No matter what your trade is most workers in construction at some time work at heights, or nearby where others are working at heights. Safe work method statements help everyone who is working on site to understand what their responsibilities are, and how they can work safely. Conducting tool box talks focusing on the risks of working at heights is another way to ensure everyone is aware what is going and also meets the legal requirement to consult and communicate with workers.
There is some confusion over the term ‘working at heights’ and what it means in a practical sense. On a construction site work where you can fall over 2 metres is considered a high risk activity and requires a safe work method statement. However any work that is conducted anywhere above solid ground is working at heights. So whether you’re working on a step ladder or on a scissor lift you have to manage the risk of falls of people, equipment and materials.
With that in mind we’ve come up with eight tips for when you and your workers are working at heights. Feel free to include these in your tool box talk.
- Make sure you have an exclusion zone so that unless absolutely necessary no-one is working under another person. If you have multiple trades and builders on site ensure the exclusion zone is the same distance!
- If the work can be completed on the ground, do it on the ground.
- Make sure you use the appropriate PPE for the job. For instance, if you’re using a harness make sure it fits and make sure the length is suitable for the height you are working at. Don’t laugh but we’ve seen people working with a too long lanyard, so they would hit the ground before the lanyard did its job.
- Don’t take shortcuts when working at heights, or climbing up or down from the work area. No jumping off the roof!
- Don’t overload ladders, platforms or trestles whether it’s with people, materials or equipment.
- If there is a void… cover it with something stable, strong and size appropriate, and make sure it can’t be moved. Then make sure you notify all workers.
- Make sure ladders, platforms, trestles etc are inspected regularly for defects and well maintained
- Make sure everyone is adequately trained at working at heights. Don’t just expect that a young worker will know how to do their job as well at heights as they can on ground level.
30% of work fatalities are caused by falls from a height. Don’t become a statistic.