Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of major injuries and fatalities in the workplace. A common cause is falls from ladders and through weak roofs, and these falls are often preventable with the correct procedures and safety equipment. Take a look at this guide to working at height for some important safety tips.
What is working at height?
Working at height means working in any conditions where, without proper precautions, a person could fall a distance that could result in personal injury.
This includes working:
- on a ladder or flat roof;
- where you may fall through a fragile surface;
- where you may fall into an opening in the ground or floor.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) have been created to prevent death and injury from a fall from height. It is essential that any company or employee that is involved in working at height is aware of these regulations and that the proper safety precautions are carried out at all times.
The WAHR suggest analysing each step of the procedure to consider what is practical, and to identify how you can avoid, prevent or minimise the risk of falls from height.
Avoid working at height unless absolutely necessary. Try to find alternative ways to do the work and carry out as much of the procedure as you can from the ground.
Where working at height is unavoidable, it is essential to plan properly and put measures in place to prevent a fall. This includes using suitable protection such as guardrails and safety harnesses, ensuring that that all workers are competent to work at height, and taking working conditions such as weather and and location into account.
If you cannot completely eliminate the risk of a fall, implement procedures to minimise the consequences should a fall occur. This includes using appropriate equipment and reduce the distance of a potential fall.
Plan the project to minimise the risk of falls from height
The project should be well planned to ensure that risks are anticipated and that suitable prevention methods are put in place. Where possible, risks should be designed out during the planning stage. This may include providing protection from falling objects, organising the workforce to minimise the number of people that are working at height, or undertaking as much of the work as possible from the ground.
When planning work at height, it’s important to consider the current and forecast weather conditions This will help you to prepare for weather that may adversely affect footing or workers’ health, such as high winds, rain, frost or extreme heat.
The duration of the work should be considered and procedures for working at height should be amended to cater for long-term projects. For example, a more expensive, semi-permanent structure may be created to better facilitate access to and from the work area. While this may not be cost-effective for a shorter project, extended works will require more frequent access to and from the work site, which poses a greater fall risk.
Make sure to plan your evacuation and rescue procedures in the event of an emergency. Anticipate foreseeable dangers and make sure that all workers fully understand the emergency procedures. The emergency services should be a last point of call and you should not rely on them as your only source of rescue.
Minimise the risk of falls while working at height
You should inspect the structural integrity of the building and assess each work area every time, as conditions may change. It’s not safe to assume that an area that was safe the previous day is still safe today. Areas that are likely to be fragile and require additional precautions include roof lights, glass, corroded metal, slates and tiles.
All equipment should be suitable for the job, and well maintained. Equipment should be regularly inspected and any defects reported immediately. Workers must be provided with adequate tools and equipment to ensure that they are not overloading or overreaching when working at height.
You should only permit workers who are competent working at height to do so. This includes having sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task. In the case of trainees, this means being supervised by a competent worker.
Collective protection should be favoured over personal protection. This means that measures that protect all workers (such as guardrails) are prioritised over measures that protect a single individual (such as a safety harness). While you should not overlook personal protection, precautions that keep the entire workforce safe are safer.
Employees must use the equipment and safety devices provided to them safely and correctly while working at height. They must also report any identified hazards to their employer, and may wish to propose solutions to manage these risks.
Additional information for working safely at height
The Health and Safety Executive’s website has a section dedicated to working safely at height. Take a look and make sure you are following all necessary procedures.
Safe access solutions from Ajax
Ajax offer bespoke safe access solutions for many industries and practical applications. Our range includes everything from folding stairs and guardrails to pallet gates and bridging platforms. Whatever your requirements, get in touch with us today to ensure that your workers stay safe at all times while working at height.