In Sydney, another major accident has occurred involving window cleaners and façade access equipment.
Two cleaners were left in critical condition after the building maintenance unit (BMU) cradle they were working in fell 12 floors onto the street awning below. One man was crushed under the cradle and the other wound up dangling over the edge of the awning.
This is on the heels of another accident in August where a window cleaner fell off the Apple store in Sydney. He was using rope access methods to clean the façade. He too amazingly survived but with serious injuries.
Are these types of accidents going to be the norm? Do authorities require a death before they act? I’m amazed that after the Apple store accident, the working at heights industry has had no contact directly or indirectly from the agency that is meant to govern workplace safety in NSW, WorkCover. Where are the WorkCover inspectors or educators? Absolutely nothing is being done to improve safety for the thousands of people who work at heights across Australia.
I see the extent of the problem daily. It may be a lone window cleaner working on the facade of a 60-floor apartment building, a plasterer finishing a ceiling while standing on a ladder on the edge of a balcony, or a fall protection anchor point that pops out when being load tested for annual certification.
We need immediate action; to begin with, WorkCover should be inspecting all buildings in Sydney to ensure the façade access and fall protection equipment is in compliance. Also, Government needs to sit down with industry bodies like the Working at Heights Association, IRATA and ARAA, and they need to comprehensively review working practices and standards. This needs to be done now.
If we act quickly, we may be able to save someone’s life. If not, I believe it’s just a matter of time before the next accident is a fatality.