Falls and trips in construction - Working at height
There is no distinction made between low and high falls so for all work at height, measures must be taken to prevent the risk of any fall that could cause injury.
How long the job will take and how often it will be carried out are important selection issues. For example, a simple podium or stepladder may be the most suitable equipment to use if the work is low risk, short duration and not needed very often.
Whoever assembles and uses the equipment must be trained and competent to do so. Mobile elevating work platforms can provide excellent safe access to high-level work and can be easily moved from one location to another. Remember, powered access equipment requires the operator to hold a certificate or licence to prove that they are trained and competent.
Tower scaffolds are widely used and can provide an effective and safe means of access, however poorly erected and misused tower scaffolds are the cause of numerous accidents each year. Remember, towers should only be erected by trained and competent people who are following a safe method of work.
Ladders and stepladders are the most commonly used pieces of access equipment for a wide range of tasks and perhaps the most misused so it is essential that those who use ladders are trained and competent to do so.
Ladders should be your last option. They should only be considered for light work of short duration and where the use of other more suitable work equipment is not appropriate. If ladders are used, they should be:
- of the correct type – class 1 industrial or EN131 is recommended
- in good condition
- placed on firm level ground
- properly secured
- and set at the correct length and angle for the job.
Principal contractors should:
- Have a system for the procurement and control of contractors that includes arrangements to check their competence
- Agree with subcontractors the risk control measures they will use
- Actively monitor the work of subcontractors to ensure they are actually working to the agreed method
All dutyholders need to:
- Identify jobs that involve work at height and plan the work to ensure that appropriate precautions are in place
- Have a risk assessment in place that applies the Work at Height Regulations hierarchy*
- Have procedures for the selection of correct equipment and ensure that the selected equipment is actually used
- Communicate risk control measures to the workforce
- Ensure workers are competent to use the equipment that has been correctly installed/assembled
- Arrange inspection and maintenance of equipment as appropriate
- Avoid working at height if possible
- Use an existing safe place of work
- Provide work equipment to prevent falls
- Mitigate distance and consequences of a fall
- Instruction and training and/or other means.
For the above, collective protective measures (such as scaffolding) must be prioritised over personal protection (such as using a fall arrest harness).
Working at height does not have to involve unacceptably high risks. Proper management of the issues we have looked at will create a safer working environment for everyone and help you to comply with your legal duties. Take the time to plan the work, select the right equipment, and use it properly.