As any construction worker can tell you, working at height can be a daunting experience. Whether it's wobbling at the top of a ladder or stood on scaffolding, it's imperative to remember that you can't expect to work the same way you would at ground level. There's a reason that regulations exist to manage this sort of operation, falls from height remain the number one cause of death among construction workers. It's time to talk about the ins-and-outs of working at height, the rules you need to follow and the best practices to put in place.
You should try to avoid working at height wherever possible—if workers can perform a task without the call for a ladder or scaffold, that's the way to go. It saves time, money, and the risk of injury, so it's worth taking the time to explore your options. However, sometimes working at height is simply unavoidable. In this case, make sure you plan out exactly where and how builders will be carrying out work. This will make it easier to determine what equipment will be needed.
You also need to decide who will be overseeing the work, and managing the team working. This kind of task requires efficiency and direction, because no one wants to be thirty floors up for longer than they have to be.
Dr. Julie Riggs of Phoenix Health and Safety explains that when working at height, it's very important to reduce the potential falling distance:
“Where using the equipment involves a risk of falling, additional measures to minimise the distance and consequences of any fall must be put in place. Prevent any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury, for example by using a scaffold platform with double guard-rail and toeboards. Equally importantly, arrest a fall with equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall. Options include safety nets, where work at height cannot be avoided or the risk of falling prevented. Remember, whenever work at height accidents are investigated and employers are prosecuted, one of the most common findings is that the work was not properly planned and supervised.”
There are two types of protection for people working at height. Individual protection refers to equipment like safety harnesses, which can be firmly attached to a worker and prevent them from reaching the ground in the event of a fall. Remember that a harness needs to be attached to something strong and immovable. The other type of protection is known as collective protection, and refers to equipment that helps keep all workers safe, rather just an individual. This might mean items like guardrails along all scaffolding.
Your workers' safety is your responsibility. If someone is injured, or even dies after a fall from height on your site, investigators will inspect the safety measures you did (or didn't) put in place. A recent case saw the boss of a roofing company slapped with a suspended jail sentence for making his employees work at height in unsafe conditions, among other crimes.
When used properly and responsibly, scaffolding can be the right solution for any job that requires working at height. To find out more, take a look around our site, or get in touch with a member of our friendly team today.