Spotlight on working safely at height with solar

WorkSafe and Solar Victoria are ramping up their focus on working safely at height with a new series of safety solution sheets tailored to help solar installers maintain safe worksites.

Published:
Wednesday, 2 August 2023 at 5:49 am

The Government's flagship $1.3 billion Solar Homes Program, delivered by Solar Victoria, has supported the installation of solar panels on more than 235,000 rooftops since 2018.

However, rooftop solar installations can prove dangerous if the right safety measures aren't in place, with falls from height being the most serious risk associated with the task.

In extreme cases, falls can lead to serious injury, or even death.

To address this risk, WorkSafe has now conducted more than 2,100 inspections of solar installation sites as part of the Solar Homes Program.

A one-day inspection blitz in May revealed some businesses are still risking workers' safety, with the most frequent improvement notices issued in relation to unaddressed risks when working at height.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers must do everything they reasonably can to reduce the risk of falls from height.

"When installing solar panels on roofs, there are many measures employers must take to reduce the risk of falls, such as using edge protection and a fall arrest system," Dr Beer said.

"Doing nothing is never an option. WorkSafe has prosecuted seven solar businesses this year, all in relation to working at height offences."

The seven new technical solution sheets developed by WorkSafe and Solar Victoria are designed to help installers assess risks, plan a safe approach to installation and comply with their occupational health and safety duties.

The fact sheets cover safety at height, edge protection, manual handling of heavy and bulky items, ladder safety, working near asbestos containing materials, safe work practices using elevating work platforms and avoiding falls through skylights, fragile roofs and voids.

Solar Victoria CEO Stan Krpan said he was enormously proud of the safety standards implemented through the Solar Homes Program with the help of WorkSafe and the commitment of responsible solar businesses.

"Our safety and quality audits have found the number of unsafe installations has more than halved since the program commenced, however, there is clearly more work to be done."

"These technical guidance sheets are a valuable reference to ensure businesses know exactly what they need to do to protect their most important asset: their workers," Mr Krpan said.

Installers found to be in breach of health and safety laws for failing to work safely at height face hefty penalties and are also excluded from participating in Solar Victoria's programs for three years.

The technical solution sheet series can be downloaded at: solar.vic.gov.au/solar-industry-guidance

Updated