Whether you are an employer, employee, contractor, building owner, facility manager, designer, architect, height safety systems installer or manufacturer – we all have a Duty of Care to ensure safe work practices are adhered to when high risk work is being conducted working at height.

Understanding your responsibilities is no easy task, however, the hierarchy of Acts, Regulations, Codes of Practice and Australian Standards detail individual roles in maintaining a safe workplace.





Standards Australia publications:

  • AS/NZS 5532 – Manufacturing requirements for single-point anchor devices used for harness-based work at height, prescribes the design and testing requirements for anchor points used for fall protection.
  • AS/NZS1891.2 Industrial Fall Arrest Systems and Devices (Horizontal Lifeline and Rail Systems) provides guidelines on the safe design and manufacturing guidelines for horizontal systems
  • AS/NZS 1891.3 Industrial Fall Arrest Systems and Devices provides guidelines on the safe design and manufacturing guidelines for vertical systems.
  • AS/NZS 4488 (1997) Industrial Rope Access Systems  details twin rope industrial abseiling systems and will be replaced by ISO 22846 (2003) (See WAHA.ORG.AU)

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It is the law to provide and maintain a safe environment at any workplace. The Regulations state that the primary duty of care lies with the PCBU (Person Conducting Business Undertaking). The main responsibility falls to the  person with management control of a workplace, but also includes building designers, safety equipment manufacturers, importers, suppliers, and contractors.

Claiming ignorance of your duties under the regulations won’t cut it in court. Being negligent of your height safety duties, a serious injury on site, or worse a height safety fatality can lead to large fines and imprisonment. The highest penalty under the WHS Act is $600,000 and/or 5 years imprisonment for individuals and $3,000,000 for a body corporate (Part 2, Division 5, Offences and Penalties. National WHS Act 2011).


In addition, currently Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Victoria have introduced workplace manslaughter offences. In Victoria, for example, these offences can be applied to a person (and their officers) who hold duties under Part 3 of the OHS Act (Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004).

Penalties include a maximum 20 years imprisonment for individuals with a maximum fine of $16.5 million for companies


Worksafe Victoria defines negligent conduct as, when a person:

  • does not adequately manage, control or supervise its employees
  • does not take reasonable action to fix a dangerous situation, in circumstances where failing to do so causes a high risk of death, serious injury or serious illness

Negligent conduct can include a failure to act.

Working at heights is classified as high risk work, and not providing effective height safety equipment, systems and procedures to ensure safe access and fall protection for works to be carried out on top of your buildings could be seen as negligent. This includes not only your direct employees, but also sub contractors and their workers.

In the case of roof mounted equipment, such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling), and facade maintenance such as window cleaning, lighting, signage, roof plumbing, there is a high risk of falls.

Designers and architects have a duty of care to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant, substance or structure is designed to be without risks to the health and safety of persons. This includes the provision of safe methods and equipment for the maintenance of plant & machinery.

Where design considerations have not reduced the risk, both the building owner and the employer of the sub contractors have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for those persons conducting work in high risk areas.



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