Working at heights: Know the risks

Working at heights can be dangerous, and falls can result in serious injury or death.

If you’re an employer, or a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), you’re obligated to manage the risk — as far as is reasonably practicable — of someone falling from one level to another.1

The numbers

Research conducted by Safe Work Australia shows that, of all workers killed between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2015, 11% — a total of 359 people — were due to workers falling from heights. 50% of these falls were from a height lower than three metres. 1

Your responsibilities

If the workplace involves working at heights, the associated risks should be understood. Any appropriate procedures should be implemented and safety equipment procured. As with all risk, it is important to consider the necessity of working at height, and determine whether the risk can be removed altogether. This may include redesigning the workplace, or modifying processes. Where work at heights cannot be eliminated, controls should be implemented to ensure the safety of employees, contractors, sub-contractors, labour hire and visitors. Where necessary, seek professional advice as to what controls are appropriate for your workplace and their installation.

Examples of some of the controls that may be implemented are:

  • working on the ground or on a solid construction
  • secure guardrails and fences to any raised or portable platform
  • work positioning systems
  • fall restraint systems, and
  • fall arrest systems.

Further information of managing the risks of falls can be found though accessing the model code of practice ‘Managing the risk of falls in the workplace’. The code provides practical guidance on risk management processes such as working on the ground or on solid constructions, fall prevention devices and work positioning systems2.

Assessing the risk

The risk level of working at heights can be impacted by various elements such as weather, terrain and lighting. A risk assessment in a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) should be completed and these and factors considered in the JSA accordingly. Ensuring an adequate level of training and competency for those completing this work empowers the employees, contractors, sub-contractors and labour hire workers to assess and implement appropriate measures to guarantee their safety.

For further information on how you can manage the risks of working at heights in your workplace please visit Safe Work Australia.

GIO can offer Workers Compensation Insurance for businesses in WA, NT, ACT and TAS. Complimentary training courses are available for GIO customers to help businesses prevent workplace injuries and reduce associated claims costs. Customers also have access to a wide range of discounted training courses provided through our partnership with National Safety Council of Australia (NSCA). For more information on the training courses or if you have any risk management queries, please get in touch.

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1 Safe Work Australia: Working at Heights

2 Safe work Australia 2018: Model code of practice: Managing the risk of falls in the worplace

Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as GIO. In NSW, GIO manages claims as agent for the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer ABN 83 564 379 108, also known as icare workers insurance.  The information is intended to be of a general nature only. We do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss incurred as a result of reliance upon it – please make your own enquiries.