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Working at heights is a leading cause of death and serious injury in Australian workplaces.

According to Safe Work Australia, between 2003 and 2015, 359 workers were killed following a fall from a height, half involved falling from three metres or less.

Australian companies will lose an average of 93 days per annum due to a fall in the workplace.

The majority of working at heights incidents can be prevented with proper training and equipment. Have you identified, and assessed the fall hazards in your workplace? What are your fall prevention systems? Do you have the appropriate height safety equipment?

Height Safety Misconceptions

We wanted to address the following common misconceptions and ensure you are equipped with the correct information about working safely at height.

Misconception 1: Height safety is my employer’s responsibility

Height safety is everyone’s responsibility, whether you’re a building owner, subcontractor, designer or fellow worker.

Safe Work Australia states, under Workplace Health and Safety Regulations, a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) is obligated to manage the risk, as far as is reasonably practicable, of someone falling from one level to another. This includes requirements to:

▪    Ensure any work involving the risk of a fall is carried out on the ground or on a solid construction

▪    Provide safe means to access and exit a workplace

▪    Minimise the risk of falls by providing a fall prevention device, work positioning system or a fall arrest system

You have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment. Never assume that workers are trained, always check and confirm certification. Keep your staff training current. Ensure that your workplace is qualified to work safely at heights and your employees understand their responsibility towards themselves, towards each other, and towards the workplace.

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Misconception 2: Height safety is primarily about providing safe roof access

Height safety is not just about someone falling, precautions need to be taken to ensure something doesn’t fall on workers, or bystanders below.

Do you work in confined spaces? Confined spaces require a rehearsed and documented rescue plan. For example, water reservoirs at significant heights may have internal access points. What happens if a worker requires medical attention after collapsing on the job?

It is a requirement under AS2865 and under your State/Territories Workplace Health and Safety Act to have written safety management procedures for all work involving confined space entries.

Be prepared for an emergency. Ensure the safety of your workplace with height incident first response training to ensure that emergency procedures involving work at height are written, rehearsed, and trained for.

Misconception 3: The most important piece of Work at Height equipment is a ladder

Personnel or contractors working at a height above which a fall could occur will need height safety and fall prevention equipment. A common misconception is that height means roof, and height equipment means ladder. Height safety is considerably more than a ladder.

Prior to undertaking work at heights, planning should include the suitability of height safety equipment and procedures. The work at height planning stage should include installing temporary or permanent fall prevention systems.

Examples include:

  • Roof safety mesh
  • Guard Railing
  • Roof anchor points
  • Barriers
  • Scaffolding
  • Elevating work platforms

Misconception 4: Height safety harnesses are all the same

All personal fall protection systems have specific purposes for specific height safety tasks. For safety systems to be effective, they need to be tailored to your specific work circumstances. For example, fall restraint equipment is designed to keep an employee in place and not allow a worker to fall from a height, whereas fall-arrest equipment is designed to reduce the stress and injury to a worker who has fallen.

Some important points to consider when assessing height safety equipment are:

  • Anchor points need to be spaced correctly
  • A full body harness must be fitted correctly to function safely
  • Harnesses are not one-size-fits-all. Ensure workers use the right size harnesses, and that they can properly adjust harnesses sizing so they fit correctly

Do your research and identify what you really need. Choose a supplier who genuinely has employee, contractor, and safety at heart, who will go beyond ticking compliance boxes to provide a safe and practical system that is fit for purpose based on your work requirements.

Misconception 5: A quick height safety induction with a supervisor is sufficient training

Proper height safety training is fundamental when working at heights. Workers who work at height require education to identify, control, and eliminate the risks involved with work conducted at height.

Train your staff to work safely at heights, train in how to effectively respond to height incidents, or how to safely complete a vertical rescue, to ensure that your staff can effectively respond to a work at height emergency. Ensure that training is current and they enrol for refresher training to remain current with industry best practices and to be re-assessed as competent to carry out work at height tasks.

Falls can be debilitating and deadly. Don’t compromise with poor height safety training or equipment that is not fit for purpose. Tailor equipment, safety procedures, and fall protection systems to your specific circumstances.

Fire and Safety Australia are nationally accredited and IS09001-2015 quality certified in all of our height safety training. FSA is here to assist you in identifying your height safety needs. We can visit your facility and tailor training and equipment accordingly. We will ensure your safety procedures are compliant with Australian Standards.

Contact Fire and Safety Australia today and ensure your height safety training is suitable for your particular requirements.

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