The Work at Height Regulations (2005) were put in place to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from any  height, all projects involving work at height should be fully risk assessed and evaluated to ensure the appropriate control measures are in place to prevent falling. Control measures are organised into a hierarchy of increasing safety (with the lowest risk being first).We’ll discuss how to follow it in this blog. 

1- Avoid working at height completely

 

According to the HSE, in 2018/19, 40 fatal injuries to workers were due to falls from a height. If you’re an employer, or duty of care holder, you could face punishment due to negligence if one of your workers is seriously injured due to a fall. Therefore, it’s extremely important to ask the first and most important question: is working at height required?

The first stage of any Working at Height operation should be to determine the answer to this question. Not all situations actually require working at height and it's important to decide if it is completely necessary before beginning. For example, if you have an isolator on a crane that is above ground, don’t immediately assume that an operator will have to go up to isolate the crane. If the isolator can be moved to be accessible from ground level, you should make the effort to move it, removing the need for working at height

Ensuring compliance with the Work at Height Regulations means balancing what is economically reasonable with what is safe. Therefore, if working at height is unavoidable, you consider the next stage of the hierarchy - preventing falls. 

 

2- Prevent falls using collective safety methods

Where working at height cannot be avoided you must take measures to prevent falling; with the first being installing collective equipment - a kind of preventative measure that requires no experience or training for personnel.

Collective safety measures are put in place to protect everyone who may be at risk of falling, particularly in instances where various individuals must access the point of hazard at different intervals. Examples of this equipment include handrails, guards and netting, which can be installed in areas where a fall may occur. 

 

3- Prevent falls using Fall Restraint Systems

The next stage in managing a Working at Height project is ensuring that the individual doing the work is safe and reducing the risk of falling by preventing their access to nearby edges or other hazards. In the hierarchy of control measures, this is referred to as a fall restraint system.

An example of this would be attaching an operator working on a rooftop to an anchor point that keeps them safely away from the edge to prevent them from falling. 

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4- Prevent falls using Fall Arrest Systems 

Where a fall restraint system isn’t a viable option, the final stage in managing a safe operation is implementing a fall arrest system, which is the last resort for working at height safety that should only be used once all other options have been deemed unsuitable or impracticable. 

Fall arrest systems protect individuals after they fall and they work by reducing the distance of the fall through an anchor connected to a body holding device, such as a harness. They prevent individuals from colliding with the ground and they are designed to absorb most of the intense shock and force inflicted on the body during a fall.

To use a fall arrest system, the operator will require training and, as an employer, or duty of care holder, you are required to have a rescue plan in place (indeed, all working at height activity requires a rescue plan). This ensures that the work being done is properly planned and carried out as safely as possible

 

What next?

By adhering to these 4 key steps, you can ensure that you reduce the risk of falling significantly. However, as well as following the hierarchy of control measures, you need to ensure that the work at height is done completely safely with appropriate supervision. 

As a duty of care holder, it is your responsibility to ensure that every part of an operation is compliant with the Working at Height regulations, from the equipment used to the level of training required. 

To learn how to be compliant, please download The No-Nonsense Guide to Working at Height, our free manual to the Working at Height regulations, covering what you need to know about working at height, from how to safeguard your staff, to how to ensure a safe working environment. 

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