WorkSafe Guidance Document FALL PROTECTION IN RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION

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1 WorkSafe Guidance Document FALL PROTECTION IN RESIDENTIAL CONSTRUCTION

2 WorkSafe Guidance Document Fall Protection in Residential Construction Table of Contents Executive Summary... 1 Introduction... 1 Installing Roof Trusses... 3 Installing Stick Roof and Rafters... 5 Installing Roof Covering... 6 Roofing Weatherproofing... 7 Foundation Walls and Formwork... 8 Installing Floor Joists and Floor Trusses Installing Subfloors Installing Walls Covering Walls Exterior Finishing Interior Finishing More Resources... 20

3 Executive Summary This WorkSafe guidance document is designed to help employers prevent fall-related injuries and fatalities among workers engaged in residential construction activities, such as roofing. Falls are the leading cause of work-related deaths among residential construction workers. On 1 st October 2010, the Commonwealth of Australia issued the Work Safety (National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in Housing Construction) Code of Practice 2010, and this Guidance document has been developed to take account of the National Code of Practice for all residential construction work. This guidance document is intended to assist employers with their compliance efforts. It provides information on various work methods that may be used at different stages of the residential construction process. This document is intended to assist employers in their efforts to comply with fall protection requirements for residential construction work. The Work Health and Safety Act 2011requires employers and employees to comply with the Work Health and Safety Regulations. However, this document is not itself a standard or regulation and it creates no new legal obligations. Introduction Falls are the leading cause of death for workers engaged in residential construction. This Fall Protection in Residential Construction guidance document describes various methods that residential construction employers may be able to use to prevent fall-related injuries and fatalities at various points in the residential construction process. The focus of this document is mostly on new construction. The examples provided in this guidance document do not represent all possible work methods that can be used in residential construction. Employers should be aware that the examples described in this document may not be suitable in all situations. Employers are responsible for ensuring compliance with applicable WHS requirements. The National Code provides guidance on adopting a risk management approach to fall prevention for working at heights of less than 2 metres, as well as guidance on risk assessment processes and examples of physical fall prevention measures that are required when working at a height of 2 metres or more, so far as is reasonably practicable. The National Code seeks to endorse the provision of physical fall protection for all persons working at a height of 2 metres or more, where reasonably practicable. However, the National Code does outline some tasks where other fall protection may 3

4 be provided, where it is not considered reasonably practicable to provide physical fall protection. Fall protection used to comply with AS/NZS Standards, including guardrail systems, safety net systems, and personal fall arrest systems, must meet and be used in accordance with applicable requirements. Requirements for work performed on scaffolds, ladders, and aerial lifts must also comply with the relevant Regulations, Standards and Codes of Practice. State jurisdictions may also have their own additional requirements. This guide applies to the construction or extension of: a. detached houses b. attached dwellings, separated from each other by a fire resisting wall, such as terrace, row or town houses c. boarding and guest houses, hostels or similar with a floor area <300m², and d. ancillary buildings to the above, such as private garages, gazeboes and carports. All persons involved in housing construction must comply with the relevant WHS legislation administered by state and territory OHS authorities. An important element in the prevention of falls in housing construction work is a clear understanding by all parties about who has responsibilities in relation to fall prevention, and how those responsibilities can be met. In situations where persons are working at heights where there is a risk of falling less than 2 metres, the standard risk management model of identifying fall hazards, assessing the risk of a fall occurring, and controlling the risks should be adopted. Information on working at heights of less than 2 metres can be found at Part 3 of the National Code. This Code requires where there is a risk that someone undertaking housing construction work could fall 2 metres or more, the person with control of a construction project or construction work is required to ensure that: hazards, including hazards other than fall hazards, have been identified where reasonably practicable, physical fall protection is provided other hazards have been controlled, and after a risk assessment has identified what controls are needed, a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is developed for the work which details the control measures to be used. 4

5 Everyone working on a residential construction work site must be provided with sufficient information, instruction and training to enable them to work safely and without risking their health. This can include site and task induction. Where workers are exposed to potential falls from working at any height, information, instruction and training must explain: the hazards and risks associated with work performed at these heights how to follow health and safety procedures associated with this work, and the reasons fall protection measures have been set in place and how to use them properly. Those supervising the work must also receive training. The amount and type of information, instruction and training required will depend on the risk involved, the complexity of the work procedures and the type of fall protection measures used. Hierarchy of control Level 1: Undertake the work on the ground or on solid construction. Level 2: Undertake the work using a passive fall prevention device. Level 3: Undertake the work using a work positioning system. Level 4: Undertake the work using a fall-arrest system. If after considering all of the control measures listed above a risk remains, and there is no reasonably practicable alternative, you must use the following forms of control: Level 5: Undertake the work from ladders, or implement administrative controls. 5

