The rules surrounding your not-so-typical working from heights?

By Michael Selinger on July 3rd, 2018
  1. Risk Management
  2. Hazard Identification


Here’s a great question our Helpdesk received from a subscriber to our Health & Safety Handbook.

Question: Our company has been instructed to perform security inspections in the cabin and cargo areas of trucks at a vehicle entry gate.

We have identified a suitable set of mobile stairs that can be used to access the cargo area and we can use the vehicle handholds and ‘3 points of contact’ concept to access the cabin.

But we would like clarification on the working from heights requirements for this task. Our task will only require our workers to access and inspect the areas of the truck and then exit.

Is this task considered as working from height and if so, are there any specific requirements for equipment or systems?

Answer: The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (Regulation) requires a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to manage the risks to health and safety associated with a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury to the person or another person (section 78). This includes the risk of a fall from an elevated surface, such as the cabin or cargo area of a truck.

Where there is a risk of a fall, a PCBU should manage that risk in accordance with the hierarchy of control set out at Part 3.1 of the Regulation. So far as is reasonably practicable, a PCBU must ensure that the work involving the risk of a fall is conducted on the ground or a solid construction (Regulation, section 78(3)).

Where it is not reasonably practicable for a PCBU to eliminate the risk of a fall, a PCBU must minimise the risk of a fall by providing a safe system of work, including:

  1. providing a fall prevention device if it is reasonably practicable to do so;
  2. if it is not reasonably practicable to provide a fall prevention device, providing a work positioning system, or
  3. if it is not reasonably practicable provide a fall prevention device or a work positioning system, providing a fall arrest system, so far as is reasonably practicable (Regulation, Section 79(3)).

A fall prevention device includes:

  • a secure fence, and
  • edge protection, and
  • working platforms, and
  • covers.

A work positioning system means any plant or structure, other than a temporary work platform, that enables a person to be positioned and safely supported at a location for the duration of the relevant work being carried out.

A fall arrest system means plant or material designed to arrest a fall.

Relevantly, SafeWork had published a Code of Practice – Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces. A copy of the Code is accessible here. The Code includes further information on fall prevention devices, work positioning systems and fall arrest systems.

But are they reasonably practicable?

However, we note that it may be the case that the methods suggested are not reasonably practicable for the task being performed in your business.

While compliance with Codes of Practice is not (yet) mandatory in the harmonised work health and safety jurisdictions, an approved code of practice is admissible in the proceeding as evidence of whether or not a duty or obligation under the Work Health and Safety legislation has been complied with.

Specifically, a court may have regard to the code as evidence of what is known about a hazard or risk, risk assessment or risk control to which the code relates; and a court may rely on the code in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code relates.

THIS WEEK, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean said an ongoing safety blitz focusing on the construction industry has uncovered widespread safety failures when working from heights.

“Falls from heights are the number one killer on NSW construction sites, and these latest findings are deeply troubling,” he said.

The chapter Working at Heights in the Health & Safety Handbook has detailed information on how to reduce the risks workers are exposed to when working at heights. The chapter has downloadable checklists and includes 13 common fall risks, control measures you can take, ladder safety information and the legislation covering working at heights in each jurisdiction.

All chapters are written in plain English so the information is easy to understand and implement at your workplace.

Order your copy today and you’ll get access to the Helpdesk as well.


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