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5 minutes

A 28-year-old worker was installing insulation batts on the third level of a residential construction site when he fell approximately three metres through a stair void to the concrete floor below. The worker sustained serious injuries.

Stair void in residential building under construction
Top down view of a stair void in a residential building under construction
Incident location - stair void

Safety information

Each year SafeWork NSW responds to incidents where workers have been killed or seriously injured from falls from heights. Many of these incidents involve falling from unprotected edges or through penetrations.

Workers in the construction industry are the most at risk of injuries from falling. However, working at height is a risk for any worker.

Businesses are reminded to consider reasonably practicable control measures to manage the risk of falls.


  • a site-specific safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared before work commences where the risk of falls is two metres or more
  • all workers understand and follow the SWMS
  • workers are provided with safe means to access and exit the work site, and work areas
  • work is carried out on the ground where possible. If work cannot be conducted on the ground, minimise the risks of working from heights by:
    • using scaffolding
    • ensuring all edges are protected by handrail, guard rail, or other physical means that prevents a person from falling
    • using an elevated work platform
  • any scaffolding used at the site:
    • is constructed on solid foundations
    • is adequately tied to the supporting structure as well as all handrails, midrails and
    • has securely installed planks
  • all voids and penetrations have a clearly marked cover that is secured and can’t be dislodged (plywood that is marked and screwed into the ground is a cost-effective solution)
  • large voids are protected by suitable fit-for-purpose void covers that accommodate safe access of handrails and scaffolds, or consider using temporary stairs
  • adequate training and instruction are provided to all workers
  • adequate supervision and assistance are provided to less experienced workers.

SafeWork NSW inspectors regularly blitz construction sites to check compliance and talk with businesses and workers about how to work safely at heights. Use this checklist (PDF, 503.98 KB) to find out if your construction site is working at heights safely.

‘Do work safety right, at any height’ campaign

One wrong step could be your last.

Visit the working safely at heights in construction web page to access a range of resources about how to work safely on roofs and around voids.


Related guidance material

Further information