Working from height continues to be one of the greatest causes of serious injury or death within the construction sector, particularly in situations where the necessary health and safety standards are disregarded. Failing to put the correct measures in place can not only put workers and the general public at risk, but it may also subject a business to personal injury claims if they are held accountable.
Scaffold Towers, a UK-based supplier of the robust, BSI-standard mini scaffold tower, guard rails and industrial towers, discusses five essential work at height tips.
- Carry out a risk assessment
As a requirement, at the start of any job or project, a comprehensive risk assessment must be completed, part of which should determine whether any alternative to working from height exists. If no such substitute is found and it cannot be avoided, the risk assessment must define the method of access and how the job can be carried out as safely as possible.
At this point, the employer also has a specific duty to ensure that the equipment being used is appropriate and meets all the necessary safety criteria, in order to keep worker risk at a minimum.
- Select equipment carefully
Several aspects should be considered when choosing equipment for work at height purposes, including the maximum workload, the ground conditions, the environmental settings and staff experience.
Above all, equipment must meet the necessary health and safety and quality standards that are essential for safely working from height. Never rent or purchase equipment from unscrupulous suppliers, and be sure to check that all products are BSI-Kitemarked and comply with the Health & Safety Executive guidelines.
- Properly train staff
Improperly trained workers are one of the primary causes of accidents on construction sites, which can be extremely detrimental when working at great height. As such, full health and safety training for all people working above ground should be mandatory. This training must outline the risks and how staff can mitigate them, as well as the proper use of equipment and how to access and understand the user manuals.
Equipment manuals must always be stored in a safe place because they contain essential guidelines on the installation, inspection and maintenance of products, all of which are important in safeguarding against accidents.
- Be hazard aware
Construction sites are typically rife with hazards, which are only intensified where height is added to the equation. If people are working above the ground, with irregular surfaces, or in close proximity to manhole covers and power lines, it is important that they are aware of hazards and how best avoid them. During the beginning stages of the project, safety assessments should occur, in which staff are made aware of how to identify a potential threat.
Moreover, at all times, the construction zone should remain organised and kept free from obstruction, because the presence of idle tools can create a health and safety hazard for workers who are trying to correctly manoeuvre at height.
- Inspect equipment thoroughly
When the equipment is set up and ready to go, a final inspection is required. This inspection must be exceptionally thorough, keeping a sharp eye out for points that may have been overlooked during the installation phase. For instance, guardrails and braces and ties must be extremely secure.
By following the guidelines listed above, staff can remain safe while working at height, leading to a successful and hassle-free project.