January 31, 2017
An ex-carpenter has told LINQ Height Safety Gear how inadequate safety procedures resulted in a fall from a roof that left him with severe spinal injuries and quadriplegia.
In 1991 David Crawford had the world at his feet. A budding professional surfer who regularly competed in Hawaii and a keen soccer player, he never imagined that a simple job on suburban Sydney home would change his life.
“It was 3pm on Wed 10th April 1991. A section of the roof that I was standing on gave way underneath me and I fell 4.8 metres and fractured my neck at C6 and C7,” he said, adding that he was not wearing a harness and his warnings to his boss about the structural integrity of the roof he was on had gone unheeded.
“I also suffered a stab wound to my forearm where the wood chisel went to the bone, while my claw hammer dug deep into my lower right back, damaging my kidney.”
David was rushed to Royal North Shore hospital for emergency surgery on his spine and other injuries.
“I woke in intensive care. I had no movement from the shoulders down and no sensation from the chest down. I was terrified.”
His first thoughts were how he was going to continue living. He was now totally reliant on nursing staff and family for everything, from feeding to bathing.
Speak and Listen:
David’s accident resulted from a design flaw in the scillion roof he was working on.
“The rafters were not structurally connected to the beam and while I had pointed that out to the architect and builder, they told me to build the roof as per the original design,” he said.
Resultantly, David pleads with workers to speak up about safety, and for management to listen.
“I spoke up but my concerns were not heard and it cost me my life, my legs, my hand
Height safety equipment was virtually non-existent on domestic sites back in 1991, according to David, with his accident and subsequent insurance battle leading to stricter domestic fall protection standards.
Despite this, he said there is still a complete disregard for personal safety on many sites, particularly smaller ones, but also on some larger sites.
“Guys have this mindset that ‘it will never happen to me’.”
However statistics show otherwise. Every single day, some 21 Australians suffer serious injuries from a fall at work and require a week or more off – with six weeks off being the average. 21 people. Every, single, day.
“I constantly see guys standing on roofs without harnesses. I see plumbers erecting cleaning gutters. I see tradesmen hanging over the edges. They have no fall protection, no harnesses, nothing,” David said, adding that many tradespeople only have a harness in the ute to avoid a fine from Workcover.
“Well the harness is not going to help you unless you’re actually wearing it,” he exclaimed.
s,” he said.