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The importance of working at heights safely

There are lots of different risks that can occur when you are working particularly if you work in construction or another physical role. Whilst there are several risk factors one of the biggest is working at height.

Falls from a height are one of the biggest causes of major injuries and fatalities in the workplace. This means that you need to ensure that you work in a way that is as safe as possible. Not only to limit your chance of being hurt but also to reduce the chance that those around you will be hurt too.

Understanding UK Health and Safety Legislation

To keep people who work at height safe, the HSE created the Work at Height Regulations of 2005. These are set out to ensure that the chance of injuries or death is reduced and that everyone is as safe as possible when they work at height.

Work at Height Regulations 2005

The Work at Height Regulations of 2005 came into effect to minimise the risk to life from working at a height. This includes working on or up ladders and also working on a fragile roof or surface that is raised.

Scope and purpose of the regulations

The purpose of this regulation is to prevent both deaths and major injuries caused by falling from a height. They apply to all employers who have at least some aspects of their work carried out at height.

Key requirements for working at height

Image of man working on scaffold for Learn Q Working at Height Navigating UK Safety Regulations blogFor you to meet the requirements of these regulations you are going t need to ensure that you:

Properly plan and organise any work that is going to be carried out at height
That you ensure that all people who are involved with the work at height are competent and understand both the risks and the precautions
That you have assessed the risks that working at height can pose and you have provided the appropriate equipment for the work to be carried out
That you properly manage the risks of working on or near any raised surfaces that are fragile
That any equipment that is used is maintained and inspected regularly

If you follow these key aspects then you should find that you are within the regulations and in turn, the law.

Risk Assessment and Planning

One of the most important things when it comes to working at height is to ensure that you properly plan and risk assess the environment and the work that is to be carried out. This can take time, but it is vitally important and a part of the process that you should not ignore.

Conducting a thorough risk assessment

First of all, you need to conduct a thorough risk assessment. You need to ascertain what work is to be carried out, where it needs to be carried out and who will be carrying it out.

Identifying hazards and potential risks

As a part of the risk assessment, you should take the time to think about and identify the key hazards and risks that may be faced when it comes to working at height. These may feel like you are looking on the negative side, but this can make the difference in being able to protect those around you.

Evaluating the severity and likelihood of accidents

You never want to think about the possible accidents that can occur when you are working from height, but it is an important thing for you to do. You need to think about how likely it is that an accident is going to happen whilst the work is being completed.

When you have considered the likelihood of the accidents happening, you also then need to consider how severe they are likely to be.

Developing a comprehensive working at height plan

Once you have considered your risks and thought about how severe they could be, then you need to develop a plan. This should be a comprehensive plan that covers all of the key aspects of working at height.

You should summarise the things that can happen, the main risks and what are the steps that have been taken to ensure that the risks are minimised. This is a plan that everyone should see so that they can follow it.

Selecting suitable equipment and methods

A part of your plan should be the consideration of both the equipment and the methods that are going to be most appropriate for the work. This equipment should be not only safe to use but also able to do the work to a high standard.

It should be provided in excellent condition and monitored to ensure that it stays this way.

Providing adequate training and supervision

As well as providing the right equipment it is vital that those who are working from height should be fully trained. They should be aware of what their duties are as those who are at risk and understand the main ways that they can protect themselves and those around them.

It is also important that those who are responsible supervise the work that is carried out regularly. This is to ensure that the procedures and methods are followed properly and that the equipment is being used in the right way too.

Equipment and Safety Measures

Image of men working on scaffold for Learn Q Working at Height Navigating UK Safety Regulations blogThe equipment that is used when working at height needs to be safe and appropriate to be used in those conditions too. There are lots of different pieces of equipment that have been designed to help keep people working at height safe.

Choosing the right equipment for working at height

The first thing that you are going to need to do is to consider what work needs to be carried out and how this needs to be completed. When you know this, you can start to choose the right equipment that is going to allow the work to be completed to the right level and to keep everyone safe whilst they do that.

Scaffolding and access equipment

Scaffolding allows workers to safely move up the area that needs working on, it also gives them an area that they can work on and keep their equipment. It does, however, require access platforms and access equipment that is going to make sure that it is easy to get onto the scaffolding and to get off again when needed.

Ladders and stepladders

Ladders and stepladders make it easier to move between levels when working at height. These pieces of equipment also ensure that the chance of overstretching is limited too, which will help to keep those people working as safely as possible.

Personal fall protection systems

Another way to keep those who are working at height safe is to install personal fall protection systems. These are designed to be attached to a safe part of the working area, acting as a line and a harness, so that anyone who falls is going to have their fall broken and the chance of a serious injury reduced.

Ensuring equipment safety and maintenance

It is one thing to install equipment and safety measures when working at height, but you also need to make sure that it keeps working as it should. This will help to give those working at height the best chance possible of being safe whilst they work.

Regular inspections and maintenance checks

You need to ensure that any safety equipment and working areas are regularly inspected and maintained when it comes to working at height. This will help to keep everyone safe and will also highlight any issues that may arise and will require additional measures to be taken.

Compliance with British Standards and Regulations

To be acting within the law, you need to ensure that you are compliant with the British Standards and Regulations which will ensure that you are not only acting in the right way but that you are also doing the best that you can to keep those who are working safe.

Training and Competence

Another aspect of working at height is making sure that those who are carrying out the work have the right level of training and competence to keep themselves and those around them safe.

Basic working at height awareness

At the very least you need to provide these people with the basic working at height awareness. This will cover some of the main elements of working at height and what measures can and should be put in place to protect those who work at height.

The importance of training for working at height

As we have already mentioned, working at height is a leading cause of fatal injuries and deaths in the workplace, this means that it is vitally important to ensure that those who are working are fully trained and know what is expected of them.

Training requirements for employees

Employees should know the importance of working safely at height. They should know what is expected of them and what they can do to keep themselves safe. They should be given guidance on the equipment that can be used in their day-to-day work and they should understand how they can best use it to get the work done.

Specialised training for specific tasks or equipment

If there is a particular task or piece of equipment that may not be the usual approach or work that you do, then you are going to want to provide your staff members with specialist training that is going to give them the knowledge that they need.

Certification and competence requirements

It is important to ensure that everyone who works at height is competent and that understands what it means to be safe and what their responsibilities are.

Recognised training providers and qualifications

To ensure that the relevant and up-to-date information has been shared and given it is important that training is provided by a recognised provider who can award a high quality and accurate certification.

Competence assessment and refresher training

A key part of training should always be to check competency at the end of the course. It may also be appropriate to ensure that staff within your business have refresher training regularly to ensure that they are always up to date.

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