Rooftop photovoltaic (PV) Solar Installation is occurring rapidly throughout Victoria in response to the Victorian Government solar rebate scheme offered to residential customers.
As a result, numerous electrical contractors and their employees have entered the solar installation market.
There has already been one fatality where an employee of a solar installer fell from a ladder while climbing down from a house roof. In another serious incident, an employee fell off a step ladder which he was climbing down from a single storey garage roof.
Solar Installation Safety Blitz
Worksafe regularly conducts targeted inspections at solar installation sites across Victoria focussing on;
• Fall controls particularly ensuring handrail protection is used on house roofs where reasonably practicable
• The safe use of ladders in accessing/egressing the roof and ensuring ladders are secured from movement
• Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) are available on site and employees are inducted into the SWMS
• Employees are adequately trained in how to do their work safely ie work at heights training
• Employees have Construction Industry Cards (CI)
• Employees, particularly apprentices have adequate supervision
• Only licensed electrical installation workers are doing the wiring work
Worksafe Inspectors will continue to actively visit domestic solar installations sites, taking compliance action against those employers and self-employed persons flouting the law, and putting their workers or others at risk.
Risk of falls from heights
Working on or inside a roof is hazardous and fall prevention measures
must be used.
Fall risks typically associated with solar panel installation on residential premises can occur at each stage of accessing and working on a roof. These stages are:
A. Fall risks while accessing or getting down from a roof
B. Fall risks while working at a roof edge
C. Fall risks through fragile roof surfaces
A combination of risk control measures will usually be required to control fall risks. This is done using the ‘Prevention of falls hierarchy’.
- Level 1: Eliminate the risk by doing all or some of the work on the ground or from a solid construction
- Level 2: Reduce any remaining risk by using a passive fall prevention device, for example, using scaffolding, perimeter screens, guardrails, safety mesh or elevating work platforms.
- Level 3: Reduce remaining risk by using a work positioning system, for example, travel-restraint systems or industrial rope-access systems.
- Level 4: Reduce remaining risk by using fall-arrest systems, for example, using catch platforms or fall arrest harness systems.
- Level 5: Reduce remaining risk by using a ladder or administrative controls. Record keeping duties apply for administrative records. Note ladders are not suitable for long duration of high force tasks.
For detailed risk control recommendations for each stage of PV installation work, visit the guidance developed by Energy Safe Victoria in collaboration with Worksafe.
Risk of Electric Shock
Employers must ensure that only employees who are licensed electrical installation workers carry out electrical installation work. The electrical risk associated with making incorrect connections, such as with panel to panel connectors, may result in serious shock or injury, or significant property damage.
Read further on how to control the risk of electrical shocks and conduct a proper risk assessment while installing photovoltaic (PV) equipment.
Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS)
A safe work method statement (SWMS) is required for undertaking high-risk construction work. High risk construction work associated with solar installation may include but not be limited to the following tasks:
• where a person has a risk of falling more than 2 metres; and
• on or near energised electrical installations or services.
Listen to Inspector Brian Chamberlin for more information on SWMS. Note: Employers should ensure that employees are appropriately trained and supervised and only perform tasks that they are qualified to do.
For further information on working safely when installing photovoltaic (PV) systems, how to control the risk of a fall, access to the SWMS statement form and copies of compliance codes, visit worksafe.vic.gov.au/fall prevention or contact WorkSafe Advisory on 1800 136 089.