Working at Height

Working at height is a regular practice in the construction industry and can place workers at risk of serious injuries and lead to fatalities.  Some common activities that could involve a fall from height, or to a lower level, would include:

  • Working on a Roof
  • Working on Open Sided Floors, Walkways, or Runways
  • Working over Open Tanks or Pits
  • Assembling, Installing, Working on or Dismantling a Swing Stage
  • Erecting, Working on or Dismantling Scaffolding
  • Working on top of Vehicles or Trailers
  • In a Suspended Work Platform (i.e crane basket)
  • While elevated in Lift Truck (i.e. in a forklift cage)
  • Suspended from a Boatswain’s chair
  • In Elevated Work Platform (i.e. scissor lift)
  • From Ladders (fixed & portable)


The most significant hazard associated with working at height would be falling to an area below.

Other possible hazards could include:

  • Dropping objects to the area below;
  • Contact with overhead power lines;
  • Weather (wind, rain, snow, or sun etc.); and
  • Exposure to wildlife (i.e., bird nests etc.).

Hazard Assessment

A hazard assessment is a process used to identify hazards and eliminate or reduce the risk of injury or loss.  The steps of a hazard assessment include:

  1. Identify the Hazard – Review the workplace and/or a specific task to identify real and potential hazards.
  2. Evaluate the Risk – Estimate the potential loss to people, equipment, materials, and environment due to the hazard.
  3. Select Appropriate Controls – Controls are used to eliminate the hazard or reduce the risk of injury, illness or damage.

When conducting a hazard assessment for working at height, consider the following:

  • Survey the job for potential fall hazards.
  • Determine the appropriate fall protection.
  • Identify anchorage points for personal fall arrest systems.
  • Identify controlled access zones.
  • Identify who can enter the controlled access zones.
  • Determine emergency response plan.

Common Controls

Fall Protection

Fall protection is a general term for any means of ensuring that a worker is not injured or killed from a fall. Fall protection is a combination of steps or procedures, along with equipment and hardware, used to either prevent someone from falling or to protect against injuries should someone fall.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Occupational Health and Safety Regulations require the use of a Fall protection system:

Where a worker is exposed to the hazard of falling from a work area that is:

(a)  3 metres or more above the nearest safe surface or water;

(b)  above a surface or thing that could cause injury to the worker if the worker were to fall on the surface or thing; or

(c)  above an open tank, pit or vat containing hazardous material.

A fall arrest system is an active means of protecting workers from falls in elevated work environments. With a fall arrest system, the risk of falling is always present, however, the system is designed to minimize a worker’s injuries should a fall happen. A complete fall arrest system includes:

  • Anchor Point
  • Body Harness
  • Connector
  • Deceleration Device
  • Emergency Plan

Safety Nets are often utilized under bridges, buildings, towers, dams etc. to catch a worker(s) who has fallen.

A system of vertical supports and horizontal rails that warn of a fall hazard and act as a physical barrier protecting workers from an open edge.

A control zone allows for work to be performed inside an established zone, on a flat roof (pitch between 0/12 and 3/12) without additional fall protection methods. Control zones are identified by using a raised warning line, or other equally effective means and placed at least 2 meters (6.5 feet) away from the edge, more if:

  • The working surface is slippery or sloped;
  • The work is carried out at an elevation relative to the unguarded edge; or
  • The risk is increased by the use of equipment near the control zone.

Where a control zone is used, workers may only enter or leave the control zone if they are wearing fall restraint or arrest.

A rail affixed to a wall that workers can use for support when going up and down stairs.

Travel Restrict consists of a body belt or harness connected to an anchor point with a lanyard or lifeline. This systems is designed to prevent a worker from getting to an unprotected edge where a fall could occur.

Fall Restrict is a combination of work positioning and fall restricting equipment used to support a worker in a position in order for work to be performed. The system has limited fall arresting capabilities and should be positioned such that the risk of fall is eliminated. Form work, rebar cages and wooden utility pole work usually require this type of system.

Temporary flooring means a horizontal working surface that is designed to give access to areas that do not have permanent flooring, and will prevent a worker from falling. Temporary flooring must:

  • be constructed or installed at each floor level of the work area where work progresses;
  • extend over the whole work area except for openings necessary for the carrying out of work;
  • be able to withstand 4 times the maximum load likely to be imposed on it; and
  • be securely fastened to and supported on members that are able to withstand 4 times the maximum load likely to be imposed upon them.

Guardrails must also be installed:

  • Where an open-sided floor, working platform, runway, walkway, or balcony is over 1.22 metres above the existing floor or ground level; and
  • on walkways over open tanks containing harmful substances or over open tanks 1.22 metres or more in depth.

Additional control measures would include:

  • Training (Legislatively required and Sit-specific)
  • Written Fall Protection procedures
  • Written Fall Protection Plans
  • Adequate housekeeping
  • Inspection of fall protection devices and equipment (ie. guardrails, ladders, aerial work platforms, scaffolding, etc.)

Training Requirements

Fall Protection training requirements are set out in WorkplaceNL Fall Protection Certification Standard. Any worker who is required to use fall protection equipment must complete a 2-Day Fall Protection Training program from a WorkplaceNL approved training provider. Recertification is required every three years.

Additional training that may be required include, but is not limited to:

  • Aerial Work Platform Operation
  • Scaffold Erection and Inspection
  • Confined Space Entry
  • Power Line Hazards
  • WHMIS 2015
  • First Aid

Employers should also ensure that workers are trained on site-specific hazards and procedures.

NLCSA Fall Protection Resources

TitleContentFile TypeLink
Sample JSA – Inspecting for Slip, Trip & Fall Hazardsdocx
Sample JSA – Aerial Work Platformdocx
Sample JSA – Working on a Flat Roofdocx
Sample JSA – Working on a Sloped Roofdocx
Sample JSA – Setting up a Extension Ladderdocx
Info Sheet – Full Body Harness, Lanyard and Life-LinesInfo Sheetdocx
Equipment Inspection – Fall Protection HarnessInspection Checklistxlsx
Equipment Inspection – Fall Protection LanyardInspection Checklistdocx
Mounting and Dismounting Construction EquipmentSafe Work Practicepdf
Slips, Trips and FallsSafe Work Practicepdf
Aerial Work Platform OperationSafe Work Practicedoc
Inspecting an Aerial Work PlatformSafe Work Practicedocx
Sample AWP Inspection ChecklistInspection Checklistdocx
Frame Scaffold InspectionSafe Work Practicedocx
Sample Scaffold Inspection ChecklistInspection Checklistdocx
Frame Scaffold Erectiondocx
Ladder InspectionSafe Work Practicedocx
Sample Ladder Inspection ChecklistInspection Checklistdocx
Fall Protection ProgramSafe Job Proceduredoc
ServiceNL/WorkplaceNL Scaffold Safety Guide – January 2018pdf
Fall ProtectionToolbox Talkpdf
Temporary LightingToolbox Talkpdf
Scaffold SafetyToolbox Talkpdf
Mounting & Dismounting ExcavatorsToolbox Talkpdf
Lighting ConditionsToolbox Talkpdf
Working Near/Over WaterToolbox Talkpdf
Removing Snow from StructuresToolbox Talkpdf
Falling ObjectsToolbox Talkpdf
Hierarchy of Fall ProtectionToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection – Floor and Roof OpeningsToolbox Talkpdf
Climbing a LadderToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Guard RailsToolbox Talkpdf
Preventing Slips and FallsToolbox Talkpdf
3 Point Contact: Vehicles and EquipmentToolbox Talkpdf
Working at Heights – Site Specific TrainingToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Rope GrabsToolbox Talkpdf
Slip and Fall Hazards for Truck DriversToolbox Talkpdf
Step LaddersToolbox Talkpdf
Extension LaddersToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Approvals and InspectionsToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection: Formwork Leading EdgeToolbox Talkpdf
Control Zones for Flat RoofsToolbox Talkpdf
Improving Temporary Stairs and HandrailsToolbox Talkpdf
Find Your Footing: Ground ConditionsToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Inspecting a HarnessToolbox Talkpdf
Scaffoldng SafetyToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection for Woking on a Sloped RoofToolbox Talkpdf
Donning a Fall Protection HarnessToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Anchorage Point & InstallationToolbox Talkpdf
15 Steps Supervisors Can Take to Prevent FallsToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Self Retracting DevicesToolbox Talkpdf
Fall Protection Equipment – Lanyards and ClassesToolbox Talkpdf
Scaffold SafetyVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Finding Your Footing – Ground ConditionsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Preventing Slips and FallsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Temporary Stairs and HandrailsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
15 Steps a Supervisor Can Take to Prevent FallsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Aerial Work PlatformsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Inspecting an Aerial Work PlatformVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Hierarchy of Fall ProtectionVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection – GeneralVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection & Working at Heights in Residential ConstructionVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection – Control Zones for Flat RoofsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Donning a Full Body HarnessVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Inspecting a Full Body HarnessVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection Equipment – Anchorage PointsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection Equipment – LanyardsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection Equipment – Self-Retractable DevicesVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Protection for Sloped RoofsVirtual Toolbox Talkwww
Fall Prevention Awareness Week Statisticspdf
Sample JSA – Working on a Flat Roofdocx
Fall Prevention Awareness Week Promo Sheetpdf
Fall Clearance Calculation Posterpdf
Working at Height – High Risk Activity Sheetpdf

External Resources