Working at height is the biggest danger for workers in the construction industry, according to an in-depth report by the Building Safety Group (BSG).
The report combined the results of 20,000 site safety inspections in 2016, during which the BSG logged 24,634 non-compliances. They found that working at height was by far the most significant hazard, accounting for 19% of all safety breeches.
Many of these instances can easily be prevented with proper planning, training and procedures.
Take a look at these dos and don’ts of working at height.
Carry out as much work as possible on the ground
The easiest way to avoid falls from height is to not work at height in the first place. For some tasks it will be completely unavoidable to carry out all work from the ground, but you should plan projects to ensure that as little time as possible is spent at height.
Ensure a clear, safe route for workers
Getting to and from the area where they will be working from height can be risky for workers. Keep all access routes clear and make use of guardrails to improve safety on the way to and from the job.
Check that all equipment is suitable for the job
Always use the right equipment for the job and ensure that workers are properly trained in its correct use. Make sure that all equipment is regularly maintained and checked before use.
Take precautions on or around fragile surfaces
Fragile roof lights are one of the most common causes of falls from height in construction. Before commencing with any work at height, a risk assessment should be carried out, identifying fragile surfaces and ensuring that workers are made aware of them or told to avoid them completely.
Provide protection from falling objects
Workers on the ground can also be injured when others are working at height. Make sure that all workers are supplied with the correct PPE, which may include HiVis clothing and hardhats. Chutes should be used to dispose of waste materials from height rather than allowing them to drop below.
Plan for emergencies
Make sure that emergency evacuation and rescue procedures are in place and that they workers are fully trained in what to do should an incident occur.
Use ladders for lengthy or heavy-duty tasks
Ladders are not designed for lengthy tasks, nor can they bear as much weight as other solutions such as scaffolding. Consider the equipment that workers will be using and the materials that they need to transport before starting the task and ensure that ladders are not overloaded. Ladders should not be used for more than 30 minutes at a time.
When working on a ladder or step ladder, make sure not to reach out too far. Doing so may cause you to lose your balance or push the ladder out from underneath your feet. Always move the ladder to an appropriate position to allow easy access without reaching or straining. Make sure not to overreach when working at height, even with edge protection.
Rest a ladder against a weak surface
Where you place the top edge of the ladder can make it either sturdy or unsafe. Never lean ladders against windows, gutters, or any other fragile surface that could shift, break or slide under pressure.
Use workers who are not competent to work at height
Workers who do not have the skills or experience to work at height must never do so unless under proper supervision. During the planning stage, only those who have proven competence in working at height should be selected to do so. If there are any doubts, it is better to err on the side of caution, as an incompetent worker puts others at risk as well as themselves.
Working safely at height with Ajax Safe Access
Ajax Safe Access are dedicated to ensuring the safety of those working at height.
We provide bespoke safety and access solutions to keep workers safe, no matter what industry you work in. Contact us to find out more about what we can offer.