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Working Safely at Heights

The National Standard requires that those with a duty to ensure the health and safety of persons undertaking or affected by construction work adopt a risk management approach for the prevention of falls. In situations where persons are working at heights where there is a risk of falling less than 2 metres, the standard risk management model of identifying fall hazards, assessing the risk of a fall occurring, and controlling the risks should be adopted.

Hierarchy of control measures

The first priority is always to eliminate the risk of a fall. In other words, ensure a fall from height cannot occur. Ways to do this include designing out the risk, or working on the ground or from a solid construction. These are Level 1 controls.

If (and only if) elimination of the fall risk is not reasonably practicable through the application of a Level 1 control, the risk should be minimised through the application of control measures lower down in the hierarchy; that is, Level 2 to Level 5 controls. Only where it is not reasonably practicable to use a higher order control measure may a control at the next lower level be used. Where it is reasonably practicable to undertake part of a task using a higher order control, that control must be used to the extent possible. Where a risk of a fall remains, then the next level of controls must be applied wherever reasonably practicable.
In cases where work is performed at 2 metres or above and physical fall prevention measures are not able to be used because it is not reasonably practicable, it should be documented why physical fall prevention measures were not able to be used.

Ladder-bracket scaffolds

Ladder-bracket scaffolds are constructed from single or extension ladders with brackets to support scaffold planks. Use only for very minor tasks where the worker cannot fall more than 2 metres. If the platform is at a height of 2 metres, the scaffolds should be used in conjunction with physical fall prevention measures so far as is reasonably practicable.
When using ladder-bracket scaffolds, observe the following:
  • only use industrial grade single or extension ladders
  • pitch the ladders at a horizontal to vertical slope ratio of 1:4
  • make sure the ladders are firmly footed on a hard level surface
  • secure the ladders against movement
  • keep the horizontal distance between brackets to 2.4 metres or less
  • make sure the planks are genuine scaffold planks in good condition
  • provide barricades or other suitable controls to prevent traffic damage
  • no more than one person should be supported in any bay of the scaffold, and
  • do not stack materials on the working platform