Safety & Access

What Are the Safety Risks of Working at Height?

January 6th, 2020

Every single day, construction workers find themselves working at height. It’s wise to avoid working at height wherever possible, but sometimes it’s simply inevitable. Attachments, removals, maintenance, and other complicated work needs to be carried out locally and, importantly, at a level which could cause harm.

Sadly, work carried out at height is responsible for more fatalities and injuries than any other construction activity. Let’s look at what working at height is, and the safety risks that are created because of it. We’ll briefly discuss ways that your team can minimise those risks, and explain why signing up for working at height training with Safety & Access Ltd can help your team eliminate those risks altogether.

What is Working at Height?

Working at height is easy to define – it’s work that is carried out at any height which could cause personal injury. This may come as a surprise to you, as many people imagine towering cranes, cherry pickers and harnesses when they think of working at height.

The truth is that even work carried out at ground level can be considered working at height. Using ladders and even step-ladders could be classed as working at height, depending on the situation. Health and Safety UK define working as height as:

“Work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:

  • work above ground/floor level;
  • could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or;
  • could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground.”

The Two Most Common Safety Risks of Working at Height

When it comes to the most common safety risks of working at height, they’re generally categorised into two distinct brackets: falling from height and dropping equipment from height.

The risks of falling at height range from near-misses, all the way to fatality. When somebody suffers a fall from height, the consequences are usually serious, and construction work regularly involves working at height. Whether it’s climbing ladders, lowering and raising yourself using a harness and pulley system, or even climbing scaffolding, the risks suddenly become very serious indeed.

So serious, in fact, that many companies are now dedicating extensive staff training to working at height. And little wonder. Work carried out at height is responsible for nearly one third of fatal accidents on construction sites. Standing on unstable surfaces, using ladders incorrectly, and overstretching are particularly common causes of slips and falls.

On the other hand, workers can drop equipment from height. You may think that the impact of dropped items is less severe, but this too can be fatal. Any number of injuries all the way from fractures to paralysis and death can be caused by dropping items from relatively low heights.

More often than not, the ground level area below work taking place at height is cordoned off and access is restricted. Workers below are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) including hard-hats, which protect against dropped items.

How to Minimise the Risks of Working at Height

Now that we’ve explained how severe the consequences of working at height can be, you’ll want to know how you can keep your team safe in their workplace.

The first step is to make sure that your team are properly trained. Ensure they’re competent, experienced, and have the skillset to carry out any work at height. Different work tasks involve different knowledge and skills – it’s important that you have the right people working on the right tasks.

After that, avoid working at height wherever possible. The design team should be able to spot opportunities that will minimise the amount of work carried out at any height. If work needs to take place at any height, is it possible to bring the construction down to ground level and work from there? Could machinery carry out the work instead? Is there a different way to approach the task?

Make sure that staff are using the correct equipment for the task at hand. It’s especially important that staff have a safe way to carry their equipment to and from the place of work – backpacks can hold several different tools which might instead fall from pockets. Lanyards are another option that ensures items cannot be dropped.

Finally, know the area that you’re working in. If work is being carried out on an aging, decaying roof or surface, then your methodology should have accounted for weak surfaces and potential collapse. Ensure that your workers are confident and comfortable, and that there are no unexpected surprises: reaching just a little too far could have disastrous consequences.

Working at Height Training with Safety & Access Ltd

When it comes to working at height, there are so many different risks and mitigation factors to consider. You can learn everything you and your team need to know about working at height and how to minimise those risks by enrolling for our Working at Height & Access Training Courses.

Our Safety & Access Ltd team are local to you, no matter where your team are based. We can provide your team with professional and valuable working at height training, so that you can carry out your work safe in the knowledge that you’ve minimised the risk of injury as much as possible.