March 26, 2015

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall…

All the King’s Horses and all the King’s Men… shouldn’t ever need to be called upon because you and your employees are fully versed in how to Work at Height…aren’t you?

One of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries is falling from height.

Working at height can be defined as ‘work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.’  Examples of working at height include working on a ladder or a flat rook, working on fragile surfaces that employees could fall through or working in areas where employees could fall into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.

Before work begins at height, consider the following:

  • Can the work at height be avoided where it is reasonably practicable;
  • Where working at height cannot be avoided, it is crucial that falls are prevented by using an existing safe place of work, for example using an existing concrete flat roof with suitable edge protection or the most appropriate type of equipment, for example tower scaffolds or mobile elevating work platforms;
  • Where risks cannot be eliminated, use the right piece of equipment that will minimise the distance and following consequences of a fall, examples of such could include the use of safety nets or even soft landing system.

Within areas of work where working at height is required, those in control of the activity are to make sure that the work is suitably planned, supervised and completed by only employees that are competent; areas of low-risk working at height still require planning.  A pragmatic approach is to be adopted when planning for working at height activities, taking into consideration:

  • The height of the task;
  • The time it will take to complete the task, along with the frequency;
  • The condition of the surface being worked on.

Working at height is regulated by the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which define requirements that are to be considered when planning for working at height, including:

  • Consider the weather that could put the workers safety at risk;
  • Check the area in which the working at height is going to be completed to make sure that it is safe , for example check that the roof is safe, this will need to be completed each time before work is to start;
  • Introduce protective measures through the use of mesh barriers or complete exclusion zones that will prevent materials or debris from falling injuring anyone below;
  • Working equipment should be stored in a secure manor so that they won’t cause injury if they were to be disturbed or collapse;
  • Plan for emergencies and rescue situations, making certain that employees are aware of the emergency procedures.

The factors discussed above will assist in the conclusion of the most suitable form of access equipment for the work.

Access equipment is to be in good condition and in instances for example with scaffolding, is to be assembled and installed correctly by a competent person.  The access equipment may also require an inspection, again by a competent person, once installed but prior to use.

Dependant on the location of the working at height, the access equipment could be at risk of deterioration; in these circumstances, the equipment is to be inspected at suitable intervals, appropriate to the environment and use.  An inspection of the access equipment should also be completed following events that could affect the safety or stability of the equipment.

Records are to be maintained of inspections completed on work equipment including: ‘guard rails, toe boards, barriers or similar collective means of protection; working platforms (any platform used as a place of work or as a means of getting to and from work, eg a gangway) that are fixed (eg a scaffold around a building) or mobile (eg a mobile elevated working platform or a scaffold tower); or a ladder.’

Where equipment is hired, it is to be supported by evidence that illustrates when the last thorough examination was completed.

The Regulation also places legal responsibilities on employees when working at height.  Employees must take reasonable care of both themselves and others who may be affected by their work; employees must also cooperate with their employer to ensure their health and safety duties are complied with.

If you need advice or this subject – or any other Health & Safety Advice, contact us.

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About the author

Stacey Rowe