Falling is still one of the biggest causes of major injuries and fatalities. Work at height (work performed in a location where, if the necessary precautions are not in place, one could fall a distance likely to cause personal injury) often poses the risk of falling through poorly constructed surfaces or from ladders.
Let’s take a look at how employers can reduce the risk of injury associated with work at height by implementing a couple of safety measures.
How can I minimize risk?
For one, it helps to ensure that the job is planned porperly and supervised. Furthermore you want to ensure that the people doing the work are competent, well-trained and suitably skilled for the task at hand. Consider whether the job is performed at high or low risk, this will directly impact the approach you take with precautions and planning.
Start off with assessing the risk involved. Consider the height from which the task will be performed, how long the job will take to complete as well as the physical condition of the relevant surface. In other words, determine whether the surface is safe to stand on, if not – can it be reinforced?
Follow steps one through three before commencing with work at height:
1. Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practical
2. If avoiding work at a height is not possible, prevent falls either by utilizing an existing work surface or by using the right equipment
3. Minimize the distance of a potential fall as much as possible by implementing safety measures
It is important that collective protection (the safety of all involved) is considered before personal protection (the safety of the individual).
Collective protection refers to the use of equiment that requires no action on the part of the person performing the task while personal protection consists of safety involving the individual who will be working at a height.
What to do:
Complete as much of the work as possible on the ground
Provide safe movement between the ground and the relevant working area
Make sure the equipment being used for work at height is checked properly and is suited to the task at hand
Be careful when performing tasks close to rickety areas
Make use of safety gear such as helmets for the possibility of falling objects
Implement emergency evacuation and rescue strategies
What not to do:
Put too much strain on the ladder
Stretch further than your reach when balancing on the ladder
Rest the ladder against a potentially ‘weak’ surface
Allow incompetent or untrained individuals to perform tasks at heights