When you have to work at height

When you have to work at height – avoid, prevent, control.

Working at height in many cases is unavoidable. The hierarchy of control central to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 asks the fundamental question of avoid work at height if you can. Namely can the task in hand be brought to ground level?

In most instances this isn’t possible. The engine on a helicopter for example or the air-conditioning unit on a train cannot be simply lowered to the ground in order for engineers to work on them.

So where work at height isn’t avoidable it must be planned accordingly so that it is carried out as safely as possible. One of the most important measures to implement is preventing a fall from height occurring.

Sounds simple enough and it can be by ensuring the correct piece of access equipment is used for the job in hand. No longer is it considered acceptable to reach for a set of ladder and steps before an adequate assessment of the risks have been made. There are times and tasks where this form of access is suitable but more often than not a work platform is safer.

User knowledge and training are pivotal themes in the Work at Height Regulations; ensuring personnel are not just given the correct piece of access equipment but are shown how to use it correctly. Once armed with the right piece of access equipment it is equally vital that those using it do so correctly.

The task is still working at height and has been assessed accordingly but if the access equipment is set up incorrectly then the potential to fall and an injury to occur are still there.

Maintaining your access equipment is also key to working safely at height. This shouldn’t be underestimated when you consider this equipment will be used almost daily to carry out safety critical work. Preventing a fall from occurring, using the correct piece of equipment and training personnel in its safe use are the not the only obligations under the Work at Height Regulations.

This comprehensive approach to safe work at height represents the ultimate in best practice. It keeps workers safer and improves productivity, a bottom-line contributor that is often overlooked.