Falling from any height can lead to death or long-term injuries.
Between 2012 and 2015 more than 17,500 workers were injured after falling from a height at NSW workplaces. Twenty-five died and more than 200 were permanently disabled.
These incidents largely happen in the construction, manufacturing, telecommunications, transport, agriculture and forestry industries. Many incidents occur whilst working from ladders or items of plant. Please view our safe use of ladders video safety alert or our falls from flatbed trucks and trailers video safety alert for some simple advice on how to prevent these common incidents.
There are specific laws about working safely at heights. Here we summarise those laws and give you some practical tips.
Manage the risks
Firstly, talk to everyone in your workplace. Listen to their views about working at heights. Draw on everyone’s experience and ideas.
You have several options:
1. Work on the ground or on a solid construction
If you don’t have to work at height, working from the ground is always the safest option. So look for alternatives to working at height during the design-phase of the project.
2. Use a fall-prevention device
If you have to work from height, you need to manage the risk of a fall. A fall-prevention device is best because it will prevent your workers from falling. Examples include temporary work platforms, guardrails and scaffolding. All help keep you safer when working at heights.
3. Use a work-positioning or fall-arrest system
When it's not possible to use a fall-prevention device, a work-positioning system or a fall-arrest system are your next best options.
A work-positioning system enables a person to work supported in a harness in tension in a way that prevents the person from falling eg industrial rope access. A fall-arrest system stops a person who has fallen and reduces the impact of the fall eg industrial safety nets or fall arrest harnesses used with lifelines or individual anchors.
If you use a work-positioning or fall arrest system, have emergency and rescue procedures in place.
For the specific laws about working safely at heights, see clauses 78 – 80 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017.
There are also general work health and safety laws that will apply to you in any situation, including when working at heights.
For practical information about working on the ground or from a solid construction, fall prevention devices, work positioning systems, fall arrest systems, ladders, administrative controls, emergency procedures, and the design of plant and structures, see the code of practice for managing the risk of falls at workplaces.