5 biggest Winter Risks while working at heights & how to manage them!

Brace yourselves, winter is upon us! And with its inevitable drop in temperature comes a unique set of risks to manage. What are the main hazards and control measures?


Working on roofs is classified as high-risk work. During the winter months this risk is higher and becomes harder to manage. Ice, dirt & algal growth can build up over skylights and roof sheets, creating hazards for anyone needing to access the roof.

Ice can be tricky, hard to see and can sometimes hide dangerous hazards & is often not easy to tell at a glance if there is ice on the roof and where any possible skylights are located and if they are properly protected. So, the best option to reduce the risk of a fall due to slippery surfaces is to prepare a safe work method statement (SWMS). SWMS must be prepared for high-risk construction work which outline the measures used to control risks while at heights.

Control measures for hidden & slippery surfaces include:

  • Proactive planning, organising for all fall hazards such as skylights & unprotected edges to be fully protected before allowing any work to proceed. Protection methods include installing Skylight mesh and guardrail & walkway systems.
  • Ensuring every skylight, hole & vent has been pointed out on the roof layout to all workers before accessing the roof.
  • Providing appropriate footwear, boots with a strong tread are essential for working on slippery surfaces
  • Fall prevention devices must be used. Examples include individual fall-arrest systems with harnesses and anchor points—these are designed to reduce the severity of injury in the event of a fall.

According to the SafeWork Australian government website “Where it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk, you have a duty to take other steps to minimise the risk to health and safety” this can include calling a job off if the roof conditions are unsafe or providing more serious protection measures such as total restraint working positions.

View the code of practice for managing the work environment and facilities or more detailed information to control this risk and meet your responsibilities.

Code of practice for managing the work environment and facilities


Never underestimate the danger of wind while working at heights. Just this year a director of a shed company was sentenced to a term of imprisonment under WA’s workplace safety and health laws following the death of a young worker and the serious injury of another after a strong wind or willy-willy lifted a sheet from the pack of roof sheets they were working by, causing them both to fall from a significant height. Read more here about the incident. 

Executive Director of SafeWork NSW, Peter Dunphy said “High gusts of wind are unpredictable, and cause a range of serious workplace hazards associated with flying objects and an increased risk of structural collapse”

When high winds are present, other adverse weather conditions are usually also in play. In particular, wind gusts that come as part of a cyclone or storm are typically coupled with rain. This can lead to increased danger when working at heights due to wet and slippery surfaces.

View Safe Work NSW control measures to put in place when working in adverse weather conditions.

Safe Work NSW Control measures

Some Control measures Anchor Safes Installers like to implement when working at heights include:

  • Carrying out a risk assessment before you start the job, that takes into account the weather conditions and how they have affected or might affect your access to the rooftop or the surface you’re going to be working on.
  • Ask yourself: Has there been frost or snow overnight? Does an early start mean there’s fog? Are high winds forecast?
  • Put extra precautions in place. Ask yourself, Do you need extra PPE or fall prevention equipment? Do you need to prepare the site first, e.g. remove snow? Is there a better time of the day to do the job? Mid-morning or after lunch?

Weather conditions can change quickly across the day. Be prepared to adjust your work plan to accommodate a change in conditions that could compromise safety.

Always check the BOM for weather warnings and forecasts where you are working.

Click here to check for weather warnings & forecasts


Beware of the mood swings! Winter can take its toll on workers’ health and wellbeing as well. Head colds, flus and sinus infections can impact employees physical and mental state which in turn, impacts their fitness for work. When workers are tired and not feeling a 100 percent, it is easy for them to become distracted and make simple mistakes but often these mistakes are costly.

While working at heights you can’t afford to be distracted.

Control measures to reduce this risk include:

  • Training your staff to be aware of their personal health and wellbeing. Ensuring they stay focused and aware of the dangers around them while working at heights during winter.
  • Encourage workers to reach out if they feel a worker is struggling and not themselves especially while working at heights.


Obscured vision is another potential risk, as dust and debris are picked up by the wind and can impact workers’ eyes, easily causing them to trip over equipment on the roof, or tumble from a raised platform and sustain a serious injury. Fog can potentially set in while working at heights, as well causing workers vision to decrease.

Control measures to reduce this risk include:

  • Personal protective equipment, such as goggles, can help minimise this risk, or call off the job and wait for the weather to improve. Better safe than sorry.
  • Keep an eye on weather reports


It is important for workers to realize that Hypothermia can occur even when temperatures are above Zero! Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can often result in cold stress which includes fatigue and mild to serious health issues such as increased risk of incident/injury, hypothermia frostbite/trench foot and other long-term health effects.

When working at heights it is extremely important for workers to be able to recognise the symptoms of hypothermia and other cold stress as workers may be numb and unable to feel a rung their reaching for, causing them to slip and fall, or unable to hold a tool tight enough causing it to slip and fall on a worker below. Workers may feel weak and disoriented and could make bad decisions and physically unable to work safely.

Control measures to reduce this risk include:

  • Monitoring the weather and conditions of the workers
  • Provide your workers with fact sheets around identifying symptoms of Hypothermia
  • If you start to see unsafe practices call the job off
  • Provide workers with warm, waterproof PPE gear and encourage them to wear gloves when possible.

Safe work NSW outlines the Must dos when it comes to working in cold environments.

Safe Work NSW Must Dos

Fulfil your legal obligations while working at heights in winter.

Fulfil your legal obligations

Don’t get caught out this winter, put the right measures in place to ensure your rooftop is prepared for the environment around it and anyone working at heights on your building can do so safely during these winter months. Ensure to keep your staff trained and all PPE equipment up to date with the Australian Standards.

Contact the team at Anchor Safe if you need training, PPE gear or advice on how to safely work at heights in winter.

View our height safety products below to enhance your safety during winter.