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How do we measure heights for working at heights?

Q: Our company is based in NSW and works across multiple jurisdictions. When assessing if a worker is in fact 'working at heights', or to assess the risk at which work at heights is being performed, is the measure typically taken from the platform on which they are standing, or from head level of the worker to the ground?

A: In the Work Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (NSW), high-risk construction work is defined at regulation 291 as work that involves a risk of a person falling more than 2 metres.

The National Code of Practice of the Prevention of Falls in General Construction refers to platform heights as opposed to head heights when discussing fall distances and risks. The assessment of height for this purpose would thus be from the ground to the platform on which the worker is standing.

It is worth noting however, that under Part 4.4 of the Regulations, you may still be under an obligation to manage risks to health and safety associated with any distance from which a fall is reasonably likely to cause injury – even if this is under 2 metres. You must ensure that any work that involves the risk of such a fall is, if possible, carried out on the ground or on a solid construction.

You must minimise the risk of a fall by providing adequate protection, for example, by providing a fall prevention device, a work positioning system or a fall arrest system such as an industrial safety net. A failure to do so can result in heavy penalties.

Please note: The answer is correct at the time of publishing. Be aware that laws may change over time. Refer to Working at heights for current advice.

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