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What Are The Regulations For Working At Heights in NSW?

February 28, 2024
Working At Heights NSW

It’s an uncomfortable truth: working at heights is always a high-risk activity. In Australia, it’s a leading cause of workplace accidents and death. Precautions help, but they can’t remove the danger entirely.

In all Australian states, including NSW, working at heights regulations exist for good reason. A fall from any height can lead to death or permanent injuries, yet most fatal falls are from roofs, ladders and scaffolds at heights between two and four metres.

Deadly or injurious falls are most common in industries like construction, manufacturing, transport, warehousing and agriculture. Labourers in the construction and mining industries, mobile plant operators, farmers and forestry workers are among those most at risk. In Australia, more than one hundred thousand worker’s compensation claims are lodged on an annual basis.

Safety in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility, yet certain positions carry specific duties according to the model WHS Act. This involves steps like ensuring the health and safety of workers, consulting with workers and coordinating activities with relevant duty holders.

When working with heights, safety needs to be a priority at all times. If you need some help reducing the risk of falls in your workplace, SSTC can make sure you comply with working at heights regulations in NSW. With a height risk assessment and the establishment of a safety plan, we can make your workplace a safer, better-prepared environment.

Here is the SSTC guide to safer working at heights and how to comply with working at heights regulations in NSW.

Common Risks Associated With Working at Heights

Some common working at heights safety risks you’re likely to encounter in the workplace include:

Incorrect use of ladders

It’s important to use the right ladder for the job, with the right height, size and standard, so the worker can remain in a stable position. Using the wrong type of ladder or incorrectly following the manufacturer’s instructions can lead to overreaching and accidents. Using the ladder in slippery or wet conditions is another hazard.

Faulty or degraded equipment

Protective equipment used for working at heights can degrade with time. Equipment such as guardrails and carabiners need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure it's fully functional.

Inadequate risk assessment procedures

Working at heights carries a specific set of risks that have to be understood and addressed comprehensively. This process involves observing dangers in the workplace, taking on feedback from employees, reviewing incidents and records and being compliant with regulations in NSW when working at heights. A height risk assessment helps reduce risk and leads to enhanced safety when working at heights.

Lack of experience

Working at heights is more dangerous for those who lack knowledge and experience in it. When on-the-job training is necessary, it’s important to have an experienced operator providing direct supervision. A lack of proper training and supervision can have deadly consequences for employees working at heights.

Delicate/incomplete roofing or scaffolds

Falls through scaffolding are a tragically common cause of injury and death in Australia. Lax safety protocols and unsafe actions on scaffolding can quickly create a dangerous situation.

Weather conditions

Weather events such as heavy rain, storms, wind and hail can make equipment, scaffolding and unfinished structures even more unstable than usual. You can’t control the weather, but you can mitigate the risk of wet weather causing a problem and the risks of working at heights in general.

Ways to Minimise Risk When Working At Heights

Working At Heights NSW 2

While there’s unfortunately no way to remove the risk entirely, there are steps you can take to make the process of working at heights a lot safer. These include:

Have a height risk assessment plan in place

A working at-height risk assessment plan evaluates the risks and hazards at your worksite involving working with heights and whether or not proper precautions are in place to protect workers. A risk assessment identifies what the risks are, who is most at risk and what steps can be put into place to avoid them. It provides a review of the findings that you can keep in your records and update when necessary.

Use fall-prevention devices

Sturdy, well-maintained fall prevention devices such as guardrails, scaffolds and temporary work platforms help guard the safety of your employees when working at heights.

Use work positioning or fall-arrest systems

A work positioning system is a device that prevents an employee from reaching a fall hazard, such as a restraint system or industrial rope access. When a work positioning system is unavailable, a fall-arrest system is the backup plan. While the fall-arrest system can’t prevent a fall, it can catch a person mid-fall and minimise impact and injuries. Examples of this sort of system include catch platforms and industrial safety nets.

What to Do If an Incident Occurs

There are certain procedures that should be followed in the event of a workplace incident, whether anyone was hurt or not.  While following the working at heights regulations for NSW will greatly reduce the risk of such incidents occurring, you still need to be ready for a worst-case scenario.

Respond immediately

Making sure the person is safe is your first port of call. Call 000 if the person is injured. A PCBU is also required to provide First Aid procedures.

Report it

Every workplace has internal reporting procedures for dangerous incidents. You must also report any dangerous incidents, serious injuries or deaths to SafeWork NSW on 13 10 50.

Don’t disturb the site

Secure the site and make sure everyone else in the vicinity is safe, but make sure you leave the site as is so the state regulator can investigate accurately.

Commence an internal investigation

Launch an internal investigation into the incident and take corrective action to prevent further events in the future.  

Report to your insurer

Make your insurer aware of the incident as soon as possible, and provide the affected employee with Workplace Injury and Rehabilitation Compensation (WIRC) information.

Safety When Working At Heights with SSTC

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Complying with working at heights regulations in NSW is a legal requirement. Safety plans are necessary, and it’s important to work with a site security professional who understands both your needs and changing legal requirements.

SSTC are experts at putting plans in place to protect your staff and obtaining permits and other documents from the right regulation bodies. Our plans and permits will set your projects up for success.

Our highly trained and experienced emergency response teams provide fast and effective responses to any incident, including fires, floods and falls from heights. They’re trained in vertical rescue and first aid using specialised equipment designed for use at significant heights.

We can help you put together a plan for working at heights that puts the right precautions in place. If an incident occurs, our response will be swift and effective.

With over 25 years of combined experience in the industry, the SSTC team can make sure you comply with equipment safety standards, have the right permits and meet all other legal requirements.  

For more information about NSW working at heights regulations and a free quote for your height risk assessment needs, contact the team at SSTC.

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