Working from Heights - what are the regulations?

On June 18, the consolidated Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 came into effect. Prevention of Falls is part Part 3.3 of Chapter 3: Physical Hazards.

For a summary of the legislation, and a link to the full text, go to Part 3.3 of the Regulations section of this site. The Regulations can be purchased from SAI Global.

Falls from height are a major workplace hazard resulting in fatalities and injuries across a broad range of Victorian industries, with the construction industry accounting for 27 per cent of all related injury claims. The purpose 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.

For more information on the regulations, go to WorkSafe Information page on Falls Prevention. Here you will find information and publications on falls.

Remember that in Victoria dozens of workers have died as a result of falls. Under no circumstances should workers be on top of roofs or working at heights without protection. Contact your union immediately.

In addition to the regulations, there are two Compliance Codes for the construction industry (available online):

The Regulations, which apply to all workplaces, cover tasks involving the potential for a person to fall more than two metres. A fall is defined as meaning a person's involuntary fall of more than two metres.

Under the Regulations, the employer is required to identify fall hazards, assess the risk of all hazards identified and eliminate the risk. If elimination of the risk is not practicable, then it must be reduced as far as practicable. This must be done by arranging for tasks to be performed on the ground or on a solid construction. If it is not practicable to do so or only part of a task can be undertaken in this way, the employer must control the risk, so far as is practicable, by use of a range of measures. The regulations require measures to be selected in accordance with a specified hierarchy of control.

Note: While the requirements of the regulations only 'kick in' when someone is working at a height of more than 2 metres, falls from heights lower than metres have resulted in serious injuries and even death. The employer has a duty of care under Section 21 to ensure that plant, and systems of work, are safe and without risks to health, so far as reasonably practicable. For more information on working with ladders, go to this page.

Falls from height is not only a problem in Victoria.

The UK Health and Safety Executive has a Work at Height webpage with information on this serious hazard. The webpage has a number of resources and links. There are answers to commonly asked questions, and guides on working at height, with ladders and more. 

In July 2003, the HSE released a research report: Falls from height - Prevention and risk control effectiveness . The report provides

  • a definitive baseline for measuring improvements in the incidence rate of falls from height;
  • a quantified model of the influences affecting falls from height covering human, hardware and external factors; and
  • a toolkit for selecting measures, setting performance targets and monitoring improvement.

To view the 428-page report, click here

More information:

From WorkCover NSW: Tips to stay safe

From Work Safe BC (British Columbia, Canada):

  • Resources on Fall Protection
  • A free online guide for those working at heights on the safe use of PPE, such as safety belts, harnesses, lanyards: Personal Fall Protection Equipment [pdf]
  • An interactive web book on the most common fall hazards in residential construction. The web book has chapters on roofing, framing, formwork, and siding, as well as a list of resources. Each chapter has short videos on specific hazards.

More items

Last amended June 2019


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