Falls from height

Falls are a major cause of workplace fatalities and serious injuries.

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.

Activities

Students can complete the following Falls from Height activities:

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