Once again, the latest HSE statistics have shown that working from height remains the most popular cause of work-related injuries and fatal accidents. Working from height dominates the cause-of-fatal-accident chart, so much so that almost one third of all accidents in the workplace were a result of working from height.
Many companies are spending significant time and money to reduce the risk to their workforce when work must be carried out at a height. But before they fill out any paperwork or re-plan any working at height activity, they turn to The Safety Maintenance Company for informative training and guidance in the Leeds, Derby and Nottingham areas.
In this article we’re going to look at some of the Working at Height regulations, and some simple ways that you can reduce risks when working from height altogether.
What is Working from Height?
Let’s begin by looking at the official working at height definition, which surprisingly, is not at all subjective. The UK Government’s H&S website states that work at height means:
“Work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:
Work above ground/floor level;
Could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or;
Could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.”
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that those in charge of any work at height must properly plan and supervise the work. That work must also be carried out by competent people that use the correct equipment.
How to Reduce Working at Height Risks
Now we know what working at height involves, let’s look at some of the most common ways to reduce the risks.
Avoid Working at Height
This seems like an obvious one, but more often than not, it’s a perfectly viable solution. Avoiding any potential work at height is actually the principle of the Working at Height Regulations 2005.
The priority when planning any work should be to avoid working at height altogether. That alternative work could involve using extendable tools, moving items closer to ground level or using other machinery to avoid working at height completely. This is where planning should begin, and if there really is no practical solution, then working at height can be considered.
Use an Existing Workplace
When working at height cannot be avoided, the next best place to work is an existing safe workplace. This is any place where additional personal protective equipment (PPE) is not required. Existing safe workplaces are recommended because they prevent the need to work at height, and already have safety features included. Balconies, or machinery and platforms with fixed railing are popular alternative workplaces.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When your team are working at height, they’ll need to use PPE. There are strict regulations when it comes to PPE, and as a minimum your workforce will be required to wear hardhats, suitable footwear and goggles. Luminous overalls, gloves, trousers, jackets and chin-straps may also be required to reduce the chances of any injury occurring as a result of a fall.
We often think about the people working at height as the main risk, but what about the people below them? Dropping any machinery or tools from a significant height has proven fatal in the past. Further equipment could include short lanyards and straps so that there is no way anybody working at height is capable of dropping anything below them.
It’s also a good idea to count every tool and item which you take to work at height, and transport it in one approved bag. This way, your team will be able to confirm that they’re taking every piece of equipment back down with them. If any items are left at height and mechanical parts begin to move again, those tools could move and fall onto workers below them.
Collective equipment is also recommended, and adds another line of defence against any tools and machinery which could be dropped from height.
If your team are working at a significant height, they may also need to wear harnesses. This is a final barrier against working from height, but sadly even harnesses aren’t 100% effective. Make sure that your team are fully trained on how to wear, use and apply their harnesses so that they don’t fall when working.
The harnesses should be regularly checked and fit for purpose. Most importantly, they also need to be the right harness for the type of work taking place.
On our PASMA Working at Height training courses, we talk you through all the ways to reduce the risks when working at height. You’ll know the best ways to avoid working at height and how to minimise that risk, and you can even learn how to do that in as little as half a day.
Contact our team to find out about training courses happening in your area soon.