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We Are Union Journal
News from the working class
What do you mean, 'Closing the Loopholes'?

Too old for a ladder?

Dear comrade -

Can you tell me whether there is an age limit on climbing ladders in the workplace?

The OHS Act does not go into such level of detail - in fact, the Act does not mention ladders at all. This is because OHS legislation in Australia is what we call ‘objective based’ – that is, the duties on employers require that they provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This is called the ‘general duty of care’, and covers everything. The duty includes ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe systems of work, and the safe use of 'plant' (this includes ladders). 
See Duties of employers

Employers must identify hazards and risks at the workplace and then take action to eliminate them or minimise them so far as is reasonably practicable - and this must be done in consultation with affected workers and their elected health and safety representatives (HSRs). See Duty to consult

Regulators recommend that the use of ladders be minimised because there is a real risk of falls. WorkSafeSA recently issued an alert after two serious injuries and a fatality where the regulator warned that ladders should be a 'last resort'. Other high-level controls include performing height work on passive fall prevention devices like scaffolds, safety mesh or elevating work platforms, the regulator says in the safety alert

If a worker is more at risk due to age (for example young and inexperienced, or older and therefore possibly less stable) then the employer needs to take this into consideration as well. Check out this page on Ladders 

In addition, if the work is being done at two metres or more above the ground, then the employer must follow the hierarchy of control as specified in the Prevention of Falls regulations

If you have any OHS-related questions send them in via our Ask Renata facility.