Just 5% of the UK’s employees work within the construction industry, yet the sector is responsible for almost 30% of workplace deaths. In the last two decades improvements in health and safety have seen fatalities fall by around 60%, but in the last 12 months, 50 people lost their lives due to a fall from height at work.
There are many professions where working at height could be a requirement, including construction, maintenance, cleaning services, plumbing and more. The biggest danger that anyone working at height faces is becoming complacent and failing to take the correct safety steps or use the right equipment. Whatever your job, if you work at height it’s essential to follow all the relevant safety procedures to protect yourself, your colleagues and the general public. Read on to find out everything you need to know about working at height.
Working at Height and the Law
The law requires that anyone working at height must have undertaken the relevant training and have a comprehensive understanding of health and safety legislation
surrounding their job. This generally requires a comprehensive training course to be undertaken initially and followed up by a refresher course once every two to four years.
In the majority of cases employees will need to be able to give proof that they have had the relevant training before they are allowed to work on a construction site or similar.
In addition, it’s essential to ensure that the area where work will be carried out has been made as safe as possible
and that employees are wearing the correct safety clothing and equipment. For example steel balustrades and handrails installation or the wearing of safety harnesses may be necessary.
Precautions to Take When Working at Height
Risk assessments should always be carried out before working at height takes place. This will help identify any potential hazards
and ensure that appropriate safety measures are implemented. If you’re responsible for compiling risk assessments then take a look below for some tips that you may find useful.
1. Can you avoid working at height altogether? If it’s possible to use other equipment such as long handled tools to avoid working at height then do so.
2. Preventing falls when working at height is paramount so look for areas that already have guard rails or parapets and if none are present, consider the safety equipment you’ll need to add such as steel balustrades and handrails.
3. Check carefully for any fragile surfaces which staff could run the risk of walking or falling on. If there are fragile surfaces in the work area make sure all staff are aware of them.
4. If you are a site supervisor then it’s your responsibility to ensure that anyone working at height is properly qualified to do so, which means you’ll need to see proof that they’ve been correctly trained.
5. Have you minimised the consequences of a fall? Accidents do happen from time to time but putting the correct measures in place will help lessen the risk. For example equipment such as air bags and safety nets can be utilised to help keep staff safe.
Working at Height – Safety Equipment
Edge protection is tantamount to safety when working at height and anyone installing edge protection such as balustrades and scaffolds must be properly qualified. Different types of building and structure will require different types of edge protection so it’s always important to consider the job you are carrying out and the area it is being carried out in carefully before you decide what type of edge protection and safety equipment is needed.
Ensure that ladders are only used as a means of getting to a workplace
as opposed to as a place to work, unless they are only being used for a short time. If staff will be working at height for long periods then a mobile scaffold tower or elevated working platform is likely to be the best option.
Public Safety and Scaffolds
Scaffolds can present a danger to staff and to the public so take a look at the tips below to ensure your scaffold is safe for everyone in and around a work site.
1. If you’re erecting scaffold in a public area, for example on a public route or pavement, you’ll need to get permission for the Highways Agency.
2. Brick guards, netting and sheeting will stop objects from falling off scaffolding.
3. In high risk areas it’s likely that walkway installation and steel balustrades and handrails installation will be required.
4. Signs and barriers should be erected to keep members of the public at a safe distance from scaffolding.
5. The scaffolding used should be designed for purpose. For example stronger scaffolding will be needed if it is being used to support the weight of staff and equipment.
6. In highly populated or busy areas it’s a good idea to erect and dismantle scaffolding during quiet times of day.
7. Hoists and chutes should always be used to remove materials from a scaffold. Materials should never be thrown.