South Australian builders and contractors are being urged to do more to manage the risk of falls, a common risk and cause of injury to residential construction workers.

SafeWork SA inspectors will be visiting residential construction sites over the coming months, starting in March 2021, to ensure sites are managing the risks associated with working at heights, and working safely.

The Construction industry is the leading industry for risk and injuries associated with working at height.
SafeWork SA 2020 data shows that the construction industry contributed 45% of all notifiable serious injuries associated with a fall from height and 81% of identified non-compliances.

The data shows that workers within the residential construction sector are at most risk.

In October 2020, SafeWork SA released the Safe Work Method Statement 2020 Audit Report. The report identified, serious safety concerns in the residential construction sector for managing the work health and safety hazards and risks associated with a fall.

The data further identified the following trends in construction:

  • 90% of serious injuries were below 3 metres
  • 66% of injuries below 2 metres were from a portable ladder
  • 50% of injuries between 2 and 3m were associated with roof work, including roof truss installation
  • 42% of identified non-compliances related to roof work, which includes solar panel and roof truss installation
  • 91% of identified non-compliances was above 2 metres
  • 51% of identified non-compliances were associated with high risk construction work requiring a Safe Work Method Statement.

The occupations with the highest injury and non-compliance rate across the construction industry are:

  • Carpenters
  • Roofers
  • Solar Panel Installer
  • Electricians

Carpenter and roofing apprentices accounted for 50% of serious injuries within their occupation

ReturnToWork SA data from 2019-20 reveals an increase in claims of 30% associated with falling from one level to another compared to the previous two financial years.

The occupation of carpentry has the highest rate of injury claims. 2019-2020 Data shows an increase of 24% compared to 2018-2019 and an incredible 108% compared to 2017-2018. The occupation of electrician has also increased by 41% compared to 2018-2019.

View a Health and Safety Snapshot of  2020 data relating to falls from heights in construction

SafeWork SA Executive Director, Martyn Campbell said that companies that engage contractors have a shared responsibility to ensure the health and safety of workers

“SafeWork SA inspectors are continually finding and taking enforcement action in cases where duty holders are failing to manage a risk of fall.

The control measures to reduce the risk of falls are well known and readily available so there is no excuse for not having them in place.”

“Of particular concern is the data showing that 50% of serious injuries to carpenters and roofers were apprentices.

Apprentices and young workers are a vulnerable group in the workplace and do not have the experience and awareness to identify safety risks or hazards in the workplace”, said Mr Campbell.

Further information:

Managing the risk of falls in the workplace – Approved Code of Practice

Slips, trips & falls

Safe work on roofs information sheet – Safe Work Australia

Managing risk of falls video series

SWMS for high risk construction work

Guardrail systems for roof work

Stairwells, atriums and voids

Managing the risk of falls in housing construction – Model Code of practice