Pushin' the barrow

Use protection to prevent falls

Source: WorkSafe Victoria

Greg Davies, site superintendant for Fulton Hogan, talks about preventing falls from earthmoving equipment. Greg has nearly 30 years experience in the earthmoving industry, working as a labourer operating a wide variety of plant and in supervisory roles. He is currently working on the Melbourne Markets Relocation Project.

Early in my career I fell from a piece of plant and struck my head on another vehicle parked nearby. This brought home to me the importance of remaining vigilant around plant including using three points of contact when entering/exiting plant and maintaining good underfoot conditions.

I now supervise a wide variety of earthwork activities ranging from drainage, sewer and bulk earthworks, to pavement and structures work.

Working around earthmoving equipment and the risk of falls are the main health and safety hazards on this site. The risk of falls is especially high when entering and exiting vehicles or during pre-start checks, often performed before sunrise in damp and slippery conditions.

I have spoken about this topic regularly in Toolbox Talks over the past 10 years reminding operators that hands should be free and lunch boxes placed in machines before entering.

Lend Lease requires fall protection to be in place for all work above 1.2 metres on the Melbourne Markets site. To address the risk of falls from earthmoving equipment Fulton Hogan, in a combined effort with Lend Lease, installed safety guardrails around all unprotected edges on excavators and dump trucks. Although not all plant had guardrails in the beginning, it is now a site entry requirement and the uptake from suppliers has been encouraging and well received.
This initiative has shown that guardrails for an excavator can be installed for about $4000. The investment in the safety of operators, service personnel and refuelling persons is a paltry sum when weighed against the possible consequence of a fall.

We also initiated the provision of platform ladders which have eliminated the risk associated with climbing on trailers to unload materials being delivered to site. This, combined with pre-slung pipes and pits, has enabled unloading to be done from the ground or the stability of the platform ladder. The platform ladders have also been utilised to change the globes in flashing lights, ensuring workers have fall protection.

Preventing falls from plant doesn't have to be expensive or difficult, but it is a risk that cannot be ignored.