Everyone in the construction industry knows that working at height carries risk. Not only is it blindingly obvious that falls are dangerous – all the statistics tell us that as well.

One of the ways the industry is tackling the problem is by increased use of safety nets. They’re a great option for roof work in particular and a properly installed net can be a life saver.

But one issue WorkSafe inspectors have noticed as they visit building sites up and down the country is how often safety nets are being used to catch timber rather than being kept clear in case of a fall. Loading up a net with fallen timber, or stacking building materials and tools on them, can affect the tension of the net and reduce their effectiveness.

So, if off-cuts do fall on to your safety net it’s best to remove them promptly (this is best done from below). And as tempting as it might be to use safety nets to walk across – or lie in like a hammock at lunch time – it’s smarter to leave them untouched. Hopefully you’ll never need one to catch you or a co-worker, but if you do you want it in perfect working order.

Read WorkSafe’s Safe use of Safety Nets guide here.

Fall Arrest Safety Net Association

On the same topic, it has been great to see the development of the Fall Arrest Safety Net Association (or FASNA). Not only is it a sign that the sector is stepping up to take ownership of the issue, but when an industry works together to tackle a safety issue it can only be a good thing.

Industry led associations by their very nature promote professionalism. They encourage higher standards and they can foster innovation. They are also well placed to work with other industry bodies on areas of common interest (such as builders, roofers and other trades).

It also makes it easier for an industry to knock on the door of government agencies such as WorkSafe and be listened to. WorkSafe has already worked closely with several of the individual members of FASNA on a variety of issues – from safety alerts to the creation of the Safe Use of Safety Nets Best Practice Guidelines. Having FASNA in place will make that sort of industry collaboration that much easier for all involved.

The construction industry in New Zealand has made real progress in recent years. The number of serious harm incidents (caused by falls) notified to WorkSafe dropped by 29.5 per cent between 2012 and 2014. Having FASNA working to promote the safe use of fall arrest systems will hopefully help ensure that positive trend continues.

As the government’s workplace health and safety regulator, WorkSafe cannot endorse individual businesses, products or organisations. But WorkSafe is committed to working closely with FASNA and is pleased to note that it is being invited to attend formal FASNA meetings. We all have the same goal in mind – reducing the risk of workplace injury and death. Working together we will give us the best chance to make a real and lasting difference.