In June 2018, two workers were injured when a lift motor being moved in a shaft fell and dislodged scaffolding they were standing on. One fell approximately three metres injuring his shoulder. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
If there is a risk that a falling object could cause an injury, that risk must be managed. PCBUs must either prevent the object from falling, or provide a system to arrest the fall of the object.
The same principles apply when installing or maintaining overhead machinery in the workplace. If that machinery were to fall, the outcome could be catastrophic. To ensure that the risk of overhead machinery falling is managed, you must ensure that:
the machinery is adequately secured in place
equipment used for lifting or moving the overhead machinery is fit for purpose
overhead structures that the machinery is connected to are structurally rated to support the intended load
controls are in place to prevent an object from free falling
adequate exclusion zones are in place to prevent a person from entering the work area.
When assessing the risks arising from each fall hazard, the following matters should be considered:
the design and layout of elevated work areas, including the distance of a potential fall
the number and movement of all people at the workplace
the proximity of workers to unsafe areas where loads are placed on elevated working areas (for example, loading docks) and where work is to be carried out above people and there is a risk of falling objects
the adequacy of inspection and maintenance of plant and equipment (for example, scaffolding)
the adequacy of lighting for clear vision
weather conditions—rain, wind, extreme heat or cold can cause slippery or unstable conditions
the adequacy of knowledge and training to perform the task safely (for example, young, new or inexperienced workers may be unfamiliar with a task)
the adequacy of procedures for all potential emergency situations.
Each year, there are over 380 workers’ compensation claims involving construction workers being struck or injured by a falling object. The most common include tools, fragments of steel, timber and glass, and parts of plant or machinery. Common injuries associated with being struck by falling objects include lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, fractures and head and shoulder injuries.
Since 2013, there have been 184 incidents involving workers being struck by falling objects which led to either a fatality or a serious injury. During the same period, 53 improvement notices and 39 prohibition notices were issued involving the risk of falling objects within the workplace.
Prosecutions and compliance
In 2014, a company was fined $55,000 after a member of the public was killed when a car at a waste transfer station fell on him. He had enquired about removing the wheels and tyres from a vehicle and was advised that he could using his own tools. While he was removing the tyres, the car fell and fatally crushed him.
In 2018, a company was fined $60,000 after a worker was struck by a beam which was knocked by a Franna crane and fell on him. The worker sustained a broken leg, dislocated hip and pelvic fractures.