Falling from heights is a particular hazard for workers in the mining industry, with falls, trips and slips accounting for 26,000 serious injury claims in 2019-20. Safe to Work speaks with Bend-tech Group about how a long-term fix is the best way to prevent falls on mine sites.
According to Safe Work Australia data – Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2020 report – 21 Australian workers lost their lives falling from heights in 2019-20, which accounted for 11 per cent of all work-related deaths in this period.
Additionally, 23 per cent of all serious injury claims were put down to falls, trips and slips during this period.
However, there is a long-term, effectively engineered solution to prevent workers falling from heights.
Bend-tech designs, engineers and manufactures handrails, guarding and access platforms to protect workers from potential falls and give them the confidence to complete their tasks from heights in a safe environment.
“If a worker falls from high enough, it’s going to present a significant risk, especially in height risk scenarios in areas associated with other potential risks like crushing incidents,” Bend-tech representative Rhys Werndly tells Safe to Work.
“It is also important to consider that the risk of falling from heights is not just about falling onto the ground or surface below, there could be a lack of protection or hand railing that present other risks of lost time injuries or ultimately deaths.
“Without Australian Standard compliant hand railing or another mitigation solution they cannot work safely.”
Besides the risk of injuries or fatalities, not having appropriate hand railings as a point of contact for people working from heights can make them feel uncomfortable to complete tasks.
“If people feel like they cannot work safely and aren’t confident to do their jobs, outside of the number one issue of it being a safety hazard, it flows on to their productivity,” Werndly explains.
“If workers do not feel safe and confident, they are not going to be working efficiently.”
With its talented team of designers and engineers, Bend-tech provides the mining industry with handrails, guarding and access platforms to eliminate the hazards of working from heights.
Bend-tech’s solutions are all designed and fabricated to meet Australian Standards, to provide a longer-term solution than other methods such as scaffolding.
“If a mine site has a working at heights hazard present, our team’s approach is to visit the site and understand the issue to provide a solution that meets Australian Standards,” Werndly says.
“We team up with the site to understand what they want to achieve. We work together on consultative, engineering and design levels to present a solution with ongoing value and efficiency, which ultimately creates a safer scenario.”
Bend-tech’s range includes handrails for fixed plant scenarios, guarding and railing for underground mine machinery and a range of hand rails for decks of mining equipment.
The risk of accidents occurring while working from heights can increase if sites have solutions in place that are poorly designed and controlled, or a short-term solution is left in place for the long-term, like scaffolding.
Scaffolding must be erected and inspected on a regular basis to ensure it is effective protection for employees working from heights and often requires extra non-company personnel on site, at least three scaffolders to both build and break down the structure, in addition to hire costs.
These parts and personnel are not always readily available and are not a permanent form of access or support.
“Any scenario can become unsafe if it is not designed correctly,” Werndly says.
“Having a fixed or mobile platform in place for a safe working area eliminates the need for scaffolding, so the area is safe, and personnel can work efficiently and safely.
“Bend-tech’s aim is not about creating short-term fixes; we are about eliminating hazards for the long-term and creating safer scenarios on work sites.”
Once mines have implemented a permanent safeguard for work at heights, Werndly encourages ongoing maintenance to ensure it works for the long-term, to ensure ongoing safety for all workers.
“To continue to eliminate risk, there is a range of training that needs to be implemented so people look around for themselves to see if there is anything dangerous in their workplace that needs to be documented and actioned,” he says.
“Each site has its own inspection frequency but it should be ongoing, with everyone in the workplace feeling empowered to identify risks and improvements as needed.”
With Bend-tech ensuring workers are looked out for from above, mining companies can continue to operate with confidence that their workers will return home from each shift safely.
“The way Bend-tech goes about safety is to engineer a solution that mitigates and eliminates hazards,” Werndly says.
“At the end of the day, inadvertent things can happen to equipment but with control measures in place, safety can be achieved to prevent lost time injuries and deaths on site.”
This article also appears in the Jan-Feb issue of Safe to Work.