Prior to January 2012, all Work at Height training in Australia hung its hat on the fact that if workers were working above 2m in height, then a fall-prevention system had to be in place (and workers had to be trained in its use).
On 1 January 2012, a harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation came into effect for New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory. It is unfortunate that we do not, at this stage, have nationally consistent OH&S laws although progress towards this aim is ongoing. The remaining jurisdictions of Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania all appear to be planning for a 2013 timeframe.
As part of the new legislation, the 2m stipulation has been removed.
So what is the new rule?
The current Model Code of Practice (as at January 2012) applies to all workplaces covered by the WHS Act and Regulations where there is a risk of a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury.
The Code gives some examples as to situations where a worker might be exposed to the risk of a fall:
- in or on plant or a structure that is at an elevated level
- in or on plant that is being used to gain access to an elevated level
- in the vicinity of an opening through which a person could fall
- in the vicinity of an edge over which a person could fall
- on or in the vicinity of a surface through which a person could fall
- on or near the vicinity of a slippery, sloping or unstable surface.
Let's hear what our training manager Kevin has to say about the change:
"The new harmonisation will, in my opinion, will create one negative and one positive thing.
Workers are already afraid to make decisions because of legislative requirements. The 2m rule was at least clinical. If a platform is a mere 20cm high, the simple nature of gravity and our susceptibility to injury dictates that a fall from that height could produce an injury. With the paranoid nature of the construction workforce in full swing, workers will on occasion call their leading hands/supervisors/superintendents for a look at the 20cm platform. This will of course slow down the workforce.
Legislation has stolen our common sense. Back in the (dare I say it) good old days, we were provided with instruction on certain tasks to be completed. We then went away, had a cup of tea, looked at the job, discussed the possible issues arising from that job and we then made a decision on which method we would use to complete the job. If things didn’t go to plan, then we would work out another way to complete the job, usually with the help of our colleagues. The aforementioned is basically the risk assessment process, less the paperwork.
Harmonisation will in my opinion put the impetus/responsibility back on individuals to make decisions using what we have left of our common sense. We will not ever be without the paperwork, but at least the decision will have been made at “grass roots” level, not in some legislative document.
So our 20cm platform in my opinion could cause an injury producing fall, especially as it is surrounded by protruding star pickets. Thus I conclude that I will firstly remove said star pickets, if possible. I will also provide a physical barrier to prevent workers from falling the 20cm. I will then of course document what I have done to reduce these risks prior to work commencing, and monitor the risks and controls as work progresses."
Where to go for more information:
- The Bible is the Model Code of Practice: Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces.
- Pinnacle Height Safety is fully up-to-date with all the new harmonised legislation. Give us a call.
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