The importance of training when working at height

Vertical Horizonz has historically recognised the importance of height safety in the lifting and construction industry. As firm believers in the importance of training, Vertical Horizonz continues to develop and improve training offered by the business.

Construction sites can be described as transient, dynamic, and complex environments, and because construction workers spend most of their time on site, they are exposed to a higher risk of injury and even death. In 2021, Safe Work Australia acknowledged that working at heights is the leading cause of serious injury and death, with the construction industry unfortunately leading the way.

Vertical Horizonz Australia (VHA) was established in 2001, delivering height, confined space, rescue, and work health & safety (WHS) training to industry. Since then, it has become an expert in its selected industries and cemented itself in the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector. Here it delivers nationally-recognised training to the residential and civil construction, energy, and transport industries.

With a head office and major training centre based in Brisbane, VHA can provide training at its head office or onsite. Additionally, VHA retains the capability to deliver training nationally and internationally at your place of work.

Considering the Australian construction industry is predominantly small businesses with 97 per cent employing 20 workers or fewer, there is a reliance on the masses to do the right thing. However, variables such as not having a training schedule, poor or no WHS policies, time pressures, cost, and workplace pressures all contribute to the reluctance by businesses to source and undergo industry-related working at heights training.

James Moohan from VHA has noted that when workers have minimal training it results in poor practices.

“For example, often we discover trainees have not been shown how to correctly check and fit a safety harness, only been shown how to utilise a non-adjustable 2m lanyard when working under restraint, or were even exposed to working at height during their training,” he said.

“This can result in utilising unsafe equipment, modifying systems to allow working at variable distances, and encouraging poor workplace practices. Our training shows the trainee how to use height equipment correctly, in a controlled safe environment, while working at height,” Moohan said.

Training vital for working safely

“The highest possible force a human can sustain before receiving significant injury is achieved after falling for 0.35 seconds. This equates to a height of 600mm.”

Paul Thew from Contract Resources has recognised how pivotal the training has been for his team.

“Working in nitrogen-saturated environments is extremely hazardous, and one false move can literally mean the difference between life and death,” Thew said.

“At Contract Resources we see training as the number one reason we have an unblemished safety record in relation to work in a nitrogen atmosphere.

Vertical Horizonz offers a range of different areas for training to ensure those who participate have a range of skills.

“In an Australian first, Vertical Horizonz, in cooperation with Contract Resources, designed an extremely advanced training program to ensure the safety of our workers. The solution was completely bespoke and set a new standard for the petrochemical industry internationally,” Thew said.

International research supports training as the recognised strategy to improve safe work performance. As a construction worker you are more likely to suffer a fall from height when you do not attend a safety training course. Additionally, behaviours such as carelessness, misjudgement, or over confidence, are major causes of serious harm or death from a fall at height.

“Vertical Horizonz has spent the last two decades imparting specialist knowledge about working at height around the globe. Our ethos of ‘real training that saves lives’ has set our benchmark for quality training, by specialists, to industry,” said James Moohan.

Brian Nowakowski of Sundriven Solar confirmed: “After my staff attended one of the VHA’s height’s courses, they now talk about the risks and work processes for each job prior to starting. One of them keeps on top of contractors on site, pulling them up when they aren’t doing things right.”

This demonstrates that the training provided by VHA helps to change behaviour, translating to a change in attitude. Inevitably, changing the way risks are viewed and assessed and best work practices are instigated.

As members of the Working at Height Association, VHA is part of a national body dedicated to developing a pathway to better safety standards. In 2020 there were 194 work-related fatalities, 36 in the construction industry, with 22 caused by falling from height. 25 to 44 year-olds accounted for 32 per cent and, shockingly, over-55-year-olds account for 44 per cent of fatalities. In the same period machinery operators and drivers had 67 fatalities, labourers 41 and managers 35 fatalities.

Some recent training provided by VHA includes: working at heights, height rescue, and confined space consultation for Powerlink Queensland; a bespoke training package for Contract Resources, nationally and internationally, involving heights and confined space rescue, breathing apparatus, and risk assessment within inert environments; and working at heights for a wind turbine construction client in Vietnam.

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