Working at height can be one of the most dangerous jobs to undertake; it is one of the main causes of fatalities in the UK, accounting for nearly three in ten fatal injuries to workers. However, as working at height is required in many industries, with hazards varying across each working environment, it is important for employers to take their company safety procedures seriously to ensure safe work at height.
Key tips to remember
Whilst working at height, remember to:
- Undertake a risk assessment. This can be as part of a wider risk assessment or for an individual task.
- Ensure that staff working at height have been trained to complete the task and have the skills and experience to do so safely.
- Make sure that working at height is planned and factors such as weather are taken in to account along with the correct tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) being ready for each job, as well as rescue and emergency plans in place should they be needed.
Whilst the number of falls in the workplace have reduced over recent years, the rates at which workers are injuring themselves from falls from height is still high, and these incidents still account for 29 percent of fatalities in the workplace. To continue reducing this number, employers are required to take responsibility for certain duties of care under the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which states that the employer must provide appropriate Work at Height and Personal Protective Equipment along with appropriate training on the use of all equipment.
To ensure that workers are as safe as possible, progressive companies are enforcing stricter safety cultures within the workplace, to improve safety practices which should result in a lowering of the fatality rate.
The responsibility of having equipment tested and inspected on a regular basis lies with the employer, as per Regulation 12 of the Working at Height Regulations. Along with this, all new products must be recertified every five years to be compliant with the latest health and safety standards. If any issues are found with PPE, whether through generally wear and tear or breakage, this should always be reported to the employer as this may put workers at risk whilst working at height.
Typical PPE used for working at height can include restraint systems, fall arrest systems and height endurance safety helmets. All PPE should be chosen in accordance with the results of a risk assessment of the environment and task at hand. Regular inspection is mandatory and this inspection/service is best evidenced using scafftags from Reece Safety and the user must conduct an inspection every time the PPE is used.
It is important to ensure that all clothing is comfortable to wear, and all components are compatible with each other. For example, vests and jackets should not restrict movement or be ill-fitting. Extra protection may be necessary when working in wet and windy conditions, however, do not work at height in extreme conditions if you or your employer classify the task as unsafe.