Working at heights: how to reduce the risk of falls from heights
By Joanna Weekes
After Tuesday’s Health & Safety Bulletin which looked at some surprising statistics found regarding work-related injuries caused by falling from a height, today we have some information for you about when a fall risk may exist and some ways that you can reduce those risks.
Working at heights refers to any circumstance in which a person is exposed to a fall risk. Fall risks occur in many situations, but some common examples of fall risks include the following:
- climbing on top of trucks or loads;
- using a ladder;
- working from an unprotected roof edge;
- standing on a platform close to a pit or hole;
- working near an unprotected trench.
Remember, even if it is not a regular occurrence or part of the inherent role of the worker to work from heights, a worker can still be exposed to a risk of falling and since they do not perform the task regularly, the appropriate control measures may not be in place. Do not let this happen. Workers who change a light globe in an office, access high storage areas in the stationery cupboard or change outdoor display signs are all at fall risks.
Methods of controlling fall risks include:
- Travel restraint devices: tie a worker to an anchor point to prevent them reaching an unprotected edge;
- Fall protection covers: cover holes and openings to prevent persons or objects falling through;
- Guardrails: prevent access to unprotected edges;
- Fall restraint systems: prevent a falling person from coming into contact with a hard surface;
- Fall arrest systems: a strap or harness attached to a line to prevent a person falling to the ground;
- fixed or temporary work platforms: provide stable access to high workplaces; and
- elevated work platforms: allow workers to work at a variety of heights, e.g. boom and scissor lifts.
Another hazard associated with a worker working from a height is the risk that a person or object will fall and hit another worker below – so take that into account when you conduct your risk assessment as well, e.g. whether the workers are using tools that are unsecured and could be dropped from a height.
So make sure that you consider ALL circumstances where your workers may be at a fall risk – because you don’t want to become one of the statistics.
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