Working at Heights

Falls from height are a major cause of work related fatalities and injuries in Australia and consequently have specific regulations relating to the management of the risk. Every time a DEECD employee climbs up on a ladder or through some other method, works above the ground, they are placing themselves at risk of falling from a height. Even falls from a low height have the potential to cause serious injury and must be managed. In DEECD workplaces there are a number of tasks that may involve working at heights. Examples of such tasks could include erecting signs in the classroom or retrieving a ball from the roof.

The risk of injury from a fall from steps or a ladder increases with tasks that involve:

  • The use of power tools;
  • Uneven surfaces;
  • Pedestrian traffic;
  • Windy and wet weather; and
  • Over-head structures.

Tasks at heights under 2 metres require safe work procedures to be developed and implemented to minimise the risk. Tasks that involve working from a height of 2 metres or more are considered high risk. These tasks must be identified and have controls put in place. As much of the task as possible should be completed on the ground prior to working at height.

It is important to note that ladder use should be subject to risk assessment, safe work procedures and training. When not in use, ladders should be stored horizontally on hooks at waist height in a secure area.

Where/when would these issues be relevant?

Working at height risks may be relevant when:

  • Working on roofs (including contractor works);
  • Working with ladders;
  • Erecting signs in libraries and gymnasiums;
  • Hanging posters;
  • Accessing high shelving; and
  • During construction work.


What do I need to do?

  • Identify work activities where a fall hazard may exist; and
  • Where a fall hazard is identified, develop and implement management strategies according to the hierarchy of control.

For falls of less than two metres:

  • Develop and document safe work procedures (SWPs) to outline the way in which the hazard will be managed; and
  • Provide training to employees to provide them with the skills and knowledge to do their work safely

If there is a risk of a fall of more than two metres, specific duties apply:

  • Perform the task on the ground if possible;
  • Use a passive fall prevention device;
  • Use a work positioning system to ensure employees work within a safe area;
  • Install a fall arrest system to limit the risk of injuries in the event of a fall;
  • Use a fixed or portable ladder incorporating a risk assessment, safe work procedures and training; and if you are not able to work on the ground or on a solid construction prior to working at height  then;
  • Establish emergency procedures and First Aid provision prior to undertaking the task;
  • Review documented safe systems of work for contractors who are required to work at height;
  • Make sure ladders are compliant with AS 1892; and
  • Monitor the work at height practices of all employees and contractors to ensure they are working safely.


Legislation, guidance and codes of practice

Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004

Occupational Health & Safety Regulations 2007 (3.3 Prevention of Falls)

AS/NZS 1892 – Portable Ladders (Metal, wood and plastic)

AS/NZS 1892.5:2000 Portable Ladders – Selection, safe use and care

Prevention of Falls – Ladders

Your health and safety guide to falls prevention

Worksafe – Slip, Trips and Falls checklist

Practical guidance

Working at Height Procedure (PDF - 247Kb)

Safe Work Procedure Template (Word - 430Kb)

Permit to Work - Working at Heights (Word - 96Kb) 

OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715

DEECD Regional OHS/WorkCover Advisors

WorkSafe Victoria