties of clients, designers, general contractors, subcontractors, and workers themselves.

The code would require safe work method statements to be developed for all construction work where the individual could fall 2 meters or more (such work is categorized as "high-risk" by the draft). "Fall risks should be eliminated, or otherwise minimised at the design stage," it states, offering a design checklist that lists safety considerations to be taken at that stage (such as safer gutters, safe access to and egress from any work area including the roof, 900-1,000 mm parapet walls, low-level mounting of roof vents, locating AC units and other roof-mounted units such as satellite dishes away from edges, etc.)

It is an excellent document that backs up a bold, innovative plan.

This editor's note appeared in the November 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the November 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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