How to Mitigate the Risk of Working at Height

June 6, 2024

How to Mitigate the Risk of Working at Height

According to the latest HSE statistics, in 2022 and 2023, 5000 people in the UK were injured due to a fall from height. Working at height is an inherent part of many industries, from construction and maintenance to the food and drinks industry. In the food and drinks industry, falls from height are the third highest cause of fatal injury.

However, this essential task comes with significant risks that can have devastating consequences if not properly managed. In this blog, we’ll delve into the dangers of working at height, the latest legislation, and the actions employers must take to ensure the safety of their workers.

What does ‘Working at Height’ mean?

Working at height refers to any work activity that takes place at a location where a person could fall and sustain an injury. This includes working on ladders, scaffolding, roofs, elevated platforms, or any other surface that is above ground level.

The definition of “height” can vary depending on the industry and the specific circumstances, but generally, it is considered to be any height where a fall could cause injury.

working-at-height-workers-construction

What are the Dangers of Working at Height?

Although falls are one of the most common dangers associated with working at height, it also poses numerous other risks, including:

Falls: Falls from height are one of the leading causes of fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace. Even a fall from a relatively low height can result in severe injuries or death.

Falling Objects: Workers at height are also at risk from falling objects, such as tools, materials, or debris, which can cause serious injuries or fatalities.

Unstable Surfaces: Working on unstable or slippery surfaces, such as roofs or scaffolding, increases the risk of falls and accidents.

Environmental Factors: Weather conditions, such as wind, rain, or ice, can make working at height even more hazardous.

Inadequate Training: Lack of proper training and awareness of safety procedures can lead to accidents and injuries.

What is the Latest Legislation?

In the United Kingdom, the primary legislation governing work at height is the Work at Height Regulations 2005. These regulations place legal duties on employers to ensure the safety of their employees when working at height. Some key requirements include:

  • Avoiding work at height where reasonably practicable.
  • Using appropriate work equipment and safety measures.
  • Assessing the risks.
  • Providing adequate training and instruction to employees.
  • Taking precautions when working on fragile surfaces to prevent falls through openings.
  • Inspecting and maintaining work equipment regularly.

Employers have legal duties to protect their employees from falls from height, so it is important that they do everything in their power to ensure a safe workplace.

What are the employers’ responsibilities regarding working at height?

According to the HSE, employers have a legal duty to ensure the safety of their employees when working at height. This includes:

  • Conducting risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement appropriate control measures.
  • Providing suitable and well-maintained equipment, such as ladders, scaffolding, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Ensuring that employees are properly trained and competent to carry out work at height safely.
  • Implementing safe systems of work, including emergency procedures and rescue plans.
  • Regularly inspecting and maintaining work equipment and work areas.

What actions can employers take to ensure working at height safely?

To mitigate the risks associated with working at height and comply with legal requirements, employers should take the following actions:

Conduct Risk Assessments: Carry out comprehensive risk assessments to identify potential hazards and implement appropriate control measures.

Provide Proper Equipment: Ensure that workers have access to suitable and well-maintained equipment, such as ladders, scaffolding, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Implement Safe Systems of Work: Develop and implement safe systems of work, including emergency procedures and rescue plans, to ensure the safety of workers at height.

Provide Training and Supervision: Ensure that workers receive adequate training and supervision to carry out work at height safely. This includes training on the use of equipment, safe working practices, and emergency procedures.

Maintain and Inspect Equipment: Regularly inspect and maintain work equipment and work areas to ensure they remain safe for use.

Encourage a Safety Culture: Foster a strong safety culture within the organisation, where workers are encouraged to report any concerns or unsafe practices, and safety is prioritised at all levels.

Stay Up-to-Date with Regulations: Regularly review and update policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the latest legislation and industry best practices.

By implementing these measures, employers can significantly reduce the risks associated with working at height and create a safer working environment for their employees.

Why is conducting a risk assessment so important?

Conducting a comprehensive risk assessment is an absolute necessity for businesses that involve work at height. This critical step serves as the foundation for identifying potential hazards, evaluating the severity of risks, and implementing effective control measures to safeguard workers. By thoroughly assessing the unique challenges and risks associated with each work at height task, employers can proactively address potential dangers before they manifest into accidents or injuries.

 

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A well-executed risk assessment not only fulfils legal obligations but also empowers businesses to make informed decisions about the most appropriate safety measures, equipment, and training required for their specific operations. It enables employers to prioritise risks, allocate resources effectively, and develop tailored safe systems of work that account for the specific challenges posed by working at height environments.

Moreover, regular risk assessments foster a culture of continuous improvement, as they encourage ongoing monitoring and review of safety practices, ensuring that any changes in work conditions, equipment, or regulations are promptly addressed. By prioritising risk assessments, businesses demonstrate their commitment to protecting their most valuable assets – their employees – and cultivate a proactive approach to workplace safety that can ultimately enhance productivity, reduce costs associated with accidents, and maintain a positive reputation within the industry.

Remember, the consequences of failing to address the dangers of working at height can be severe, including injuries, fatalities, and legal repercussions. By prioritising safety and taking proactive steps to mitigate risks, businesses can protect their workers, maintain compliance, and foster a culture of safety within their organisation.

At William Martin, we offer a fully flexible health and safety consultancy to suits your needs. By tailoring our services to you, you can rest assured that all your needs and expectations are met. Each of our team of health and safety experts have at least 10 years of sector-specific and hands-on experience.

Ready to take control and mitigate working at height risks? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you undertake a working at height risk assessment!

 

Contact

At William Martin, we bring unparalleled health & safety expertise and powerful technology to the table. Whatever your sector and wherever you are, we give you the support you need to keep compliant, strong, and successful. For all enquiries, please contact us or call our team on 0203 819 8829.

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