Working at heights risk assessment
Over the last five years, falling from heights at work continues to be the most common reason for fatalities in the UK.
Lack of training, improperly planned work, misuse or complete lack of adequate PPE and equipment for working at heights, no working at heights risk assessment and poor or none supervision are the most encountered failures to comply with the law which lead in some cases to fatal consequences.
In fact for the period of 2011/2012 so far, there has been 3.600 injuries recorded, with 49 deaths on construction sites.
In most cases, simple attention to the basic regulations and a working at heights risk assessment would make the difference between a fatal accident and a safe work site.
Working at height is essentially, any work which is not performed on the floor, all work which involves the use of ladders or steps (even if it is to change a light bulb in the office).
All work from ladders, scaffolds and platforms, as well as working on roofs, over tanks, pits and any separated from the floor structure.
A fall from a height of two or more meters is considered to be with possibly fatal outcome and serious precautions must be taken. A working at heights risk assessment should be completed first in all occasions.
Working at heights is regulated by elements of the following legislation: the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Workplace (HS and Welfare) Regulations 1992, the Construction (HS and W) 1996, the Work at Heights Regulations 2005 which apply to all work at heights with risk to cause personal injury.
And the most recent the Work at Height Amendment Regulations 2007, which extends the regulations to anybody working at heights giving instruction to people engaged in climbing or caving by way of sport, recreation, team building etc.
Working at heights risk assessment
The first and most important step when going to work at height is to conduct a conscious and reasonable working at heights risk assessment. Giving detail of all the measures which are going to be taken in order to ensure people’s safety. Take in to the account age, training, work experience and health condition of the employees to perform the job, the activity, the equipment to be used, weather environment, condition and stability of the work surface, duration of the job.
Identifying the hazards is essential and there are three big groups of falling from height hazards:
- Falls when a possible fall could occur around 2 meters and above safety precautions such as edge protection ( toe boards, guard nails, etc.) safety harness, maintaining safety distance from the edge, safety nets, are to be considered. Suitable protection also is required when the distance of falling is less than 2 meters.
Falling objects proper PPE (safety helmets and so-on) are to be used for anybody working underneath, suitable barriers, securing objects to structure, tools properly secured, exclusion areas needs to be allocated, when necessary, danger areas needs to be conveniently pointed with the appropriate signs and access restricted to the essential personnel.
If members of the public could be in danger provide suitable barriers, so nobody gets injured.
Falls from collapsing structures, all structures need to be designed by a competent and trained person, a competent employee, manager or safety consultant needs to inspect and eventually supervise the structure on a weekly (at least) basis or more often and check up of the structure after severe weather conditions for external structures is essential.
The most common equipment for working at heights are the ladders. Bearing in mind that fact, in 2007 the HSE and the Ladder Association have launched the national ladder replacement programme. The aim of the initiative is to maintain ladders and step ladders in good working condition in order to reduce risk for people. It help companies to upgrade their old ladders and step ladders at a discounted price.
Falls from height remain the most common work injury, so everything humanly possible to ensure safety should be done without hesitation. And when not…, consequences are not the nicest for anybody who would get involved in an accident.
So remember the first step it to conduct a working at height risk assessment.
Contributed by one of our top health and safety consultants in Sheffield