Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and the Health and Safety in Employment Regulations 1995, employers and their workers are required to take “all practicable steps” to eliminate, isolate, and minimise work-place hazards. Workers who risk a fall of three metres or more must be supplied with fall protection. Any work risking a fall from five metres or higher must be notified to OSH.
OSH often stops work on sites where fall protection guidelines are not being observed, and can prosecute employers for failing to protect employees from work-place hazards.
Apart from the general requirements of the HSE Act, there are specific industry obligations, as set out in the OSH “Guidelines For The Prevention Of Falls”, which employers are required to observe.
Further guidance is available from the recent standard AS/NZS 1891.4:2000, Industrial fall-arrest systems: Part 4: Selection, Use, and Maintenance. Compliance with the requirements of this standard and the OSH Guidelines is obviously necessary, though in itself this does not confer immunity from prosecution. Therefore, expert advice may be required, and a height safety consultant should be engaged for major projects.
There is also the possibility of a civil prosecution, as shown in Australia by the 2001 award in the NSW Supreme Court of an $11.2 million settlement against various defendants, including the employer of the plaintiff, after he became quadriplegic in a fall from a cherry picker.
Employers, manufacturers, and suppliers also have a “duty of care” extending to eliminating foreseeable hazards. “By being reluctant to point out hazards, principals and others are failing to meet the responsibilities of the HSE Act and Regulations” (OSH Guidelines).