Does Your Company Know How to Work Safely At Heights?

Ensuring a safe working environment is a core responsibility of any employer. The risk of death or serious injury is present in every workplace, and as such identifying and mitigating these risks should be a top priority.

The need is even keener when your workplace involves working at heights. At GRIPPS, we’re very aware of the numerous risks involved in working at heights and we want to help your business do better. If you’re looking to improve your safety practices in the new year, let us provide the guidance you need. Read on and learn how to determine where your safety practices currently are and what your next step forward is.

Want to take the first step toward a safer, more productive workplace?  Download the GRIPPS WHS Regulations eBook now.


The most dangerous industries for working at heights

Safe Work Australia’s October 2013 report into work-related injuries and fatalities involving a fall from height provides a starting point for assessing how differences between workplaces affect the risk levels that employees are exposed to.

The following table is taken from page 4 of the report – the table has been sorted by fatality rate instead of total fatalities and entries with fatality rates below the national average of 0.25 per 100,000 workers have been removed.

Note that for the purposes of this exercise our focus will be on the average fatality rate instead of total number of fatalities, as this more accurately reflects the true level of risk. Often a larger total number of recorded fatalities is simply a product of the industry itself being larger. For example, ‘agriculture, forestry & fishing’ had the same number of total deaths as ‘Transport, postal & warehousing’, but as the former employs far fewer workers the fatality rate is nearly twice as high.

Industry

Fatality Rate
(per 100,000 workers)

Number

Percentage

Construction

1.03

41

37%

Agriculture, forestry & fishing

0.84

12

11%

Mining

0.72

5

4%

Electricity, gas, water and waste services

0.56

3

3%

Transport, postal & warehousing

0.52

12

11%

Rental, hiring & real estate services

0.38

3

4%

Manufacturing

0.27

11

10%

Administrative & support services

0.27

4

4%

Arts & recreation services

0.25

2

3%

Determining your situation

While useful as a starting point, the industry average fatality rate is just a snapshot useful for describing the overall risk in an industry. Determining health and safety performance in your own workplace is a more complicated process.

First, choose the right metric. While traditionally measures referred to as lost time indicators – number of hours/days lost due to injury – would be used to determine the efficacy of a workplace health and safety (WHS) controls, these have a number of issues as outlined by the Victorian Trades Hall Council, namely:

  • they more accurately reflect the efficiency of claims and injury management processes rather than WHS controls,
  • they fail to take into account the fact that yearly variations in injuries are most likely due to chance rather than good controls, and
  • they provide no information about how the most serious safety hazards – those likely to cause death should they occur – are being managed.

Instead, many organisations recommend the use of positive performance indicators (PPIs). These more specifically measure the activities undertaken to improve safety, and can include number of safety audits conducted, percentage of sub-standard conditions identified and corrected and percentage of employees with adequate WHS training.

Positive performance indicators require a more active approach than lost time indicators, necessitating proactive and pre-emptive screening of the workplace for potential hazards, rather than waiting for them to manifest in the form of injuries. Despite this additional upfront labour cost, they can help businesses achieve significant savings by giving them a higher chance of avoiding workplace accidents leading to costly compensation claims and civil penalties.

Taking your next step forward

With the right metrics in place, you can now start to more accurately assess your current situation. If you’re uncertain what to look for in developing safer working at heights processes, let GRIPPS assist you. We offer free on-site audits for workplaces across Australia, helping you guard against injuries and fatalities resulting from falling objects. Enquire today about an audit, or schedule one of our tool tethering workshops at your location to help educate your staff.