Working at heights

Falls from height can leave employees with permanent and debilitating injuries. Falls often occur from roofs, scaffolds, ladders, trucks and mezzanine floors or into pits or holes.

Falls from less than one metre can result in serious injuries such as fractures, spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damage. The risk of serious injury or death from a fall increases significantly when working at heights over two metres.

Getting started

  • Where possible redesign the workplace or the work task to minimise the need for people to do the work, or part of the work at height.
  • Where work must be done at height, ensure the work is done from one of the following (controls from lower on the list may only be used where it is not reasonably practicable to use controls from higher on the list):
    • an elevated work platform or portable scaffold with secure handrails
    • use travel restraint systems
    • fall arrest systems (eg safety harness, industrial safety net or catch platform)
    • step platforms
    • ladders.

Note: Travel restraint and fall arrest systems and the associated anchorages must be designed by a competent person. Any person using such systems must be given appropriate training and supervision.

  • Ensure mezzanine floors, storage areas and any other areas that are intended to be accessed have safe access with well-maintained stairs and secure handrails and toe boards around the perimeter.
  • Any storage area including racking, shelving or the roof space of an office area within a factory must be designed for the intended loads.

Using ladders

  • Use a step platform ladder, where possible, as they provide a larger, more stable work surface than ladders.
  • Always maintain three points of contact when ascending, descending or standing on a ladder.
  • Do not use ladders on balconies or other areas that increase the potential fall distance for the user.
  • Ensure employees do not:
    • stand higher than the second tread below the top plate of any stepladder
    • use ladders when using tools that require a high degree of force or are designed to be operated with two hands
    • use ladders to work over other people.
  • Ensure ladders are placed squarely on firm, non-slip surfaces. Secure ladders by tying them to a support at the top and/or bottom. Alternatively, have another person 'foot' the ladder.
  • Inspect ladders regularly. Repair or replace ladders where rungs, steps or treads or top plates are missing, worn, damaged or loose.

View WorkSafe's information on fall prevention or guidance, Basic steps to preventing falls from heights, Compliance Codes – Prevention of falls in general construction and Prevention of falls in housing construction, and the Prevention of falls guidance on trucks, mezzanines and accessing shelves.