Managing height safety liability for your employees and teams

Worker on a warehouse roof while a crane lifts materials onto it

Although they may not be out on site themselves, employers have a key role to play in ensuring the safety of their employees and teams working at height.

As an employer or someone sending workers into a high-rise area, you are responsible for ensuring they are equipped and able to safely carry out their work.

In this blog post, we look at what employers should be providing to their teams to keep them safe while working at heights.

Training and worker skills

There are three basic levels of training that every worker should have completed successfully prior to entering any work site, let alone one with high risks such as working at height.

The first is a general safety induction, usually in the form of a “white card” course. This provides an introductory level of risk identification, minimisation and accident reporting skills.

Following that is task-specific training. This is training for specific tasks like operating an EWP, working at heights or in areas with likely asbestos contamination.

Thirdly, a worker should be inducted and trained in the specific safety systems and processes used on the work site itself. What this can look like differs from site to site, employer to employer and from site manager to site manager.

Employers should always make sure their teams have the skills and understanding they need to access a system and safely complete their work.


Although personal protective equipment (PPE) is at the bottom of the hierarchy of risk control, that does not mean it can be ignored completely.

Having the correct PPE is a vital part of being to safely and effectively use many safe access and fall protection systems.

For working at heights, PPE items such as harnesses, rope lines, shock absorbers and carabiners are commonly found on work sites.

At minimum, workers should have access to and know how to use a standard roofers’ kit. These kits typically provide workers with a standard fall-protection harness, rope line, adjuster, shock absorber and carabiners to connect to an anchorage point. This provides fall protection for at least one part of a work area if used correctly.

Additional carabiners and other items can be added into the kit to allow for more comprehensive work positioning and flexibility of use.


One often forgotten part of managing the height safety for your team is making sure they have a rescue plan and necessary equipment for the environment they are working in.

It is an unfortunate reality, but the risk of a fall from height is always going to exist if people are working at height. When an accident does occur, having the skills, equipment and plans ready to action can make the difference between life and death.

Although just about every rescue plan will have a step where emergency services will be called, dialling 000 is not a rescue plan in and of itself.

Procedures and administrative controls

While documents and procedures might not seem like an important aspect to ongoing workplace safety, they are a key part of any team’s risk management process.

Safe work procedures and safe work method statements assist teams in identifying common risks associated with their work and providing ways those risks can be mitigated.

Other administrative controls can include things like training plans (to ensure that skills and qualifications are kept up to date) and equipment checklists.

Documentation is also useful in demonstrating that a team has a process that is followed for risk identification and mitigation as part of their ordinary workflow.

Time and environment

The most practical way that an employer can manage the height safety risks of their team is to give them the time needed to safely carry out their work using all available systems and equipment.

Far too often, the time allocated for the completion of a job requires workers to make trade offs between safety and the work being done. This is when the probability of a serious accident shifts dramatically, and workers find themselves in extremely high-risk situations.

Creating allowances for the time needed to implement safety systems and fully adhere to safe work procedures is a vital part of protecting workers from the risks of a fall from height.

Coupled with this, employers should also have a work environment that empowers workers to stop working and step away (or not start) when safety risks have been identified but do not have any mitigation in place.

An environment that discourages speaking up can lead to workers making poor choices regarding their safety. This, in turn, leads to workplace accidents.

Everyone has a role to play in safety

Reducing the number of falls from height requires every person involved in high-risk work to shift their thinking and become advocates for doing it right, not just doing it.

Height Safety Engineers are the experts in understanding and mitigating your height safety risks. No matter what your role in the workplace safety chain, HSE can help you help your team. Call us on 1300 884 978 or email

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