Health and Safety News

Occupational health and safety news and guidance

Dos and don’ts for working at height

Photo shows a painter standing on a stepladderWorkplace injuries can pose very real dangers in our daily jobs, particularly when the task involves working high up on a building or other structure. Safety statistics make for grim reading, with accidents on building sites responsible for more than their proportionate share of all fatal injuries at work. Sadly, many of these accidents are the results of a fall.

What’s more, it’s not just builders who are at risk. In fact, working at height is one of the biggest causes of major injury and worse, so it’s crucially important to familiarise yourself with what is and isn’t safe to do, as it may just save your life.

What does the law say? The Working at Height Regulations 2005 (with 2007 amendments) apply to everyone who works at height, and this is officially defined as working in a place where a person could fall and suffer personal injury unless precautions are put in place. It could be a fall from a ladder or scaffolding, or through a fragile roof.

Employers have a legal duty to provide protection for their employers and others in their care, and must ensure that

Planning & Organisation has been put in place for any activities involving working at height.

Risk Assessments have been carried out, including for fragile surfaces such as glass, and are correctly implemented.

Appropriate Equipment has been provided and is properly maintained, and is used.

Training & Competency for working at height is in evidence.

The law recommends that working at height should be minimised or avoided altogether if at all possible, though it is recognised that this is not always a practical solution. For your (and your staff’s) safety, it is good practice to observe some basic Dos and Don’ts when working at height, in accordance with the advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

DO confirm that any work that can be reasonably carried out from the safety of the ground is carried out there, wherever practical.

DO make extra sure that everyone is fully trained and competent for working at height, including any line managers and volunteers.

DO check that the most suitable equipment is used for working at height and that all equipment is properly maintained and fit for purpose.

DO put in place proper and safe access to and from the workplace at height, including any emergency situations.

DO double check that any access equipment and the work surfaces themselves are strong and secure enough to carry the weight of the operative as well as any equipment he may be using.

DO ensure there is adequate edge protection to minimise the risk of falling.

DO verify that protection from falling objects has been put in place.

DO take extra care near or on fragile surfaces such as glass or asbestos roofs, to minimise the risk of a fall, or at least reduce the severity of the consequences of the same.

DON’T let anyone untrained, inexperienced or otherwise incompetent carry out any work at height.

DON’T use a ladder if the task will take longer than 30 minutes or if heavy work is involved.

DON’T overload your ladder – make sure you check the load specification carefully.

DON’T use a ladder unless your hands and feet can keep in contact with the ladder on at least 3 points at all times while you’re working, and don’t overreach. If in doubt, choose a scaffold tower or access platform instead.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer in the property industry – working together with London based scaffold tower specialist Precipitous, who were consulted regarding the information in this post.

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