Topics explained – Working in ceiling spaces

Whether you are an experienced construction worker or a home DIYer, working in ceiling spaces can pose significant dangers to your health.

Major risks are:

  • heat stress
  • electric shock
  • electrocution
  • falling through the ceiling.


Electrical hazards include:

  • exposed live electrical conductor / wiring
  • electrical connections where the condition of wiring has deteriorated, often associated with older buildings
  • unused wiring left in the ceiling that could be still connected to the switchboard
  • past electrical work not performed by a competent person.

Heat hazards include:

  • high air temperatures, frequently exceeding 50°C in summer, contributed to by strong radiant heat on the roof
  • reduced ability for the body to cool due to poor ventilation and lack of air movement
  • lack of heat stress awareness.

Other hazards include:

  • bites or stings from insects including spiders and wasps
  • falling through the ceiling
  • falling off ladders while accessing the ceiling
  • exposure to bird and / or vermin droppings or remains
  • asbestos and dust exposure
  • working in awkward positions and postures – potential for muscular or skeletal strain / injury
  • working in poor light.

Safety considerations

To avoid electrocution you must:

  • switch off the electricity supply to the whole area before you touch, move or physically disturb any electrical wiring, cable or junction box connection
  • always seek the services of competent people, such as an electrician
  • only attempt electrical work or tasks where you have the required skills or qualifications.

To avoid heat-related illness you must:

  • determine the safe entry time by assessing the temperature, through feeling for and/or measuring heat, before entering the space
  • ensure all workers are trained in heat-risk awareness and how to recognise heat stress symptoms in themselves and their workmates.

Other safety considerations include:

  • eliminating or minimising the danger from vermin or insect activity before entry into the roof / ceiling space
  • using crawl boards to walk across ceiling space
  • ensuring your entry and exit points are easily accessible
  • stabilising and securing ladders to avoid slipping when being used
  • using appropriate personal protective equipment.