You may already be aware that working at height is one of the leading causes of workplace injury, but it’s equally possible that you’re not doing everything you could to protect workers from these dangers. This is because regulations in this area can be hard to understand and even more challenging to implement, but we’re here to explain exactly what you need to know about working at height regulations, risk assessment and duty of care.
Work at Height Regulations 2005 set out the critical guidelines for employers who require people to work at height as part of their business, helping to limit the number of accidents such as falls - at worst causing significant injury or even fatalities.
Following these guidelines isn’t just a matter of adhering to the letter of the law, but also of protecting at-risk workers from the hazards they face while performing their everyday duties. The distance fallen is often what makes an employer liable should an accident at work occur, which generally covers anything above ground level such as up a ladder, on a roof or another high surface.
Get savvy on working at height hazards
The dangers for employees working at height may seem obvious at first glance, but there are a lot of particulars in this area that you don’t want to miss. Preventing nasty falls from high places is essential, but employers also need to consider:
1) Potential causes of a fall such as fragile roofs and roof lights, or even adverse weather conditions.
2) The nature of the surface on which the worker would fall, including holes in the ground, fragile surfaces, or other dangerous materials.
3) Whether there are any unsecured hazards situated on another level, which could fall and injure the worker.
The first piece of advice for employers is to avoid putting workers in risky, high-up positions outright, only doing so when it is essential. If that’s the case, then supervisors should ensure that the right equipment is on hand at all times, including the things that get and keep workers where they need to be, such as ladders and scaffolding.
These need to be checked regularly (every time before use, and never less frequently than every seven days) to ensure they are safe and do not need repairing or replacing before work begins. If equipment comes from another company, then it should include a record of when the last inspection was performed.
You should also ensure that there is nothing that could injure an employee from above, such as debris from a higher surface. All objects should be secured safely so they can not fall by accident, and extreme caution should be taken when conditions such as windy weather arise. Remember - the safest thing to do is avoid working at height at all.
Everyone involved in working at height needs to be ‘competent’ enough to do so. Competent in this context doesn’t mean intelligent or in their right mind, but rather someone who is equipped with the skills, training and experience required to perform their professional tasks in the safest way possible. This needs to apply to everyone from the person doing the work, to those planning and supervising the job.
Get the right working at height equipment
It’s all very well minimising instances of employees needing to go high up in the first place but, with the right working at height equipment and training, you can also safeguard against workplace injury even when accidents do happen.
These measures are generally split into two categories - collective protection and personal protection. As the name suggests, collective protection is about installing equipment and other safety measures that keep everyone involved safe, such as guard rails, or performing an assessment of any potential fall.
Personal protection, meanwhile, is anything that applies to only your at-risk or lone workers, such as a harness or personal safety device. Safety alarms like the ones created by Vatix allow employees and organisations to have peace of mind when it comes to potential accidents with their sophisticated Man Down alarm function that can detect when there has been a fall.
They also feature an SOS button that can be pushed by the user if there has been an incident, and this is then escalated to either a monitoring centre or contacts chosen by the organisation.
It’s the responsibility of the employee to report any health and safety hazard they find, as well as use the equipment and devices provided to them in the correct way as per their training, but employers still have the most important role to play in adhering to working at height regulations and ensuring everyone is protected at work.
Working at height is one of the more dangerous jobs in the lone worker space, and so extra caution needs to be taken to a) keep employees as safe as possible and, b) adhere to working at height regulations so as not to incur hefty fines and legal action.
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