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Height Safety Maintenance for Melbourne’s Heritage Pride

Facility and Property Managers appreciate that maintaining a heritage building at a busy school can be a delicate balancing act. You need a solid team of maintenance staff, tradespeople, and contractors who understand the intricacies of heritage overlays. 

It takes a village. One such village is that of a top Melbourne Private School, an independent day and boarding school with a complex portfolio of properties. 

A Rich Portfolio of Heritage Buildings

Melbourne Grammar School has had a presence in Southeast Melbourne, since the late 1800s.

“Strolling through its grounds, you can really appreciate the old buildings and the stellar architecture that have withstood the test of time.”

“Naturally, buildings designed and built over 120 years ago may not conform to the modern-day necessities of Occupational Health and Safety standards.”

MGS has a senior campus in South Melbourne and a junior campus in a Southeast suburb, plus other sites such as sports fields in Melbourne and campsites across Victoria. Many of the buildings are composed of bluestone and are over 100 years old, with roofs containing slate tiles with a steep pitch. Naturally, this can present many challenges to the maintenance/ property team and contractors.

Dangers/Complications

When working with buildings that are so old, there can be many hidden dangers. While they were built to last, many of these structures weren’t designed with air conditioning, roof access or even electricity in mind. In some buildings, access to internal roof cavities is very dangerous, with the potential for workers to actually fall through the ceiling and right into classrooms, posing major safety risks for them, staff and students.

“It is also vital that any system designed could only be accessed by qualified workers, and not by students.”

One of the first steps in Workplace Access and Safety’s relationship with MGS was to identify the dangers in collaboration with them.

This was a time-consuming but absolutely necessary measure, as each building within MGS was different, with varying levels of complexity. It quickly became obvious that WAS and MGS were aligned with our visions, values and the practicalities of making the school buildings safe.

Balancing Heritage Building Aesthetics, Structural Integrity & Budget

Working alongside the maintenance team, we took time to understand the different structures, needs and priorities of the school. Where possible, there was a desire to design height-safety systems that were aesthetically pleasing and blended in as much as possible, such as with powder-coated ladders, guardrails and hidden rigid rail systems.

The team was also concerned about maintenance tasks within spaces not originally designed to hold equipment such as air conditioning units. Workers would need a level platform on which to do their job but the internal structures of the roof and their capacity to support loads needed to be carefully considered.

In some cases, roof access had to occur through internal spaces, rather than from the outside. WAS designed suspended walkways and attic ladders that lead to hatches on the exterior roof. Not only did it mean that the chance of falling through a classroom ceiling was avoided, it also meant that access could be achieved with little disruption to students and staff, while hiding the majority of the height-safety system internally. At other times, rather than vertical or portable ladders being used, instead step ladders or staircases would be more appropriate, particularly if workers needed to carry equipment with them.

It was also vital that systems installed on slate roofs did not damage the tiles and that any penetrations were sealed, as leaks could easily occur, creating further issues. We work closely with MGS’ slate roofing company so that all of our designs will have minimal impacts on the heritage building’s roofs.

Throughout the process, it was important that we always kept a careful eye on the budget and the necessity of caring for these heritage-listed buildings. Practically speaking, work had to be prioritised and distributed across multiple financial years.

Lastly, as many of MGS’ buildings have a heritage overlay, final approval was sought and granted by Heritage Victoria, who signed off on all of our work. They were happy that the height safety systems installed by Workplace Access and Safety were not only safe but had minimal impact on the overall aesthetics of the buildings.

End Result

As Workplace Access and Safety are completely independent height safety consultants, we were able to offer a design, quality assurance and compliance package of height safety systems without upselling expensive products and unnecessary additions.

“It is helpful that we have access to all documentation and compliance recertification schedules through Workplace Access’ asset management system. Everything is in order and we’re on top of all our legal obligations”.

“We have enjoyed our professional relationship with Workplace Access & Safety since 2004 so much that we have happily recommended them to other clients such as the Boroondara City Council and even Parliament House in Melbourne’s CBD”.

Arrange an Audit or Inspection Today

Workplace Access and Safety continues to conduct inspections of the installed height safety systems on all MGS buildings. We ensure that not only are their systems still safe and functional, but also the structures on which they are installed. Our relationship with this school and many others is a source of pride for our organisation.

If you know of a heritage building that could use a risk assessment contact us on 1300 552 984. Get in touch to talk about your buildings height safety needs today.