Working at height

This chapter provides guidance in relation to working
at height, and is primarily based on New Zealand
legislation and guidance issued by WorkSafe NZ.

Who needs to read this?

All workers who undertake tasks at height should read and understand the section on ‘minimum responsibilities of working at height’.

Roles that have specific responsibilities, or influence, over setting up and managing work at height should read the section on ‘planning and guidance considerations and responsibilities’ – this includes producers, directors, line producers, production managers, art directors, construction managers, heads of departments, assistant directors and health and safety officers.

What is working at height?

Work at height means working in a place where a person could be injured if they fell from one level to another.1 When considering working at height you must also consider and manage the risk/s associated with falling objects, if it is reasonably likely that the object would fall on and injure a person.2 There is no threshold for working at height; if someone or something could fall from one level to another and injure an individual then that is working at height. Work at height does not include slips, trips and falls at the same level.

What specific working at height risks are there on production sets?

  • Camera platforms (mobile and static)
  • Rigging, including cranes (mobile powered elevating equipment)
  • Scaffolding
  • Ladders
  • Elevated working platforms
  • Rostra
  • Studio lighting grids, gantries and catwalks

These risks are further outlined in individual chapters.

Minimum responsibilities for working at height

Everyone who works at height on a screen production should read and understand this section, including grips, lighting crew, camera crew, special effects and art department crew. If you are responsible for, or have influence over, an activity or task where there is work at height, you should read and understand the following section on ‘planning and guidance considerations and responsibilities’.

All workers should:

  • understand the risks associated with working at height, and the possibility of both people and objects falling and injuring someone;
  • follow all procedures and controls put in place to keep themselves and others safe when working at height;
  • use personal protective equipment when required; and
  • advise their supervisor or the health and safety officer if they observe unsafe working at height practices.

Planning and guidance considerations & responsibilities

Too many falls from height occur because of a failure to plan or organize work properly.

Everyone who is responsible for, or has influence over, an activity or task where there is work at height should read and understand this section, as well as the minimum responsibilities for everybody.

This includes the production company, producers, art directors, construction managers, line producers, heads of departments, assistant directors and health and safety officers.

Identifying the risk of working at height

Everyone who is responsible for an activity or task in relation to the production should consider the potential risks associated with working at height; this is where someone or something could fall from one level to another causing harm to an individual.

Ways of identifying such risks include:

  • physical inspections – walk around the production set, you could use a checklist to help you;
  • looking at work practices and required tasks;
  • consulting with cast and crew; and
  • reviewing previous safety event information.

 

HOW DO I ASSESS THE RISK OF WORKING AT HEIGHT?

Just like any health and safety risk you must assess it – thinking about:

  • the likelihood of the potential harm; and
  • the consequence – how bad the harm would be.

Appendix 2: health and safety risk assessments process will help you undertake a risk assessment.

WHAT ARE OTHER RISKS THAT CAN IMPACT ON WORKING AT HEIGHT?

The potential risks associated with working at height can be compounded by other hazards. The following list is not exhaustive and a full risk assessment, by a competent person, should always be undertaken prior to work at height.

  • Overhead power supplies – electrical shock.
  • Corroded or fragile upper-level surfaces.
  • Poorly constructed, secured and or positioned scaffolding.
  • Weather elements – e.g. wind or rain.
  • Slippery or unstable surfaces.
  • Working alone.

Managing the risk of working at height

HOW DO I CONTROL THE RISK OF FALLS FROM HEIGHT?

First, you must consider whether you can eliminate the risk, if this is not reasonably practicable then you must minimize that risk – this is called the hierarchy of controls.

Appendix 2: health and safety risk assessments process will further help you understand how to use the hierarchy of controls.

Remember – the greater the risk, the greater the controls need to be. Doing nothing is not an option.

Elimination is the most effective control method.
You could eliminate the risk of working at height by:

  • removing the requirement for the task, if practicable under the circumstances;
  • using long handled tools from ground level;
  • building structures at ground level and lifting them into position when
    finished; or
  • ensuring equipment that may require maintenance is placed close to the
    ground.

Elimination can be best achieved at the design and construction planning stage. If complete elimination of the risk is not reasonably practicable, you must consider ways to minimize the risk starting by looking at how you could prevent a fall from occurring.

You could minimize the risk by preventing the fall through the use of:

  • edge protection;
  • a guard railed work platform (such as scaffolding or elevated work platforms);
  • barriers to restrict access; or
  • a total restraint system to prevent people getting close to the height hazard.

If you cannot prevent a fall then you must look at ways to minimise the harm that could occur from a fall.

Minimising the distance and impact of a fall must only be considered after you’ve exhausted all elimination controls and minimisation controls that would have prevented the fall in the first place. You can minimise the distance and impact of a fall using:

  • a fall arrest (harness) or work positioning system; or
  • safety nets or soft-landing systems.

 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GROUP CONTROLS AND PERSONAL CONTROLS?

As well as the hierarchy of controls, you need to think about controls that will protect multiple people. These are group controls, and the best methods to use as they that don’t require active judgement by individuals to keep themselves safe – for example scaffolding or a safety net.

Personal controls only protect the individual using the control and rely on the user using them correctly to ensure their safety

HOW DO I SELECT THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT TO USE?

When deciding what control to use, as well as considering the hierarchy of controls and group versus personal controls, you should also think about other factors that may affect the success of your controls.

Working conditions

  • Slopes, poor ground, obstructions and traffic mayaffect how well a piece of equipment works.

Distance to be negotiated for access and egress

  • Ladders are likely to be less suitable for higher access.

Distance and consequences of a fall

  • A fall arrest system would be ineffective if the deployment length of the system was greater than the fall height – the user would hit the floor before the system could work.

Duration and frequency of use

  • Long-duration, higher frequency work justifies a higher standard of fall protection.

Rescue

  • If rescue from a deployed fall arrest system is going to be difficult, choose other type of work equipment.

Additional risk posed by the installation and removal of work equipment

  • An EWP used by one person may entail less risk than exposing two or three people to erect a tower or scaffold for the one person to work safely.

 

WHAT TYPE OF CONTROLS COULD I USE?
There are many different types of controls that you could use for eliminating or minimising the
risks associated with working at height.
The primary controls used within the screen industry are detailed further risk-specific chapters.
Depending on the set circumstances, you may also wish to consider the below controls, you can
find out more information about these control methods in WorkSafe guidance.

Edge protection

  • Can be used to stop people or objects from falling.
  • Temporary edge protection is common on construction sets.
  • Can include guardrails or barriers to restrict access.

Safety mesh

  • Should be used in conjunction with edge protection.
  • Should comply with AS/NZS 4389 Safety Mesh.

Harness systems

  • Enable a person to be positioned and safely supported.

Temporary work platforms

  • Include temporary scaffolding, work platforms, step platforms, trestle scaffolds, podium or folding platforms, stilts.

Catch platforms

  • Is attached to scaffolding to catch falling debris.

Soft landing systems

  • Minimise the potential for harm should a fall occur, by providing an energy-absorbing landing area.

Safety nets

  • Used to stop a persons or objects fall.

Fixed roof ladders

  • Provide permanent access

Ladders / step ladder

  • Do not offer fall protection and should be the last form of work access equipment to be considered.
  • Should be used for low-risk and short-durations tasks.
  • Users should always maintain three points of contact with the ladder.

Rescue plan

All working at height activities, where it has been identified that a fall would require a rescue mission or any potential harm, would require an immediate medical response should have a rescue plan.

Factors to be considered while developing a rescue plan include:

  • the location of the work area in terms of the accessibility to appropriate medical facilities;
  • ensuring there is an adequately trained person on ground level able to initiate the rescue plan in the event of a fall;
  • communications;
  • the type of rescue equipment required and its proximity to the work area; and
  • first aid capabilities.

Adequate information and training on the rescue plan should be provided to those working at height, and any potential rescuers.

The rescue plan should be formally tested, before work commences, to ensure effectiveness.

