Falling from a height is one of the most common causes of workplace injuries, accounting for the greatest percentage of work-related fatalities each year. According to the National Safety Council, falls from great heights are the second largest cause of occupational injuries and fatalities in all industries in the United States, with an estimated 200,000 falls reported each year. This demonstrates that working at heights can be hazardous and pose considerable dangers to workers. Falls from practically any height can result in serious injuries or even death. We will walk you through some of the fall safety measures in this blog. That could assist your comprehension of fall protection methods.
What does working at height means?
working at heights is operating in a situation where a person, object, or substance is at risk of falling from a distance that could result in personal injury if no precautions are taken. Working at height, for example, is somewhere where you can fall through an opening, off an edge, or through a delicate surface while working. This is primarily due to a lack of safety precautions, such as the improper or unsafe use of ladders and stepladders, mobile elevating work issues, or working on a scaffolding platform.
Examples of work at height include:
- Roofing services
- Gutter and window cleaning
- Vehicle unloading or shelf stacking
- Machine and plant maintenance
- Working on or near rooftops or other vulnerable surfaces.
- Putting up signs
Working at height risks and the level of risk they pose vary depending on the business and the activities done there. Nonetheless, if not properly controlled, all labour at height poses a risk of falling. As a result, officials must organise the job and ensure that it is conducted safely.
Why is safety while working at height important?
According to HSE annual numbers, there were 61,713 non-fatal injuries reported in various workplaces by employers under RIDDOR in 2021/22, with falls from heights accounting for approximately 8% of these mishaps. Safety whole working at heights is crucial since falls from heights might result in serious injuries or fatalities. Falls can also cause long-term disability and impair an individual’s capacity to work, resulting in lost pay and a lower quality of life. Workplace accidents and injuries can also have a detrimental influence on employee morale, productivity, and financial costs for organisations. Implementing appropriate fall protection systems, as well as providing adequate training and maintenance, can aid in the prevention of falls and assure worker safety, eventually saving lives and lowering the financial burden of workplace accidents.
When the majority of the work involves working at heights, the employer must undertake a working at height risk assessment before the work begins. Risk assessments must be carried out by a qualified expert who possesses the requisite skills, knowledge, and experience to assess the hazards associated with various working at height duties. They will also need to assess and decide on control methods to mitigate or decrease these risks to the lowest reasonable level possible.
How to ensure safety while working at heights
Avoiding work at height
Employers must avoid doing work at heights in order to eliminate the danger of accidents. To comply, businesses must thoroughly prepare all work activities before beginning them and always consider ways to avoid working at heights.
For example, instead of ladders or low-level access platforms, use extension poles to clean windows. Working at heights could be avoided in the workplace by constructing a light fixture that can be lowered for bulb changes rather than forcing workers to reach up to change them.
If working at heights is inevitable, the next step is to use an existing safe site that prevents people from falling, such as a flat roof with permanent guardrails. Employers are required to utilise the best available work equipment to prevent falls or, if prevention is not reasonably possible, to lessen the impact of a fall from a height or a fall of materials or items.
When selecting fall protection equipment, the person in charge will consider a variety of variables to ensure that the appropriate equipment is selected. This includes, but is not limited to, taking into account the working environment, any space constraints, adequate clearance for the equipment, and the number of personnel working at height who require protection.
Here are some examples of fall protection equipment:
Working platforms which are properly constructed
Properly built working platforms with guardrails and toe boards are the best working at height equipment for keeping people or items from falling from a height.
Safe working platforms are examples of collective fall protection devices. When working at a height, safe working platforms should be used instead of conventional fall prevention techniques. They should be considered if avoiding work at height or using an existing safe area is not viable.
Safety mobile towers
Mobile towers, often known as tower scaffolds, are a safe alternative to full scaffolding for many typical maintenance or repair activities. They should always take priority over ladders.
All mobile towers must be assembled by qualified personnel who have received appropriate training. When building, dismantling, and checking them, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Employers must also ensure that all work platforms have the required edge protection and that employees may safely approach and depart them.
minimising the effects of a fall
If falls cannot be eliminated or minimised and there is no safe space, the next level of control is the employment of work equipment that provides collective protection to reduce the distance or impacts of a fall. This should be considered only when it is not practically possible to avoid or prevent falls from great heights.
Example of collective protection work equipment are:
- Nets for safety: High-risk activities can sometimes be mitigated by utilising safety nets. When working on or near delicate roofing, safety netting may be required. If they are employed, the nets must have enough space underneath them to avoid harm and injury.
- Airbags and other soft-landing systems: Airbags may be appropriate when falls from a lesser height are possible, such as when loading and unloading vehicle trailers. They should be placed as close to the working area as feasible to catch anyone who may fall. Airbags should only be utilised in emergency situations because their efficiency reduces as the fall distance increases.
Training and education
Working at heights can be a difficult and dangerous task, and not everyone is capable of it. Proper training and practise are required for such dangerous work to ensure that the person is competent enough to conduct working at height tasks efficiently. Working at height online courses are an efficient and effective approach to train workers to work at height. These training seminars teach workers how to recognise dangers when working at heights and how to keep themselves safe.
After all other hierarchical stages have been taken into account, the employer can consider fall arrest PPE. Personal protection equipment (PPE) for fall arrest is used to stop a fall that is occurring or about to occur, either fully or before contact with a surface.
The fall arrest equipment is classified into two different types, such as:
- Harnesses to restrain falls: Without it, a fall could happen, but it doesn’t right now. It could be used, for example, on a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) to keep someone from being flung out if the MEWP collides with something. The lanyard linked to the wearer’s safety harness must be short (less than 1 metre).
- Fall protection harnesses: A fall restraint system prevents a fall from occurring, whereas an arrest system stops a fall from occurring before it makes contact with a surface. This is the main distinction between the two systems. They must have stable attachment places and enough clearance from the ground for the shock-absorbing lanyard to work.
To summarise, working at heights is a major risk in many businesses. It is critical to implement appropriate fall prevention measures to ensure worker safety. To prevent accidents and injuries, employers must identify potential hazards, analyse the risks, and implement suitable fall protection measures. Each fall protection system, whether guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems, has advantages and disadvantages, and the best system will rely on a variety of circumstances. Compliance with legal regulations, sufficient training, and regular maintenance and inspections are all critical to ensure fall prevention system performance. Prioritising working at height safety can help employers build a safer workplace, boost employee morale and productivity, and save lives.