SafeWork NSW – Rooftop Solar Installation

Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson, has announced (statement here) that SafeWork NSW inspectors are targeting rooftop solar panel installation, as part of our ongoing focus on reducing fatalities and serious injuries in the construction industry.

Most serious solar installation incidents reported to SafeWork include workers falling from ladders, off or through roofs – such as polycarbonate plastic roof sheeting – and electric shock.

Inspectors continue to see unacceptable safety levels in the industry, with some installers using inadequate or no fall protections, or not isolating electrical power.

Getting help

SafeWork has worked with industry to develop a Guide to Safe Solar Panel Installation and a Solar Installers Safety Checklist.

What you can do to work safely

There is no excuse to not have fall and electrical protections in place to protect workers.

When installing solar you must:

  • have a site-specific safe work method statement (SWMS) prepared for each job
  • use scaffold or temporary edge protection (such as roof rails)
  • harness-based systems must only be considered when scaffold or temporary edge protection cannot be used
  • install controls to prevent persons falling through a roof, such as physical covers over skylights, mesh or walking platforms over polycarbonate roof sheeting
  • a fall restraint system must include an anchor plan and enough anchors located in positions so that the worker can traverse the roof safely without reaching a falls hazard
  • provide safe access to the roof. If using a ladder, make sure it’s fixed at the top and base, and extends 1m past the access point
  • ensure the wiring of the solar panel installation is done by someone who holds an electrical contractor licence or an electrical qualified supervisor certificate, or under the supervision of someone who holds an electrical qualified supervisor certificate
  • switch off all sources of electricity to the property and tag them out
  • prove isolation by testing for dead and ensure workers test before they touch
  • ensure workers are trained and supervised, particularly young or inexperienced workers.

On the spot fines of up to $3,600 for businesses and $720 for individuals apply for putting workers lives at risk when working at heights.

For more information on how to work safely when installing rooftop solar panels, see the SafeWork NSW solar panel installation safety webpage, or call 13 10 50.

Source: Safework NSW

Those Working at Height need to be Properly Trained

Article by Richard Millar
for Sourceable

The Australian workforce has many trades and occupations that require workers to use their skills in their chosen occupation.

Such workers are expected to be trained in the skills needed to carry out the work required. In some cases, penalties apply where work is carried out by unqualified parties.

Yet despite the risks involved, there is no requirement to be trained for working at height. Often, tradespeople and others need to work at height – either above or below ground. Many times, they have little or no knowledge of the risks involved.

This is the case as there is no legislated requirement for height safety training in Australia. Instead, there is simply a recommendation in work practice documents for those who need to work at height to have had at least minimal training in recognition of potential hazards and how these can be managed.

What is Working at Height?

There are many definitions of working at height. One of these refers to any work where a person may have a requirement to have two feet off the ground after which they could potentially fall from any height and injure themselves. This could be from a ladder, a roof’s edge, through an opening, even a loading dock or truck – all of which can be considered as working at height.

In their Construction Industry Profile, Safe Work Australia indicates that the number of workers in the construction industry has grown by 33 percent over the last 11 years. Within the sector, 76 percent of workers are classed as employees and are covered by workers compensation. Whilst safety has improved over time, the number of injuries and fatalities remains unacceptably high.

Despite being aware of the risks faced by those working at height, regulators do not require a minimum standard of training. Instead, they merely recommend that those working at height are trained and rely on the PCBU to ensure that those working at height are provided with enough information and skill to maintain a measure of safety. We need to decide if this is adequate or whether we need a better way to deliver a safer outcome.

Can Lack of Height Safety Training Increase the Risk of Workplace Accidents?


Poorly trained employees working at height are a danger to themselves, their colleagues, and those who will be tasked with rescuing them. This is not necessarily because they themselves have acted in a negligent manner.

There are many ways training can improve performance and reduce injury risk. On the flip side, there are just as many ways a lack of training can spell disaster.

Following are example scenarios where poor or inadequate practices can lead to greater risk of accidents:

  • Employees are unqualified for their positions. While on the job training is invaluable, employers are often in a hurry to leave new employees to their own devices. This can be dangerous. Where workers have not been shown or do not understand the requirements of working at height and are unable to demonstrate the ability to work safely, the risk of accidents increases.
  • Employees are not provided with adequate training about safety procedures or protocols. Just as using machinery is dangerous if workers are not clear about how it should be used or correct usage procedures, so too working at height can present hazards where workers are unsure about procedures or protocols. By contrast, danger levels are lower where workers understand safety procedures and how to respond in an emergency. This should extend beyond safety checklists and protocols and should include training about the procedures and how to follow them.
  • New employees are not properly supervised. When a new worker is receiving training on the job, supervisors should remain with them and immediately stop to any action which jeopardises the safety and wellbeing of either the individual worker or those working around them.
  • Employees are not provided detailed information concerning the risks that are specific to their occupations when working at height. An example is where apprentices on construction sites are not told how to avoid electrocution; how to prevent falls from scaffolding,ladders or other structures; or the type of personal protective gear which is needed.

Can Work at Height training decrease the risk? 


It is reasonable to assume you are working at a height if you:

  • Work above ground level
  • Could fall off an edge, or through an opening
  • Could fall from ground level into an opening or crack on the ground

There are various sectors to which this applies. These include but are not limited to window cleaners, firefighters, pilots, rock-climbing instructors, construction workers and crane operators.

These types of work are naturally hazardous. Every precaution must be taken when working at heights. This includes training.

Training is critical. Falls can result in serious injury, loss of work and lifestyle and fatalities.

Accidents happen, and employees need training to avoid falls. Organisations are liable if they hire someone without training certification or where they have not provided the training on the job. As stated previously, employers often require persons to be trained or have some qualification when working at height. Nevertheless, the Safe Work Australia data shows that the number of workers who are killed or injured from falls remains unacceptably high. This highlights the need for workers to be educated through training.

In particular:

  • All employers should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses their employees possess. This begins with tracking their training and progress. When making workplaces safer, it helps if employers use their resources effectively by providing training to those who need it the most.
  • Employers need to keep accurate records of the training and qualifications their employees have received. Before solving any problem, you need to be able to evaluate where you stand. All employers should be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their workers. This begins with tracking their training and qualifications. In addition to making the workplace safer, it helps employers use their resources effectively by providing training to those who need it the most.
  • Employers need to determine whether an employee is suited to his or her tasks. Despite the best training, some workers may not be able to perform particular tasks and may be better utilised in areas where their skills, abilities and attributes are more suited. Ensuring that employees understand their duties and can demonstrate their proficiency will go a long way toward providing a safer work environment.

Safe Work Australia requires a PCBU, designers, manufacturers and installers of plant to manage work health and safety risks. “WHS Act section 19: Primary duty of care” states that these persons must eliminate risks in the workplace, or if not reasonably practicable minimise the risks so far as is reasonably practical.

Examples of where a PCBU will have a health and safety duty include when:

  • Engaging workers to carry out work
  • Directing or influencing workers in carrying out work
  • Where people may be put at risk from work carried in their business or undertaking.
  • Managing or control of a workplace or fixtures, fittings or plant at the workplace.

To provide an adequate level of assurance about the safety of the work to be carried out, a risk assessment involving careful examination of potential hazards enables you to evaluate whether you have taken sufficient precautions or need to do more.

Employers are required to assess workplace risk. So too, however, are any employees who have a part to play in the approval of the safety procedures. They cannot rely solely on the PCBU and must assume some responsibility for their own safety.

The purpose of the risk assessment is to minimise potential hazards and to facilitate creation of a plan to control any risks. It is important that workers understand how to carry out a risk assessment to ensure they understand any risks involved.

This further highlights the need for workers to have the training to provide the skills to work with PCBU in ensuring that potential hazards are recognised along with the procedures and equipment which are needed to help with carrying out work safely. How can anyone who is not trained understand the equipment, work practices and attachments that may be needed and provide knowledgeable input into managing the risks involved?

The working at heights risk assessment template is normally an assessment designed to assist workplaces in managing fall hazards in the workplace.

This includes activities where people are working:

  • off the ground (e.g., up ladders, on work platforms, or on roofs)
  • on the ground close to deep holes (e.g., excavations) edges or ledges (e.g., retaining walls)
  • openings through which people could fall (e.g., skylight or other openings)
  • in areas where objects may fall from higher levels and cause injury or dislodge a worker from their workspace.

Whilst having a template to work with is useful, it is still recommended that those who undertake risk assessments have training to enable them to identify any hazards which may be present and be able to put in place any necessary safeguards.

Training can provide expertise in height safety which can help to minimise the possibility of falls.

When preparing to work at height, some do’s and don’ts are listed here, but are limited to the greater range of knowledge required by persons working in areas of potential risk:

DO as much work as you can while you are on the ground.

DO make sure that the employees can safely move to and from the area where they are working at height.

DO ensure that the equipment that you’re using for the job is strong, stable and suitable enough to get the job done. Inspect and maintain them regularly.

DO be careful when you are working near to a fragile surface.

DO ensure that you are protected from falling objects.

DO make preparations for emergency evacuations and rescues.

Do make sure that the PPE is in good order and fit for use

Do make sure that the worker understands the risk

Do ensure that the worker is properly trained 


DON’T overload the ladders that they are working on, with equipment or materials.

DON’T try to reach too far when you’re on a ladder or stepladder.

DON’T use ladders or stepladders to do work that entail heavy or strenuous tasks. Only use them to do work that’s quick and light.

DON’T allow incompetent workers do any work at height.

DON’T lean or place the ladder on or fragile upper surfaces.

DON’T stay quiet when you feel someone is compromising their own safety or the safety of others


Do not use PPE that you cannot confirm its suitability or your ability to use it safely, another important reason to have had the training required to ensure that PPE is in serviceable condition and you know how to use it.

Despite all these approaches to injury prevention, ‘Working at Height’ activities have consistently been the second or third highest cause of fatality at all workplaces across Australia over the past 12 years**.

Working at Heights Association Australia continues to play a part in assisting in the reduction of these fatalities through the process of awareness, education, training and standards of work practices and installations for information and assistance in the area of height safety visit their web site

Who can perform Working at Heights Equipment Inspections?

Article by Deborah Chick

The topic of performing Equipment Inspections on working at heights PPE and equipment is one of the most widely discussed within industry, and yet it comes with a layer of uncertainty. 

Why? Well … there still seems to be confusion.

A lot of people vaguely remember a minor element of training when undertaking the a Work Safely At Heights qualification here in Australia. They may remember that they need to inspect their gear before use and might know that the ASNZ 1891.4 2009 standard requires that all personal use equipment and common use equipment to be inspected … but who is actually competent to perform those inspections? What quantifies that competence? 

By definition, a competent person is a person who, through a combination of trainingknowledge and experience, has acquired knowledge and skills enabling that person to correctly perform a specified task.

How important is it to regularly inspect your equipment? The simple answer is: it is very important.

Equipment can fail. 

Without training in inspection, and having inspection & maintenance procedures in place, items of equipment can have faults that remain undetected for pro-longed periods of time. This may result in an increased risk of injury or harm to technicians, plant and/or equipment.

Two of the biggest issues that companies and individuals face when it comes equipment are time and money, closely followed by the availability of a competent person to perform equipment inspections.

Training to perform equipment inspection may be attained via the manufacturer or through an accredited equipment inspection training provider. 

Be aware – some RTO’s here in Australia will advertise a PPE inspection course based off the MEM1500B – Perform Inspection unit of competency under the AVETMISS / ASQA education framework; however this specific unit of competency specifically states that it is “This unit is not intended to be applied to maintenance personnel carrying out their day-to-day activities”. This course is intended for inspection mid manufacturing. 

That’s not to say that training doesn’t cover some similar inspection methods, but it isn’t actually specific to working at heights equipment. The closest course we have within the ASQA framework is the PUAEQU001 – Prepare, maintain and test response equipment unit of competency, but even then – due care is needed when selecting your training provider to ensure that they are undertaking training with equipment relevant to the working at heights and confined spaces industry. 

Outside of attending a course, it is also possible for persons conducting or undertaking business to develop internal training programs. This is evidence of training and competency. 

But it often it falls to senior management and working at heights supervisors to ensure that they are doing the best that they can, in so far as is reasonably practicable. And sadly, there can be a lot of resistance to improvement, because of the time and cost of implementing changes.

Operators should be aware that their lives depend on the efficiency and durability of the equipment and proper inspection is their first line of defence against the hazards of faulty equipment.

So we would invite you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I undergone formal training on pre-use and thorough inspections?
  • What do I know I need to look for when inspecting textile materials vs metal?
  • What information do I need to record and when?
  • When was the last time I performed a thorough inspection of PPE and Equipment?

If you were unable to confidently answer any of those questions – it is an exciting opportunity to up-skill!

And there are other points to consider on the day to day management of equipment; The sign off each day by all workers through the SMWM’s or related safety documentation should include inspection of all PPE, whether owned by the company, individual or provided by the facility where the work is being undertaken. The definition of the competent person needs to be clearly defined by the company. If in doubt, ask – after all it is your life at risk.

From some employing companies, there can be push back to make employees and contractors undertake inspection of their own equipment, however – if there is an incident they may be involved in subsequent litigation. You really do need to maintain a record of all equipment on site and when it was inspected, whether you own it or not. This means you need a detailed record, or a safety manual in place to ensure that inspections are scheduled and dates are recorded; and who the competent person was who performed the inspection. These schedules of inspection may need to be flexible depending on the environment the equipment is used in as it may be subjected to more aggressive wear and tear than ‘normal’.

This creates an opportunity for businesses to develop and refine exisiting systems to ensure they have something in place to offer guidance for inspection, be it a manufacturer’s safe use and inspection instruction, or Appendix C and D from AS/NZ 1891.4 standard, or even from other associations such as Annex H from IRATA International. The resources are there for companies to integrate into their workplace.

Ultimately all working at heights equipment and PPE should be inspected prior to first use; this includes visual and tactile inspection, as well as a function check. This is the very first inspection new equipment undergoes, and therefore it should be recorded. It is important to include the unique identifier, date of first use, manufacturer, and other relevant information as listed in AS/NZS 1891.4 2009.

From this very first inspection and start of record keeping – we move on to our on-going equipment inspections.

It is vital to ensure equipment is safe to use prior to undertaking works – this means that there needs to be a visual and tactile inspection, as well as a function check performed before you use any piece of equipment. This inspection is often referred to as the “Pre-Use Inspection”.

Thorough inspections, should be carried out every 6 months in accordance with ASNZS 1891.4 2009, or as specified by the manufacturer. 

Equipment and PPE needs to be retired in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions; typically this is 10 years from date of manufacture for textile items (webbing, harnesses, fall arrest lanyard etc). If the tag on the equipment is illegible, and you have no record of date of manufacture, then the item needs to be retired / removed and destroyed to prevent it from being used, as you no longer have evidence of date of manufacture. 

Metal items typically do not need to be retired from service, unless the item in question has failed inspection criteria. In many cases they may also be able to be retired to a service agent for repair prior to being returned to service. Manufacturer’s guidance / technical notices provide additional information for inspection.

Inspections shall be by sight and touch and shall include the opening of any equipment where access for daily inspection is provided to ensure that the internal components are in good condition.

Where equipment is considered in any way doubtful by the competent person, it should be tagged out of service. A label should be attached to the equipment indicating the defect and referred to a height safety equipment inspector for further action.

At WAHA we strongly encourage the ongoing development of skills and knowledge – even if you have undertaken a training course in the past, how long ago was it? If it’s more than three years ago it might be time to revisit your training! Technically a nationally recognised competency issued from a reputable RTO does not expire, however the WAHA recommends refresher training for operators every 2 years to maintain currency and to account for manufacturer changes in product designs and materials.

If you would like to learn more, we have details of the ASNZ 1891.4 2009 Australian Standard and additional information about Inspection and Maintenance of Equipment on our website:

Deb is the Secretary of WAHA and CEO of Eve Consulting. She has over a decade of business management experience in the industrial rope access and working at heights sector and is a former member of the IRATA International Health and Safety Committee. She holds multiple qualifications in the field including IOSH Rope Access Manager, QMS Lead Auditor and KONG PPE Inspector. 

WorkSafe QLD – Codes of practice updated

Nearly all national safe work codes of practice have been reviewed and updated by the Queensland Government and other states and territories, to come into effect 1 March 2021.

This is in line with a nationwide agreement in 2015 that all Australian work health and safety regulators will review the codes of practice every five years.

In consultation with industry stakeholders, the 21 Queensland codes of practice that are based on national codes of practice have been updated and approved for this state. This process ensures the new codes reflect Queensland specific legislation and laws, so that workers, businesses and the economy will all benefit.

The new codes commence on 1 March.

This review was limited to technical accuracy, usability and readability—content was not reviewed at this stage. Some matters in the codes therefore do not represent a contemporary understanding of the work environment and these will be addressed with Safe Work Australia and industry stakeholders in the near future.

The following Queensland codes of practice have been approved and will take effect on 1 March 2021:

Source: WorkSafe QLD