Australian Home Builders Fight Proposed 2-Meter Fall Protection Rule

Home builders across Australia filed comments opposing a requirement to provide fall protection for work done above 2 meters when "reasonably practicable," warning the requirement would add $10,000 to $25,000 to the cost of a home. The draft National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in Housing Construction also calls for internal scaffolding for work above 2 meters (6.6 feet) and physical edge protection for all roof work.

Master Builders Australia Inc., an association of nine state and territory builders' associations with 31,000 members, filed comments saying it opposes the 2-meter trigger height "except in its application around stairwell voids, internal landings, suspended slabs and steeply-pitched roofs." The Victoria Volume Home Builders Safety Alliance opposed the 2-meter height entirely, saying administrative controls are sufficient to prevent falls for work done as high as 3.8 meters (12.5 feet). For roofing fall exposures of 3 meters or less on roofs that are not steeply pitched, the alliance said a "clear zone" around the perimeter of the building should be allowed in lieu of edge protection (guardrails). Several builder groups said falls in residential home construction have been decreasing, so current prevention methods and risk assessment must be working well.

Bill Scales, chairman of the Australian government agency that will adopt the code, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council, accentuated the positive when he said Sept. 3 that the response to the code "has been very positive and highlights the importance that all areas of the housing construction industry place on safety and fall prevention." He said 53 comments were submitted and added that safety in the home construction sector must continue to improve. "The public comments received will be considered initially by the ASCC's Housing Falls Technical Group. The technical group will revise the draft code before sending it to the ASCC for their consideration," Scales said.

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