Guide to Safe Working at Height

Assessing the risk

The first thing that should be considered before any job involving working at height commences is a risk assessment. The complexity of any risk assessment will be down to the risk of injury and the assessment itself must consider many different aspects including:

  • The height of a fall (although of course injury can result from very low falls as well)
  • Environmental conditions and weather forecasts (slippery conditions or strong winds)
  • Any material(s) that could be fallen on resulting in injury. Especially sharp edges and risk of impalement, but also any surfaces that are fragile and cannot support weight, which could result in further falls or injuries
  • Risk of falling materials or objects on those working below
  • Hazards of using MEWPs (Mobile Elevated Work Platforms) including crushing injuries
  • The strength and stability of the structure on which work is being carried out

These are just some of the more obvious areas which must be assessed as part of a full risk appraisal.

Managing working at height

Risk involved when working at height should be ameliorated by relevant training, instruction and supervision alongside safe working practice protocol. When working at height work should always be carefully planned, supervised and only carried out by people who are fully trained and aware of protocol.

Preventing injury

If in doubt, work at height should be avoided if there is a genuine risk of serious injury. Tools should be easy to access and where possible placed where there is a reduced need for too many trips up and down ladders. Guard rails and work platforms that are designed to protect all of the workers on site should be installed wherever possible.  Personal protective equipment such as fall arrest cable systems should be used wherever there is a real risk of falling as an extra safeguard. When this is not possible the risk of falling must be mitigated by reducing the distance and thus the consequences of a potential fall. Working edges on platforms should be marked with clear painted lines in order to make everyone aware of their surroundings.

MEWP tips

When using MEWPs it is vital that:

  • The platform is placed on firm, flat terrain
  • Safety harnesses are worn at all times while on the platform
  • There is always a trained operator at ground level
  • The equipment is always used with outriggers and stabilizers
  • The platform is always maintained within safe working limits and that environmental conditions such as wind speeds are properly respected

Take advantage of IPAF training courses

In addition to the MEWP for Managers course, there are a whole range of more hands on training courses for those who are tasked with working at height using MEWPs and other relevant machinery. Keeping up to date with the latest correct procedure and industry tips can make all the difference when it comes to safe practice.

Ladders can be dangerous too!

Ladders should only ever be considered for quick jobs and must be:

  • Set at the correct angle
  • Secured correctly
  • Set up near to the work to prohibit over-reaching
  • Protected to avoid pedestrians or vehicles from knocking them

Always inspect equipment

When using personal safety equipment it is imperative that regular checks are made that there has not been any deterioration of any parts or fabric that are vital to the full functionality of the equipment. Likewise, when using MEWPs, there must be someone who is fully trained in not only how to safely use them but also how to recognise when there is something wrong. IPAF offer an ‘MEWP for Managers’ course that is very useful to this end. This leads us on to…