Working at height can be extremely dangerous to any worker, and falling from heights can lead to severe injuries and even death. It’s among the major causes of fatalities in New South Wales, claiming as many as 12,000 lives between 2014 and 2017.
Before working in high places
Before starting any type of work in high places, workers should know their rights. A worker should not agree to work for an employer that pushes you to work from a high place without equipment and protection.
The government of NSW has stringent rules about fall management. Clauses 78-80 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation of 2017 specify the details on working at heights. These include management of falls, requirements to minimise them, and rescue procedures.
Knowing the dos and don’ts of working in high places is key to saving lives. Here are six dos and don’ts that can help employees and others stay safe.
Dos and don’ts to ensure safety when working at heights
For workers, make sure that your employer is following these requirements before doing any jobs. For employers, have your safety officer or foremen confirm that you’re meeting the requirements.
- Do work on the ground or on solid platforms.
Find ways to work on solid ground first. If you have ways to work on the ground, take that option before anything else. It is always the safest option and will prevent any potential risks to workers.
If designing a project, look for ways to give workers alternatives to working at heights. While you the work done as cost effectively as possible, having someone die to achieve it is just not worth the money saved.
For employers, provide a surface where workers can access and exit the workplace. Scaffoldings are the best solutions for long-term work in median heights. If scaffolding is not possible, alternative solutions should be available.
In some situations, a suspension platform should be used to make the work easier and safer. Elevated platforms like boom lifts and scissor lifts are also among the best choices you can offer your employees. Make sure that your team has a scissor lift yellow card before the begin working.
- Don’t overload your elevated platform.
It’s crucial always to be aware of the maximum weight that a platform can handle. Don’t overload platforms when working from high places, whether with equipment or people. Have a safety officer confirm that the maximum load a platform can handle.
Boom lifts usually will have a limited space that workers can use. The truck itself will have instructions on the maximum gross weight for the bucket. Always follow the rated load for your aerial platforms to prevent them toppling over.
For scaffolding, some general rules apply. For light-duty scaffolds, 120 kg per square metre should be the max load. Medium duty scaffolds can hold up to 240 kilograms per square metre.
Heavy load scaffolding is crucial for any height work involving bricklaying, concreting, or demolition. These platforms can hold as much as 675 kg per platform. However, they should have no more than 200 kilograms of concentrated load.
Your staff should know the right details for elevated platforms through their training. Elevated Work Platform Licensing in NSW expects an understanding of such details.
- Do have a fall-arrest system.
If workers have to work at heights, do make sure they have a fall-arrest system. You want to prevent your people from falling and stop their drop. Some fall-arrest systems also reduce the impact of falls on the human body.
A fall-arrest system should be in place when platforms are unavailable. They should also be in place if the workplace expects heavy loads. Some of these systems include harnesses and industrial safety nets.
For work atop skyscrapers, a combination of working platforms and fall-arrest systems should be in place. Guardrails, temporary work platforms, and safety nets are the standard.
For employers who plan on utilising a fall arrest system, rescue procedures should be in place. You want an emergency team ready to respond to anyone who becomes a victim of a fall.
- Don’t attempt to overreach.
When attempting to reach a height, don’t try to reach too far. Working at heights means there must be appropriate support for workers. If a ladder or stepladder can only reach a certain height, don’t tiptoe or stand on it.
A workplace should have ladders with different heights for a variety of jobs. A short ladder is best for minor elevations, mostly for indoor work. An A-frame ladder should not carry more than anything but the painter and small equipment.
Don’t climb a ladder before making sure that it’s firm in place. Lean the ladder on sturdy ground, making sure that the wall can handle the load. Workers should not put weight on gutters and areas where roofing has little structural support.
- Do organise and clean your workplace.
When working at heights, slips, and trips are among the major causes of falls. Scattered objects and spills can make the flooring slick, which can cause a fall. Do keep the work areas clean, organised, and clutter-free to allow more freedom of movement.
Make sure that there is nothing that can hurt the people who are working. Remind everyone to declutter before, during, and after work. Clutter not only causes stress in the workplace, but it also makes accidents more likely.
Working people needing to account space for clutter would be inefficient. Thus, remove your clutter as much as possible. If a worker needs equipment, they should keep only what they need for the job at hand.
- Do plan your workplace before starting.
Any workplace needs some planning beforehand. Whether you’re a foreman or a safety officer, you have a duty to exercise due diligence. Do plan for the site before any work starts and take into considerations how to meet safety standards.
Understand the hazards and risks involved in working in the area. If work is already ongoing, check with employees onsite for first-hand experience. The safety officer or someone in a supervisory position should double-check and recommend solutions to any issues identified.
Make sure to allocate workplace safety resources, especially for those working at heights. Eliminate or minimise the risk of falls and confirm that everyone understands compliance standards.
Working at heights safely needs training
A safe workplace is crucial in keeping everyone safe. Working at heights means knowing the general dos and don’ts around your job.
Make sure that you have the right safety equipment, training, and planning. You want a team that knows how to do its job and knows what to do during an emergency.
Like many businesses, training is a great solution. Find a professional training team that can help provide classes for working safely at heights. Drill the skills you and your people need to be safe and effective. Talk to a licensed training team. Find out how you can help keep your people safe and have a risk-free workplace today.