6 Installing Roof Trusses Numerous methods can be used to prevent fall-related injuries and fatalities among workers installing roof trusses. Bracket Scaffold A bracket scaffold can be placed on the interior or exterior of a structure. The scaffold can provide a stable working platform. When bracket scaffolds are used on the interior of the structure, the exterior wall can limit employee exposures to fall hazards. Where a bracket scaffold system is used, the wall frames should be braced as necessary to ensure adequate strength and to prevent excessive deflection. Scaffold planks may be used from waling plates or across bottom chords or top plates where necessary. Where feasible, roofing members should be pre-cut at ground level. A worker installing roof trusses from an interior bracket scaffold & exterior bracket scaffolds can also be used for installing roof trusses and other rooftop construction activities. The guardrail system on the scaffold can provide fall protection. With the addition of toeboards, falling object protection can be provided to the areas below. Workers using an exterior bracket scaffold to install roof trusses. 6

7 Ladders Platform ladders and step ladders can provide a stable, elevated platform from which to work provided they are used in accordance with ladder requirements. Platform ladders can be set up inside a structure and used to install roof trusses. Anchors A spreader braces the trusses and distributes arrest forces across several trusses. Spreaders can act as anchors for personal fall arrest systems and fall restraint. They can be reused according to the manufacturer s instructions. It is important to refer to the truss manufacturer s instructions and have a qualified person determine if trusses will meet strength requirements for a personal fall arrest system or fall restraint system. An example of a spreader attached to roof trusses. There are various forms of anchoring systems and methods. Contact your local Height Safety experts for more information. 7

8 Constructing conventional or Stick Roof Where ceiling joists are erected prior to pitching the rafters, the placement of the ridge beam, and the fixing of rafters to it, may be done from planks or a working deck placed on the ceiling joists. Where ceiling joists are not erected, a work platform will need to be provided for framers to work from. Anchors Employees installing ceiling joists and rafters can use choker strap anchors and bolt-on anchors systems. These anchors can be used with personal fall arrest systems and fall restraint to provide fall protection for workers engaged in this activity. Both anchors can be removed and reused according to the manufacturer s instructions. Door/Window Jamb Anchor Strap anchors providing anchorage for three personal fall arrest systems. A screw on & bolt-on anchor attached to a rafter. 8

9 Installing Roof Covering Once a roof has been framed, roof covering operations can begin. There are serious fall hazards associated with this activity, but there are a number of ways to protect workers. Safety Net System Safety net systems can be used as fall protection for workers installing roof covering. A fallarrest system means equipment intended to reduce the severity of an injury to a person if a fall does occur. These systems include catch platforms, individual fall-arrest systems and industrial safety nets. Bracket Scaffold An example of a safety net system. A bracket scaffold can be attached to the top plate of a structure. The scaffold can provide a secure work platform from which to install roof covering. A worker covering a roof from a bracket scaffold. 9

10 Anchors Anchors, restraint lines and retractable lifeline stands can be used by workers installing roofing materials. Anchors and systems that can be used while performing roof covering operations. Roofing Weatherproofing As with other roofing activities, fall protection is critical for this type of work. Edge Protection An edge protection system can be used for workers weatherproofing, cladding and tiling a roof. Edge Protection can be especially useful for installing materials along the edge of the roof. Some exterior bracket scaffolds can be used as catch platforms to prevent workers from falling 1 metre to the lower level. An exterior bracket scaffold with guardrails being used to protect workers while weatherproofing. 10

11 Anchors Permanent anchors can be installed during roofing operations and left in place after construction is complete. They can provide an anchorage point during the life of the roof. Reusable anchors can also be used while cladding a roof. It is important to inspect these anchors prior to use. Permanent anchors on completed roofs. A worker using a reusable anchor with a self-retractable lifeline. Foundation Walls and Formwork In most residential construction, concrete or masonry block is used to create the foundation and the foundation walls of a structure. The concrete is usually poured into an excavation to create the foundation and the foundation walls. Anchors Anchors can be added to cured concrete. Anchors with expandable bolts can be placed in holes that have been drilled into the concrete. 11

