Friday, 23 October 2015

Industry Veteran Asks Questions

Another Window Cleaner Falls Off Building. Why?
Another Window Cleaner Falls Off Building. Why? In Sydney, another major accident has occurred involving window cleaners and façade access equipment. Two cleaners were left in critical condition after the building maintenance unit (BMU) cradle they were working in fell 12 floors onto the street awning below. One man was crushed under the cradle and the other wound up dangling over the edge of the awning.

This is on the heels of another accident in August where a window cleaner fell off the Apple store in Sydney. He was using rope access methods to clean the façade. He too amazingly survived but with serious injuries.

Are these types of accidents going to be the norm? Do authorities require a death before they act? I’m amazed that after the Apple store accident, the working at heights industry has had no contact directly or indirectly from the agency that is meant to govern workplace safety in NSW, WorkCover. Where are the WorkCover inspectors or educators? Absolutely nothing is being done to improve safety for the thousands of people who work at heights across Australia.

I see the extent of the problem daily. It may be a lone window cleaner working on the facade of a 60-floor apartment building, a plasterer finishing a ceiling while standing on a ladder on the edge of a balcony, or a fall protection anchor point that pops out when being load tested for annual certification.

We need immediate action; to begin with, WorkCover should be inspecting all buildings in Sydney to ensure the façade access and fall protection equipment is in compliance. Also, Government needs to sit down with industry bodies like the Working at Heights Association, IRATA and ARAA, and they need to comprehensively review working practices and standards. This needs to be done now. If we act quickly, we may be able to save someone’s life. If not, I believe it’s just a matter of time before the next accident is a fatality.

Contributed by Andrew Ferguson (KARABINER): Andrew is an expert in Fall Protection, Rope Access and Façade Access Equipment and has been working in these sectors for since 1991. Andrew has worked on large and prestigious commercial construction projects in Australia, Middle East and Asia. He’s experience also extended to the miming, oil and gas sectors.

With 24 years experience there are many first from Andrew and his expert teams, both Karabiner and XSPlatforms. Innovation has always been one of the key elements in his success in solving many of the most difficult access scenarios put up by industry. Such as green facades with 20 tones annually of waste and vegetation to be removed and replaced, glass roofs with complex atrium spaces, large façade art installation, buildings with counter-leveed façades, merging new construction into heritage buildings and a mirrored of architectural features never contemplated just a few years ago. Tackling commercial construction faces many modern challenges however it can be simpler than in the miming, oil and gas sectors where everything is made more complicated by site remoteness, tight program’s and the shear scale of the projects. 

Andrew was a founding member of the Australian Rope Access Association, sat on the WorkCover committee reviewing Façade Access, Working at Heights and Rope Access in NSW. He also sat on the Australian Standards Committee which develop the first Australian Standard for Rope Access (AS4488), his company Karabiner was a (past) member of IRATA and now he is a member of the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) and part of the team developing the ‘Industry Code – Permanent Anchors, Lifeline and Rail Installations’.

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