Falls from heights is one of the most common causes of
work-related fatalities and serious injuries (including fractures,
spinal cord injury, concussions and brain damages). Between July to
December 2009, 14 of the 71 notified work-related fatalities in
Australia resulted from falls from heights, occurring mainly in
construction, manufacturing and mining workplaces1.
Falls, trips and slips of a person also accounted for 21 per cent
of serious workers' compensations claims in 2007-2008 in
Australia2 and 36 per cent of all major injuries in
United Kingdom3. The extent of the problem highlights
the importance of fall prevention obligations on duty holders in
How are falls to be regulated?
Under the Model Work Health and Safety Act and the Model Work
Health and Safety Regulations, there are onerous duties imposed on
persons conducting the business or undertaking
(PCBUs) for the prevention of falls. These duties
identifying all fall hazards associated with the business or
controlling the risks by applying the hierarchy of
keeping records of the administrative controls used for fall
hazards over 2 metres
ensuring the suitability, fitness and maintenance of risk
establishing emergency and rescue procedures to address fall
reviewing implemented risk control measures under certain
What are the key changes under the Model WHS laws?
For most jurisdictions, there will be a fundamental change in
duty holders as the Model WHS laws are not restricted to employers
and extend to PCBUs regardless of whether the person has any
employees. In addition, the fall prevention obligations will extend
to all industries. This has significant impact on jurisdictions
such as Queensland which currently imposes the fall prevention
obligations only in the construction industry. As a result, the
fall prevention obligations will bring more industries under the
regulatory scheme including occupations such as window cleaning,
shelf stacking, gutter cleaning and roof work.
The fall prevention regulations in most current Australian
jurisdictions only apply when there is a risk of fall of more than
2 metres4. The 2 metre height threshold is removed under
the model WHS laws and therefore the fall prevention obligations
are applicable for work conducted at any height. That is, no
distinction is drawn in the Model WHS laws between falls from
height and other falls. This change in requirement will broaden the
scope of duty holders caught under the scheme.
Extended hierarchy of controls
The Model WHS Regulations adopt a hierarchy of controls with
respect to controlling falls which closely follows the Victorian
occupational health and safety regulatory provisions5.
It requires PCBUs to implement control measures in the following
elimination of the risk by doing the work on the ground or a
passive fall prevention device such as scaffolding, work
platforms, work box, safety mesh
work positioning system such as travel restraint system and
industrial rope access system
fall arrest system to limit the impact of the fall such as
catch platforms and safety nets
use of a ladder
administrative controls such as "no go" areas and
signs to warn people of fall hazards, and
all other reasonably practicable risk control
Where only administrative controls are used for fall hazards
over 2 metres the Model WHS Regulations impose an additional
obligation to make records. These records must specify what
administrative controls are implemented and the reasons why risk
control measures higher in the hierarchy cannot be used.
There are additional obligations imposed on PCBUs under the
Model WHS Regulations including the establishment of specific
emergency procedures to address fall hazards and ensuring the
control risk measures are suitable for the work and are maintained
in good working order.
1 SafeWork Australia – Notified
Fatalities Statistical Report July to December 2009 (May
2 SafeWork Australia – Key Work Health & Safety
Statistics Australia (2010) report
3 United Kingdom RIDDOR Statistics 2007
4 For example, please see the Occupational Health and Safety
Regulations 2007 (Vic), clause 3.3.3 and the Occupational Health
and Safety Regulation 2001 (NSW) clause 56(1)(iii)
5 Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007 (Vic),
clause 3.3.4 Control of risk
6 SafeWork Australia, Draft Code of Practice – How
to Prevent Falls at Workplaces, December 2010
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Long experience representing many of Australia's leading employers has taught us that in employment litigation the identity of an employee's representative is a major factor in how employee litigation runs.
Australian employees receive certain entitlements (such as annual leave and superannuation) where contractors do not.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).