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Window Washing Accidents and Rope Access Compensation

Working at height is something that many professions require. Whether you are washing windows or working in maintenance, height work comes with a range of risks which height workers need to respect and be aware of. 

Skyline buildings and working from heights

With working at height comes the risk of a fall, and if you or a loved one has been injured in a fall while working at heights you may be eligible to seek workers compensation for your injuries. 

This article is focused on injuries sustained while working at heights in rope work, or working as a window washer with safety apparatus. 

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What is a working at height injury?

Working at height is a high-risk activity which is a leading cause of workplace injury and death in Australia. 

  • An injury suffered while working at height is most often a fall, with most of the falls in the workplace occurring from heights of three metres or less. 
  • Of the 359 workers killed following a fall from a height between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2015, the greatest number of falls were from roofs (59), ladders (54), and vehicles (27). 

It was found that the construction industry had over one third - 37% - of all fall-related deaths. 

How do working at height falls happen in the workplace?

Rope access worker

People can suffer injury and death when falling just a couple of metres, and many of the most common injuries happen in the workplace when stacking shelves, using ladders, working on scaffolding, and unloading trucks. 

However, people who are working at heights using safety apparatus and harnesses are at the greatest risk of suffering severe injury or death due to the distance they may fall. 

  • Many working at height falls happen because of a failure to comply with safety standards or inadequate supervision.
  • Injuries can be suffered due to defective equipment, improper use of equipment, or inadequate training.

If an injury happens while working at heights, and the injury is caused by someone else’s negligence, the injured party may be eligible to claim compensation for the damage caused. 

How to know if you are eligible to claim for your height fall injury

When it comes to claiming for personal injury, a compensation claim may only be made if the injury was caused by the negligence of another party. Suffering an injury through a fall from a height can be deeply traumatic, and if the injury was caused through no fault of your own then you need to be able to claim what you are entitled to for your loss, pain, and suffering. 

Identifying who is at fault will come down to an assessment of the standard of care required by an employer who is responsible for supply a safe system of work, plant, supervision and operation. 

If these standards have been breached and there has been an injury suffered, it is likely that a claim for compensation is possible. 

Shoulder injury caused by falling from a height

Example: Grace has started a new job as a window washer. She is experienced, having worked in the industry for the past five years, but on her first day her supervisor does not show her a different system of harness attachment that they use. During her shift she relies on the harness and it fails. She falls ten metres from the washing platform and becomes entangled in a rope which stops her fall. This entanglement causes significant injury to her arms, torso, and legs. She cannot work for a period of three years due to her injury, and is also assessed as having a permanent psychiatric injury due to the mental distress and trauma of falling. Grace would likely be eligible to claim for this injury as she was not adequately instructed in how to use the safety equipment. 

How much compensation can I get for working at heights fall injury?

When claiming for compensation it is possible to make a claim which encompasses both your past pain and suffering and loss of future earnings. Some of the factors that will be considered when assessing your claim include: 

General Damages

When injured from a fall at a height you can claim for general damages. This form of compensation provides financial relief for the pain and suffering that you are experiencing due to the fall injury. General damages are assessed with reference to ISV (Injury Scale Value) Tables which allocate a certain rating depending on the injury. 

Medical Costs

When diagnosing the injury suffered from a fall at height, there will be medical costs involved. Medical treatment will also likely be required to treat the injury. This is claimable as compensation. 

Hospital and surgical costs

A person who has fallen from a height will likely require hospital treatment and surgery. These costs are claimable as part of the compensation payable.

Calculating medical treatment costs

Rehabilitation costs

Any reasonable costs of rehabilitation may be claimed for your height fall injury, including costs related to treatments and therapies such as physiotherapy and acupuncture.

Loss of income and future earning capacity

You may not be able to work - either temporarily while you recover, or permanently due to your injuries -  in which case your loss of earnings will be calculated according to how long you cannot work for or as a lump sum. In some cases, your injury will prevent you from being able to work to the same capacity that you could prior to your injury. If this is the case you will be compensated for any loss of capacity to earn. 

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Last update on:
June 1, 2021
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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