The occupational health and safety risks associated with working on roofs and ladders are often a topic of interest in the Australian media – and no wonder.
Falls from ladders and roofs account for the greatest number of fall-related deaths in the workplace.
Non-fatal falls are also costly in human and money terms, with an average of 3 ladder fall injuries a day resulting in workers spending at least a week away from work.
All of which explains why any effective roof and ladder safety solution is good news for employees and employers alike.
You may be surprised to learn that construction workers aren’t the only people at risk of fall-related workplace deaths. In fact, over a quarter of ladder fall deaths and half of roof fall deaths occur at commercial premises, industrial premises and schools.
In other words, any employee working on ladders or roofs around your premises is at risk of fall-related injury or death.
Age and sex are also common denominators. Almost half of roof and ladder fall fatalities involve workers aged 65 and over, and the vast majority of those killed are men.
The cost of falls
The most obvious – and tragic – cost of falls from ladders and roofs is death or permanent disability. Lawyers and insurance companies might try, but we all know that no-one can actually put a price on a life. For this reason alone, preventing falls is important.
In addition to this immeasurable cost, non-fatal falls can cost your business in a big way.
Falls from ladders result in a median seven lost working weeks, which is expensive for any employer. Workers’ compensation is another major (and very common) cost. Between 2009 and 2011, for example, nearly 4,000 serious claims were lodged due to falls from ladders in Australia.
Traditional roof & ladder safety is not the only answer
Regulatory bodies have already introduced several occupational health and safety measures designed to improve ladder safety. These include more stringent standards for ladder compliance and encouraging the use of ladder alternatives where possible.
Thankfully, these new regulations have helped to curb the number of roof and ladder fall-related deaths in the workplace. However, standards addressing ladders themselves ultimately only treat the symptom, not the cause.
If you’re truly serious about roof and ladder safety for your employees, you need to consider the root causes of ladder and roof falls, not just the symptoms. And then you need to design ways to eliminate them.
Treat causes, not symptoms
Research shows that many falls from roofs and ladders involve repair activities such as cleaning gutters.
Because clogged gutters increase the risk of damage to your building from flooding or bushfire, it’s a good bet your groundsmen or maintenance staff regularly head up a ladder and onto the roof to clean your gutters.
In this example, roof and ladder safety are only a solution for the symptom, which is the danger of working from heights. The real cause is the clogged gutters. To treat this cause, you need a solution that eliminates the need to clean the gutters in the first place.
A solution such as gutter mesh.
Gutter mesh & workplace safety
Gutter mesh is basically a shield for your gutters that lets rainwater in and keeps leaves, dead animals, tennis balls and other debris out.
With properly specified gutter mesh, you can significantly reduce the need for your employees to risk their safety in order to clean your gutters. In other words, you’ll be treating the cause, not the symptom.
In turn, this will literally save the lives of your workers – and save your business the headache, heartache and expense that goes with every ladder accident.
Identifying and addressing causes rather than symptoms is the most effective way to help your employees stay safe.
And for roof and ladder safety, that means addressing problems like clogged gutters head on with gutter mesh or other appropriate solutions.
Gutter mesh isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It can also represent a significant investment for your property. So at Blue Mountain Co, we support you to match the right mesh to your commercial or other building . Simply use our online Mesh Matcher tool or get in touch with our gutter mesh system design experts. They have the experience and technical knowledge necessary to recommend the right gutter mesh for your building. This tailored, in-depth advice and assistance is available for free. Simply call us today on +61 (0)7 3248 9600.
Oxley, Ozanne-Smith, O’Hern & Kitching, Report on the Reduction of Major Trauma and Injury from Ladder Falls, 2014
Safe Work Australia, Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities Involving a Fall from Height, Australia, 2013