One of the most significant risks of injury in many working environments is working from height; it is highly dangerous. This is why it is essential that your employees are thoroughly trained, have the correct equipment, and adhere to health and safety guidelines to avoid any accidents. It is down to you, as an employer, to ensure that you have done everything you can to make sure all your staff remain safe while carrying out their work. Not only are workers at risk while working at height, but having heavy items on a raised platform creates an additional risk of falling objects. According to the Health and Safety Executive statistics, falls from height are the biggest cause of fatal injury in the workplace. There were a total of thirty-five deaths from falling between 2020 and 2021, with the construction food industries being the most frequent setting.
Working from height is classified as working from any position where somebody could fall such a distance that could cause injury. If you work above ground level, on platforms such as ladders or ledges, or even conduct work underground from ground level. To have fallen from height while at work, you must have fallen from one level down to another. To minimise the risk of your employees falling from height while at work, you must ensure all appropriate measures are in place to ensure their safety. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 state that employers are liable for any injury sustained to an employee. You must ensure all work is planned, your workers are thoroughly trained, you have assessed all risks, and your equipment is fully serviced and inspected.
Working At Height Regulations: Explained
You must thoroughly read the working at height regulations to ensure you are doing everything you can as an employer to maximise your workforce’s safety. As an employer, you have a duty of care and responsibility to your employees to provide them with all necessary measures to remain secure while working from height. They are putting their lives at risk to carry out their instructed work. This means they need the appropriate equipment and briefing to make them less at risk of severe or fatal injury. The government regulations apply to an employee and anyone employed for them, self-employed individuals, and anyone operating under their instruction. They do not apply, however, to a shipmaster and their crew.
Each employer must ensure that they have adequately planned for their work to take place. They must also ensure that all work is appropriately supervised and carried out responsibly. It is also stated that everyone involved should have received sufficient training in working at height or managed by an experienced person. All work that could be completed more safely from ground level should avoid any unnecessary risk. If any extra measures taken cannot reduce the risk of a fall under extenuating circumstances, then everything must be done by the employer to ensure that the potential fall distance is minimised and the severity of the consequences is reduced.
You MUST NOT carry out work from a height under adverse weather conditions, such as high winds or rain. This will massively increase the risk of falling as the number of hazards increases. This type of work should be planned for a day with fair weather to remove its risk of causing an accident. If, in due course, the weather changes, then you must change your plans accordingly to avoid any unnecessary incidents. It only takes on a minor instability to cause a catastrophic and potentially fatal fall. So it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to height work.
In addition to choosing the right conditions, you also need to consider the equipment, structures, and safety equipment necessary to safely carry out work from height. To achieve this, you must ensure that any equipment you use does not pose any additional risk to your employees. You must also consider its suitability for the type of work carried out, such as loading and unloading materials and allowing for passage safely. Carrying out a full risk assessment before choosing your equipment for the task at hand will help you decide the safest, most appropriate option. Guard rails, barriers, secure scaffolding, and a personal fall protection system are all necessary measures to reduce the risk of falling.
The Regulations Hierarchy
The Regulations Hierarchy applies to the order of the steps taken to ensure a safe environment when working from a height. The collective protective measures are prioritised over the protection of the individual. For instance, ensure you have installed sufficient scaffolding that complies with safety regulations over providing your workforce with personal protective equipment.
The Hierarchy consists of:
- Avoiding working from a height wherever possible
- Using an existing place of work that is deemed safe
- Providing the appropriate equipment
- Reducing the distance, and as a result, the consequences of a fall
- Providing sufficient training/supervision by a trained individual
Fundamentally, working from a height should be avoided wherever possible. Due to the risks your employees face when carrying out such work, it should not be a matter that is taken lightly. When the work is unavoidable, you should take these steps to know that everything has been done within your power to minimise the level of risk involved. It should not involve unacceptable working conditions. Correctly planning and managing each work project means you can make sure that your employees remain safe at all times. Your level of care and attention to detail will significantly impact the potential consequences of a fall.
The Importance Of Working At Height Training
Without the appropriate training, your employees can put themselves at risk and potentially endanger the lives of their colleagues by not adhering to the necessary working from height safety measures. It is the duty of anybody working from height to report another person or defect relating to their work that potentially endangers the safety of that person or any other workforce members. All employees must also only use the specified equipment deemed safe to use for the task by the employer. Only staff trained in the use of the equipment is permitted to use it to avoid any additional risk.
It is down to the employer to ensure they have employed a workforce appropriate for the task. No person should be permitted to work at height unless competent and trained in such work. Alternatively, they may be supervised by an experienced staff member with adequate experience in their work. It is essential that your workforce fully understand the risks involved when working from height. Awareness of the risks and knowing how to combat them will put your workers in a much better position.
There is a range of courses available to enroll in. These include beginners courses and even more advanced courses too. Classes can also be taken for ladder control and scaffolding inspection, so your employees know exactly what dangers to look out for. If your staff have the necessary knowledge and skill set, then you can rest assured they have a better chance at staying safe. Here at 4 Cladding, we offer training and support for anyone using our vacuum lifting equipment to lift heavy items to various heights. We will train you to safely use a suction machine to elevate equipment, and following the training, you will be sent a self-declaration certificate as proof you have completed the course and are qualified to use the equipment.
Common Working At Height Situations
Many industries require regular working from height. These job roles involve highly skilled work and experience to keep the number of falling-related accidents to a minimum. One of the most notable industries where working from height is unavoidable is roofing. Roofing alone is responsible for a quarter of all working from height-related deaths within the industry. This makes it one of the most dangerous construction-based roles. Not only is there a possibility of falling through an unstable roof structure, but there is also the risk of falling off the external face of a building. However, professional roofers are not the only people who may need to access the top of a building. Other construction and maintenance roles require completing work from height, such as electricians, television technicians, and chimney and fireplace repair and maintenance. Falls from domestic household roofs often occur due to a lack of training, appropriate equipment, and sufficient planning.
In addition to roofing, working from height is also required in other industries such as sewage maintenance, tree surgery, and venue technicians. Tree surgery is also responsible for many work-related injuries due to the risk of falling from height and the additional risk of falling timber. In the last ten years alone, there have been an estimated 1,400 recorded injuries associated with tree surgery. Tree surgeons must wear the appropriate protective equipment to maintain their safety. This includes helmets and eye protection, and all work must be well planned out before going underway.
Those in the entertainment industry who are required to quickly build and dismantle tall structures such as stages and lighting are also at risk of obtaining an injury from working at height. Employees of this industry need to remain safe when building structures. Still, they also need to ensure that the system is stable enough to withstand use.
Common Causes Of Accidents When Working At Height
The most common causes of accidents when working height is falling objects, overreaching, unstable work platforms, and preliminary risk assessments to highlight the main risks. While working at height, a worker’s most significant concern will most likely be a potential fall. However, the more common cause of injury is falling objects. Roofers are most susceptible to this because of repairing or replacing loose roof slates and tiles. These can easily slip, and, because of the brittle material, can cause serious injury to anyone they fall upon.
Some of the most catastrophic injuries can result in broken bones, brain damage, and even workers being crushed or trapped under heavy fallen objects. Sufferers of severe accidents may also require mental health support for PTSD and trauma from the event. It is also estimated that over nine people die from falling through fragile roofing every year. This fragility can be due to weather damage, delicate materials being used such as glass, or the roof not being secured correctly. This is why you must carry out a full risk assessment before starting any height work. This can help ensure that all surfaces being used are secure and warn workers of areas requiring more caution.
Equipment Which Can Help You Work Safely At Height
Although it is crucial to ensure that your workforce is fully trained in working at height, this will not be enough to protect them from injury or fatality fully. You must also provide them with the correct equipment for the job, so they have everything they need to stay safe. You can massively reduce injury risk if people wear the proper protective clothing and use fully certified equipment that is right for the task at hand. Any tools used can be an additional injury risk if they are not operated by someone trained to do so.
Safety harnesses will provide your workers with the best protection from falling as they physically attach them to the roof or work platform they are standing on. It will help prevent a severe fall to the ground by limiting the distance the connected person can fall. They also enable hands-free work as being tethered to the platform removes the need to hold onto a barrier or railing physically. Another essential item that can reduce the risk of falling is footwear with a good grip. Ensuring that footwear is durable, comfortable, and safe to wear on a construction site is vital. When footwear is the right size, it can help prevent workers tripping which could potentially cause a fatal fall if working on a platform. Having suitable grip footwear will also help feet remain secure, especially in wetter conditions.
A vacuum lifter is one of the most helpful tools you can utilise to minimise the risk of falling objects. They are crucial for lifting large and heavy materials such as concrete slabs, metal and glass panels, and even large bags of rubble or bricks. Lifting items of such weight manually can put employees at a considerable risk of injury. They can become injured from struggling to lift objects physically or potentially falling. Vacuum lifters provide a completely secure grip using strong suction pads. So it is guaranteed to raise and lower heavy items successfully and safely to whatever height is required. You can view the to see the best range of vacuum lifters to benefit your construction work.
Working At Height Myths
We have covered all you need to know to ensure you and your employees will remain safe while working at height. We have gathered together some common misconceptions concerning working from height rules. The biggest myth is that the HSE has banned ladders on building sites. This is not at all true. Ladders and stepladders can be a secure way to get from ground level to a higher platform. So long as it is not for a duration of time longer than half an hour. They are great for low-risk work involving existing features that cannot be altered. There is also a belief that you will be fined if you are using ladders to access scaffolding, which is false. As long as you use industrial-grade ladders that have been certified as safe to use, there is no reason you can’t use them to access a scaffolding platform.
Another misunderstanding is that if you are using the assistance of a vacuum lifter, you do not require training to do so. Anyone operating a vacuum lifter must be fully trained in handling it. A piece of heavy machinery can cause injury if the items being lifted are not correctly secured to the suction pads. They can lift extremely heavy objects to top heights, so it would cause severe injuries or even fatalities if they were to fall. 4 Cladding Services offers a complete training course for anyone operating a vacuum lifter at work. It is made accessible and free of charge, so it is even easier for you to get the skills you need to operate vacuum lifting machinery safely.
People often believe that you are considered as working from height if you are required to climb up and down a staircase to access your place of work. There is limited risk and danger in climbing a flight of stairs sensibly. Because they are fixed structures and do not require any special training, it is not considered as working at height. It is also important to remember that you are working from a height and above ground level. Suppose your work requires you to access underground, such as opening manhole covers or laying cables or pipework. In that case, you are working from height. Even though the ground may be secure, you still are at risk of falling and suffering an injury.
Ultimately, working at height comes with unavoidable risks. That is why it is crucial to ensure you have put every possible safety measure to reduce the chances of fatal accidents. By ensuring your employees are well trained, have all of the necessary tools to hand, and follow an entire risk-assessed plan, they are at the safest. The HSE website offers the whole legislation for working at height to ensure you are not setting a foot out of place. As long as you follow all of the necessary measures, you will massively minimise any potential risk to your employees.
If you require any further information about improving your working at height procedures or inquire about a vacuum lifter to help with the task, do not hesitate to get in touch. We will help you take the best steps for you and your team to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.