How to Work at Height SafelyOctober 30, 2018
As one of the biggest causes of accidents and fatalities at work, working from height is something everyone needs to take seriously. To work safely at height, all operations should adhere to the Work at height regulations 2005 and consider health and safety at every stage from planning through to execution.
Planning work from height
Planning is integral to working at height safely. One of the first points to consider is who is doing the planning; they must be competent and hold the appropriate certifications for the work and equipment involved, but you can read more about competence in our recent blog post, ‘Are my staff competent to work at height?’.
Every job is unique and requires different equipment and safety measures. Therefore, it’s important to know the work environment before deciding which equipment and safety precautions you’ll need; consider points such as:
- Is the ground flat or sloped, hard or soft and are there obstructions such as trees or shrubs to work around?
- Are the site conditions uniform or do they change?
- What are the access routes?
- How much space is there to manoeuvre equipment?
Choosing the wrong equipment increases the risk of accidents and injuries, so it’s important to get it right, whether that means using scaffolding for more long-term access to one area or Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MWEP) for shorter-term access to more areas. A detailed site survey and risk assessment will assist in decision making and consider that one option may not be suitable for all areas. You may need a range of equipment to work safely across varying site conditions, which was the case in this repair of a grade listed country house that we assisted with; it involved the use of three different machines.
When it comes to considering fall protection and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), emphasis should be on removing the risk of falls, so using guardrails and barriers, then on minimising fall distance and potential consequences. To make a safe selection, ensure you understand and consider factors such as fall distance and how the equipment works. There is little point in using a harness, for example, if the lanyard is too long for the fall distance as it won’t work properly. Anchor points are also vital – make sure you’re attached to a sturdy anchorage that can take the weight required.
Hopefully, with effective planning, you’ll avoid accidents, but it’s vital that you’re prepared just in case. Have emergency procedures in place and communicate them to everyone involved, so they know what to do should an accident, such as a fall, occur.
Carrying out work from height
We have already touched on competence in regards to planning, but the same goes for supervision and operation of machinery; make sure all workers are certified for the type of work you’re employing them to do. Competence isn’t everything though; many factors increase the chance of human error and thus compromise safety, such as tiredness, stress, or sickness, so make sure all workers are fit to work before starting.
Another point to consider is that safety equipment and PPE is only useful if in good condition and used correctly. Therefore, inspect, keep, and use all plant and fall protection as instructed and as per manufacturer’s guidelines and regulation, so, for example, don’t exceed people or weight limits of a MEWP. If you do find an issue with equipment, take it out of service until it is safe to use.
Finally, don’t get complacent. Whether you have done the job ten times or 100, always treat it the same; never cut corners to save time. That means always run through safety checks, inspect equipment, and wear PPE. It may seem like a lot, but it’s when people get lazy that things go wrong.
If you need any advice on how to work safely at height or which equipment to use, contact us; we have experience, offer plant hire, safety equipment and training, and can conduct site surveys to ensure all your work from height is as safe as possible.