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.
Students can complete the following Falls from Height activities: