WHS duties

Working at heights is a high risk activity, and a leading cause of death and serious injury in Australia. 

As a person conducting a business or undertaking, you have a duty to keep workers and workplaces safe from the risks of working at height. 

Everyone in the workplace has WHS duties under the model WHS Act. You have specific duties if you are: 

  • a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU

  • a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier and installer of plant, substances or structures 

  • an officer. 

The model WHS Regulations outline duties that apply to work at heights. This includes specific requirements and ways to manage the risks of falls. For further information, see the Safe Work Australia model Code of Practice: Managing the risk of falls at workplaces

As a PCBU, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

Managing risks  

You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise risks associated with working at height. You must also provide safe ways to enter and exit a workplace, including any areas with a risk of a fall. 

Where possible, you must ensure work is carried out on the ground or a solid construction.  

If that’s not possible, you must provide and maintain a safe system of work to provide adequate protection from falls. This includes providing: 

  • a fall prevention device – for example, barriers, scaffolding, elevating work platforms. 

  • if that’s not possible, a work positioning system – for example, an industrial rope access system. 

  • if that’s not possible, a fall arrest system – for example, a safety net or catch platform. 

You may need a combination of these controls to sufficiently minimise the risk. 

Think about fall prevention when planning to work at height. Once in place, a fall prevention device should not need adjustment. Have work procedures in place on how to install, use, and maintain the fall prevention device correctly.  

Work positioning systems are any plant or structure that position or support a person working at height. They don’t include temporary work platforms. Workers and supervisors must have the skills to use work positioning systems safely. 

Fall arrest systems can protect workers if other controls fail and they fall. Ensure workers are trained in their use and maintenance. 

You must minimise any remaining risks or risks introduced by using these controls, so far as is reasonably practicable. Further information on the risk management process is in the Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks. 

High Risk Work

Whilst Safe Work Australia state that Construction work with a risk of falling more than 2 metres is high risk construction work, the WAHA and its Members hold to the philosophy that ANY risk of a fall from one level to another is a risk that needs to be removed, reduced and controlled.

You must prepare a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) for high risk construction work. 

Safe Work Australia has produced further information and guidance, including the Code of Practice: Construction Work and Safe Work Method Statement for construction work – Information sheet

Safe Design

As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have a duty to consider safe design in a workplace. 

This page will assist you in understanding your duties under the model work health and safety laws, and direct you to supporting documentation. 

Safe design means the integration of control measures early in the design process to eliminate or, if this is not reasonable practicable, minimise risks to health and safety throughout the lifecycle of the product being designed. 

Buildings, structures, machinery and equipment, tools and vehicles all need safe design to protect the people who use them from getting sick or injured. 

Safe design starts at the concept phase, when a PCBU is deciding and identifying:   

  • design and intended purpose 

  • materials 

  • how someone will build, maintain, operate, demolish, dismantle or dispose of it 

  • legislation, codes of practice and standards it’ll need to comply with. 

This information sheet provides information on managing the risks associated with working on roofs including: 

  • working at height 

  • roof access 

  • fragile roofs 

  • electricity 

  • manual tasks 

  • falling objects 

  • exposure to heat and sunlight 

  • when roof work is classed as high risk construction work. 

Supporting Information