What is Fall Protection?
Fall Protection refers to the measures put in place to prevent a person from falling from heights and sustaining injury or death. These measures can include a variety of fall protection systems, personal equipment, and safety procedures that are specifically designed to reduce the risk of falls. What constitutes adequate fall protection will vary depending on the specific work situation, the type of work being performed, and the level of risk involved.
Adequate fall protection is crucial to ensure the physical safety of workers who perform tasks at height. Falls from height are a leading cause of workplace injuries in Australia, often resulting in long-term disability and in the worst cases death.
Furthermore, under Australian work safety laws, codes and standards, employers have a duty of care to ensure the safety of their workers, including providing adequate fall protection systems and equipment. Failure to provide or implement adequate fall protection can result in significant liability for employers, including legal and financial repercussions.
Australian Legislation and Requirements
Any Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in Australia must abide by government regulations to ensure workplace safety for tasks at height, including the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act, National Codes of Practice and various Australian/New Zealand Standards. The Working At Height Association (WAHA) is Australia’s peak body for height safety, which facilitate increased knowledge and compliance with safety standards for all those involved in working at height.
The following Australian/New Zealand Standards & Industry Codes should be addressed if working at height:
- AS1657:2018 Fixed Platforms, Walkways, Stairways and Ladders
- AS/NZS 1891.1 Part 1: Safety Belts and Harnesses
- AS/NZS 1891.2 Part 2: Horizontal Lifeline and Rail Systems
- AS/NZS 1891:3 Part 3: Fall Arrest Devices
- AS/NZS 1981.4 Part 4: Selection, Use and Maintenance of Industrial Fall Arrest Systems and Devices
- AS2625 Safe Working in a Confined Space
- AS/NZS 4488 Industrial Rope Access Systems
- AS/NZS 5532 Manufacturer’s requirements for single point anchors
When is Fall Protection Required in Australia?
Fall protection is legally required in Australia whenever there is a risk of falling from one level to another that could result in injury or death. As a general guide, fall protection equipment or systems are required for anyone working at heights of 2 meters or more. It is important to note that even where a fall may not result in injury, employers may still be required to provide appropriate fall protection measures where necessary.
Employers must conduct a risk assessment of their work site or may rely on a trusted height safety advisor like Anchor Safe, to determine where fall protection is necessary. This assessment takes into account factors such as the height of the work area, the duration of work, the potential consequences of a fall, and the type of work being performed. If there is a risk of falling from height, appropriate fall protection measures must be implemented in accordance with the Hierarchy of Control.
Choosing Fall Protection Equipment & Systems
Choosing the right fall protection system and/or equipment is essential for ensuring worker safety and compliance with Australian laws, codes of practice and standards. To select the appropriate system and equipment, two factors need to be considered: the risk assessment and what is reasonably practicable.
Under Australian legislation, codes and standards for working at height, a Person(s) Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) is required to implement the highest control measure under the Hierarchy of Control that is reasonably practicable for the scenario at hand. These fall protection control measures fall into 4 distinct types, listed below from most effective to least effective.
1. Passive Fall Protection Systems
Collective measures involving the use of physical barriers to prevent operatives from reaching edge/fall conditions. These include guardrails, walkways, work platforms and skylight covers.
2. Fall Restraint / Work Positioning Systems
Operatives are prevented from reaching edge/fall conditions through the use of personal harnesses with lanyards of limited length. These systems include anchor points, static lines and rigid rail systems as well as a range of personal fall protection equipment.
3. Fall Arrest Systems
operatives wear specialised personal harnesses and lanyards designed to arrest a fall and minimise injury. These systems include catch nets, anchor points, static lines, rigid rail systems and shock absorbers as well as a range of personal fall protection equipment.
4. Administrative Controls
Minimise risk through adequate training, instructive, supervision and signage. These systems provide no physical protection from falls and are used in combination with the above systems.
There are many different types of fall protection equipment on the market and it can be quite overwhelming when deciding what systems you require. Anchor Safe recommends seeking advice from a trusted professional to determine what control measures are reasonably practicable for your worksite, ensuring your height safety systems are compliant and risks to workers are minimised.
Maintenance and Inspection of Fall Protection Equipment and Systems
To ensure the ongoing safety and compliance of height safety equipment, Australian Standards and legislation mandate that it must undergo a periodic inspection every 6 to 12 months. This means that a competent and trained professional must test, inspect and tag the equipment as safe for its intended use. To stay on top of compliance and worker safety, many businesses will schedule maintenance and recertification from a trusted height safety services provider.
Australian height safety standards require that all personal use equipment (harness, lanyard, connectors and fall arrest devices) and common use equipment (ropes, slings, fall arrest devices and mobile attachment devices) are inspected by a competent operator before and after each use. See our post on how to inspect harnesses and lanyards for damage to learn more.
How often are Inspection and Recertification Required?
The inspection and recertification requirements for fall protection equipment and systems will vary depending on their type;
- Harnesses, lanyards, and ropes require inspection every 6 months and visual inspection by a competent operator before and after each use.
- Anchor points, static lines and all permanently mounted fall arrest safety systems require inspection every 12 months.
- Height safety systems such as guardrails, walkways, access ladders, stairway systems and skylight protection systems are recommended by manufacturers to be inspected & recertified every 12 months.
Fall protection is an essential safety measure that protects workers from serious injury or even death when working at heights. It is important to consider the specific working-at-height scenario and potential risks involved when choosing the appropriate fall protection system and equipment. Compliance with Australian standards and legislation is also critical, which includes periodic inspection and maintenance of the equipment.
To ensure worker safety, it is recommended to seek advice from a trusted height safety professional and to invest in high-quality fall protection equipment and systems. By prioritising worker safety and taking proactive measures to prevent falls, we can help to create a safer and more secure work environment for all.
- National Code Of Practice For The Prevention Of Falls In General Construction – Safe Work Australia
- Working at Heights – Safe Work NSW
- Work at Heights – Work Safe QLD
- Fall Prevention – Work Safe Victoria
- 10 Steps to Height Safety in the Workplace – Anchor Safe
Comprehensive Fall Protection Services
Anchor Safe offers comprehensive fall protection services to building owners and managers, to ensure rooftops and other working at-height situations are compliant with all relevant codes, standards, and regulations.
We take care of everything, starting with a height safety audit on existing fall protection systems, followed by a customised height safety solution using quality products, ensuring compliance and taking total responsibility for your height safety. Our certified and highly trained team will install your systems to ensure they are fit for purpose and meet and exceed all relevant Australian standards.
With ongoing compliance management and maintenance services, you can rest assured that your site is completely compliant and your workers at height are safe.