Hazards Associated with Working at Height
Posted: 23rd April 2019
In today’s workplace, it is vital to take health and safety seriously. According to information from Unison, the public service union, an average of fifty workplace fatalities occur throughout the UK every year, while as many as 9,000 workers sustain injuries from incidents and accidents whilst working at height.
When working at height, these incidents are often a result of a lack of training, taking short cuts or misuse of access equipment which often prove expensive in the long run – whether due to sickness absence, compensation, fines or adverse publicity with the consequent loss of reputation. Ensuring that employees follow safety regulations and guidance is, therefore, more critical than ever. In this post, we outline some common oversights that could be costly.
Mistakes with Ladders
Unfortunately, the misuse of ladders and stepladders is all too often the cause of mishaps and accidents. Ladders must be of the right type, correct standard, size and in condition and secured to prevent movement.
For maximum safety on ladders and step ladders, users should:
- Follow the manufacturer's instructions including the guidance on safe use, maximum weight and height limits.
- Make sure the ladder is the right height for the job. Accidents occur when over-reaching, typically because the ladder in use is too short or incorrectly positioned.
- Observe the recommended optimum inclination angle of 70-75 degrees or 1:4 ratio.
- Avoid heavy loads when using a ladder or step ladder
- Do not use the top three rungs or treads.
- Use GRP ladders when working around electrical hazards.
- Face the ladder when climbing down, keeping weight centred.
- Evaluate the extra risks of working in dangerous conditions such as wet or icy weather, due to the adverse effects on manual dexterity, concentration and the increased probability of slipping.
Also, ladders ought to have hand holding points if stepping off at height. In such cases, the top should extend at least one metre above any landing point, so there is sufficient stability.
Ladders are acceptable if the use of other equipment is not justifiable. Typically, work on off of a ladder or step ladder must be of a low-risk nature and a maximum of thirty minutes use at any one time applies, except in unusual conditions or workplace limitations.
Inadequate Risk Assessment
Information published by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) illustrates how incidents and accidents while working at height are one of the biggest causes of injuries and fatalities. Notably, this risk category includes falling through and off of fragile roofs. Workers should, therefore, be fully competent with the necessary skills and equipment to carry out the job safely and effectively.
For every task, proper risk assessment entails taking all foreseeable hazards into account. It is insufficient merely to delegate somebody without providing adequate knowledge, training and assessment of competency. Instead, the responsible and competent person needs to be able to identify potential problems and be empowered and able to recommend appropriate action(s).
Insufficient Protective Measures
Full application of the recommended hierarchy of control measures for work at height should be completed before working at height. Priority should be given to collective fall prevention and protection includes guardrails, whether temporary or permanent, as well as Tower Scaffolds and MEWPs. This type of safety hardware reduces risks without action from the worker. In contrast, personal protective measures require individual action or participation for them to be effective. Shock-absorbing lanyards and safety harnesses, for instance, constitute sufficient personal protection when tied to a suitable anchor point.
Lack of Experience
Common sense and knowledge principles apply; users must have the required knowledge, skills, familiarity and experience to use the equipment properly for the task in hand. On the job training is permissible, with trainees under the direct supervision of a qualified and able person. In all cases, individuals need to be able to apply what they have learnt.
Reassuringly, with the help and support of a professional training provider, employees will gain sufficient knowledge to work at height safely and with a variety of equipment. On working at heights awareness courses, topics include selection and usage of the right access equipment, safety supervision and contingency planning.
Finally, here at Kentec Training, we offer tailor-made courses covering how to minimise the risks presented by hazards associated with working at height. We will be delighted to assist with safety training, protective equipment and H&S compliance for you and your staff.