Height Safety


What is working at height?
Work at height is work in any place, including a place at, or below ground level, (including access and egress from such a place of work) where a person could be injured falling from it, if measures were not in place to stop this from happening.

Throughout the world, the single largest cause of serious injury or death is from working at heights. You do not have to fall from a great height to cause injury; many serious falls come from below head height and often result in broken bones including fractured skulls. A variety of seemingly simple tasks are the culprits, from putting up workplace banners and notifications, cleaning guttering, simple maintenance tasks, to shelf stacking , unloading vehicles and machine maintenance.

No matter what the Industry or the cross governmental attempts to legislate working at heights into a safe practise, there is still glaring inadequacies in our entire attitudes to it. It is also a fact that death in the workplace is a relatively low statistic, the question then becomes should we be accepting even one death as an acceptable statistic. Every death in the workplace leaves a devastated family and a domino effect of human tragedy. We should pursue every avenue and opportunity to avoid this. Sometimes it may be common in a workplace to hear discouraging arguments detailing how innovating safety precautions may take too long and be seen as not worth the effort; the facts are that introducing effective height initiatives may just put 5 or 10 minutes on to a job time, but at some point they will almost certainly save a life. With the gravity of the issue it must surely be worth finding any possible common denominators in the majority of incidents. Studying accident reports illustrates that most situations occur through either inefficient or failure to manage situations.

The most common factors include failure to:
• recognise a problem
• provide safe systems of work
• ensure that safe systems of work are followed
• provide adequate information, instruction, training or supervision
• use appropriate equipment
• provide safe equipment

Managers’ perspective

So how does a manager approach the task of out thinking potential pit falls through working at heights, here is a possible check list:
Manager’s Checklist
1. Do you understand what working at height really means?
2. Have all working at height activities within your area of control been identified?
3. Have risk assessments of these activities been carried out?
4. Have the controls identified by the risk assessment been implemented?
5. Has the hierarchy of control measures been considered when identifying activities and precautions?
6. Have fragile surfaces on site been identified?
7. Is access to fragile surfaces prohibited except under controlled conditions, e.g. governed by a permit to work system?
8. Is it possible to prevent inadvertent access onto fragile surfaces?
9. Are warning signs fixed at the approach to fragile roofs where access is needed or foreseeable, e.g. cleaning valley gutters?
10. Have suitable precautions been identified for any work on or near fragile surfaces?
11. Is there a system in place to ensure that appropriate access equipment is selected for working at height given the circumstances of the job?
12. Have those involved in work at height activities been provided with adequate information, instruction and training?
13. Is work equipment appropriately inspected and maintained?

With the march of technological progress, unsafe working practises at height can be engineered out to a degree. But are we not approaching from a skewed angle, shouldn’t the first consideration be the human element. When the call goes out “we need an electrician up there now

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