Working at height is inherently dangerous and is a major cause of injury and fatality among workers. Given the risks involved, even the smallest errors when working at height can be disastrous. Whether it’s accidents or injuries caused by falling from ladders or through surfaces that can’t support the weight of workers and their equipment, it’s all too easy to sustain an injury. Here are the working at height mistakes to avoid.
Not assessing the risks of the job fully
Many people roll their eyes when risk assessment is mentioned, but properly assessing risk is essential before you carry out any task, especially an inherently dangerous one. The temptation is always there to cut corners when you just need a job done quickly or you’re short-staffed, but the potential consequences are really not worth it.
When a job needs to be done at height, measures need to be taken to reduce the risk, such as choosing the best equipment and making sure employees are adequately trained for the job. Checks of the working area should always be carried out which should identify if roofs or other surfaces are able to hold the weight of the worker and their equipment, and if there are any obstacles to carrying out the job safely, such as power cables or obstructions.
Failing to check that personal protective equipment (PPE) is in good working order
Anyone who works at height should check their PPE before they do anything else. Imagine being up a tall ladder or up some scaffolding and finding out your gear is about to break or needs repairing? It’s better to know these things and to make any adjustments before your feet are off the ground.
Not wearing the correct PPE for the job and the height you’re working at
PPE requirements vary for different types of job, and generally, the more dangerous the job, the more protection you need. But while PPE can be transferred between different jobs, some jobs have specific requirements. Make sure that your employer provides you with PPE that’s designed for the job you’re doing and for the height you’re working at. Having the right protective equipment might mean the difference between life and death when you’re working at precarious heights.
Not keeping safety equipment well-maintained
No matter what industry you work in, safety equipment needs to be well-maintained or it won’t work as well (if at all). Your company (or you if you’re self-employed) should keep clear records of any testing or maintenance of safety equipment that is carried out. Any faults or repairs should be dealt with as soon as possible and faulty or damaged equipment should not be used.
Letting untrained workers work at height
Workers must be trained on how to work at height safely. It doesn’t take much of a fall to cause injury, and some basic training on things like ladder safety procedures can protect you and your employees.
Failing to follow ladder safety procedures
Following on from the last point, ladder safety training should include information on how to safely use different types of ladder and what type of jobs they should be used for.
Resting ladders on unsafe surfaces
Ladders should always be set against surfaces that are strong enough to bear their weight, and don’t forget, you and any equipment you need will be going up and down the ladder too. Avoid resting ladders against windows or plastic guttering as they generally can’t take much weight and your ladder can slip.
Using ladders for jobs that require more suitable equipment
Ladders are not meant to be used for prolonged periods of time and they are not meant to bear excessively heavy loads. Generally if you are doing any task that’s going to require you to be up a ladder for more than 30 minutes, or you need to use heavy equipment, something like a scaffolding tower is probably more suited to the job.
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