David to battle "Goliath"

A SMALL Melbourne based safety company is taking on Standards Australia in the Federal Court, claiming that the 12-month-old updated standard for working at heights is flawed and a step backwards from the 1992 standard that it replaced.

Staff Reporter

In what Hi Rise Access principal David Davis believes to be the first case of its type, the company will argue that Standards Australia’s new version of the Australian Standard 1657 is less safe than the previous version.

While the 2013 update was peer reviewed by industry prior to being accepted and many of the changes have been well received in the market, Hi Rise Access alleges that parts of the new standard allow cheaper, potentially unsafe products to be installed in work areas and increase the risk of injury through falls rather than decreasing the risk.

“To this point Standards Australia has steadfastly refused to change or temporarily withdraw the

standard until further analysis can be presented for consideration,” Davis said.

“This opens the door for potentially serious claims against Standards Australia for continuing to market and supply a standard which is less safe than its predecessor, and also against many height safety companies trying to make sense of installing previously safe systems which are now deemed unsafe by the new standard with the previously less safe systems now regarded as more safe.”

Davis supplied a list of 11 points of contention to ILN sister publication ConstructionIndustryNews.Net noting some of his concerns with the new standard.

He said step-type ladders, considered dangerous in the 1992 standard, were now considered to be the preferred option over rung ladders. However, Davis said this made it easier for workers to walk down step-type ladders facing outwards, which was dangerous.

He said rung-type ladders were safer because they force the user to climb facing the ladder, which is inherently safer.

“Not only does Hi Rise Access have expert evidence supporting this view, but our view is plain common sense,” he said.

The matter is listed for a court hearing in February 2015.

Standards Australia has been contacted for comment.

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