Why You Should Incorporate A Height Safety System Sooner Rather Than Later

The Game Has Changed in Height Safety

New expectations for safe working at heights are being enforced by the courts.

We are all under the microscope. Architects, Builders, Designers and Building Owners/Managers are now being held equally responsible when an adverse incident occurs.

A recent court ruling found:

"Negligent in respect of its inspection and approval of products, systems and designs."

What does this mean? Put simply, it demonstrates that the law has moved on and is now seeking out all parties to appropriate blame when it comes to Workplace Manslaughter Laws.

The thought process in the past was that the responsibility of the design of height safety systems belonged to someone else. The new reality is that if things go wrong and there is a fatality as a result of a fall from height then everybody from Architect to Builder, Building Owner/Manager to Contractor can all be found accountable. There is no passing the buck and no way of getting away from the consequences.


One Simple Clause Does Not Save You

"Provide compliant roof safety system to Australian Standards."

Having been designing height safety systems for many years and working alongside Architects, Builders, Designers and Building Owners/Managers across all sectors the team at SAYFA can recall many instances where plans have been drawn up and Designers/Builders wrongly believe the above statement is all that is required to cover them legally.

Our article "Don't assume you're covered" discusses the real responsibilities that are now placed on Designers and Builders.

If you are involved in the design of a building you must fulfill your Duty of Care in providing a safe means of access and protection to maintenance areas.

In legal proceedings the question that will be asked is: "Did the Architect, Builder, Designer appropriately address all health and safety risks in the design of the building?" This includes height safety, as falls from height are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries and fatalities.

Australian work health and safety legislation requires that all design parties consult, cooperate and coordinate their activities, so far as it is reasonably practicable, and they are not to transfer or delegate responsibilities to others, or assume that someone else is taking care of work health and safety requirements. 

Within the scope of Workplace Manslaughter Laws PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) can also be held liable should a fatality occur on one of their properties.

As a PCBU, Building Owner/Manager it is your responsibility to ensure "as far as is reasonably practicable" the health and safety of any workers (this includes Contractors and Sub Contractors) carrying out activities on your premises.

In addition, SAYFA has recently been approached by building surveying firms who are asking for specialist training in height safety systems. This an interesting and welcome development in the industry as it shows height safety will soon become an added part of their inspection criteria.


What are the benefits for you in designing height safety and rope access systems in the early stages of development?

Design and implementation of roof access and height safety systems and the consequence of negligence must not be an afterthought. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you taking roof safety and the provision for facade maintenance seriously, as would be the case for any other trade works ie. electrical, plumbing, structural
  • What could the cost be for a poor design, or even no design?
  • What on-site issues could result should there be a major incident as a result of a fall from height?


SAYFA has in many instances seen Architects and Builders regret not consulting a Design Consultant in the early stages. When a Design Consultant has been involved they can manage and work through all the unforeseen pains to resolve them in the most efficient way possible.

A Design Consultant will provide support through any application of Legislation and Acts involved in fall protection, height safety and rope access, as well as supply all documents that are required. This provides Architects, Builders, Designers and Building Owners/Managers with the tools to make the right decisions.

As roof access and height safety systems are often the forgotten part of building design they are frequently only considered at the final stage of the design, until work has already been commenced or worse still, once the building has been completed. This lack of planning is something that SAYFA is endeavouring to change within the building industry.

Failing to correctly design a height safety system early can cause a significant  knock-on effect. Substructures may not be sufficient to support the equipment, requiring new slabs to be poured. In a recent city development, the cost to the builder to add systems to his partially constructed project saw his budget blow out by over a million dollars for rectification works.

Needless to say, if this design had been considered in the early stages the savings in costs and time delays could have been substantial.


Where to from here?

SAYFA's goal is to bridge the gap in the industry to give Architects, Builders, Designers and Building Owners/Managers peace of mind that they have achieved all their expect responsibilities regarding safe working at heights and fulfilled their duty of care.

Enlisting a Design Consultant takes the pressure off the Designer and Builder. Just as we don't know how to design or construct a building, we don't expect you to understand the intricacies and legislation involved in the design and installation of height safety systems.

It is not enough to install a couple of anchor points.

A compliant height safety system design needs to consider many factors such as frequency of access, operator capability, ease of use and most importantly must be fit for purpose.


What should your Design Consultant provide you with?

At a bare minimum at the end of their consultancy, you should receive:

  • A complete access and maintenance risk assessment
  • Preliminary concept and system layout
  • All supporting documentation
  • Budgetary pricing for tender cost calculation
  • On-going support, protection and peace of mind


We are here to help

Our Design Consultancy Service will provide all of the above and more. We can also assist you with the installation of the specified systems once the project gets underway with SAYFA's reputable approved installers who are located Australia wide.