Health and safety is important in any workplace, but it’s particularly vital if you’re working at height. Falls from a height is the main cause of fatal accidents or serious injury in the workplace and employers have a duty of care to keep employees safe.
Working at height can involve scaffolding, roof work, ladders, working platforms or rope access works, but over two thirds of work at height injuries are caused by a fall of two metres or less. It’s important to stay safe on any job that involves working at height, so read on for our top tips.
Site surveys and risk assessments
A competent employee should carry out a site survey and risk assessment before the start of any job. This allows you to identify any potential hazards and make sure appropriate safety measures are in place. The assessment should include a detailed description of any hazards and a risk rating (e.g, low, medium or high).
It’s also a good idea to include photos and each hazard must have a plan of action to mitigate the risk (e.g PPE, appropriate safety equipment etc).
Provide the right PPE
All employees must be provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working at height. PPE might include hard hats, non-slip footwear and thick gloves to protect against cuts. Employees should also avoid wearing loose clothing when working at height as this can catch on equipment and cause falls.
An all in one overall is preferable when working at height to reduce snagging and pockets should be fastened to prevent items falling out and harming workers on the ground. It’s also a good idea to wear a hi-vis vest or jacket so that employees can be seen at all times. Protective goggles may also be required in some circumstances, but care should be taken to ensure that they don’t interfere with the hard hat. Fall protection systems are also essential for anyone working at height; we will discuss these in more detail further on.
It’s vital to ensure that any employee working at height is fully skilled and trained to do so. Any training should be supervised by a fully competent member of staff, or you may need to hire a third party to provide training. Some training can take place on the job (for example, how to safely use a ladder) but sometimes a more technical level of competence will be required.
Assembling scaffolding, using fall protection systems and roof work may require a certification or training scheme to ensure staff are fully competent. There are many different training courses available, including ladder safety, safety harnesses and working at height awareness. Proper staff training protects employees from harm and employers have a responsibility to comply under the Work at Height
Regulations 2005 (WAHR).
Failure to provide adequate training can result in accidents and injury, as well as significant fines and even prosecution.
Fall protection systems
Fall protection systems are another form of PPE and they use body support systems, hooks and a lanyard attached to an anchor point. There are two main types of fall protection systems that can be used; fall restraint and fall arrest.
Fall restraint systems
Fall restraint systems use PPE to restrict a worker’s movement and prevent them reaching a hazardous area where a fall might occur. Some freedom of movement is still possible, but a short lanyard attached to an anchor point can restrict an employee from reaching a dangerous area, e.g the edge of a roof.
Fall arrest systems
A fall arrest system works to protect the worker if a fall does occur. These systems should only be used as a last resort and employers should make sure there are adequate collective protection measures in place first (more on this later). Fall arrest systems consist of a full body harness, lanyard with shock absorber, connector and anchor point. If an employee does fall, this equipment is designed to minimise the fall and prevent the worker from hitting the surface below.
It’s vital that all fall protection systems are thoroughly inspected before use to make sure there are no weak links or faulty parts. Employees should also be fully trained on how to use these systems correctly before starting work.
Inspect all equipment
Employees should thoroughly inspect all equipment before starting a job to make sure it’s strong, sturdy and suitable. This includes all ladders, working platforms, scaffolding structures and PPE (including fall protection systems).
All equipment needs to be properly maintained and any worn or unsafe equipment should be removed from the site immediately.
Collective protection measures
Collective protection measures should always be used alongside individual PPE. safety guides recommend that these take priority, as they’re used to prevent a fall in the first place, rather than minimise the consequences if a fall should occur.
Collective protection measures include guard rails, air bags, nets and scissor lifts. These measures can be temporary or permanent and no additional staff training is required for them to be effective.
Don’t overload equipment
Employees should avoid overloading ladders or working platforms with too much equipment, especially if they’re regularly climbing up and down. All staff should also be aware of the maximum load bearing capacity of any scaffolding they’re working on. Overloading scaffolding can be extremely dangerous for both employees working at height and anyone on the ground. Minimise the risk of falling equipment by only sticking to what you need, even if you have to travel down to the ground more frequently.
Check the weather
Always consider the weather when working at height in order to stay safe. High winds, heavy rain, snow and ice can all make working conditions unsafe, so consider delaying work if weather conditions are bad.
Always check scaffolding boards or roof surfaces for frost, snow or ice before starting work and again, consider delaying the project if boards are slippery.
Hire a professional company
Scaffolding is often required when working at height but employees may not have the required training to assemble or dismantle it safely. If in doubt, always hire a professional scaffolding company to do the job for you. A dedicated company will also be able to implement a scaffolding design that’s fully compliant with all health and safety regulations.
Look for certification from a trade body to ensure that the company is fully competent. If you don’t have time to inspect and maintain your scaffolding, a professional company can also do this on your behalf.
Scaffolding services and specialist access works from the experts at Rodells
If you’re in need of scaffolding services or specialist access works for your next project, get in touch with the experts at Rodells. We’re proud to provide scaffolding services for the commercial and industrial sectors and safety is the number one priority for our highly skilled team. We provide a comprehensive range of services, including access scaffolds, mobile towers, site protection, temporary roofing systems, crash decking and more.
Our specialists are also on hand to provide a range of rope access works as a reliable alternative to scaffolding. Rope access works can be used to provide a number of services, including building surveys, high level window cleaning, cable installation, roof repairs, repointing and much more. For more information about any of our services, give us a call today or contact us online.