As many as one in five construction sites across Sydney are breaching safety rules on working at height, the latest round of building site inspections has uncovered.
In its latest blitz, Safe Work NSW visited 98 construction sites in the northern suburbs from Neutral Bay to Ryde along with 67 sites within the Sutherland shire in the south.
All up, it found that two-thirds of sites required intervention for unsafe practices.
Concerningly, more than 20 percent of sites had breaches for work at height.
Other problems included electrical hazards, incomplete or altered scaffolding, inadequate site security and safety management.
The latest data follows a spate of serious accidents from falls.
In May, a carpenter fell three meters whilst installing roof trusses in Moama.
Last month, another man fell from a second-storey roof in Woodcroft.
In both cases, victims were air-lifted to hospital with suspected spinal injuries.
The blitz also came as solar energy installer PV Solar Pro Pty Ltd was fined $300,000 over the death of a 19-year-old first-year apprentice in August 2018.
The apprentice fell through a polycarbonate skylight while working on a roof after the harness-based fall arrest system he was wearing was set incorrectly to arrest the fall.
He suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and died two weeks later.
From the 98 sites visited in the northern suburbs, Safe Work issued 115 notices and five fines for unsafe workplaces at 69 sites.
Of these, 33 notices and three fines worth $3,600 each related to working at height breaches.
On the 67 sites visited in the Sutherland shire, meanwhile, 158 notices and 11 fines were issued.
Of these, a staggering 65 notices related to work at height breaches.
SafeWork Executive Director, Tony Williams, expressed dismay at the results.
“Falls from heights are the number one killer on NSW construction sites and most people who are seriously injured or killed fall from a height of four metres or less,” Williams said.
“To have 33 notices and three fines worth $3,600 each issued in relation to fall safety in across northern Sydney is alarming.
“But when we look at Sutherland there were 65 notices issued relating to heights and falls risks it shows that even the most simple safety practices – like protecting people from an edge – are being ignored.”
The blitz comes as Safe Work is targeting sites across regional and metropolitan areas in 2021.
As well as Sydney, this includes the Illawarra, the North Coast, and Riverina.
Penalties for breaches of working at height safety include on-the-spot fines of $3,600 for corporations and $720 for individuals.
Williams says improvements are necessary.
“Sooner or later SafeWork will be in your area and I’m urging you to take action in order to remove these risks – not just because you are facing fines but so that everyone on your site goes home safely at the end of the day,” he said.
“If you’re the Director or Manager of a building company or the site supervisor you need to make safety the number one priority on your sites.
“What SafeWork is continuing to see is that these individuals are not doing their job and there needs to be improvement.”