Working on Roofs

May 13th, 2011

The death of NSW worker in a roof accident has prompted regulation bodies to urge companies to re-evaluate their risk management approaches to ensure all possible risks are addressed.

When a labourer of Lubo Medich Holdings Pty Ltd fell six metres to his death from scaffolding at Cabramatta, the consequences were devastating for both the family and the company of the deceased.

The site he was working on was described by the court as "patently unsafe" with seriously deficient scaffold construction, leading to a fine of $133,000 plus WorkCover’s legal costs. Construction companies can avoid outcomes such as this by using a few simple prevention strategies.

Risk Assessment

The development of a risk assessment, which targets risk hot spots, as well as internal and external risk factors, can prevent against tragedy and significant financial losses. All assessment must account for the fact that risk hot spots and emphasis on certain factors will vary depending on the nature and primary functions of the business.

For example, the creation of positive attitudes to safety and a business culture that values adherence to safety procedures may be more effective for some businesses than others. External factors such as equipment condition, infrastructure design and weather can be equally important, but companies will always have areas that require more attention than others, so they must be attuned to this ensuring adequate action is taken.

Practical Implementations

Changes can be as a simple as the grip on work boots, or scheduling roof work for good weather periods and reserving other areas of construction for days of poor conditions. Guardrails, appropriate signage and prohibiting dangerous activities such as throwing materials from the roof can all improve the work safety environment.

Safety can be increased during tiling, proven to be one of the most dangerous forms of roof work, by selecting non-slip varieties of tiles that also suit the requirements of the customer.

Large numbers of incidents have been attributed to activities such as battening, loading, cutting and pointing, which suggest these would also be important areas to investigate when deciding which changes to implement.

It’s important to remember to record any minor or major accidents that occur, as these records can be an important reference point when developing risk management approaches most suitable for your business.

Internal changes and possible outcomes

Raising awareness and educating employees is one of the most effective ways to address the less tangible and difficult to pinpoint areas of safety attitude and culture. Progress here can be impeded by complacency with the status quo, or feeling incapable to altering it within a firmly established organisation.

Common attitudes detrimental to workplace safety include those that perceive initial costs associated with risk assessment, including infrastructure alteration or purchases, as lower priority than practical costs at hand. However, possible legal and financial consequences of failing to have adequate roof safety measures mean they should be considered top priority.

The price of lives or a lengthy court case will far outweigh early investment made to prevent the accident in the first place.