3.3 Prevention of Falls

Falls from height are a major workplace hazard resulting in fatalities and injuries across a broad range of Victorian industries. This part of the regulations applies to all industries and all workplaces and apply specifically to work at heights of more than 2 metres.

Below is a summary only. Always ensure that you have checked the full text of the regulations before taking any action.

Definitions

The relevant definitions from Part 1 include the following (and more):

  • fall means a person's involuntary fall of more than 2 metres
  • fall arrest system means equipment or material or a combination of equipment and material that is designed to arrest the fall of a person. Example: Industrial safety net, catch platform or safety harness system (other than a travel restraint system).
  • administrative control means a system of work or a work procedure that is designed to eliminate or reduce a risk, but does not include -
    1. a physical control; or
    2. the use of personal protective equipment
  • passive fall prevention device means material or equipment, or a combination, that is designed for the purpose of preventing a fall, and that, after initial installation, does not require any ongoing adjustment, alteration or operation by any person to ensure the integrity of the device to perform its function. Example: Temporary work platform, roof safety mesh or guard railing
  • task includes moving to and from a task
  • temporary access equipment means—
    • abseiling equipment; or
    • a work box; or
    • an industrial safety net; or
    • equipment incorporating a harness that is used or intended to be used to arrest the fall of a person wearing the harness
  • temporary work platform means—
    • a fixed, mobile or suspended scaffold; or
    • an elevating work platform; or
    • a mast climbing work platform; or
    • a work box supported and suspended by a crane, hoist, forklift truck or other form of mechanical plant; or
    • building maintenance equipment, including a building maintenance unit; or
    • a portable or mobile fabricated platform; or
    • any other temporary platform that provides a working area for the duration of work performed at height and that is designed to prevent a fall
  • travel restraint system means equipment that is worn by or attached to a person and is designed for the purpose of physically restraining a person from reaching an edge or elevated surface from which he or she may fall. Example: A system in which a harness or belt is attached to one or more lanyards, each attached in turn to a static line or anchorage point.
  • work positioning system means -
    1. An industrial rope access system; or
    2. A travel restraint system; or
    3. Any other equipment, other than a temporary work platform, that enables a person to be positioned and safely supported at a work location for the duration of the task being undertaken at height.

3.3.1 Application of Part

This part does NOT apply in relation to -

  1. the following activities under the control or management of the employer
    1. stunt work
    2. acrobatics
    3. a theatrical performance
    4. a sporting or athletic activity
    5. the riding of a bicycle, motorbike or all-terrain vehicle
    6. horse riding
    7. rock climbing, abseiling or any other similar activities
  2. a task that is undertaken on those parts of a building or structure (including fixed stairs, fixed ladders, ramps and balconies) that -
    1. comply with AS 1657 (Fixed platforms walkways, stairways and ladders - Design, construction and installation; and
    2. comply with the Building Regulations 2006; and
    3. are used for the purpose for which they were designed, including for access or egress; or
  3. any activity determined by the Authority if the Authority is satisfied that it is of a similar nature to any referred to in (1)(a)

3.3.2 Application to employers of emergency services employees

The Regulations have some specific limitations with regard to emergency service employees in so far as the duties of the employer when the employees are involved in a rescue, provision of first aid, carrying out an emergency response - basically firefighters and ambulance officers. These limitations also apply to law enforcement officers (police) in certain circumstances. The regs allow that 3.3.5 (Use of a ladder as a control measure), 3.3.6 (Use of administrative controls only) and 3.3.7 (Use of plant to control risk) only apply to far as is reasonably practicable. Check the regulations if you are in one of these categories.

EMPLOYER DUTIES
3.3.3 Hazard identification

The employer must identify any task that might involve a fall hazard, including -

  1. during construction, demolition, inspection, testing, maintenance, repair or cleaning of any plant or structure;
  2. on a fragile, slippery or potentially unstable surface;
  3. using equipment to gain access to an elevated level or to carry out a task at an elevated level;
  4. on a sloping surface, where it is hard to maintain balance;
  5. near an unprotected edge; 
  6. near a hole, shaft, pit big enough for a person to fall into.

