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Worker dies from unguarded void fall

NT WorkSafe has issued a safety alert on unguarded voids, after a construction worker died when falling 3 metres through a void onto concrete.

The regulator reports this is the third serious incident involving an unguarded void fall in the Territory in 4 years.

To minimise the risk of falls near unguarded voids, NT WorkSafe says the following action must be taken:

  • All duty-holders must ensure that a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared, as required for high-risk construction work. The SWMS must eliminate the risk of falls during construction, or if that is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks as far as reasonably practicable.
  • All workers, including subcontractors on site, must understand and work in accordance with the SWMS, including understanding the fall protection systems in place, and the procedures to follow if a change needs to be made to the fall protection system.
  • Voids on construction sites must be made safe immediately after being formed. Voids can include openings for stairwells or partially completed floors.
  • Covering the void may eliminate the risk of falling, provided the void cover:
  • is made of material strong enough to withstand the likely impact of any person falling onto it;
  • can bear the weight of any static loads expected in the area of the void;
  • is fixed in place to prevent accidental dislodgement or removal; and
  • has appropriate signage to indicate there is a void underneath.
  • If the building being constructed has concrete floors, consider using cast-in safety mesh during the concrete pour to cover the voids. If safety mesh is used, the mesh must be strong enough to withstand the likely impact of any person falling onto it. The safety mesh can be cut out at a later date.
  • If covering the void is not practical, barriers such as perimeter guardrails or fall protection devices like scaffolding or safety nets must be used to minimise the risk of falls.
  • Refer to the Code of Practice for managing the risk of falls in housing construction for additional practical guidance to manage the risks of falls on residential construction.
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