Height safety and rope access systems should be designed in the early stages of development, rather than incorporated as an afterthought, which can impact both safety and cost.

New expectations for safe working at heights are being enforced by the courts. Architects, builders, designers and building owners/managers are now being held equally responsible in the event of an adverse incident.

"Negligent in respect of its inspection and approval of products, systems and designs", read a recent court ruling. What does this mean? Put simply, it demonstrates that the law has moved on and is now seeking out all parties to apportion blame when it comes to Workplace Manslaughter Laws.

The thought process in the past was that the responsibility of the design of height safety systems belonged to someone else. The new reality is that if things go wrong and there is a fatality as a result of a fall from height, then everybody from architect to builder, and building owner/manager to contractor can all be found accountable. There is no passing the buck and no way of getting away from the consequences.

One simple clause does not save you

"Provide compliant roof safety system to Australian Standards."

Having designed height safety systems for many years, and worked alongside architects, builders, designers and building owners/managers across all sectors, the team at Sayfa can recall many instances where plans have been drawn up and designers/builders wrongly believe the above statement is all that is required to cover them legally.

Our article Don't assume you're covered discusses the real responsibilities that are now placed on designers and builders.

If you are involved in the design of a building, you must fulfil your Duty of Care in providing a safe means of access and protection to maintenance areas.

In legal proceedings the question that will be asked is: "Did the architect, builder and designer appropriately address all health and safety risks in the design of the building?" This includes height safety, as falls from height are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries and fatalities.

Australian work health and safety legislation requires that all design parties consult, cooperate and coordinate their activities, so far as it is reasonably practicable, and they are not to transfer or delegate responsibilities to others, or assume that someone else is taking care of work health and safety requirements.

Within the scope of Workplace Manslaughter Laws, PCBUs (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) can also be held liable should a fatality occur on one of their properties.

As a PCBU, building owner/manager, it is your responsibility to ensure "as far as is reasonably practicable" the health and safety of any workers (this includes contractors and subcontractors) carrying out activities on your premises.

In addition, Sayfa has recently been approached by building surveying firms who are asking for specialist training in height safety systems. This is an interesting and welcome development in the industry as it shows height safety will soon become an added part of their inspection criteria.

What are the benefits in designing height safety and rope access systems in the early stages of development?

Design and implementation of roof access and height safety systems must not be an afterthought.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you taking roof safety and the provision for facade maintenance seriously, as would be the case for any other trade works such as electrical, plumbing, or structural?
  • What could the cost be for a poor design, or even no design?
  • What on-site issues could result should there be a major incident as a result of a fall from height?

Sayfa has, in many instances, seen architects and builders regret not consulting a design consultant in the early stages. When a design consultant is engaged, they can manage and work through all the unforeseen pains to resolve them in the most efficient way possible.

A design consultant will provide support through any application of legislation and acts involved in fall protection, height safety and rope access, as well as supply all documents that are required. This provides architects, builders, designers and building owners/managers with the tools to make the right decisions.

As roof access and height safety systems are often the forgotten part of building design, they are frequently only considered at the final stage of the design, until work has already been commenced or worse still, once the building has been completed. This lack of planning is something that Sayfa is endeavouring to change within the building industry.

Failure to correctly design a height safety system early can cause a significant knock-on effect. Substructures may not be sufficient to support the equipment, requiring new slabs to be poured. In a recent city development, the cost to the builder to add systems to his partially constructed project saw his budget blow out by over a million dollars for rectification works.

Needless to say, if this design had been considered in the early stages the savings in costs and time delays could have been substantial.

Sayfa’s Free Design Consultancy Service

Sayfa aims to bridge the gap in the industry to give architects, builders, designers and building owners/managers peace of mind that they have achieved all their expected responsibilities regarding safe working at heights and fulfilled their duty of care.

Engaging a design consultant takes the pressure off the designer and builder. Just as we don't know how to design or construct a building, we don't expect you to understand the intricacies and legislation involved in the design and installation of height safety systems.

It is not enough to install a couple of anchor points.

A compliant height safety system design needs to consider many factors such as frequency of access, operator capability and ease of use, and most importantly, must be fit for purpose.

What should your design consultant provide you with?

  • A complete access and maintenance risk assessment
  • Preliminary concept and system layout
  • All supporting documentation
  • Budgetary pricing for tender cost calculation
  • Ongoing support, protection and peace of mind

We are here to help

Our FREE* Design Consultancy Service will provide all of the above and more. We can also assist you with the installation of the specified systems once the project gets underway with Sayfa's reputable approved installers located Australia-wide.

*This is supplied on the understanding Sayfa systems will be specified and means that your liability for this component of your Safety in Design requirements is mitigated.