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Industry Crisis Summit

Hundreds plead with government to save lives while those to blame beg for scrutiny….

With a sea of upstretched hands, hundreds packed into a stifling conference room demanded urgent action from governments at an industry crisis summit held last month. It’s triggered a formal call to action from the industry peak body to policy makers and regulators around the country.

The summit was hosted by the Working At Heights Association after a survey revealed that the 3245 roof safety anchors audited by WAHA members over the previous three months, one in three (31 per cent) was deemed unusable.

No formal qualifications are required of installers, who are able to certify and fit compliance plates to their own work. OHS commentator and author of the Safety At Work Blog, Kevin Jones, said the system lulled those responsible for buildings into a false sense of security.

“We’ve all seen dubious anchor points that have still got compliance plates and that’s absurd. The protection for people falling from heights is a house of cards,” Mr Jones told the WAHA summit.

An expert panel was peppered with questions from the floor in a feisty and sometimes emotional public airing of the severity, causes and consequences of the safety crisis.

Summit facilitator and OHS lawyer, Michael Tooma, asked for a show of hands and received overwhelming support for five statements that WAHA put to policy makers in its call to action:

–          The safety of Australia’s fall prevention equipment installations must be improved;

–          Compliance with Australian Standards for fall prevention equipment should be compulsory;

–          Formal training for fall prevention equipment installers should be mandatory;

–          Fall prevention equipment installers should be licensed; and

–          Regulators should inspect fall prevention equipment

In its submission, WAHA describes a “crisis” not adequately captured by official injury statistics.

“Users of fall prevention equipment stake their lives on the competency of the installer,” the call to action says.

“WAHA is concerned that the unsafe installations will result in fatalities and serious compensation claims, if not already, and seeks immediate intervention by the regulator.”