Safe work at height starts on the ground

Although appropriate safety equipment is hugely important, NZ Safety Blackwoods’ Janet Grosse, category manager Site Safety and Medical says: “Relevant legislation and standards place the emphasis on firstly identifying and controlling hazards and risk; then ensuring appropriate training for workers”.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires that if there is a potential for a person at work to fall from any height, reasonable and practicable steps must be taken to prevent harm resulting.

“Legislation around industrial fall-arrest systems and devices – selection, use and maintenance, sets out recommendations for equipment like safety harnesses, horizontal life lines, fall-arrest devices and associated connectors and fittings, but makes it clear that equipment selection is just one small part of safe work at height.”

The standard states that if you are required to perform any tasks at height, you must be competently trained in the following areas:

• Requirements of the standards and legislation

• Identification of relative hazards

• Application of the hierarchy of control

• Rescue plans and procedures

• The use, fit, inspection and maintenance of fall protection equipment controls that are required for safe work

“Once legislation and standards have been read and understood, and hazards identified, effective controls need to be put in place to minimise risk, like following hierarchy of control,” says Grosse.

This includes eliminating the chance of a fall with safer design, alternative construction methods or by doing as much of the preparation work as possible on the ground

If elimination is not reasonably practicable, then risks need to be minimised by taking one or more of the following actions: substituting the hazard giving rise to the risk with something that gives rise to a lesser risk; isolating the hazard giving rise to the risk to prevent any person coming into contact with it; implementing engineering controls; implementing administrative controls; and/or providing suitable personal protective equipment.

When all other control combinations and options have been exhausted, and safety equipment is required to minimise the risk, the ‘A, B, C, D’ methodology of fall protection – outlining the fundamental elements of personal fall protection systems – can be referred to:

Anchorage (A): Anchorage provides a secure point of attachment for the fall arrest system, can be permanent or temporary, and vary to suit the type of structure being worked on.

Body Harness (B): Full body harnesses connect the worker to the fall arrest system and are specifically designed to protect the worker against serious injury in the event of a fall, while remaining comfortable to wear.

Connector (C): Connectors are devices that connect the harness to the anchorage system and can be single products or multiple devices working together.

Descent and Rescue (D): Descent and rescue systems enable the retrieval of an injured or incapacitated worker, facilitating rapid recovery of the worker without endangering other workers in the process.

“Although using height safety equipment in some situations is essential, it’s important to remember that the equipment alone is not a complete solution. Ensuring that all parties involved in working at height – from the site supervisor through to the end worker using PPE – are appropriately and regularly trained in height safety requirements, will help ensure work can be carried out with minimal risk or harm.”

NZ Safety Blackwoods offers a range of NZQA accredited practical training courses covering the planning and preparatory stages of height work, through to fall prevention and rescue training.

“We will work with you to ensure you meet your legislative obligations; have compliant and well-maintained equipment available; and most importantly, are well trained and competent when it comes to working at height.”

Worksafe Training is an independent Private Training Establishment (PTE) registered by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA). For more information contact or to contact NZ Safety Blackwoods call 0800 967 572.