Working at Height Safely

Working at Height Safely

08th July 2015

Despite stringent health and safety regulations, falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace fatalities and serious injuries here in the UK. Working at height is always going to be dangerous – eliminating the risks completely is nigh on impossible. However, proper planning and attention to detail is essential if we want to ensure that we minimise the risks and work safely when undertaking any work at height.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) state that you must ensure that:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organised
  • Those involved in working at height are competent
  • The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces (such as roofs) are properly managed
  • The equipment used for working at height is properly inspected and maintained on a regular basis

It is the legal responsibility of the employer and those in control that the work has been properly planned at every stage and that it is supervised and carried out by competent people.

How to decide if someone is Competent to Work at Height

  • IN order to ensure that those who are undertaking work at height it’s vital that the workers have sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task at hand. If the person working at height is undergoing training, then they must work under the direct supervision of somebody competent to do so.
  • When planning low-risk, short duration tasks involving ladder, competence requirements means making sure that the employees have received instruction on how to use the equipment safely (for example, learning how to tie a ladder correctly) and appropriate training. Training does not always take place in the classroom as it often takes place on the job.
  • If a more technical level of competence is necessary (for example drawing up plans for assembling complex scaffolding equipment), the existing training and certification schemes drawn up by trade associations and industry is a method of demonstrating competence.

With ladders being the most common access equipment used when working at height, the following five ladder safety tips should help to make the job safer, especially when the work is being carried out by those who are not used to using ladders on a regular basis.

  1. Don’t overload the ladder – whatever type of ladder is to be used, check the duty and class rating before you begin. Never exceed the maximum load recommended for the ladder being used and don’t forget that you must take into consideration the weight of any tools and materials to be used.
  2. Always keep three points of contact when using a ladder.
  3. Never overreach – this can make you lose your balance and fall. If you cannot reach without stretching, then it’s time to move the ladder along so that you can reach comfortably.
  4. Wear suitable footwear – this means making sure that shoe laces are tied. When using a ladder, you should be wearing a flat, closed toe shoe and your footwear should also be checked for contamination such as mud, grease or oil.
  5. Always make sure that the user is competent to carry out the task safely.