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High risks, high rewards: the art of working at height safely

High risks, high rewards:
the art of working at height safely

The task of working at height poses unique challenges and demands stringent safety protocols. Defined as any work performed where a person could fall and injure themselves, understanding the nuances and risks associated with working at height is paramount for organisations and its employers.

Working at height is an integral part of many industries, but it comes with inherent risks that must be carefully managed. By understanding the definition of working at height, identifying potential hazards, and implementing appropriate controls, employers can create safer work environments and prevent accidents and injuries.

How is working at height defined?

The definition of working at height may seem straightforward, but its scope encompasses various scenarios and environments. Generally, any situation where a person is working at a level above ground level is considered working at height. This includes working on ladders, scaffolding, roofs, or any elevated platforms. Even working near openings in floors or roofs, such as skylights, qualifies as working at height.

What are the risks of working at height?

Working at height presents a range of risks and hazards that must be carefully managed to ensure the safety of workers. Falls are the most significant hazard associated with working at height and can result in severe injuries or fatalities. Other risks include falling objects, structural collapses, and accidents involving equipment such as ladders or scaffolding.

Weather conditions, such as wind and rain, can exacerbate these risks, making it essential for employers to assess environmental factors before allowing work at height to proceed. Additionally, the type of work being performed, and the condition of the work surface can introduce additional hazards, further underscoring the need for comprehensive risk assessments and safety measures.

How can you mitigate risks for your employees?

Effective risk management is critical to ensuring the safety of workers engaged in tasks at height. Employers have a legal and moral obligation to implement appropriate controls to minimise the risk of falls and other accidents. This includes providing adequate training for workers, conducting thorough risk assessments, and implementing engineering controls such as guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall protection systems.

Regular inspections of equipment and work areas are essential to identify and address potential hazards before they escalate into accidents. Workers themselves also play a crucial role in mitigating risk by following safe work practices, using personal protective equipment (PPE) correctly, and reporting any safety concerns to their supervisors.

How can your employees learn how to prevent risks when working at height?

Proper training and education are foundational elements of a robust working at height safety programme. Workers must be familiar with relevant regulations, safe work practices, and the correct use of equipment. Training should be comprehensive and ongoing, covering topics such as hazard recognition, fall prevention, emergency procedures, and rescue techniques.

What is the main legislation that covers working at height in the UK?

In the United Kingdom, the primary legislation that covers working at height is the “Work at Height Regulations 2005.” These regulations were introduced to ensure the safety of workers who perform tasks at height and to reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 outline specific requirements and duties for employers, employees, and anyone involved in work at height activities. Key provisions of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 include:

✅ Avoiding work at height where possible: Employers are required to avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so. If work at height cannot be avoided, employers must take measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall.

✅ Assessing and managing risks: Employers must conduct risk assessments before any work at height takes place. This involves identifying hazards, assessing the risks, and implementing appropriate control measures to prevent falls or mitigate their consequences.

Providing appropriate equipment: Employers are responsible for providing suitable equipment for working at height, such as ladders, scaffolding, or personal fall protection systems. Equipment must be properly maintained, inspected, and used correctly by trained personnel.

✅ Ensuring competence and training: Employers must ensure that workers involved in work at height activities are competent and adequately trained to perform their duties safely. This includes providing instruction, information, and supervision as necessary.

Inspecting and maintaining equipment: Employers must ensure that all equipment used for work at height is inspected regularly and maintained in a safe condition. This includes scaffolding, ladders, harnesses, and other safety equipment.

Emergency planning and rescue: Employers must have appropriate emergency procedures in place to respond to accidents or emergencies involving work at height. This may include rescue plans and training for personnel involved in rescue operations.

If you’re looking to confidently navigate tasks at height while prioritising the health and safety and wellbeing of your employees, view our specific training course today!

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