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2m rule no moreNew laws passed that affect our industry.

Prior to January 2012, all Work at Height training in Australia hung its hat on the fact that if workers were working above 2m in height, then a fall-prevention system had to be in place (and workers had to be trained in its use).

On 1 January 2012, a harmonised Work Health and Safety legislation came into effect for New South Wales, Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory. It is unfortunate that we do not, at this stage, have nationally consistent OH&S laws although progress towards this aim is ongoing. The remaining jurisdictions of Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania all appear to be planning for a 2013 time frame.

As part of the new legislation, the 2m stipulation has been removed.

So what is the new rule?

The current Model Code of Practice (as at January 2012) applies to all workplaces covered by the WHS Act and Regulations where there is a risk of a fall by a person from one level to another that is reasonably likely to cause injury.

The Code gives some examples as to situations where a worker might be exposed to the risk of a fall:

    in or on plant or a structure that is at an elevated level
    in or on plant that is being used to gain access to an elevated level
    in the vicinity of an opening through which a person could fall
    in the vicinity of an edge over which a person could fall
    on or in the vicinity of a surface through which a person could fall
    on or near the vicinity of a slippery, sloping or unstable surface.


The Blue Sky Rope Access team are IRATA trained and accredited.

IRATA training is structured and thorough. It has to be when its members are working at the top of tall structures worldwide. This article reviews the training and the IRATA emphasis on safety.

Although IRATA is an international organisation, it is based in the UK and it works closely with the UK health and safety executive. When IRATA was set up, there were no HSE guidelines specific to the “working at height” industry and IRATA has assisted the HSE in drawing up appropriate safety guidelines.

IRATA undertake an annual review of all incidents involving its members and the results are published on its website, This review, together with information gleaned from other sources, is used to formulate additional guidance for IRATA members. The review is also taken into consideration when IRATA training courses are reviewed. As a result of the review, at the beginning of 2010, IRATA launched a new international code of practice. This code covers the full rope access process including planning & management, selection & training of technicians, supervision, equipment selection & maintenance, work methods and safety& operational assessments.

All IRATA members have to work within a strict set of guidelines on quality, safety, training and working practices. An ethical standard is also included within the guidelines which include a code of conduct when dealing with clients. IRATA members are audited by an independent third party to ensure that they comply and all IRATA members have to undergo refresher training at least every three years. Organisations employing IRATA companies can therefore be sure that they will receive a professional service from highly trained operatives.

The basis of the IRATA working practice is a two rope system which means that the technician is always working with a back up rope. Each rope is separately anchored and all tools are either attached to the technician or separately tethered. This not only provides security but also enables the worker to be able to reach otherwise inaccessible areas of tall structures. This two rope system has proved so successful that architects are now designing buildings which can only be maintained using IRATA techniques.

Whilst IRATA practices originated from techniques used in caving, the field has now expanded to cover such diverse areas as high rise buildings, bridges, statues, wind turbines and even cliff stabilisation projects. With increasing importance being placed on business continuity and risk prevention, IRATA personnel are being called on to assist with regular building inspections and maintenance. These are proving cost effective not only in the early prevention of structural failure but in the comparatively few man hours used in IRATA projects.

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