Prevention of Falls
Schools are legislated to prevent incidents of falls of more than 2 metres and to prevent or reduce injury from such falls.
Yes – under the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic).
All workplaces including schools must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic). The primary objective of the regulations is to prevent incidents at workplaces involving falls of more than 2 metres and to prevent or reduce injury resulting from those falls.
The regulations define a “fall hazard” as the potential for a person to fall involuntarily more than 2 metres.
To comply with the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (Vic), your school must undertake the following actions:
- Consult with staff elected occupational health and safety representative and other employees.
- Identify all tasks where there is a risk of people falling more than 2 metres including travelling to and from the task.
- For each task identified, complete a risk assessment:
- Assess the risk of an injury occurring because of exposure to fall hazards
- Eliminate the risk (eg work on the ground or a solid construction)
- If elimination is not practicable, reduce the risk so far as is practicable using the following hierarchy:
- Work on the ground
- Work on a solid construction
- Use a passive fall prevention device (eg scaffold, cherry picker, scissor lift, safety mesh, guard railing)
- Use a work positioning system (eg travel restraint system)
- Use a fall injury prevention system (eg catch platform or safety harness)
- Use a ladder
- Use administrative controls
- Provide information, instruction and training to employees.
- Document the above steps.
The Regulations state that the employer must ensure that any ladder used is:
- Appropriate for the task
- Appropriate for the duration of the task
- Set up in the correct manner.
Portable Ladders – Selection, safe use and care
In order to ensure that ladders are used correctly, ladders must be maintained and only authorised ladder users should undertake a task where they could fall more than 2 metres.
Duties of Employees
An employee who has been provided with information, instruction and training must:
- carry out tasks; and
- use risk control measures provided in accordance with that information, instruction and training.
The following tasks are exempt from the Prevention of Falls Regulations however it should be noted that the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) imposes a duty on employers to “provide and maintain a safe workplace”:
- Tasks that could result in a fall of less than 2 metres
- Performance of stunt work
- Performance of acrobatics
- Theatrical performances (accessing lighting is NOT exempt)
- Sporting or athletic activities
- Riding of bicycles, motorbikes and all-terrain vehicles
- Horse riding
- Rock climbing, abseiling or other similar activities
- Students using playground equipment
- Tasks undertaken on a structure that complies with AS1657 Fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders or the Building Code of Australia being used for the purpose for which they were intended.
- Activities of an emergency services employee in certain circumstances (eg during rescue).
The following activities could lead to a fall of greater than 2 metres at your school:
- Retrieving balls from roofs
- Cleaning gutters
- Servicing air conditioning units on roofs*
- Plumbing/electrical work/installing or accessing antennae or satellite dishes on roofs*
- Building or demolition works*
- Changing outdoor display signs where the person is higher than 2 metres
- Accessing mezzanine level storage areas that do not have edge protection
- Working within 2 metres of an embankment/retaining wall or hole (of sufficient dimensions to allow a person to fall in) that has no edge protection*
- Working near an acrylic dome skylight or any skylight installed prior to June 1996 that is not protected with mesh
- Working near translucent roofing material not protected with mesh
- Putting up displays and changing clocks where there is a risk of falling more than 2 metres.
- Accessing lights for stage productions (note only performance is exempt)
- Changing lights or checking/installing equipment at ceiling level in a gymnasium or hall*
- Accessing the top of a bus or other vehicle if a person could fall more than 2 metres
- Using an elevated work platform.*
* These tasks are likely to be done by contractors
You could be penalised under breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic).