In two separate incidents in NSW, one man died and another man was seriously injured after falling off portable ladders while painting. Both men were working at a height of about five metres. The Australian newspaper quoted CFMEU State Secretary, Andrew Ferguson, as saying there is a "lack of respect for health and safety issues... People are cutting corners to get jobs done, which jeopardises the safety of workers."

OHS Regulation

In NSW Clause 56 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation 2001 sets out controls for the prevention of falls from heights:

In summary, if a fall from a height of more than two metres is possible, an employer must ensure that risks are controlled in one of the following ways:

  • A stable and securely-fenced work platform (such as scaffolding) can be used
  • If such a platform is not practicable, other physical barriers that may prevent the fall of a person should be provided. These can include fencing or handrails
  • If these barriers are also not practicable, other forms of physical restraints that will arrest the fall of a person must be put in place

WorkCover NSW Safety Alert

The recent incidents prompted WorkCover NSW to release a "Safe Use of Portable Ladders" safety alert. In addition to setting out the relevant OHS requirements, the alert also listed some additional controls:

  • Ensure a domestic ladder is not being used in an industrial setting, as the load ratings are different
  • Ensure the ladder is fitted with rubber feet
  • Ensure the supporting surface is appropriate and level, so the ladder will not slide or sink
  • Ensure the ratio of height : horizontal distance of the bottom of the ladder to the wall is 4:1
  • Ensure there are always three points of contact on the ladder.

The full alert can be found here