Lone Working at Height: Tips and Risk Assessments
Lone working at height can be very dangerous so it's important for employers to minimise the risks and ensure that emergency help is available if an accident occurs.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), falls from height accounted for 29% of fatalities at work between 2019 and 2020.
When working at height while alone, all it takes is one mistake to turn a routine task into a fatality or life-changing injury.
Why are Lone Workers at Risk of Harm?
Lone workers are more at risk when working at height because there’s no one else around to ensure that company health and safety procedures are being followed or equipment is being used correctly, to support with difficult tasks, or to advise if they spot a hazard during a dynamic risk assessment.
The worst scenario is an accident occurring while an employee is working alone. They could be left without help for a long period of time resulting in a fatality that could have been prevented.
In this instance, a lone worker device would either allow the user to call for help at the push of a Red Alert button or the device would detect that the user was incapacitated and would automatically initiate a man-down alarm. In these situations, the operators in our Alarm Receiving Centre will initiate an emergency response in just over 30 seconds. This quick response really can be life-saving.
Who is at Risk from Lone Working at Height?
Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of injury among construction workers. However, there are many other job roles that require working at height e.g. painters, decorators, roofers, window cleaners, scaffolders, surveyors, tree surgeons, electrical engineers, crane operators, and many more.
As an employer, one method to gauge the level of risk employees face can be achieved with a risk assessment. The HSE recommends a five-step approach to help mitigate the risks employees face when lone working at height.
Lone Working at Height Risk Assessment: Considerations
1. Look for hazards associated with working at height.
- Where are workers required to work at height?
- Is the location accessible?
- Are there any social risks associated with the location? E.g. risk of violence or aggression.
- Are ladders, platforms or scaffolds required?
- Will workers be required to stand on unprotected or fragile roofs?
- If machinery or portable access equipment needs to be used, what are the hazards?
- Are workers fit and healthy? Do they have any medical conditions that you may need to consider?
- Is there a risk that items could be dropped from height causing injury?
- Can the worker be contacted in the event of an emergency? And how will the worker notify the emergency services or a manager if they have an accident and are incapacitated?
2. Decide who might be harmed and how.
- Who comes into the workplace or visits the site? Are they at risk?
- Is there a risk to the public?
- Are some groups more at risk than others?
3. Manage the risks associated with working at height.
- Are there measures in place to reduce the risks? e.g. fall restraints, edge protection, lone worker devices, and buddy systems.
- Are regular inspections carried out?
- How often will you review the hazards and your risk management strategy?
- Are your workers happy that you have considered everything that might impact their safety while working at height, or otherwise?
- Is there sufficient training in place for managers and lone workers?
4. Document your findings
- Employers are required to demonstrate that the risks associated with lone working at height have been carefully considered and all necessary safety precautions are in place.
5. Regularly review your risk assessment.
- You should regularly review your risk assessment – particularly if there are any significant changes to your work. take place, make sure that precautions are still adequate to deal with the risk.
- See our guide for conducting lone worker risk assessments, click here.
In addition to the risk assessment considerations above, take a look at the tips below for lone working at height.
5 Tips for Lone Working at Height
1. Use ladders appropriately
- Where possible, avoid using loose or unsupported ladders or stepladders where possible
- Don't use a ladder that's too long for the job
- Carry out regular ladder inspections
2. Don’t work at height in hazardous conditions or environments
- Lone workers should avoid working at height in areas where there’s water, ice or spilt substances due to the increased slip hazard. Workers should also avoid working at height when there is poor visibility e.g. thick fog.
3. Use equipment correctly
- Ensure that all employees are well-trained to use equipment
- Harness equipment, if applicable, to decrease the chance of tools falling
- Choose the right equipment for the job
- Check equipment regularly and ensure it meets all regulations
4. Use safety lines, harnesses, nets, and edge protection
- Make sure fall restraints and fall protection measures are installed by trained operatives, tested and inspected regularly
5. Use a lone working device
- A lone worker solution will ensure that you can raise an emergency alarm if you have an accident or feel under threat. It will also automatically raise a man-down alarm if you are incapacitated due to a slip, trip, fall or health issue – ensuring you get the help you need as quickly as possible.
For more information about how our lone worker solutions can support your workers when working at height or to request a demo, please get in touch.