Working at Heights Safely
According to NFSI; falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21%).
When working at heights all it takes is one mistake to turn a routine task into a fatality. An Employer must be prepared to protect all employees during times when the worker could be exposed. Working from heights can be very dangerous if safety precautions are not taken. Falls from heightened distances are responsible for the majority of incidents for construction workers and can also affect painters, decorators, roof installers, window cleaners and other professionals.
Workers that have tasks working at heightened distances should be well trained and be aware of the risk that they face. The focus of this blog is to inform Employers of the risk their employees face working from height by providing risk assessment tips and best practices.
Did you know that an employer has legal obligation to ensure all their employees working in a safe environment?
Employers have a duty of care under General Health and Safety Legislation to ensure that an employees’ workplace is deemed safe. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992 covers all aspects of workplace safety including the requirement that employers ensure all areas where people could fall from a height are properly guarded or covered. In addition, other GSA legislation such as Work at Height Regulations of 2005 encourages an employee to avoid working at height wherever possible, and where it cannot be avoided the employer must implement the most practical way of ensuring worker safety.
As an employer one method to gauge the level of risks employee’s face can be achieved with a risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive recommends a five-step approach to help mitigate the risks employees face such as slip, trips and falls.
Working Environment Five Step Assessment
Step 1 – Look for hazards associated with falls from height around the workplace. Where are people required to work at height? Do they carry out work for ladders, platforms, scaffolds, or unprotected or fragile roofs?
Step 2 – Decide who might be harmed and how. Who comes into the workplace? Are they at risk? Are some groups more at risks than others?
Step 3 – Consider the risk. Are there already measures in place to deal with the risk? Look at areas with unguarded openings or without guardrails and covers. Are inspections carried out?
Step 4 – Record your finding if you have five or more employees
Step 5 – Regularly review the assessment. If any significate changes take place, make sure that precautions are still adequate to deal with the risk.
Risk assessments and safe working practices should be maintained for all activities that involve working at heights. To help minimize the risk of incidents we have developed a set up tips that are beneficial for your employees.
Use Ladders Properly
- Avoid using loose or unsupported ladders or stepladders where possible
- Limit the risk of falling off a ladder by minimizing the height
Do Not Work in Slippery Hazardous Environments
- Surfaces are not suitable for work if area has water, ice or spilt substances
Use Equipment Properly
- Ensure that all employees are well trained
- Harness equipment, if applicable, to decrease the chance of tools falling
Use Safety Line, Harnesses and Nets
- Make sure fall restraints are installed by trained operatives, tested and inspected regularly
In the end, the most effective way to improve your employee’s safety practices and reduce the risks of working at heights boils down to training. Training is required by law and companies that ensure their employees take consistent safety courses, and knowledge reviews are historically the organizations that have lower incident reports. For more tips on lone worker safety please check out our whitepaper: The 5 Basic Elements of Effective Workplace Safety.
Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (2014, March 10) Safety Tips – Work at Height. Retrieved July 21,2017, from http://www.ishn.com/articles/98026-safety-tips-work-at-height
Douglas, Micheal (2014, June 6) Working at Heights – New Standard. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://www.levitt-safety.com/blog/working-at-heights-new-standard/
Leevitt, Bruce (2014, November 27) Falling Objects Safety. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://www.levitt-safety.com/blog/falling-object-safety/
Healthy Working Lives (2016, April 20) Working at Heights. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://www.healthyworkinglives.com/advice/work-equipment/working-at-height
European Commission Taxation and Customs Union (2012, December 10) Safe Working at Heights Health and Safety. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/dds2/SAMANCTA/EN/Safety/WorkingAtHeights_EN.htm
Braun, John (2012) 10 Safety Tips for Working at Heights – Fall Protection Blog. Retrieved July 21, 2017, from http://simplifiedsafety.com/blog/10-safety-tips-for-working-at-heights/