fall hazards

How To Identify Fall Hazards While On The Job

You need to identify all of the tasks and locations where a fall may cause an injury in the workplace.

That includes access to areas where work is conducted. The following are tasks that need extra attention when being carried out:

  • Any plant or structure thatis being cleaned, repaired, inspected, dismantled, demolished, installed or constructed
  • Fragile surfaces (such as skylights, fibreglass sheeting roofs, rusty metal roofs, and cement sheeting roofs)
  • Surfaces that are potentially unstable (for example, areas where the ground can potentially collapse)
  • Use of equipment while working at an elevated level (for example, when portable ladders or scaffolding is used)
  • A slippery or sloping surface where it is hard for people to keep their balance (on glazed tiles, for example)
  • Close to an open edge that is unprotected (for example, close to a shaft, hole, incomplete stairwell)
  • A pit where a worker may fall (for example, service pits, lift shafts, or trenches).

Inspect The Work Area

Walk around the work area and speak to your workers to determine where work is being done that may result in falls.

In this process, it can be useful to have a checklist. Key things that you should look for include:


  • the brittleness, fragility, or stability
  • the potential for slipping, for example, when surfaces are glazed, polished, or wet
  • safe movement for workers where there is a change in surface
  • the capability or strength for supporting loads
  • the work surface slope, for example, when it exceeds 7 degrees
  • Levels – where there is a change in levels and workers might be exposed to fall from level to another one
  • Structures – the ability of permanent or temporary structures
  • The ground – the stability and evenness of the ground for safely supporting a work platform or scaffolding
  • Working area – is it cluttered or crowded
  • Entry and exit from a working area
  • Edges – protection for open edges of roofs, walls, walkways, working platforms, or floor excavations, openings or holes – which will need guarding
  • Handgrip – areas where handgrips may be missing

In certain situations, it might be necessary to get advice from technical specialists, like structural engineers, in order to check on the load-bearing capacity or stability of a structure.

Review All Information That Is Available, Including Incident Reports

Make sure you check your records of ‘near miss’ incidents and previous injuries that relate to falls.

Advice and information on fall risks and hazards that relate to specific work activities and industries are also available from safety consultants, technical specialists, unions, industry associations, and regulators.

How To Properly Assess The Risk

When a risk assessment is done it can help you determine the following:

  • What may occur if a fall does happen and how likely it will take place
  • How serious a specific risk is
  • Whether or not the control measures in place are effective
  • What action should be taken to best control the risk
  • How urgent it is to take action

If you know what the risk is and the best way to control it already, then it is not necessary to have a risk assessment done.

You need to consider the following matters when assessing the risks that arise from each type of fall hazard:

  • The layout and design of any work areas that are elevated, including the distance from any potential alls
  • The movement and number of all of the individuals in the work area
  • The proximity of workers to areas that are unsafe where loads are placed onto work areas that are elevated (loading docks, for example) and in areas where work is conducted above individuals and there is the potential risk of falling objects
  • How adequate the maintenance and inspection of the equipment and plan is (scaffolding, for example)
  • Adequacy of the lighting to clearly see
  • Weather conditions – unstable or slippery conditions can be caused by extreme cold or heat, or the presence of wind or rain
  • Suitability of clothing and footwear for the specific conditions
  • Condition and suitability of ladders, including how and where they are being used
  • The adequacy of the training and current knowledge for performing the task safely (for example, inexperienced, new, or young workers might not be familiar with a specific task)
  • The adequacy of the procedures for all possible emergency situations

Generic Risk Assessment

If there several different workplaces or work areas that you are responsible for and they have the same fall hazards then you can conduct a generic or single risk assessment.

However, a risk assessment should be conducted on individual fall hazards if there is a chance that an individual might be exposed to different, additional, or greater risks.

How To Effectively Control The Risk

There are several different ways that risks of falls can be control. There are some control measures that are more effective compared to others.

Control measures may be ranked from the lowest level of reliability and protection to the highest. The ranking is referred to as the hierarchy of control.

Duty holders are required by the WHS regulations to work through the hierarchy and select the control that minimises or eliminates the risk the most effectively in those circumstances.

It might involve one control measure or several different controls combined.

To manage the risk of fall, the following control measures are required by the WHS Regulations to be implemented, wherever it is reasonably practicable.

  1. Can the need for working at heights be avoided in order to eliminate risks of falls?
  • Perform any work on the ground that involves the risk of falls.
  1. Can working on a solid construction prevent falls?
  • A structure or building used as an existing workplace and that includes safe egress and access where there is no risk of falls from level to another one, for example, stairs that are constructed properly with fixed handrails, or flat roof with permanently installed guard rails or a parapet around the edges.

Usually, it isn’t necessary implementing additional control measures for managing the risk of falls in work areas in buildings that comply with the National Construction Code of Australia already, for example, in relation to balconies, mezzanines, and stairs.

  1. Can the risk of falls be minimised by maintaining and providing a safe work system, including:
  • Providing fall prevention devices (installing guard rails, for example), if it is practical to do so, or
  • Providing some form of work positioning system (an industrial rope access system, for example) if providing a fall-arrest system or fall prevention device is not reasonably practicable.

In some cases, it might be necessary to have a combination of various control measures, for example, using a safety harness when working on an elevated platform.

Control measures are necessary whenever there is a risk of injury no matter what the fall height is.

For low falls, the risk should be assessed and reasonably practicable measures should be provided that reflect this risk.

For example, there might be a risk to workers who stand on a 1.7-metre high narrow platform next to the production line where they must work with their backs to an open edge or where they are at risk of falling on an uneven surface that has protrusions or sharp edges.

In these situations, installing a guard rail along the platform’s edge might be reasonably practicable.  

At times it might not be reasonably practicable to supply guard rails, such as on vehicle inspection pits or railway platforms.

If so, then other safe work systems should be implemented that provide adequate protection, such as brightly painted lines for designating edges.

Work of higher frequency and long duration usually will require control measures that are higher up in the hierarchy in order to provide an adequate amount of protection.

For instance, using mobile scaffolding instead of ladders.

It is also important to ensure that you choose control measures that don’t create new hazards such as electrical risks from coming into contact with power lines overhead or entanglement or crushing from plants from an elevated work platform.

How To Implement And Maintain Control Measures

You need to ensure that what control measures are implemented remain effective.

That includes checking to ensure that the control measures fit the intended purpose; are well-suited for the duration and nature of the work, and are installed and used properly.

To enable your selected control measures to work effectively, you should create work procedures on how to properly install, maintain, and use the control measure.

These procedures should include a planned inspection and maintenance program for the control measures.

This inspection regimen should include details for:

  • the equipment that is to be inspected (including uniquely identifying it)
  • the type and frequency of inspection (detailed inspections, pre-use checks)
  • Action that will be taken to identify defective equipment
  • means to record the inspections
  • training users
  • the monitoring system of the inspection regimen for verifying that the inspected are conducted correctly.

Consult with the equipment supplier and/or manufacturer for any product-specific requirements.

If there are any signs of weakness or wear that are discovered during the inspection process, the means of attachment or components will need to be withdrawn from use until they have been replaced with components that function properly.

You need to provide instruction, information, and training to workers, including rescue and emergency procedures. You also should cover:

  • Types of control measures to be used for preventing falls
  • Procedures to report fall incidents and hazards
  • The proper selecting, fitting, use, maintenance, inspection, storage, and care of restraint and fall-arrest equipment
  • Using the equipment and tools used in the workplace properly (for example, instead of carrying tools, use a tool belt)
  • Control measures for other possible hazards (electrical hazards, for example)

You must provide supervision by making sure that workers who are exposed to fall risks are supervised adequately by a competent individual, especially if they are not familiar with the working environment or are undergoing training. Check to see that:

  • Only workers who received the proper instruction and training in relation to the work system are authorised to perform the work
  • The right fall control measures are used by workers properly

How To Effectively Review Control Measures

Control measures that are implemented in order to prevent falls from occurring need to be reviewed, and revised if necessary, to ensure they work the way they were intended to and to maintain a work environment that does not pose risks to safety and health.

An individual conducting an undertaking or business must review and revise any fall control measures as necessary:

  • Whenever the risk is not controlled by the control measure in a reasonably practical way
  • Prior to changes in the workplace that are likely to give rise to different or new safety and health risks that cannot be effectively controlled by the current control measure
  • Whenever a new risk or hazard is identified
  • If results from a consultation indicate that it is necessary for a review to be conducted
  • If a review is requested by a safety and health representative.

The same methods need to be used to review the control measures that were used during the initial hazard identification phase.

Consult with your workers as well as their safety and health representations and take the following into consideration:

  • Are the control measures effectively working when it comes to their operation and design?
  • Have all fall hazards been identified?
  • Are the control measures being used by workers in accordance with the training and instructions they have been provided with?

If you are looking for knowledgeable and experienced scaffolders, who have leading-hands that work together with you and offer expert advice, please contact us at Skelscaff today on 1300 266 607 or email us at

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