Identifying Hazards When Working At Height

Identifying Hazards When Working At Height

02nd July 2014

Working at height is safer in the UK than ever before thanks to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR).  However, when working at height, whether in the construction industry or in some other industry, risks can never be totally eliminated and each task undertaken will need to be properly planned and a risk assessment will need to be carried out.  Employers and building owners in the UK are legally required to carry out a risk assessment when working at height is being planned.  There are several steps to be carried out during a Risk Assessment process.  One of the most important steps is to identify any hazards and decide on who might be harmed and how.

IDENTIFY THE HAZARDS

  • Walk around the workplace and look for anything that could be reasonably expected to cause harm.
  • Ask employees (or their representatives) for their opinion.  They could well have noticed issues that you may have missed (or issues that are not immediately obvious).
  • Check out the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website for practical guidelines on where you can expect hazards to occur and what you can do to control them.
  • If you are a member of a trade association they may have some useful guidelines that are specific to your industry.
  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions on all the equipment being used as they may list specific hazards.
  • Check back through your accident records as these may help to identify some of the less obvious hazards that you may be expected to encounter.
  • As well as considering safety hazards, you will need to consider any long term hazards to health (for example exposure to harmful substances or high levels of noise).

DECIDE WHO MAY BE HARMED AND HOW

For each hazard identified you will need to be clear on who might be harmed – this is the most effective way of managing the risk involved.  In each case identify how they may be harmed (for example what type of injury or ill health may occur).  Here are some salient points to remember when carrying out this task:

  • Some employees may have specific requirements (for example young workers, migrant workers and people with disabilities).
  • Members of the public will need to be included in this list if there is a chance that they may be harmed by your work activities.
  • Don’t forget to include cleaners, visitors, maintenance workers and contractors who may not be in the workplace at all times.
  • If the workplace is shared, then you will need to consider how the work being done could affect others using the building.
  • Ask your workforce – they may be able to identify people who may be at risk that you have not considered.

Carrying out an effective risk assessment before undertaking any work at height is essential to minimise the risks involved, not just to staff but to anybody in the vicinity or any other users of the building.