Working at height – your responsibilities as an employer

31 July 2017

If you’re in an industry where your employees may be working at height, it’s important to know your responsibilities – insufficient practices can be fatal.

The Working at Height Regulations 2005 is designed to prevent death and injury from falls at height. And with falls from height being one of the most common causes of workplace deaths and serious injuries, the regulation isn’t something you’ll want to take lightly.

Assess the situation with care

There are a number of steps you should take and questions you should ask yourself before an employee works from height.

  1. Is it practicable to do the work from the ground? If so, try to do as much work as possible from ground level to minimise the chance of accidents.
  2. Put appropriate measures in place to ensure employees can safely get up and down from the height they’re working at, and work safely while they’re up there.
  3. Make sure that all equipment being used is suitable, stable, well-maintained and checked beforehand to ensure it’s absolutely fit for purpose.
  4. Make sure employees working from height don’t need to overreach when on the job.
  5. If the job at height’s on or near a fragile surface, consider what precautions need to be but in place.
  6. Provide all employees working from height with protective equipment in case objects fall from above. You should, of course, do your best to prevent objects from falling in the first place to prevent employees banging their head.
  7. Do you have an emergency evacuation or rescue procedure in place? This may differ from your standard policy, due to the time and potential risks involved with getting down from a height in a hurry.
  8. Are the weather conditions safe? For example, it wouldn’t be wise to send an employee to work at height in gale-force winds.
  9. Ensure any equipment and work materials used for the job are stored safely and securely, so that they don’t cause any injuries if they’re nudged.

Take each job at a time

As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure adequate checks are conducted, measures are put in place to prevent accidents and that the employee in question is competent.

Obviously, not every job is the same, and some may come with more risks than others. Employers should assess the risks involved and precautions required on a job-by-job basis.

Factors such as the height of the job, duration of work, frequency of work and condition of the surface work will be conducted on, are all elements that need to be considered too.

Fragile underfoot

Roofs are risky and, as such, falls through fragile roofs have been found to be one of the most common causes of accidents when working at height.

If you’ve an employee working from a roof, be sure to look out for fragile surfaces underfoot, like:

  • Roof lights
  • Liner panels on built-up sheeted roofs
  • Non-reinforced fibre cement sheets
  • Corroded metal sheets
  • Glass
  • Rotted chipboard
  • Slates
  • Tiles

Remember

Working at height can be incredibly dangerous. Regardless of the urgency of the job, always make enough time for thorough surface, equipment, material and employee checks.

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