Under no circumstances is a person to be used in suspended casualty emergency drills. The drills should be simulated using a mannequin or other suitable method.

A rescue plan template can be found in appendix A.

 

The rescue plan should be formally tested, before work commences, to ensure effectiveness.

Funders

Funders should:

  • be assured, through the provision of the production’s health and safety plan, that the funding provided is adequate to provide controls for working at height tasks.

Production company

In pre-production, production companies (likely to have primary responsibility over health and safety on the production) should:

  • consider the potential risks associated with working at height when planning and allocating tasks;
  • ensure the potential risks associated with working at height are appropriately managed, either eliminating or minimising them; and
  • engage competent persons to oversee and undertake all working at height tasks associated with the production.

Producer / Production manager / Art Director / Construction manager / Heads of Departments

As these roles have oversight across these elements of production, they should (during pre-production and the production):

  • ensure to engage competent people to implement working at height tasks;
  • consider the potential risks associated with working at height when planning and allocating tasks;
  • manage the potential risks associated with working at height, either eliminating or minimising them; and
  • engage competent persons to oversee and undertake all working at height tasks associated with the production.

Assistant director/s

The assistant director/s should ensure the potential risks associated with working at height are discussed with all cast and crew during health and safety inductions and / or as required if circumstances on the set change.

Health and safety officer

The health and safety officer should ensure potential risks associated with working at height are discussed with all cast and crew during health and safety inductions and / or as required if circumstances on the set change.

Training

Insufficient training for the task being carried out is one of the primary contributing factors to injuries caused by working at height.

As part of all PCBUs primary duty of care to provide and maintain a safe and health work environment, they must ensure workers have had the necessary training to allow them to undertake their work safely.

Anyone who has direct oversight of a worker undertaking a working at height task should ensure they are adequately trained and competent in their work. This will often be the head of department.

Things to think about include, does the worker have:

  • basic training to competently undertake the task safely; and
  • basic training / experience teaching them how to ensure the risk control is effective, including use of personal protective equipment?

Or do they require:

  • a specific certificate or qualification to operate the equipment or undertake the task; or
  • supervision by a competent person, if they are new or don’t have the required level of training

WorkSafe’s guidance outlines the levels of compliance and competency required for specific working at height tasks and control.

Insufficient training for the task being carried out is one of the primary contributing factors to injuries caused by working at height.

Quick guide

General considerations relating to working at height are listed below. This is a broad overview of things to consider and should not substitute a full risk assessment of the production set.

  • Warning signs must be clear, unobstructed and in conspicuous places.
  • When working at height, only essential tools and equipment should be used.
  • Prior to ascending, all tools should be secured with lanyards to prevent them falling on those below and pockets must be empty.
  • Vision must not be impaired when working or performing at heights.
  • Where there is the potential for a person to be injured from a fall, appropriate fall protection must be used (e.g. safety harnesses).
  • Ensure all ascent/descent of ladders is performed facing the ladder and that you grasp the sides and not the rungs.
  • Communication systems must be established between those at height and those on the ground.
  • Do not work to the sides of ladders or guard railings at height.
  • Appropriate footwear must be worn to minimise the risk of slipping; appropriate clothing must be worn to minimise the risk of snagging; hair should be tied back at all times.
  • When working at height on elevated truss or other such structure, a safety wire should always be rigged to allow the person working at height to be able to attach to, in order to safely undertake the tasks required. The safety harness worn must be in accordance with the relevant NZ Standards.
  • Use a lanyard that is appropriate for the height at which you are working.
  • Be aware of the potential risk ultra violet exposure may have on all harnesses and slings.
  • All floor openings must be guarded by a cover or guardrail on open sides, when not in use in rehearsal or performance situations.
  • A risk assessment should be undertaken of all platforms that could result in a fall, and safety guards or a fall prevention system should be put in place if practicable.
  • If guardrails are impracticable, there should be other mechanisms for at least warning of the potential hazard of falling, such as tape markings.
  • Walking on open beams or sliding down beams that are over three metres high must be done only with appropriate safety harnesses and lanyard.

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