Improving access at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne

Looking across the roof of the Royal Exhibition Building towards the main dome.

Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building is one of the city’s great landmarks; up there with the Melbourne Cricket Ground or Westgate Bridge.

Height Safety Engineers have recently completed works to improve the safety and roof access for this World Heritage Listed building.

Built between 1879 and 1880, the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne is surrounded by serene Carlton Gardens. The site has a long and storied history not just for Melbourne but also for Australia.

About the Royal Exhibition Building

The Exhibition Building and surrounds were built to host the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. The exhibition was the first World’s Fair held in the Southern Hemisphere. Modelled on the great European fairs of the time, the exhibition featured science, the arts, business, industry, and education.

It was also the focal point of Melbourne’s 1888 celebration of the centenary of European settlement of Australia.

Following Australia’s federation in 1901, the Exhibition Building hosted the official opening of the first Australian federal parliament. Federal parliament sat at Parliament House, on Spring Street, with the Victorian state government sitting at the Exhibition Building in a swap that lasted until 1927 when the seat of federal government was moved to Canberra.

The dome of the Great Hall was the first place where the Australian flag was flown after it was announced the winner of the Federal Flag Design Competition.

Over the nearly 150-year history of the site, several buildings and wings of the original structure have been lost to redevelopment or destroyed by fire. The centrepiece of the site, the Great Hall, remains.

In October 1980, Queen Elizabeth II conferred the “Royal” title on the site, turning it into the Royal Exhibition Building. It goes by this name today.

The Royal Exhibition Building was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2004. It was the first building in Australia to be listed as such an important site. (The Sydney Opera House was listed soon after in 2007, and several convict sites across the country were listed in 2010).

Improving REB’s safety

Height Safety Engineers first became engaged with the Royal Exhibition Building in 2019. Working with contracted builder, architect, and supplier, Sayfa, HSE’s team of expert installers installed a range of ladders, stairs, walkways, and static lines around the site delivering improved roof access and increased levels of safety.

Working with heritage building also introduces a range of challenges. Finding adequate places to secure the fall protection systems to the building can be difficult as altering parts of the structure can not only be discouraged, making alterations to over century-old buildings can uncover otherwise unforeseen issues.

Static line fall protection system installed along the sloped roof of the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne,

Intruding as little as possible on the look of the building required that a few items in the safety system be powder-coated to match the colour of the existing structure. The coating used on the system needs to not only survive the often-harsh weather conditions Melbourne can experience, it also needs to not compromise the operation of the system.

The re-scoping of some areas was also required to further enhance overall access and provide for ongoing maintenance of the building. This work was undertaken after HSE’s experts identified areas of additional concern. Hazardous and non-compliant building infrastructure was removed, with purpose-built fall protection systems installed to ensure compliance with the relevant Australian standards and regulatory requirements.

The team at HSE worked in cooperation with the builder, Sayfa and Museums Victoria (the building’s operators) to ensure that the system installed was one that provided modern fall protection while minimising disruption to the heritage aesthetic of the Royal Exhibition Building.

The HSE advantage

Looking down a set of stairs to the below landing platform and walkway at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne.

Engaging a height safety specialist like HSE to improve your site’s safety brings a range of benefits.

We are height safety experts. Understanding the requirements around providing complete and compliant roof access, safe working and fall protection systems is a specialist area. The regulations, legislation, standards and codes of practice can be complex and ensuring all the differing requirements are met can be difficult.

No two buildings are alike, and no two systems are used the same way. Having an experienced team designing your system ensures you get the best protection for your workers.

Start your safety journey with HSE. Call us on 1300 884 978 or email

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