3.3.4 Control of risk

This regulation sets out a 'hierarchy' - the employer must control the risk by beginning at (1) - doing the task in such a way as to eliminate the risk of a fall. However, if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with 3.3.4(1), and if a risk of a fall remains, then move to the next step, implement that control as far as reasonably practicable. If it's not reasonably practicable to comply with this next control, and a risk remains, then move down to the next control, and so on.

  1. The first control is to arrange for the task to be done -
    1. on the ground; or
    2. on a solid construction (defined in (6) below)
  2. If not reasonably practicable to comply with (1), and a risk remains: then the employer must ensure a passive fall prevention device is used.
  3. If still a risk: then a work positioning system must be used to reduce the risk
  4. If still a risk: the employer must put in place a fall arrest system
  5. If still a risk, only then can the employer reduce the risk by ensuring that -
    1. a fixed or portable ladder is used in accordance with 3.3.5; or
    2. an administrative control is used.
  6. In this reg, solid construction means an area that has -
    1. a surface that is structurally capable of supporting people, material and any other loads intended to be applied to it; and
    2. barriers around its perimeter and any open penetrations to prevent a fall from the area; and
    3. an even and readily negotiable surface and gradient; and
    4. a safe means of access and egress.

3.3.5 Use of a ladder as a control measure

The employer must ensure the ladder is fit for the purpose, appropriate to the type and duration of the task and set up in a correct manner.

3.3.6 Use of administrative control only

  1. If an employer uses only an administrative control (as per reg 3.3.4), the employer must record, before the task is undertaken, a description of the administrative controls used, and a description of the task to which these controls relate.
  2. A generic record can be made for a task if the task is to be done in the same or similar circumstances at more than one workplace, or at more than one work area in a workplace.
  3. The employer must retain this record for the period during which the task is being undertaken.
  4. The preparation of a safe work statement in accordance with regulation 5.1.9 is to be taken to be in compliance with subreg (1), above.  (Reg 5.1.9 is a requirement for certain Construction workplaces).

 3.3.7 Use of plant to control risk

  1. If plant is used to control a risk of a fall, the employer must ensure that it is designed and constructed for the task/range of tasks and in such a way that it is safe for use in the environment (physical and conditions) in which it will be used.
  2. The employer must ensure that the installation, erection or dismantling of the plant so that any risk is reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

3.3.8 Review of risk control measures

  1. An employer must review and, if necessary, revise risk control measures:
    1. before any alteration to plant or systems of work that is likely to result in a fall; or
    2. after occurance of any notifiable incident that involves a fall or risk of a fall; or
    3. if, for any other reason, the risk control measures do not adequately control the risks; or
    4. after a request from an OHS rep.
  2. A rep may make a request for a review if the rep believes 'on reasonable grounds' that
    1. any of the circumstances (a) - (c) exists; or
    2. the employer has failed to
      1. properly review the risk control measures; or
      2. take account of any of these circumstances when reviewing or revising the risk control measures.
3.3.9 Emergency procedures
  1. If an employer uses a risk control measure in accordance with 3.3.4 (2), (3), (4) or (5), the employer must establish emergency procedures as per this regulation
  2. The emergency procedures must, so far as is reasonably practicable, enable
    1. the rescue of an employee in the event of a fall; and
    2. the provision of first aid to someone who has fallen.
  3. The employer must ensure the emergency procedure can be carried out immediately after the fall
  4. The employer must ensure that any risk associated with carrying out of an emergency procedure is eliminated, or if this is not reasonably practicable, reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Codes

The previous regulations were supported by two construction codes of practice to assist with compliance.  These will be replaced, eventually, with Compliance Codes made under the 2004 OHS Act.  In the meantime, the old Code of Practice are still available online (PDF files) on WorkSafe website. The two Codes are:

Hard copies of the codes (free) are also available and can be ordered by phone (WorkCover publications on (03) 9641 1333), or by email (publications@workcover.vic.gov.au).

The Consolidated Regulations can be purchased from Information Victoria, 356 Collins Street, Melbourne, Telephone 1300 366 356. The full text of the regulations can be viewed and downloaded from the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website -  click on Victorian Law Today, then on Statutory Rules, and then on "O" to find the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. 

See Also

Last amended June 2015

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