Factors to Consider When Conducting Work at Height Risk Assessment

Factors to Consider When Conducting Work at Height Risk Assessment

19th December 2019

Appropriate risk assessment and implementation of controls is essential to all work at height with a significant risk of a fall that could lead to injuries. The assessment must be done in advance to minimise the risk and ensure the availability of realistic fall protection.

Below are some of the most important factors to consider during the risk assessment process. 

1.    Weather
Is there any possibility of adverse weather in your workplace? If yes, what impact can it have on the health and safety of your workers? Different weather conditions could pose different risks. It’s essential to learn about the potential conditions and their impacts to ensure you’re prepared for them at any moment. For instance, heavy rains, snow, and ice could mean high risk of slips on the roof. 

2.    Working Environment
Consider checking for any fragile surfaces; obstructions such as overhangs, pipework, or steelwork; and issues such as uneven, soft, or sloping ground conditions. 

3.    Duration and Frequency of Use
How long the duration of your work is expected to take determines the type of fall protection to use. Ladders and stepladders are ideal for short duration tasks like replacing a light bulb. While cherry pickers, podium steps, or tower scaffolds are justified by longer duration or quite regular tasks. If you’re to work on several rows of fluorescent strips or light bulbs in a ceiling refurbishment, the project will take longer and the risk of a fall will increase. This can justify the use of podium steps or a tower.  

4.    Access and Egress
It’s also important to look at how your workers can get up to and down from raised surfaces. You need to provide them with access equipment that can prevent or limit the consequences of a fall. Fixed access ladders, scaffolds, and stairs can all be good investments. 

5.    Fragile Roofs
Certain roofing materials, such as glass, plastic, or asbestos-cement can hardly bear the weight of a person. Plastic roof lights deteriorate over time due to damage from the sun’s harmful UV light, leaving them brittle. Also, there are materials that aren’t designed to bear loads - they’re usually accompanied with appropriate warning signs. If your workers must work on fragile roofs, suitable plant platforms, guardrails, and coverings are provided to minimise the risks and consequences of a fall.

6.    Maintenance
Maintenance is essential to prolong the life of the equipment and enhance its performance. Ensure that fall protection equipment is properly stored and maintained after use, which includes cleaning it of contaminants, dirt, and corrosives. The storage space should also be clean, dry, and safe from corrosive elements or harmful fumes. 

7.    Consequences of a Potential Fall
When using fall arrest systems, it’s important to consider adequate clearance for them to deploy to prevent the victim from hitting the ground or an obstacle before the fall is stopped. Where possible, nets and airbags should be located as close as possible for them to work effectively. When using airbags, ensure there’s no work at the ground floor level within the area. Nets should also be attached to suitable strong points for efficiency.  

8.    Emergency Rescue
In the event of a fall and the victim was saved by a fall arrest system, prompt rescue is vital to prevent the victim against suspension trauma - a serious situation which comes within a few minutes of being in suspension. It could easily result in brain damage or kidney failure due to insufficient quantity and quality of oxygenated blood to the vital organs. Therefore, you must prepare a rescue plan and practice it regularly to enhance its effectiveness.