Platforms, Guardrails, Handrails & Permanent Ladders
In accordance with the OH&S regulations, there should be a safe and compliant method of access to any piece of equipment or plant or area that requires regular access / maintenance or attendance. The regularity is not defined by a number, it may be only once a year, or once a month, but if access is required on a regular basis, access to it should be safe and compliant.
The main standard that is used to provide guidance to the safe installation and use of permanent access systems is AS1657.
Getting to a place of height:
Stairs and ladders are the most common form of access to a place of height and compliant systems mitigate the risk of a fall significantly.
Choosing the correct system is a decision which should take into account the frequency of use, the height of the system and the equipment to be used at the place of height. Knowing that it is not safe to climb a ladder whilst holding a tool bag etc, may dictate it may be safer to install a stair system, however a small area on a workshop floor at the base of a mezzanine may dictate a ladder rather than a stair is best.
Working safely at a place of height:
Once on a roof or at a place of height, the decision as to which methodology to use to provide a safe working environment is recommended using the hierarchy of control.
If frequent access onto a roof by trades people in order to conduct maintenance is required, it is best to consider using passive protection, such as guardrail. Workers can perform their task with little regard for falling because they are protected without them having to wear harnesses or be connected back to anchor points.
Other benefits of these systems are as follows:
- No special equipment (such as harnesses) are required to be worn;
- They require no special operator training;
- They are faster and easier to access than other forms of access;
- There is no annual requirement to recertify systems.
On the downside:
- They don’t work for every situation;
- They are often more expensive than alternative solutions such as a series of anchor points or vertical/horizontal systems;
- The frequency of use may not require such a system – ie fails the practicable test;
- With no annual certification checks/requirements, deteriorating systems may not become apparent to users over time.
These systems are often much more expensive than alternative solutions where infrequent access to work locations are required, however ultimately it is site-dependent and what is ‘reasonably practicable’ will determine whether this solution is a valid choice for a site owner.
The Standards that are used to provide guidance to the safe installation and use of platforms, guardrails and walkway is AS1657.
The standard sets out requirements for the design, selection, construction and installation of fixed platforms, walkways, stairways and ladders that are intended to provide safe access to places used by operating, inspection, maintenance and servicing personnel.
An Industry Code has been developed by members of the Working at Height
Association to set minimum operational standards for fixed height safety installations to improve the standard of safety provided by those installations. This has been done to address the following:-
- Countering an unregulated safety market by defining industry based safety standards that provide consistency in terms of an agreed minimum standard.
- The confusion that exists with designers / owners / users caused by the lack of any documented industry based operational standards
- To elevate operator safety as the key decision driver in the selection of system designs and installations rather than minimising installation costs.
- Providing a consistent minimum standard against which all existing and new installations can be measured and existing installations re-certified.
Scope of the Industry Code
The Industry Code applies to all work at heights activities across all industry sectors and has been developed, and is supported, by members of the Working at Height Association.
The Industry Code may be used to provide guidance for the practitioner to manage work at heights activities through a Risk Management framework allowing the development and implementation of a Fall Prevention Plan that will include the use of a Permit-to-Work System.
The Industry Code also provides guidance on the responsibilities of the various specialist activities involved in designing, installing, testing and operating a fixed height safety system. These specialist activities include:-
- Auditors / Risk Assessors
- System designers
- Component manufacturers (anchors / ladders / walkway etc)
- System Installers
- System Certifiers – at time of installation
- System re-certifiers
The Industry Code has been prepared to define the standard and consistency of working at height safety systems at workplaces.
The Code covers the design, installation, testing and re-certification of fall control systems and related work practices that can be adopted when the risk of falling from height, or into depth, is present.
The control measures outlined in this Code do not represent the only acceptable means of achieving the standard to which the Code refers.
The Code provides guidance and clarification on the Workplace Health and Safety Regulation and should be read in conjunction with relevant WHS Codes of Practice.