Working at Heights

Falls from any height can result in many serious injuries in schools. School principals have a duty of care to ensure their school is safe, by controlling the risk of falls from any height. If there is a risk of a fall of more than 2 metres, specific duties apply.

This guideline has been developed to ensure that tasks and areas where falls from a height may occur are identified, assessed and controlled to ensure that the school environment can be made as safe as possible.
 

Who is at Risk of Falls?

  • Teachers
  • Contractors
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Students
  • Cleaners
  • Parents assisting at working bees
  • Volunteers
  • Visitors.
     

Examples of Fall Hazards

  • Working on roofs
  • Cleaning windows
  • Air-conditioning maintenance
  • Erecting signs and displays
  • Using step ladders/ladders
  • Removing balls from roofs
  • Climbing onto the tops of cupboards
  • Fixing/adjusting blinds
  • Changing lighting in a theatre or gymnasium
  • Using ladders/step ladders
  • Hanging art work, posters, banners in classrooms
  • Dusting
  • Accessing high awkward shelving
  • Accessing vents.
     

Strategies to Reduce the Risks of Falls

  • Training and staff awareness of ladder use and ladder safety
  • Controlling roof access or finding alternative methods to access the roof area
  • Managing Contractors
  • Using a “pulley” system to hang art work in classrooms
     

Tasks Which Involve a Fall Hazard of Greater than 2 Metres

Victorian law now requires every task which involves a fall hazard of more than 2 metres to be assessed, to see whether it can be done safely from the ground. For example, equipment mounted on a roof can often be relocated to ground level.

If those options are not practicable, there are a number of other risk control measures that could provide the protection needed. They include:

  • Using an industrial rope access system, to enable the worker to be supported by ropes which are attached to a strong anchor point
  • Setting up a passive fall prevention device – such as a scaffold
  • Using a fall injury prevention system, such as an industrial safety net or safety harness system.
     

Ladders

Falls can occur when working from ladders. Where the use of a ladder is the only practicable way to do a task ladders should only be used when it has been assessed that there is no safer method of doing the work (e.g. a pulley systems for hanging artwork, using aids to access high items). 

Ladders should only be used for light work of short duration. The use of ladders should be subject to safe work procedures and training. Ladders should always be carefully checked before use, and should never be used where the ground is sloping or soft.

Balls on Roofs

Retrieving balls from roofs could lead to a fall of greater than 2 metres at school. Staff members should not be working at heights of 2 metres or above unless they are trained to do so (eg. maintenance personnel that are required to clean gutters as per their job description). As such, balls on roofs should be left in place until specifically trained personnel are available to retrieve them.

Playground Safety

Falls from play equipment are the leading cause of injury in playgrounds (accounting for at least 75% of injuries).  Arm fractures and head injuries are the most common and significant injuries. When selecting playground equipment, consideration should be given to the maximum fall height of the equipment.