In this article, we explore how you can begin mitigating the health and safety risks of working from height in your work place.
Before starting any work at height, it’s critical to assess the dangers – there are a lot of rules in place for a reason. Conducting a thorough risk assessment before any work begins if you can’t avoid the activity at height (the first step toward reducing the hazards) is necessary.
Table of contents:
What Are The Risks of Working From Height?
Working at height has several hazards, one of which is a fall that might result in injury or death. However, there are other dangers to consider, such as the possibility of objects falling from the work location and injuring people or damaging property below.
What Can You Do To Mitigate The Risks?
There are a number of ways to mitigate the health and safety risks when working from height
1) Appropriate Training
All workers who will be working at height should receive appropriate training. This includes learning how to safely complete the work, as well as how to safely evacuate the area in the event of an emergency.
2) Safe Work Practices
In addition to receiving training, workers should also be familiar with and practice safe work practices. This includes working within the limitations of their personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as avoiding working under pressure or when fatigued.
3) Use Appropriate Equipment When working at height, it’s important to use the appropriate equipment for the job. This includes choosing the right type of ladder, working platform, or other device.
4) Inspect Equipment
Before using any equipment, it’s important to inspect it for safety. This includes checking for damage, proper function, and correct assembly .
5) Use Fall Protection
When working at height, it’s imperative to use fall protection. This includes wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment and using systems or devices to prevent falls.
6) Follow The Regulations
In order to ensure worker safety, there are regulations in place for working at height. These must be followed at all times.
Working from height can be a dangerous activity, but by following these tips, the risks can be minimised.
When working with equipment or tools, always remember to inspect them for safety and to use the appropriate personal protective equipment.
Familiarise yourself with the regulations in place for working at height in your area, and always adhere to them.
Risk Of Falling Is Not A Static Risk
The danger of a fall is not simply a static risk; various elements can raise its probability, including:
- The height of the work
- The duration of the task
- The number of people involved
- The weather conditions
- The condition of the surface being worked upon
The Harder The Job, The Harder The Fall
The more demanding the job, the greater the danger. The risk of falling increases as the height rises, with catastrophic damage and even death becoming a possibility at higher elevations.
Tiredness & Fatigue
The more time it takes, the higher the risk is that something will go wrong or that tiredness will cause mistakes.
The more individuals involved in a job that takes place high up, the greater the dangers – people getting in each other’s way, as well as communication about who is performing what, who is responsible for the equipment.
Wet or icy conditions can make access equipment – particularly those with long arms that must be maneuvered into position such as cranes and bucket trucks – unstable, making it difficult to manage large objects caught by the wind.
Rain, sleet, snow, and ice make slips more likely, and cold temperatures may reduce manual dexterity.
Each factor affects the overall risk. So, although not all factors will be relevant in every situation, they should all be considered, only dismissing irrelevant factors once it is clear that they will not be an issue.
Conducting A Fall Risk Assessment
When you have a working at height requirement, you should perform a comprehensive risk assessment to verify that you’ve identified and addressed all of the possible hazards, as well as completed everything feasible to reduce them.
According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), a five-step method for measuring height-related dangers is recommended:
- Keep an eye out for risks linked to falls from height at your workplace. Where are people required to work at heights? Do they perform tasks off ladders, platforms, scaffolds, or unprotected or delicate roofs?
- Determine who will be affected and how. Who goes through your business? Are they in danger? Is there a disparity between various categories of individuals?
- Consider the potential consequences. Are any precautions in place to address the dangers? Examine areas with exposed gaps or without guardrails and covers. Is there anyone who checks on these areas on a regular basis?
- If you have five or more workers, keep track of your findings.
- Keep an eye on the assessment and check it for updates. If significant developments occur, double-check that the safeguards are still appropriate to address the dangers.
Now, Let’s Mitigate The Risk of Working From Height
It’s time to mitigate any potential dangers once you’ve assessed the risks.
Mitigation will be different for each risk, so it’s not feasible to address every strategy that may be taken, but you should think about:
- Avoiding working at height if possible
- Preventing falls by using the right equipment, including personal and collective protective equipment and appropriate access equipment for the duration and height of the task
- Minimising the distance (and consequences) of a fall using the right equipment, including access equipment and harnesses
- Protecting people on the ground by using appropriate guards, warnings, and exclusion zones around the working at height area
- Assessing the stability and condition of any surface to be worked upon, and using the right access equipment in the event that the surface is unsuitable
- Ensuring any access equipment in use is stable, suitable, and appropriately maintained
- Postponing the work where necessary – for example, if weather conditions are such that work will not be safe, postpone rather than try to work around it
- Ensuring that all workers are competent – this usually means that they have completed the appropriate training for working at height (IPAF and PASMA, generally), as well as any training required for the specific task being undertaken
To Summarise: Mitigating The Health and Safety Risks Of Working From Height
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To summarise, mitigating the health and safety risks of working from height can be achieved by:
- avoiding working at height when possible
- using the right equipment, including personal and collective protective equipment and appropriate access equipment for the duration and height of the task
- minimising the distance (and consequences) of a fall using the right equipment, including access equipment and harnesses
- protecting people on the ground by using appropriate guards, warnings, and exclusion zones around the working at height area
- assessing the stability and condition of any surface to be worked upon, and using the right access equipment in the event that the surface is unsuitable
- ensuring any access equipment in use is stable, suitable, and appropriately maintained
- postponing the work when necessary – for example, if weather conditions are such that working at height will not be safe, postpone rather than try to work around it
- ensuring all workers are competent.