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.
The advice below has been compiled 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.
There is a risk of injury from a fall from height whenever any of the work below is carried out, and it is recommended that a risk assessment be conducted on the task / activity:
  • working on roofs
  • cleaning windows (excluding ground floor windows)
  • air-conditioning maintenance
  • erecting signs and displays (when working off the ground)
  • using step ladders / ladders
  • removing balls from roofs
  • climbing onto the tops of cupboards
  • fixing / adjusting blinds (when working off the ground)
  • changing lighting in a theatre or gymnasium
  • hanging art work, posters, banners in classrooms
  • dusting items located up high
  • accessing high awkward shelving
  • accessing vents.

Risk Controls

Below are some potential risk controls that can be implemented to reduce the risk of injury in relation to working at heights:
  • 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 classroom.

Fall Hazards if 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.

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 (e.g. 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.