Industries that often work at height include the construction industry, the building maintenance industry, advertising, window cleaning, and the entertainment industry. These industries hire contractors to work on tall buildings, roofs, fragile surfaces or on structures such as platforms, lighting rigs, or scaffolding. With so much time spent off the ground, staying safe is hugely important for workers in these industries.
It is important that you and the people you work alongside know exactly what to do when it comes to working at heights. Working with fully-qualified, skilled contractors ensures the safety of your project and that the end product is of the highest quality.
Project managers should always ensure work is properly planned out in advance and completed by skilled people with the experience and expertise to do the job correctly. This includes ensuring the right tools and technologies are available to make sure staff are as safe as possible. Of course, if the work is straightforward then it will require less planning and minimal safety requirements will be necessary. But don’t get complacent: vigilance is essential to ensuring the safety of everyone working on a project at height.
Where possible you should try to avoid working at height. If the location is high-risk, minimise the damage that could be caused by endeavouring to protect all employees that could be at risk rather than just investing in protection for individuals only.
Examples of collective protection are temporary or permanent guard-rails, tower scaffolds and scissor lifts. This type of equipment is considered collective protection because it does not require an individual person to act in any way for it to be effective; it protects all employees working without their input.
Personal protection, on the other hand is the use of equipment that requires an individual to act for it to work. An example could be using a safety harness, which involves an individual correctly wearing and connecting the harness to a suitable anchor point in order to protect themselves.
- Insure that all equipment and tools on site are well maintained and of the highest quality.
- All staff are fully trained in the use of equipment.
- Staff are trained in health and safety and aware of the increased risks in working from heights.
- Let inexperienced workers work at height unsupervised.
- Over reach when working from height, if scaffolding needs extended then do so.
- Become complacent be aware of the potential dangers around you and the risk to others.
Working at height often requires the use of specialised equipment and tools to allow employees to do their jobs safely. Always ensure a competent person is regularly inspecting all equipment and that you have processes in place to replace or repair sub-standard equipment. You may want to think about:
Ladders – Are they in good condition? Are they the right equipment for this project? Are they positioned correctly, so workers don’t have to overstretch to use them?
Scaffolds – Are scaffolds being erected and dismantled by a competent person? Is there safe access to the scaffold platform for employees? Are there enough guard-rails and toe boards in place?
Hoists – Is the hoist protected by an enclosure? Is the hoist operator fully trained and competent in its use? Is the hoist inspected weekly by a trained person?
Digger Buckets –are they secured? Devices like the Tefra quick coupler are designed to ensure the safest attachment in excavators and digger buckets.
Personal protective equipment such as harnesses and ropes should also be inspected on a regular basis to ensure individuals are always protected. These preventative measures can help avoid falls or injuries at work, for both individuals and all workers accessing the project.