Working at height is one of the most dangerous workplace activities in the UK, resulting in 35 fatalities last year and equating to 28% of all workplace accidents.
It presents a variety of different hazards for workers that would not typically be found when working at ground level and it has an increased probability of death or permanent physical injury due to its very nature.
Therefore, it is so important to ensure that a thorough risk assessment is conducted before any work at height is carried out and that all workers are trained so that they can work safely. Identifying the potential hazards that workers may face is the first step in protecting them.
When working at height there will be a work platform of some sort involved and many times this may be the roof of a building or some scaffolding.
As long as the scaffolding undergoes a comprehensive and regular inspection to ensure that it is stable for workers, there should be no accidents. This means using a reputable scaffolding hire company and scheduling weekly scaffold inspections.
When work is being completed on a roof, it is often because it needs repairing or replacing which means that the surface is likely to be fragile and not very sturdy or secure. Falling through or off a roof is a common accident on construction sites so you need to consider the use of specialised equipment such as roof ladders and supported crawling boards to reduce the risk.
Though weather itself is beyond our control and often unpredictable in the UK, it is necessary to be prepared for rain, snow, ice and any other extreme conditions that may present itself.
Rain and ice can create slippery surfaces, strong winds can dislodge materials and even workers themselves and heatwaves can cause heatstroke and dizziness putting workers at risk of collapsing and falling from a height.
Workers can adapt to these changing weather conditions by implementing the appropriate precautionary measures when needed. For example, in extreme heat they should keep themselves hydrated and in strong winds they should carry out initial checks of their equipment and materials to ensure it can withstand the conditions.
It is necessary to be aware of the distance at which work is being carried out and how injury from a trip, slip or fall can be prevented or greatly reduced should an accident happen.
Once assessed, you may find it appropriate to provide workers with PPE such as a fall arrest system to keep them safe and secure should they fall when working at height.
It isn’t just the workers carrying out the work at height who are at risk, but anyone in the vicinity working or passing by below is in danger. Materials or equipment that is being used at height has the potential to fall and strike someone below which can cause irreversible damage.
To prevent an accident such as this, ensure that workers understand how to stack and store items at height to avoid them from being knocked/falling over.
The working platform may also require guardrails or toe boards to completely prevent objects from slipping over the edge and you may even need to set up restrictions on the ground below so that no one passes by the area.
Some sure-fire safety tips to keep in mind when working at height: