Improved Working At Heights Regulations - Are They Working?

Improved Working At Heights Regulations - Are They Working?

In October 2011 safety rules were imposed in an effort to reduce the risk of death and injury from falls in the scaffolding industry. There has been some analysis as to whether it is working and if there has been any improvement. The rules focus on safety issues to help prevent slips, trips or falls. Most of these have been happening in residential work and involved falls of 3 metres or less. This seeks to help employees work safely at heights, select the correct equipment for the job and properly use it. It suggests the right way to set up and use temporary work platforms, and how to use restraint systems with the proper attachment of the fall line. All sectors of the scaffolding business are responsible to prevent falls, from the employer, self-employed contractor, sub-contractor, to the worker. 

To find out how well the working at heights (WAH) regulation is running, it is important to compare the cost and the benefits. Minimum requirements to be safety compliant are netting, guard railing and scaffolding which are an additional safety system cost to businesses. However, when we reduce injury rates on the worksite it is a great benefit. It will increase productivity, have less sick leave and lower health care costs as well as an overall reduction in work disruption. A larger company can put someone else into the job, but smaller companies will experience great difficulty when one of their workers gets injured. These factors all contribute to increased safety costs, so when there are less injuries there are considerable savings for affected businesses. The construction related Serious Harm Notifications (SHNs) fell from 3.87 at the start of the program (per 1,000 workers) to 3.48 in Oct 2013. This is in spite of an increased work load and increase in people working, indicating a great improvement. 

The comparison does not include information from the falls that have not been reported. It has been suggested to repeat the study in two years when more data is available. Over all it appears that the benefits outweigh the costs and that the desired result of less injuries is becoming evident.

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