Working at height is incredibly dangerous, and should be avoided, but sometimes it is necessary in order to carry out work. If your job requires you to work at height, here’s everything you should know – from the risks and how to spot them, to best practice and advice for employers.
Risks of Working at Height
The main risk of working at height is falling. If you fall from a height of above two metres, the chances are that you will sustain a serious injury. Examples of instances where you will need to work at height include roof work, working on elevated structures, on top of vehicles and from a ladder, scaffolding or a platform. The hazard is that the person working at height could fall, or drop something which could then hit someone on the ground. This could occur due to the area not being secured, or the person hasn’t been properly trained to work at height.
How to Assess the Risk
A risk assessment should always be carried out before any work is undertaken. A five-step approach is recommended:
- Looks for hazards relating to falling – where are people required to work? Is it from a roof, a ladder, a platform or scaffolding?
- Decide who could be harmed and how – Is it the worker, or any visitors/other members of staff who are below?
- Consider the risks – Are there already measures in place to prevent accidents from occurring? Are there any areas not guarded, and do regular inspections take place?
- Make a note of your findings – this is a legal requirement if you have more than five employees.
- Review the assessment on a regular basis to ensure that it is up to date.
Here are some tips for the best practice:
- Ladders should only be used for a short duration. They should be positioned close to the work to avoid overreaching, secured and protected.
- Stepladders should be opened to their full extent and you shouldn’t work on the top platform.
- If you’re using access equipment like a platform, the person building it should be trained fully, as well as the person using the platform. You should always use safety harnesses.
- Scaffold towers should regularly be inspected and access to the working platform must be provided by a ladder.
It is an employer’s responsibility to run a safe site, and look after their employees. Extra training courses are always a great way to ensure that all of your employees understand how to work at height safely.