We’re all familiar with the black and white images from the 1920s, of construction workers in New York sitting on a beam, hundreds of meters from the ground, having their lunch. Not a hard hat or a safety rope between them. Today it would, quite rightly, be unthinkable. We’re never likely to see a repeat of this death-defying stunt, but if you employ people who work at heights, how do you keep them safe?
Health and Safety
The author Terry Pratchett once described one of his characters as, “not being afraid of heights at all. What she was afraid of … was depths.” Fall from any height above 2m and you run a high risk of sustaining a serious injury. On average, 50 people a year die in the UK as a result of falling from a height during the course of their work. Working at heights can include a variety of activities such as working on ladders, scaffolding and platforms, as well as those involved in roof work and over structures such as tanks or pits.
There are a number of pieces of legislation in place to protect workers whose job involves working at heights. The most recent is the Work at Height (Amended) Regulations 2007 which sets down minimum safety and health requirements for the use of work equipment and requires employers to ensure work at heights is properly planned, supervised appropriately and carried out in a safe manner. It also requires everyone involved in working at heights to be adequately trained and have satisfactory equipment.
A vital aspect of an employer’s responsibilities towards their workers is to carry out a risk assessment in relation to the work involved. It’s so important, in fact, that it is enshrined in the legislation mentioned above. Employers need to ensure that they comply with Management Regulations which aim to prevent injury and fatalities by reasonable and practical safety measures. These include minimising the height that workers are required to work at and ensuring, as far as possible, that falls are prevented.
Good Working Practices
After a risk assessment has been carried out, satisfactorily, the next most important issue to consider is the equipment which workers will be using. Whether it’s a set of folding steps which are required to change a light bulb in an office, extendable ladders used by a firm of window cleaners or mobile elevated platforms for areas which are difficult to get to, all present their own risks and workers must be adequately trained before work commences. As well as the height employees will be working at, horizontal reach is also a vital area to consider, especially when work involves fragile roofing or inaccessible areas and specialised equipment must be used in order to prevent accidents.
So, if you’re an employer whose workers regularly work at heights you need to make sure they’re protected as best you can. If you need advice or information about equipment which you can use to effectively complete contracts, take a look at Higher Access which provide tracked access systems or ‘Spiderlifts’ to help reach places other access systems can’t.