Before Working at Height
- Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so
- where work at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment
- Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated
Further Tactics to Reduce Work at Height Risk
You should also consider the following aspects when planning work:
- do as much work as possible from the ground
- ensure workers can get safely to and from where they work at height
- ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job, maintained and checked regularly
- not overload or overreach when working at height
- take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
- provide protection from falling objects
- consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures
Resources for Working at Height Podcast
Working at Height Podcast Transcript
We’re going to walk through the step-by-step decision-making process that the Health and Safety Executive here in the UK have scripted out for us.
This can help when we’re deciding what sort of control measures will be necessary when we’re working at height.
Obviously it is one of the major areas were fatalities occur and serious injuries as well. Hopefully this blog is something that you can come back to over and over again or share with your colleagues.
They’re going through that decision-making process when they’re planning work. So really all this is doing is looking at the hierarchy of control and walking through it in a way that is appropriate for working at height.
Can you eliminate Working at Height?
The first thing we want to do is to consider whether we can eliminate the working at height in the first place, so therefore preventing actually getting up to any height of any significance and taking away that risk completely.
Things you want to think about here are for example; if you were doing window cleaning, can you use extendable tools from ground level to remove the need for ladders (or any other equipment to get you up to that level).
If you’re installing Hardware or any sort of equipment for your buildings e.g. air conditioning.
It’s a great question to ask – Do we really need to be placing them at a height?
Of course, this will also apply when people are performing maintenance, so may create an additional risk at a later stage.
Much of the time, during the design process, someone will think it is a good idea to put that an element of infrastructure at a height. But, they don’t always think of the safety repercussions. And besides, it’s not always really necessary.
That is something that can be considered during the design planning process. Something else to think about in terms of prevention or elimination, is whether you can pre-fabricate the work at ground level.
By doing this, you may be able to significantly reduce the amount of time required to work at height.
Preventing a Fall from Height
That leads us on to the second most preferable option here, which is preventing a fall from occurring.
So rather than avoiding or eliminating the work at height completely, how can you work towards minimizing the risk of a fall from actually happening?
Ways of doing this would include selecting where your work location is according to the existing, collective control measures that are in place.
For example, existing edge protection on a roof or a guarded mezzanine floor area, for example. If you’re installing equipment, you’ll want to prioritize using these areas because they do have existing control measures in place.
We tend to see preventative approaches e.g. guard rails, netting, in schemes such as high-rise construction projects. On these projects, there are usually high numbers of people working in the vicinity of a significant fall risk over long periods of time.
If you don’t have that option, then you will looking more towards using the type of equipment that will prevent falls, such as MEWPs or mobile elevated working platforms, scissor lifts etc.
You’ll also want to consider whether a fixed structure, such as a scaffold, would be appropriate. In some cases, you might want to think about using a mobile scaffold depending on the type of work that you’re carrying out.
And finally, when you’re looking to prevent a fall from occurring, you may consider some work restraint systems, which maybe tether a person to roofing structure.
Which then doesn’t allow them to get into a position where they can fall.
That really rounds up the options when it comes to preventing a fall from occurring and then moving on from that you’re looking to try and mitigate or minimize the distance and consequences of a fall.
Minimising Harm from Falls at Height
When you move beyond the eliminatory or preventative of systems, we should be dealing with lower risk, short-duration activities. In these cases, the use of ladders and step-ladders can still be a sensible and practical option.
A few questions to ask when planning this type of work –
Do you have a suitable type of access frame or ladder for the job?
For example, does it reach the right height without putting anybody at risk?
Is the person competent to carry out the work using the equipment?
Have you provided a person with adequate training and do they extra need help or supervision?
Using the equipment properly and following an actual system of work (see manufacturer’s/industry guidance) is really helpful when planning this type of work.
At the very least, it is advisable to record some form of method statement that includes exactly what you’re planning to do and how you are going to do it.
This is especially important if you’re carrying out a new activity, non-standard work, or something that’s significantly different from what’s been done before.