WORKING AT HEIGHTS

July 28 2015

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Over recent weeks, we have seen a number of serious injuries and a couple of fatalities in WA involving either working at heights or equipment used to elevate personnel or equipment to a height.

Working at heights is one of WorkSafe WA’s key priority areas and is one of the (if not, the No1) highest risk activities that construction trades will be frequently exposed to.

Due to the recent incidents, it is worthwhile reminding members of the legal obligations when working at heights.

Regulation 3.55 of the WA OSH Regulations details the requirements whenever someone is working from a specific height (either 2 or 3 metres) however, working at height is also defined as where a person can fall from one level to another – NOTE: this definition does not specify any distance in height.

The regulations state that anyone at any workplace that is an employer, the main contractor, a self-employed person or a person having control of the workplace must ensure that edge protection is provided and kept in place whenever there is a risk that a person could fall:

  • 2 or more metres from the edge of — a scaffold, fixed stair, landing, suspended slab, formwork or falsework at the workplace

OR;

  • 3 or more metres from an edge at the workplace other than an edge referred to above.

It is further stipulated that the ‘edge protection’ must have:

  • A top rail — positioned not less than 900 mm and not more than 1100 mm above the working surface and is capable of withstanding a force of 0.55 kN (approx 56Kg) applied to any point

AND;

  • Either —
  1. A mid rail and a toe board; or
  2. A toe board and a mesh panel that comprises wire that is not less than 3 mm in diameter and apertures not greater than 75 mm x 50 mm and that fills the space between the top rail and the toe board.

Where edge protection is not erected or in not practicable to erect or install an alternative and still compliant means is a fall injury prevention system (appropriate harness, lanyard style and attachment point/s) is provided and in operation whenever there is a risk that a person could fall 3 or more metres from an edge at the workplace other than an edge referred to for the 2 metre rule.

Where a fall prevention system is used in place of edge protection, consideration must be given to the type of harness and lanyard style to be utilised based on a site specific risk assessment o ensure that further hazards are not introduced by the use of such a method.

Additionally, the anchor point must be installed and regularly inspected by a competent person, likewise should harnesses and lanyards.

A risk assessment should always be conducted (and ideally documented) when working from any height to ensure that any site hazards have been adequately identified, assessed and managed.

For any work on a ‘construction site’ where a worker is required to work over a height of 2 metres, it is a legal requirement to have a site specific Safe Work Method Statement (or JSA) prepared, signed by all involved in the activity and to remain on site for the full time period that the activity is being undertaken.

For more information on working at or from heights or any other OSH inquiry, please do not hesitate to contact Safety Solutions WA.