Fall Protection Measures: At what height is fall protection required?

Author: Workshop360  Date Posted:8 December 2022 

If you had to guess at what height is fall protection required, what would your answer be? It may come as a surprise that construction work with a risk of falling over 2 metres is considered high risk. High risk construction work or housing construction work with a risk of falling over 3 metres requires fall protection measures and that a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) is prepared. This is a document which outlines the fall risks and the fall protection measures that have been put in place to avoid them, as well as other critical info like who is responsible for making sure the fall protection is used and who the workers are who will use them. And since falls are a leading cause of workplace death and injury in Australia, it’s important to take the SWMS seriously.

Thankfully, Safe Work Australia has a template available, which makes it a smooth process. Included on the sheet are a list of possible high risk construction activities with tick boxes to fill in. Examples include diving work, work on or near chemical, fuel or refrigerant line, use of explosives, and demolition of load baring structure. Which means that someone could have filled out a SWMS for James Bond before the intro sequence of Goldfinger. The only thing they would have to write in themselves is the seagull hat, which has a high-risk of being hilarious with no known preventions.

Safe Work Australia says that work must be carried out on the ground or on a solid construction (basically anything more permanent) where it’s possible but if it isn’t then fall prevention devices are necessary. Fall protection measures include barriers, scaffolding, and elevating work platforms (like cherry pickers and scissor lifts). If machinery like this is impossible, then work positioning systems like industrial rope access systems must be used.

If even that is not possible then a fall arrest system like a safety net or a catch platform is required. That said, a combination of these may be necessary to minimise risk properly. Personally, I think using the rope system and a safety net would be the most fun… I mean, if you’re going to fall off something, you may as well make the most of it and pretend you’re a trapeze artist.

That brings up an important point: workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety, and make sure they don’t affect other people’s as well. This means they need to comply with reasonable instructions made to them about safety. Of course, if you are a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU – gosh, they really love their acronyms) then you have duties specifically outlined by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act about not only providing fall protection at heights over 2 meters but making sure people work on the ground where possible (they can pretend to be Spiderman on their own time), as well as safe access to and from the worksite. The other party that needs to keep workers safe is officers, such as company directors, to make sure the WHS Act and Regulations are followed.

Now you know, if you ever wonder at what height is fall protection required, that for construction any work done with a fall height over 2 meters needs some form of protection, or 3 metres in house construction. And that fall protection measures can be as simple as railings or as big as a cherry picker. Just remember, no running with scissor lifts. We want to be here for a good time and a long time.

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