35 deaths each year in the UK are caused as a result of working at height. This figure amounts to 28 percent of all workplace accidents, making it one of the biggest occupational hazards.
It is therefore vital to conduct a thorough risk assessment before undertaking any work at height. Ensuring all workers are fully trained to work safely in this environment is also of paramount importance.
The first step in protecting workers from the dangers of working at height is to identify the potential hazards.
Injuries resulting from trips, slips or falls can be prevented or significantly reduced in the case of an accident occurring. Awareness of the height at which work is being conducted, and the way in which it is being undertaken is of paramount importance. Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be provided for workers when appropriate, a good example being a fall arrest system to break any falls from height.
Objects falling from height
Anyone working in the immediate vicinity or simply walking by is also potentially at risk of being hit by an object falling from height. Workers should be trained on how to store equipment and materials correctly at height to avoid them falling. Guardrails or toe boards may be required on the working platform to prevent objects from falling over the edge. In some cases, boundaries may need to be set up on the ground to prevent people from passing by the area. If debris needs to be transferred from a structure’s scaffold to a skip at street level, a rubble chute must always be used to ensure it reaches the ground safely.
Stability of the working platform
It is extremely important to use a reputable scaffolding hire company to ensure stability. Whether the working area is a scaffolding platform or the roof of a building, a thorough inspection must be undertaken weekly. Falling off, or sometimes even through a roof, is a common workplace accident. This is because when a roof is being worked on, it is usually because it is in need of repair, meaning that it will likely be quite fragile. Specialised equipment such as crawl boards and roof ladders can reduce the risk of this happening.
The British climate is very unpredictable, and it is essential to be prepared for all weather related eventualities when working at height.
Slippery surfaces can be created by rain and ice, and materials and equipment can be blown around by strong winds. Checks should be conducted on equipment and materials to ensure they can withstand the weather conditions, and appropriate precautionary measures should be implemented when required.
Heat waves can put workers at risk of dizziness and heatstroke, and when working at height this could be extremely dangerous. Workers should ensure they stay well hydrated.
Some safety tips to bear in mind when working at height
- Ensure that safety belts and harnesses are connected properly.
- Set up railings correctly.
- Refresh your knowledge of roofing regulations to make sure you are up to date with any changes.
- Safety signs and posters should be clearly visible to remind workers of the required on-site safety precautions.
- Ensure correct equipment is used for the job. For example, having the right type of ladders and using scaffolding,
- crawl boards or lifts when required.
- Use ladders correctly. Remember that at least three of your limbs should be on your ladder at all times.
- Carry out equipment checks before using it at height as failures of apparatus at height can be fatal.