12 Pictures of anchors with an expandable bolt for use in concrete. Some of these types of anchors can also be poured over with concrete and left in during construction. Choker Strap Choker or Anchor straps are typically reusable if they have not had concrete poured onto them or have not been shock loaded. Please refer to the manufacturer s instructions when using this equipment to ensure they comply with the standards. Choker Strap anchors can provide versatility and options for anchorage points while performing this type of work. Strap anchors can be looped over rebar and removed when no longer necessary. Workers using choker straps as anchors. 12

13 Scaffolds Scaffolds are a common means of providing a safe platform for working at height. There is a wide variety of scaffold systems available. Scaffolds can provide elevated work surfaces for workers performing foundation work. Requirements for erecting, altering or dismantling scaffolds vary depending where you work in Australia. The National Code requires you to check local regulations to make sure the person working with the scaffolding has appropriate qualifications or licensing. A bracket-form scaffold attached to formwork and a scaffold working platform. Installing Floor Joists and Floor Trusses Floor joists and floor trusses are usually constructed directly over the foundation walls. Fall hazards may be present, for example, if the structure being built has a basement. Laying flooring is a task that potentially exposes workers to the risk of both internal and external falls. Steep sloping sites increase the potential fall heights. The laying of floor sheets should begin adjacent to an internal or external access point which provides initial fall protection for workers. Laying of sheets should then proceed using a safe work procedure that prevents workers from falling over the edge. Where the potential fall height is 2 metres or more, edge protection must be provided. This may be external scaffolding or guardrailing. Where strip flooring is to be installed, temporary sheet flooring may be laid and secured as fall protection. Safe access and egress must also be provided to the area where floor is being laid. Access should be restricted to only those workers who are laying the flooring and erecting the wall frames. 13

14 Anchors A reusable floor truss anchor can act as a temporary truss brace and spacer as well as an anchor point for a self-retracting lifeline. The device can spread shock loads over multiple trusses. These kinds of anchors can be uninstalled, moved, reinstalled and reused as per the manufacturer s instructions. Scaffolds A retractable lifeline attached to a floor truss anchor & a Truss Anchor. Scaffolds can be used for residential construction workers installing floor joists and floor trusses. Mobile scaffolds can be used effectively for residential construction workers. These scaffolds can be placed on the cured concrete basement floor of a structure. From the elevated platforms of the mobile scaffold, workers can install carrier beams, floor joists, and floor trusses. Where mobile scaffolds are in use, the scaffold must: remain level and plumb at all times be kept well clear of powerlines, open floor edges and penetrations never be accessed until all castors are locked to prevent movement, and never be moved while anyone is on the scaffold. 14

15 Workers installing a steel beam from a mobile scaffold & a compliant mobile scaffold. Perimeter scaffolds can be used on a residential structure once a wall has been completed. These scaffolds can provide access around the perimeter of the structure and can be used by workers while they install carrier beams, floor joists, and floor trusses. This type of scaffold can also be used in other phases of residential construction. Where the potential fall height is 2 metres or more, edge protection must be provided. This may be external scaffolding or guardrailing and where strip flooring is to be installed, temporary sheet flooring may be laid and secured as fall protection. Figure 19 A scaffold rigged for installing floor joists and floor trusses. Installing Subfloors Subfloors are usually installed by fastening a wood deck to floor joists and floor trusses. Because of the openings between floor joists and floor trusses, fall hazards may exist while performing this task. Anchors A truss bracket anchorage system can distribute the arresting forces across multiple trusses in the event of a fall. When appropriately installed in accordance with the manufacturer s instructions, these anchors can be used with personal fall arrest systems and fall restraints. Because these anchors are reusable, they can be uninstalled and reinstalled in accordance with the manufacturer s instructions. 15

16 Fixed Bean Anchor Guardrails Workers using a truss bracket anchor while installing a subfloor. Guardrail systems can be used to protect workers from falls during the performance of flooring and subflooring activities. If installed with a toeboard, guardrail systems can also protect workers on lower levels from falling objects. Guardrailing must: incorporate a top rail 900mm-1100mm above the working surface incorporate a midrail incorporate a toeboard (except where it may be impractical to do so) and alternative control measures, such as no go zones, to ensure no persons are at risk of being hit by falling objects from the work above, and be of robust construction and designed in accordance with the relevant Australian Standards. Examples of guardrails installed around floor openings and roof. 16

