Identifying fall hazards
There are many jobs that require people to work at heights greater than 2 metres, or at ground level where a fall is possible because of hazards like holes, pits or shafts.
Examples of typical fall hazards include:
- work on or near fragile roof surfaces such as skylights or fibreglass panels with no guarding, safety mesh or other fall protection measures present
- installation, maintenance or inspection of air conditioning units situated close to unprotected roof edges
- work from ladders – such as painting, repairing or clearing gutters
- tree work which requires climbing to reach the branches to be pruned
- raising workers on pallets to reach items stored in high racking or shelving
- climbing onto the tops of vehicles such as tankers or livestock carriers
- mezzanine floors without adequate guardrails or handrails.
Reducing the risk of falls
Employers must take steps to safeguard workers against falls. Victorian law now requires every task which involves a fall hazard of more than 2 metres to be assessed, to see whether it can be done safely from the ground or from a stable work platform. For example, equipment mounted on a roof can often be relocated to ground level.
If those options are not practicable, there are a number of other risk control measures that could provide the protection needed. They include:
- using an industrial rope access system, to enable the worker to be supported by ropes which are attached to a strong anchor point
- setting up a passive fall prevention device – such as a scaffold or guardrail
- using a fall injury prevention system, such as an industrial safety net or safety harness system.
All of these require specific training and instruction for the worker, and purpose-designed equipment which must be regularly checked for any wear or damage.
The use of ladders
Where the use of a ladder is the only practicable way to do a job requiring work above 2 metres, employers must make sure the ladder is appropriate to the task.
- Ladders should be ‘tied off’ where practicable to ensure that they are stable and will not slips sideways or fall backwards. Where a job requires that a ladder is used frequently, a ladder bracket may be fitted to enable to the worker to secure the ladder before work begins.
- Ladders should always be carefully checked before use, and should never be used where the ground is sloping or soft.
- Tools and equipment should never be carried up or down a ladder – they should be raised and lowered in a bag. A person on the ground can do this, while at the same time keeping watch for pedestrians and other traffic.
Students can complete the following Falls from Height activities: