5 Safety tips for working at heights.

Working at height is most popular in the building, construction, and maintenance industry and in simple terms refers to any work where a person could potentially fall and injure themselves. The fall could be from a ladder, a roof’s edge, from a scaffold, through an opening on the floor, even a loading dock can be working at height. It is a common fact in the building, construction and maintenance industry that falling from height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. Working at heights is one of the most dangerous working conditions and known to be the single biggest cause of workplace deaths. This has a ripple effect on a company as it causes a delay in production as investigations are carried out and ultimately a loss in profits due to delays in production. Whether one works at heights as part of a daily routine or occasionally, the risks involved are still present and the prevention thereof is imperative. A contractor should Plan all work at height activities and prepare a fall protection plan to ensure the risks are identified and mitigated to an acceptable level. A fall protection plan should include: 

  1. A risk assessment of all the work to be carried out from a fall risk position 
  1. Safe work procedures for the activities 
  1. A program for the training of employees to work at height 
  1. A process for procuring, issuing and inspecting fall protection equipment.  
  1. Rescue plan detailing the equipment and procedure which will be used in the event of a rescue.  

Having this planning in place will help to prevent injury and protect their employees who work at heights. In this blog 5 safety tips for working at heights will be unpacked.  

  • Tip #01 Use guardrails. This is a form of fall prevention. The law is clear about the priorities in this regard and state that fall arrest equipment (Harnesses) should only be considered when it is not reasonably possible to use fall prevention systems like solid barriers to prevent a fall. 
  • Tip #02 Use proper and most suitable/appropriate PPE (Harnesses). Firstly, the anchor points must be identified and approved for fall arrest before use. The arresting forces are 6kN (600kg) and the point where the lanyard is anchored should be able to withstand such a load. Also note the need for double shock absorbing lanyards to enable the user to secure at least one of the hooks when he changes position because, if you’re not connected, you’re not protected. 
  • Tip #03 Be sure to select and use the best equipment for working at heights (scaffold vs lift vs ladder). Just as harnesses are not a one size fits all solutions neither are fall protection and equipment used for working at heights. A scaffold might be your best solution for working at heights in some situations but may be completely infeasible in another situation. Other times you may have to use a lift and in other situations you may have to use a ladder. It is therefore of utmost important to properly assess the type of work that needs to be done carefully and select the equipment accordingly.  
  • Tip #04 Understand fall distance. To ensure the safety of a fallen worker, two conditions must be met. The first condition is that the worker’s personal fall arrest system is arranged so that the worker cannot hit the ground, an object which poses an unusual possibility of injury, or a level below the work area. The second condition is there must be sufficient clearance distance including a safety factor. When using a 1.75 meters long lanyard, a worker needs approximately 6 meters of clear space below the level of the anchor point. 
  • Tip #05 Training. Having employees trained for working at heights simply cannot be stressed enough. For employees to work safely at heights they must be professionally trained. There is a lot of room for error, confusion, injury and even fatality regarding a person trying to protect themselves at height with the lack of proper knowledge. Training allows for the correct steps to be taken in the event of a fall or potential fall and the necessary protection thereof. Employees working in conditions where a fall is most like to occur should therefore be armed with information so that they can always keep themselves safe. 

Working at heights safely requires the correct measures and precautions to always be in place, failure to do so could end in injury and fatality. It is the responsibility of employers to ensure that these measures and precautions are always in place.  

For more information about the steps you can take to mitigate your fall hazards contact us: jaco@altramed.co.za 0861 111 504 

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