Safety on Site – Work on the Ground or a Solid Structure

Working on a solid structure or on the ground can help to improve safety on a construction project significantly.

Safe Work Australia provides some detailed guidance for these working methods, as described below.

Working On The Ground

If you can completely eliminate the need to work at a height, then this is the ideal scenario and will greatly reduce the risk of injury from slips or falls.

You can reduce the risk through working on the ground in a number of ways, such as:

  • Doing roofing prefab work while on the ground
  • Prefabricated frames horizontally and moving them once they are done
  • Using machines such as a tarp spreader to assist with covering truck loads
  • Using ground-level inlets and outlets to control silos and tanks whenever possible
  • Reducing the height of cupboards or shelves to make access as easy as possible
  • Using tools that have an extendable handle, as long as said tools will not cause overuse injuries or other occupational issues
  • Choosing windows that will pivot, to allow for easy cleaning while inside the building
  • Lowering light fittings to make them safe to repair

Working While on a Solid Structure

Working while on a solid platform is another way of reducing the risk of a fall. In this instance, solid constructions are defined as:

  • Areas that are capable of supporting the workers and any other load that may be necessary to put on it, such as construction materials.
  • Solid structures should have a barrier around the perimeter, and a safe way of getting onto and off the platform, as well as navigating it.
  • Any holes or openings should be covered or protected.

Structural Strength

The structural strength of the barrier will depend on the type of work that is expected to be done on it.

If you are not sure whether a structure is going to be up to the task then it is a good idea to have a structural engineer determine the safe loading capacity of the structure before use.


Barriers are a requirement, because of the risk of a person falling off the edge of a platform or construction.

  • The barrier should go around the perimeter of the structure, as well as any openings in the floor, and the edges of stairwells or shafts. This will help to reduce the falling risk even more.
  • Barriers are only useful if they are strong enough to provide protection.

A barrier should be designed with the intent of being able to withstand the force of a person falling onto it.

Guard rails should have a mid-rail and a toe board or an infill panel, while fences should have wire mesh with supports, and be reinforced at the top.

If you need to allow access for equipment such as hoists, then they should be protected properly with chains or gates.

Additional Protection for Openings or Holes

Any hole, opening or penetration which leaves a gap big enough for a person to fall through should be protected with a cover that is strong enough to stop someone falling through it, or should be fenced off with barriers.

Gradient and Flooring

The surface of the construction should be non-slip, clean and free from potential tripping hazards, and should not have a gradient in excess of one in eight, or seven degrees.

Where the surface is cleated for extra grip, the gradient can be up to 20 degrees.

Where a plate floor is used:

  • Ensure that the flooring panels are fixed securely, and assembled in accordance with the maker’s specifications
  • Ensure that they are fitted to the structure before it is permanently positioned, if possible
  • Ensure that each panel is securely fixed before the next is put in place and close any gaps for extra security.

Supporting Entry and Exit

The structure should provide a safe means of access for people to move around in the work area, and to get in and out, or up onto the platform.

The access can be offered by means of a permanently installed platform or ramp, a fixed stairway, or fixed (not portable) ladders.

There are several safety concerns to take into account, including:

  • The exposure of access systems to undesirable weather
  • Whether there is sufficient lighting for safe work
  • How obstructions are handled to allow people to move around easily

Do not rely on a portable ladder to access a construction area unless there are no other access methods that would be reasonably possible for the venue in question.

Fixed access options are almost always a much better option and will be far safer.

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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