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If you work above 800mm do you have to be harnessed or the property fully scaffolded?

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The requirements in the law are not this specific (it’s the likelihood and the consequences of any fall that matters, not the height). There are a range of solutions available for employers and clients to manage height safety effectively and efficiently, including Podium ladders, light weight mobile work platforms, fall arrest soft land systems and safety nets or mesh in addition to harnesses and scaffolding.

Measures selected need to be proportionate to the risk - ie for low-risk, short-duration tasks, scaffolding or a harness is unlikely to be required.

Do builders now have to spend $2,500 on scaffolding for every job over 2.4 metres?

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The costs to install safe work systems for a single-storey home to prevent falls from height range from approximately $1,000 to $2,500. These costs are based on daily hiring rates. An edge protection system can be currently bought for about $8,000, meaning it would pay for itself after six to eight builds. Some firms that do opt for full scaffolding report efficiency benefits which can lead to savings.

Is it alright for me to use my saw horse as a working platform?

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Generally saw horses or saw horses with planks are not recognised as suitable work platforms, as they have not been designed for this purpose. The exception to this rule would be if the equipment was purposely designed and manufactured for this use and meets a relevant standard.

There is a variety of access equipment on the market to make working at height safer. Your duty is to take all practicable steps to prevent any harm that would result from a fall.

Working from a form of work platform with a guardrail will offer far better protection to prevent a fall than one without.

Focusing your attention on work above your head increases the risk of stepping off the board or platform and falling if you do not employ a guardrail.

Any work platform should be suitable for the purpose it is being used. There are two types of work platform:

  • a proprietary (engineered) work platform constructed and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions
  • a constructed work platform using construction materials and built by a competent person. (This is only to be considered if no alternative forms of work platform are readily available.)

Have a look around your local access equipment hirer or trade supplier for ideas for more appropriate equipment. Podium steps could be one option.

Your hazard assessment must consider the site-specific factors and arrive at a decision that is justified by your assessment.

Can ceiling battens be used as a method of fall protection?

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No. Ceiling battens do not provide any safe fall protection. Both metal and timber ceiling battens are generally a lightweight element designed to provide support for ceiling linings and not to sustain the loads imposed by a person falling. Even if a ceiling batten was engineered to sustain the loads imposed by a person falling there is still risk of the person sustaining serious injuries by landing on the battens.

Can I walk on the top plate without any fall protection?

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No. At no time is any person to stand on or work from an external wall top plate without suitable fall protection. This must be considered as part of your planning for a safe approach to working at height.

If prefabrication of the roof structure is not possible and trusses are assembled in situ, a safe working platform (such as scaffold) should be provided around the perimeter of the framing. Measures to prevent or mitigate the distance of a fall must also be provided internally. This can be achieved by providing a working platform immediately beneath the underside of the trusses. Either conventional scaffolding, or (if appropriate) proprietary decking systems can be used. The use of safety mesh or other safety rated products that can span across the top of the framing can also be used.

Alternatively, if a safe internal working platform cannot be provided, safety nets can be used if a safe clearance distance below the net and a suitable fixing point can be achieved. Alternatives to nets are soft landing systems such as bean bags or air bags. In some circumstances safe clearance distance can be achieved by locating bracing of the framing on the outside of the structure.

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