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Managing the risks of falls

Risk assessments are important to be carried out to manage the risk of falls at your workplace.

Key facts

  • The current arrangements for heights above 2m will remain in place until 31 March 2024 if the work is high risk construction work.  

    This means that for this type of work, you may continue to apply the requirements of regulation 3.55 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (OSH Regulations) for reducing risks of falling more than 2 metres which includes: 

    • If risk of a fall ≥2 m, edge protection is required for edges of scaffold, fixed stair, landing, suspended slab, formwork or falsework. 
    • If risk of a fall ≥3 m, edge protection or a fall injury prevention system is required.
  • New rules apply for all other fall risks including the risk of a fall from a height of 2 m or less 

    Under the new Work, Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 (WHS Regulations) a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risks to health and safety associated with a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury i.e. all falls, including falls under 2m.

  • The previous rules in relation to holes or openings continue to apply to all work

    The previous requirement that holes or openings, of more than 200mm x 200mm but less than 2 metres x 2 metres, must be covered remains in place.

How to control the risk of falling from one level to another

Regulation 79 of the WHS Regulations requires that if the risk of a fall from one level to another cannot be eliminated you must:

  • provide a fall prevention device if it is reasonably practicable to do so, i.e
    • a secure fence; and
    • edge protection; and
    • working platforms; and
    • covers; or
  • if it is not reasonable to provide a fall prevention device, provide a work positioning system (i.e. a plant or structure, other than a temporary work platform, that enables a person to be positioned and safety supported for the duration of the relevant work); or
  • if it is not reasonably practicable to comply with either of the above requirements, provide a fall arrest system, so far as is reasonably practicable (this will include plant or material designed to arrest a fall such as a safety net, catch platform, safety harness system).

A combination of controls may be used to minimise a risk, so far as is practicable, if a single control is not sufficient.

How do I know what is acceptable?

It is important that you carry out a risk assessment to determine what you might need to do to manage the risk of falls at your workplace. The control measures you select will depend on what is ‘reasonably practicable’.

Safe work method statements (SWMS)

Work that involves the risk of a person falling more than 2 m is considered high risk construction work and will require the PCBU to prepare a safe work method statement (s.291 and s.299).

This requirement applies to all construction work, including housing construction. 

Read more information on the Code of Practice: Prevention of falls from height at workplaces.

To find out more, contact HIA's Workplace Services team

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