Working at Heights: Why Certification of Height Safety Systems Matters

Working at heights is prone to accidents and often results in serious injuries. At Magellan we understand the importance of height safety. Over the years we have successfully advised many of our clients about safety issues and using and installing the right height safety systems to ensure everyone can work safely.

In this article we will address the use of height safety systems and how to get them certified.


Height safety systems vary as much as the buildings themselves and should be specifically designed to suit both the building and/or work area and the type of work being carried out. They can range from single anchor point systems to complete walkway and carriageway installations.

It is important to know the capabilities and limitations of each height safety system. Buildings can have a combination of these systems to provide a complete height safety system.

What steps do you need to take to get your height safety system certified?

A first step is to engage a qualified, technically competent business to conduct a full site survey of your property. Your advisor should be able to provide site specific, written reports and documented certification of all equipment and components incorporated in the height safety system.

A good advisor will be able to make recommendations and provide information on issues that may not be compliant.

Regulations

In 2009, the Australian government established Safe Work Australia. This government body is responsible for developing country wide policy with regards to work health and safety. This includes preventing the risk of falls at workplaces. Their code of practice ‘MANAGING THE RISK OF FALLS AT WORKPLACES’ contains a lot of valuable information regarding height safety systems. Download it from the Safe Work Australia website.

The main nation wide law is the Work Health Safety Act 2011. According to division 2 (primary duty of care), article 19, a person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable:

(a) the provision and maintenance of a work environment without risks to health and safety; and
(b)  the provision and maintenance of safe plant and structures; and
(c)  the provision and maintenance of safe systems of work.

Safe Work Australia is not a regulating body. Each State is responsible for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws. In NSW safety at the workplace is regulated and enforced by WorkCover. They provide licensing and registration for potentially dangerous work and provide advice on improving work health and safety to prevent workplace injuries and deaths from occurring. An important part of WorkCover’s responsibility is to regulate height safety systems.

How often do you need to renew the certification?

We always recommend our clients to renew the certification as it falls due, in accordance with relevant Australian Standards which state as a minimum it must be done annually. However, it’s important to note that in the event of an incident, overloading of the system or an accident whilst the system was in use, it must be inspected and certified before the next use.

Getting your certification organised is not optional. It’s a must. In NSW, you can be fined if you are found using uncertified or non-compliant systems. Everyone can be fined, from employees and their supervisors working on site, to business owners and owners of the building.

Contractors should never use a height safety system if the certification is out of date or if it does not comply with the legal requirements.

What are the costs involved for height safety systems certification?

Costs can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the system along with the testing requirements involved for particular components.

The phrase “Height Safety System” implies that a complete system is in place providing fall protection and access to all areas. This is different to an anchor point test or individual testing of a piece of equipment.

Whilst individual anchor points or equipment may hold current certification it does not necessarily mean it provides a complete height safety system to the building.

Some areas of work within a building or roof top may have a “Fall Arrest System” or “Anchor Point System” in place for a specific task or function but that may not also incorporate or provide such protection to other areas. Height safety systems can be location and task specific and it is important to know their design function and capabilities to avoid systems being used incorrectly.