Work at height – are all your workers competently trained?


Are you ensuring that everyone who works for you is fully competent to work at heights?

Updated: 13.12.2021

Do they know what procedures and practices are required when using ladders and fall protection equipment?

Young workers and apprentices

Of particular concern are young, inexperienced workers. As an employer, you are entrusted to supervise and instruct your apprentices at all times. This fact was brought home in a court finding where an WA company was fined $320,000 after one of its 17 year old apprentices was fatally injured as a result of a 12 metre fall at a worksite in 2017.

The company were installing a steel and glass atrium roof between the second and third floors at the refurbishment of a retail store.

Plywood boards were placed on the steel framework but there were several unprotected voids. The system of fall prevention was a sling method which used a lanyard to attach to the steel beams. However, when moving from one beam to another the worker had to detach his lanyard and then re-attach to the next beam during which time there was no fall protection.

Additionally, no risk assessment or SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) was completed prior to work commencing.

Training is vital

Training must also be ongoing and constant. It is imperative that new, inexperienced employees are inducted at the commencement of work and that they are continually instructed in safe work practices. Apprentices should never be left unsupervised on site.

What can you do?

As a young worker it is important to know that you do have rights and have an expectation to feel safe in your workplace. Work Safe Victoria has a section on their website dedicated to young workers. Take the time to read through this page where you will also find valuable links to the many other resources available.

As a supervisor there is also information on the Work Safe Victoria website which will give insight. Workcover Qld offer a downloadable young workers' toolkit that may prove helpful in educating supervisors and managers when dealing with young workers.

Building Owners or Managers can help

But this vigilance towards worker training and supervision does not stop with the employer. If you are a Building Owner or Manager you have the same duty of care to ensure that ALL workers who are conducting work at heights on your buildings are able to perform the work safely and are fully competent to do so. You need to be confident that any sub contractors, or the people who carry out the work for you, are maintaining the same strong standards of worker health and safety that you are bringing to the workplace.

Take notice and be aware of how the work is being carried out. If you have concerns, ask the contractor and confirm that he and his workers are properly trained and that any young workers under his care are always being supervised. Pay attention to what practices are being performed and address any potential risks before they become real threats. Always communicate any issues that you see. This will help towards creating a safer work environment.

That young boy or girl who's working their first job with you or for you could be your daughter or son, brother or sister, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson. Wouldn't you like to know someone is looking out for them?

Do you need some help to know if your working at heights procedures are correct?

Our Working At Heights Manual gives valuable information.

You can also contact one of our team on 1300 301 755 or [email protected] to discuss your requirements.