How To Work Safely At Heights

By Joanna Weekes on June 17th, 2010

Dear Readers,

Working at heights can be wrought with danger for your employees! You must fully assess and eliminate, or at least minimize, the risks involved.

What is working at heights?

Well, it is kind of self-explanatory, but you may not realise that it can include tasks like simply climbing on top of a truck to secure a load or climbing a step ladder to reach a high shelf.

Many employers and employees probably wouldn’t think twice about someone jumping up for such a simple and fast task, but the risks can be severe.

Today’s bulletin includes a checklist that can be fundamental for you in determining the possible risks of a task your employees are performing at heights, and therefore, fundamental in preventing an incident occurring while your workers are working at heights.

The OH&S Handbook has a chapter, W2 Working at Heights, that we recommend you refer to for more information on your prevention requirements in relation to working at heights and which guidelines you can refer to for further assistance.

Keep your employees safe at heights!


P.S. Send an email over to with any OHS questions or queries you’d like answered in an upcoming bulletin by Andrew Douglas, our Editor-in-Chief!

How to assess the severity of the risk when employees work at heights

Whenever an employee has to work at heights, there will always be potential hazards involved. A risk assessment should always be carried out prior to commencing the work.

If work at heights is being undertaken on a regular basis and under the same circumstances, the same risk assessment can be used, however if circumstances or conditions change, you will need to review the risk assessment.

First, you must consider all potential hazards involved in that particular work task. The following checklist will assist you in thinking about what could pose a risk to your employee during the work they will be carrying out at heights.

Checklist: What to consider when assessing the risk of working at heights

At what height will the work be conducted, and what are the likely consequences if the worker fell from that height?

What is the work surface? Is it uneven, slippery or narrow? Is the slope greater than 45 degrees, or are the edges unprotected?

Are there changes in levels or surfaces?

Is there a need for the worker to move from one height to another?

Is heavy equipment to be used? Can the surface support the weight?

What are the work tasks that will be performed at heights and by who? Are unstable or heavy objects being carried, etc?

Have workers been trained? Are they experienced?

What are the weather conditions on the particular day of the work being carried out? Is it rainy or windy, etc?

What are the site conditions? Is there poor lighting, etc?

What to do after you have identified the hazards

Once you have identified the hazards, you need to assess the severity of the risk. Consider how likely it is that the hazard will result in injury, and how severe that injury is likely to be.

If there are hazards that have a high potential to cause an injury and a high likelihood that the injury will be a serious one, you should consider implementing the highest order of controls from the Hierarchy of Control.

The Hierarchy of Control (H6) chapter in the OH&S Handbook can provide you with more information on how to eliminate and reduce risks in your workplace.


Andrew Douglas

Andrew Douglas
Editor-in-Chief, OH&S Handbook

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