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Risk of Falling from Heights


The risk of falling from heights has been identified by WorkSafe ACT as a common and continuous problem on construction sites in the ACT.  The failure to address this risk will be at the peril of the builder since failing to have safe working practices (such as an incomplete scaffold erected on site, inadequate fall protection) or the required documentation, such as a safe work method statement (SWMS), has the potential to shut your site down.

What is considered working at heights?

Working at heights means doing work where falling would mean someone or something would fall from one level to another. This means that working at heights does not only refer to working on a building but also includes a scenario where working on the ground can result in someone or something falling, for example a deep excavation.

When is working at heights high risk?

The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 identifies construction work as being high-risk when that work involves a risk of a person falling more than 2 meters. In the event of high-risk construction work you must have a safe work method statement before commencing the work, identifying potential hazards associated with the high-risk work and measures used to eliminate or minimise these risks as far as is reasonably practicable.

Where working at heights is necessary, and including work below two (2) metres, all reasonably practicable steps must be taken to:

  • identify hazards
  • assess the risks and
  • determine the most appropriate controls to be used to provide a safe working environment.

Who is responsible for managing the risk of falling from heights?

The Work Health and Safety (Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice) 2020 identifies a number of duty holders, each playing a role in managing the risk of falls:

  • A person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU);
  • designers, manufacturers, importers, suppliers and installers of plant, substances or structures;
  • officers; and
  • workers

The PCBU holds the primary duty of care to ensure safety in the workplace and must eliminate or minimize as far as reasonably practicable the risks associated with working at heights. This means that before work is commenced the PCBU must, in consultation with its workers, identify hazards, assess the risks and determine the most appropriate controls that should be applied to provide a safe working environment.

If you have any questions relating to working at heights, please contact our Workplace Relations and Legal Team on (02) 6175 5900.