Sun to shine on rooftop solar installations as SafeWork blitz begins

SafeWork NSW has commenced a compliance blitz focusing on the safe installation of

rooftop solar devices.

Inspectors are ensuring rooftop solar business owners are checking safety of subcontractors

and that those working in the industry are incorporating safe work practices

across the board.

In 2022, SafeWork Inspectors visited 86 rooftop solar installation sites and observed a high

level of non-compliance. During these inspections, 403 notices were issued, with fines

totalling $216,864. Most notices issued were for falls from heights, followed by falling

object and electrical risk.

In 2022’s blitz, Inspectors noted:

  • 54 per cent of the sites that had fall protections in place, were not adequate to keep

    workers safe

  • 42 per cent of sites did not have adequate controls to prevent a fall through brittle

    or fragile roof materials e.g. no skylight covers, roof mesh, physical exclusion zones

  • 64 per cent of workers who were wearing harnesses were not connected to the

    harness system

  • 61 per cent of sites did not have a plan or diagram that showed the system layout,

    including access points, anchor point locations or location of fall hazards.

It is clear from Inspector observations that workers in the rooftop solar panel installation

industry are at high-risk of serious or fatal incidents due to the recurrence of having no or

inadequate fall protection in place.

Additionally, the reliance of harnesses for fall protection continues to place workers lives at

risk due to the high proportion of systems that are either set up incorrectly or not being

used safely.

Industry must continue to lift its standards in relation to using higher level fall protection,

such as temporary edge protection and scaffolds, opposed to harnesses which should only

be used as the last resort.

While falls continue to be the main area of concern, risks such as electrical, asbestos and

musculoskeletal issues also need to be controlled. It is also important to note not all sites

are the same so risk assessments should be site specific.

If rooftop solar retailers and installers are found to not be meeting their legislative

requirements, they can face a fine of up to $3,600.

Head of SafeWork NSW Trent Curtin said:

“Following concerning results from previous compliance programs, SafeWork NSW

Inspectors will be out in the community targeting the safety duties of retailers and installers

of rooftop solar.

“Inspectors often find those in the solar industry taking short-cuts and endangering the

lives of workers by not having adequate safety measures in place. We will be taking a zerotolerance

approach and those caught will be fined and potentially prosecuted.

“Falls from heights remain the number one cause of fatalities on building sites in NSW and

SafeWork NSW is committed to bringing these concerning numbers down in 2024.

“Last year, preventing falls from heights was a regulatory priority for SafeWork NSW and

this year we will continue to prioritise the safety of workers, especially those involved in the

installation of solar panels.”

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/Public Release. View in full here.