17 Installing Walls Framed wall sections usually are constructed on the ground and typically include covering and openings for windows and doors. Guardrails across these openings can help prevent falls while work is being performed in the house after the walls have been erected. These walls can be erected by using a lifting device such as a crane, boom truck, or forklift. Jacks can also be used to raise these walls. These practices greatly reduce the likelihood that a worker will be exposed to a fall during this stage of construction. Framed walls being erected using a jack. For workers exposed to falls while framing walls, there remain various ways of protecting against falls to lower levels. Anchors Some models of Choker Strap anchors are looped through soft eyes or larger D rings and can be uninstalled, moved, reinstalled and reused following the manufacturer s instructions. A reusable Choker strap and a retractable lifeline & Soft Eye or D Ring Choker. 17

18 Covering Walls Although it is common for covering to be included on panelized walls used in residential construction, covering still takes place on residential construction sites. Erecting the walls by lifting devices or jacks can lessen a worker s exposure to fall hazards. Scaffolds All scaffolds must be designed and constructed in accordance with AS/NZS Scaffolds which are constructed in accordance with Section 2 or Section 3 of this appendix are deemed to comply with AS/NZS Where it is intended to construct any timber scaffold which: a. does not comply with Section 2 or Section 3, and b. has a working platform greater than 2 metres above the lowest level to which a person or object may fall, the person with control must ensure that a copy of the detailed design drawings for the scaffold, prepared by a competent person, is kept on site. Elevating Work Platforms Elevating work platforms (EWPs) include scissor lifts, cherry pickers, boom lifts and travel towers. There are battery powered and internal combustion engine types. Some are designed for hard flat surfaces only, while others are designed to be operated on rough terrain. Persons working in travel towers, boom lifts or cherry pickers must wear a properly anchored safety harness. Persons working in scissor lifts are not required to wear a safety harness. Information, instruction and training for workers using EWPs Workers using EWPs must be trained and instructed in the safe loading and safe operating procedures for the particular brand and type of plant. Workers must also be licensed when operating boom lifts with a boom length of 11 metres or more. 18

19 Exterior Finishing The exterior finishing phase of residential construction includes a number of activities, such as installing windows, doors, siding, and gutters. Many of these tasks pose fall hazards. Aerial Lifts Aerial lifts can be ideal equipment for exterior finishing. By providing a stable, level work surface and positioning flexibility, an aerial lift can be used for numerous activities associated with finishing the exterior of a residential construction structure. Ladders Portable ladders are a relatively low cost option for persons intending to undertake work at height. Their affordability combined with the ease with which they may be transported and relocated has resulted in ladders being used extensively in the housing construction industry. However, many falls take place when people are working from ladders. Generally, ladders are only appropriate for short duration light tasks, such as painting a downpipe, repairing a gutter or carrying out minor electrical installations. Portable ladders may be used for work carried out at 2 metres or more where other methods of working at height are not reasonably practicable. Any ladder used at a workplace must be set up on a surface that is solid and stable, and set up so as to prevent the ladder from slipping. Slipping of ladders can be prevented by: placing single and extension ladders at a slope of 4:1, and setting up stepladders in the fully opened position, and securing single and extension ladders at either the top or bottom, or if necessary, at both ends 19

20 Interior Finishing Although much of this work may take place while exterior finishing is happening, interior finishing is one of the last phases of residential construction. This does not mean that fall hazards are no longer present. Guardrails Guardrails can be an excellent option for providing fall protection for work on or near stairways and landings. The addition of a toeboard can also prevent objects from falling to lower levels. Wooden guardrail system for a stairway and landing. Where the frame incorporates window or door openings additional members must be fitted across these openings which provides the equivalent fall protection to the guardrailing described above. Proprietary systems must be configured, installed, used and dismantled according to the manufacturer s/suppliers instructions. Guardrails & proprietary system to protect window & door openings. 20

21 More Resources Work Safety (National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in Housing Construction) Code of Practice nhousingconstruction Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces National Code of Practice Falls General Construction noffallsinconstruction AS/NZS Industrial Fall Arrest Systems and Devices Selection, Use and Maintenance 21

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