Falls and Ladders on NSW Construction Sites: Steps to Play it Safe

Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the NSW construction industry

Working at heights is a high-risk activity. Sadly, it is also a leading cause of death and injury on construction sites across Australia.

Having attended numerous construction sites across NSW, the one thing I continue to find concerning is the incorrect use of ladders.

I’ve lost count of how many damaged ladders I see in daily use and in some cases are literally on their last leg!

“Ladders are up there with the most misused pieces of equipment on construction sites.”

Statistics from the Safe Work Australia website (Source) show that between 2015-2019:

  • 122 workers were killed following a fall from heights.
  • The greatest number of fatalities involved falling from buildings and other structures (25), ladders (19) and horses, donkeys, and mules (10).
  • The construction industry accounted for 40% of falls-related fatalities.

I decided to have a chat with construction workers on various sites to find out their understanding of what should and shouldn’t be done with a ladder with the intent of preventing falls and injury.

Ladder falls

What you should do?

  • Foot the ladder at the base
  • Secure the ladder at the top (best practice zip ties)
  • Ladder to be at a ratio of 1:4
  • Extend the ladder approximately 1m above the landing at the top
  • Use industrial rated ladders
  • Always have three points of contact while accessing the ladder.

What you shouldn’t do?

  • Don’t carry tools up with you while climbing a ladder
  • Don’t use a damaged ladder – remove and dispose of these from your site
  • Don’t misuse the ladder
  • Don’t obstruct access to the ladder
  • Don’t place the ladder in an unsafe environment
  • Don’t exceed the maximum rating of the ladder (one person at a time on the ladder).

So how can you play it safe?

The best way to eliminate fall hazards is to perform the work at ground level.

When this isn’t possible, you can manage risks by providing safe access points to and from the workplace, introducing fall prevention devices, arrest systems, and work positioning systems.

Fall prevention systems include roof safety mesh, barriers, scaffolding, and guard railing, to mention a few.

Need help in assessing and improving the use of ladders and other safety standards on your NSW construction site? I am one call away

My name is Sean Brown, and I am the founder of SMB Safety Pty Ltd. In the industry for over 25 years, I help construction based businesses identify safety risks and mitigate them through better worksafe systems.

The starting point is you and I having a no-obligation telephone call about your concerns and objectives. I can very quickly help you identify gaps and clear steps forward.

Other useful links:

Building and Construction Safety Services

Latest Safety Incident Alerts

Electrical Safety on Construction Sites

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