Safety topics - Working at height
Falls from height continue to be an issue for paper and board industries. During 2011 a number of enforcement notices were served in relation to work at height activities. A good health and safety management system will identify work at height tasks and put in place measures to prevent falls BEFORE work at height starts.
Work at height includes the risk of falls from low heights where a person could be injured, as well as the more obvious risk of falling from higher heights such as from scaffolding, tops of machinery etc. Common areas of concern for work at height issues include:
- Working on fragile roofs – Working on fragile roofs, such as asbestos cement roofs, without precautions in place or proper means of access has led to serious and fatal accidents.
- Mezzanine Floors - Failing to provide handrails (top and mid rail) and toe board around mezzanine floors where people access or work. Similar issues are seen on storage areas above offices where employees need to go on for access.
- Machine access – Where access is regularly required at height to access different parts of machinery, or to carryout tasks e.g. felt changing failing to assess the risks and provide properly constructed access platforms with handrails etc. or other controls to reduce the risks has resulted in action being taken.
- Storage Racking – Storage racking should not be used as a means of access. Where there are product issues in the racking or access is needed, alternative means of access should be provided.
- Assessing the risks - Failing to identify, assess and properly control the risks of work at height in workplaces.
The Law requires employers to ensure:
- all work at height is properly planned and organised;
- those involved in work at height are competent;
- the risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected and used;
- the risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled; and
- equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.
When carrying out assessments for managing and selecting equipment for work at height there is a simple hierarchy employers should use as follows:
- where possible, avoid work at height;
- where it is not possible to avoid work at height use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls. E.g. providing permanent or temporary access platforms; and
- where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences, e.g. fall arrest/ restraint equipment etc
For advice on specific tasks involving work at height in the paper industry advice can be found in the publication "Managing Health and Safety in paper Mills - Part 6 – Making Paper Safely".
More information on particular areas of managing the risks from work at height can be found as follows: