The absurd “2-metre rule”

Recently a colleague spoke to me about the absurdity of the OHS regulations on falling from heights. Australia has a “default” position that, in reality, establishes a 2 metre benchmark for fall prevention initiatives. In practice, workers take it that any work on a ladder where the “grounded” foot is higher than 2 metres from the surrounding area as requiring a risk assessment and, most likely, some fall protection equipment.
My colleague argued that the benchmark should be where a worker’s head is over 2 metres above the floor when working in an elevated position. This is based on the logic, my colleague says fact, that when someone falls, serious injury and death usually result from the worker’s head hitting the floor.
The advocation of a 2 metre criterion operates contrary to the hierarchy of controls which sets the aim of eliminating the risks associated with working at any height. If Australia is moving to a regime of nationally uniform OHS legislation, these laws should be reviewed so that there is also national consistency in safety advice.
As in many other circumstances the UK’s HSE seems to have its act together on this workplace hazard by emphasising the work tasks rather than getting bogged down on a measurement – a measurement that seems to have little science or logic to support it.

Categories OHS, safety, Uncategorized, workplaceTags , , , , ,

One thought on “The absurd “2-metre rule””

  1. Spot on Kevin. Keep the Language of Safety debate going.The HSE have developed and distributed information on “Prevention of Falls”.With the exception of the Construction Industry, the risk of falls from any height or into depth must be prevented or reduced.The HSE “Brief Guide” on “The Work at Height – Regulations 2005 (as amended) sets out scientifically based regulations to prevent falls from “ANY HEIGHT”.These regulations “implement the European Council Directive 2001/45/EC. There are some 50 countries in the EC family – trust the Europeans to do it right.I should mention that even the Americans (given the state of their nation) are not far behind the EC approach; but where is Australia on the issues of Safety Laws?For those readers interested in promoting the Scientific approach to the prevention of Work caused injury, disease and death (class 1 damage – McDonald, G.) I pass on the following Note that both the European Council and USA Administration encourage their regulatory effort from a “Safety and Health” scientific perspective rather than a “Health and Safety” awareness/commosense perspective by Australia; which begs the question – which comes first – the cart or the horse. It is sad and frustrating that Australia tends to take the “Rear-Vision” view like the horse behind the cart or guard at the rear of the train watching things pass him by rather looking ahead or better still, from the overhead view, like the helicopter pilot.The Rudd Government in its recently announced COAG Agreement to “Harmonise Australia’s Safety & Health  Laws should take a serious look at how it will “get it right”when it comes to creating and maintaining A Safe and Healthy Australia.Best regards in SafetyCipriano

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