OSH alert - Working at height on scaffolding breach (November 2016)

Key learnings from a High Potential Incident

Fall from heights iconHPI OSH Alert #489

Date of incident: 29 November 2016

Safety Flash issued: 22 December 2016


OSH Alert - scaffolding incidentWhat happened?

A Water Corporation Project Manager attended the site and observed a scaffold being assembled. At the time of the observation the scaffolder was installing decking approximately 3 metres from the foundation deck. There were no handrails or kickboards in place where the scaffolder was working at height. The worker was wearing a harness but was not secured to fall arrest equipment.

The Project Manager notified the work supervisor who immediately stopped work and ensured the appropriate safe working procedures were put in place before allowing work to resume.

The scaffolding team had recently returned from a morning break and had neglected to follow the JSEA that required the use of fall arrest equipment. Prior to the morning break the scaffolder had been observed using correct fall arrest equipment.

Why did this happen?

  • The scaffolder had left his fall arrest equipment (lanyard) at the top of the dry well when recommencing work activities.
  • The level of supervision by the Head Contractor was inadequate for the level of risk associated with the work being undertaken by the Sub-contractor.
  • The hazard was overlooked by the team working on site.

What will the business area involved in the incident do to stop this from happening again?

  • Deliver a toolbox topic to employees on working at heights requirements and the importance of maintaining focus on ensuring adequate protection against falls is used at all times.
  • Implement, record and monitor ‘Weekly Safety Stops’ (which will be a review of a high risk task in their work area) and follow up actions as required

What will our organisation do to stop this from happening again?

  • Prepare and roll out a toolbox topic on the subject of ’Working at Heights’
  • Develop and roll out a Working at Heights Review package to enable those visiting sites to understand 'what good looks like' when inspecting works.


What key learnings can you discuss with your team to stop this from happening again?

Never work at heights without assessing and controlling the risk of a fall

  • Is anyone undertaking work that is associated with our ‘Fall Prevention’ Safety Essential today?
  • Do you have the appropriate permission/authorisation, qualifications and resources to undertake this work and are you competent to perform the task safely?
  • Has a task specific JSEA or Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) been developed, reviewed by the Site Manager and signed by the working group for your supervisor to review before the task can commence?

High Risk Work activities must have adequate levels of risk mitigation measures in place

  • How does our team ensure adequate levels of supervision and competency for any High Risk Work activities?
  • What should we do if we notice anyone else working unsafely or forgetting to wear essential safety equipment?
  • What strategies does our team use to re-focus on safety requirements following a rest break?   

Further information

If you would like further information about anything included in this HPI OSH Alert, please contact Charis Neumann, Snr OSH Analyst Incidents on (08) 6330 6629.