Abseiler Killed From Fall

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Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
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I’ve been working at heights for 24 years and I can’t remember a time where things seemed so dismal.

Regrettably, but predictably, a worker was killed whilst working at heights on the Gold Coast Convention Centre.

It was reported in local media that the experienced rope access technician fell 20 metres to his death whilst working on mechanical plant. It was reported that he was wearing full safety PPE but was unattached to an anchor point.

We go to work an expectation and an entitlement to come home safe and uninjured, but if you work at heights there is a very good chance you will be another tragic statistic. There are several thousand claims for serious injury each year as a result of falls from height in the work place, about 20 employees a day make a claim with an average time of work of  six weeks. Deaths from falls at work each year average 30 people, mostly men, and mostly on construction sites.

I believe we can do so much better than we have been and its starts with creating a culture of safety.

In Australia we have more and more people working at heights and in particular in the rope access industry, which has boomed. But can you believe there is no Government regulation to licence and govern these workers. For example the only requirement to send a worker over the side of a 200-metre building is that they are ‘competent’ and equally as shocking there are ‘no’ controls over the design and engineering certification of a rope access or fall protection system. No qualification is required to design and install façade access systems; it’s just up to anyone to choose what they think is correct.

Consider this reality I encounter daily: I make a considered offer to a builder, say of a new 200-metre tower. My offer consists of a Government regulated solution such as a Building Maintenance Unit (BMU), whereas you offer the builder a handful of anchor points in the roof slab. What do you think they will buy, considering there is nothing saying the latter can’t be offered? We find ourselves with this reality on many may buildings new and old; inadequate poorly designed and installed façade access and fall protection systems.

When I look at the roof of the Gold Coast Convention Centre, I see huge amount of risk from falling for anyone who has to work there, and I don’t see the first most basic control to eliminate that risk – a perimeter handrail. Nor can I see the next level of control, which would be a perimeter continuous lifeline with an accompanying walkway. What I barely see are a number of sporadically placed individual anchor points, a level of safety one step up from nothing.

The Construction industry and Government must make façade access and fall protection a priority and imposes actual rules for safe, functional and engineered design and installation of this equipment.

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