NSW Solar Installers Should Expect Another Visit from SafeWork


New South Wales (NSW) solar rooftop installers should expect a visit from SafeWork over the coming months. SafeWork NSW’s workplace health and safety regulator recently announced its plans to perform a state-wide inspection for six months. 

Not a first for SafeWork

This is not the first time this happened. In 2021, SafeWork visited 286 rooftop solar installation locations and found a number of unsafe practices that were alarming. The new inspections to be conducted this year will mark the second time SafeWork will conduct its inspections across the state. 

The solar PV inspections come at the right time with the growing number of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on rooftops in NSW and across the country. 

Despite the growing number, SafeWork wants to ensure that solar retailers and installers adhere to work health and safety laws to keep workers safe. Some of the most common accidents during rooftop installations are falls or electricity contact. 

Last year, the company found that only 69 per cent of the inspected sites used harnesses, whilst others weren’t using fall protection. To make matters worse, 32 per cent of the sites using harnesses for rooftop solar PV installation did not have proper anchor points, whilst 50 per cent weren’t even clipped on to anything at all!

Other issues seen last year included main electrical switches with no locks and unaddressed overhead power lines. 


Penalties for installers

Those not following the work health and safety laws will be fined over $3,600 under the “zero-tolerance approach taken to fall risks.” 

To boost safety standards in the industry, and provide small businesses a leg up, SafeWork provides $1,000 rebates for safety tools and equipment. The program has been running since 2018 and allows businesses with less than 50 employees to provide a safer work environment for their employees. 

The responsibilities of solar retailers, contractors and installers

Solar retailers, contractors and installers have responsibilities under the Work Health and Safety Act NSW 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation NSW 2017 to keep workers and homeowners safe. 

Solar PV installation must only be conducted by a licensed electrician. They must also have a copy of the Certificate of Compliance – Electrical Work (CCEW). 

Businesses must ensure workers have adequate information and training regarding their work activities. This includes providing all necessary information about the nature of work, risks associated with the tasks, control measures, and more. 

Supervision is also vital, and the level of supervision depends on several factors—the level of risk in the job, worker experience, worker skills, and existing controls. On the other hand, a high level of supervision is necessary when new or inexperienced workers will carry out the tasks and when using controls dependent on human behaviour, like harnesses. 

For example, for harness-based work, a plan or diagram should show the system layout and design. These will let workers connect to the system before they step off the ladder. Additionally, the proprietary anchor points must be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and should there be improvised anchor points, they must be assessed to be structurally adequate. 

Whilst the solar panels are being installed, installers must utilise identified control measures to eliminate or minimise all risks and other hazards. 

SafeWork procedures are also in place, whilst supporting structures must adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. The same applies when installing the mounting points of solar panels and framing. Hence, the highest wind speeds for the region must be considered. 

Staying safe on the job

SafeWork released guidelines to ensure general safety for solar retailers, contractors and installers whilst on the job. 

Preparation is highlighted with a focus on a site-specific Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) prepped for every job with a fall risk over two metres or when working on or near asbestos or electricity. The SWMS must be conveyed to workers. 

Also, as part of the preparation process, safety hazards and risks must be identified at the time of quotation and ensure they have the right safety equipment. 

SafeWork also has several videos that will help keep workers safe during the installation of solar PV panels. 

Energy Matters has over 17 years of experience in the solar industry and has helped over 40,000 Australian households in their journey to energy independence.

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