What is a Working at Height Risk Assessment?
‘Working at height’ refers to work performed at the height of two meters or more. Falls while working at height account for a large percentage of preventable fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace.
Working at height risk assessment is the rigorous examination of all the working at height hazards that people face daily. It evaluates the safety measures and procedures that must be put in place to minimize those risks and keep workers as safe as possible.
In addition, employers are legally required to assess all risks to employees in their workplace. Therefore, carrying out risk assessments and putting in place working at heights procedures to promote safety is crucial to comply with stringent legal requirements and create safety plans.
In this article, the following points are explained:
What Are the Main Hazards of Working at Heights?
Many activities working at height present obvious hazards, like working on scaffolding, ladders, derricks, and platforms. The workers most at risk from working at height hazards commonly work in construction, window cleaning, maintenance, the transport industry, painting, building renovation, and agriculture. This also applies to people doing one-off jobs without proper training or the correct equipment.
These hazards in particular need to be identified and addressed when working at height are the following:
- Unguarded openings and edges
- Employees working above other workers
- Sharp edges on structures
- Areas without guardrails or covers
- Fragile surfaces that might give way
- Whether that might compromise visibility and make surfaces slippery
- Items that are improperly stored and/or secured
- Ground conditions that may affect the stability of scaffolding, ladders, etc.
- Being too close to utility services like electricity
- Working over tanks, pits, or water
- Any work on top of trailers, derricks, platforms, or vehicles
- Working on or against cliffs or steep inclines
- Any overhead obstructions
- Moving vehicles
- Any falling objects, like tools being dropped or other things that are dislodged
- Working on roofs or other elevated structures
The Basic Procedures for Working at Height
Developing effective working at height procedures involves several steps that need to be followed to:
- Identify what the working at height hazards are and which workers are at risk.
- Develop measures to deal with those hazards.
- Implement and monitor these measures.
- Provide comprehensive information, training, and instruction to all employees in those safety measures, systems, and procedures.
- Provide rigorous supervision to ensure that safety measures and procedures are followed.
- Ensure that appropriate tools and safety equipment are provided at all times.
- Utilize equipment like mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and cherry pickers where possible to minimize risks.
- Assess safety measures and systems on an ongoing basis to update and improve.
- Identify employees that are particularly vulnerable, such as pregnant women, young workers, employees with disabilities, subcontractors, and part-time staff.
The supervisors/managers responsible for implementing any working at height procedures need to ensure that the following happens on an ongoing basis:
- All employees working at height are thoroughly trained and competent and authorized to do the work applicable.
- That all employees working at height are fully informed about procedures and systems in place.
- That working at height risk assessments are undertaken throughout the work to deal with any unforeseen hazards that might develop (such as stormy weather).
- That any work at height is rigorously planned, controlled, and supervised.
- That any equipment used for work at height is inspected, serviced, and maintained as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
- That appropriate safety equipment is available, in good repair, and utilized correctly.
- That all applicable warning notices are posted.
- That any dangerous or fragile surfaces are marked and indicated.
It is also crucial that all working at height risk assessments:
- Are only done by competent and qualified persons.
- Always consider the appropriate hierarchy of controls.
- Ensure that the most appropriate working methods are selected.
- Ensure that proper records are kept.
- Determine what equipment is needed and make sure it is available and ready for use. Use an equipment maintenance log for this, among other checklists and logs.
- Establish the safety of non-workers as a priority.
- Take any conditions that might pose a danger into consideration, such as inclement weather – rain, strong winds, the possibility of lightning, etc.
- Take cognizance of any ground conditions that might impact the safe placement of equipment.
- Ensure that getting into and out of the place of work is safe.
- Ensure emergency and rescue plans are in place and have been trained for.
In many working at height situations, unavoidable risks, like falling, are part and parcel of the working environment. In these instances, the responsible managers or supervisors must ensure that all possible precautions are taken to minimize these risks. This can be achieved as follows:
- By selecting the most suitable equipment and PPE.
- By giving protective measures such as guardrails high priority.
- By employing personal protective measures like safety harnesses.
- By ensuring that elements like scaffolding are as safe as possible.
- Use of fall protection and restraint devices, if required.
- Use safety netting if shown.
Working at height procedures should include regular inspection of the workplace and all equipment and safety equipment by a qualified person, using a risk assessment checklist. This includes:
- Any area where work at height is going to be done every time before it is used.
- That all equipment is inspected:
- after it has been assembled or installed
- at least every seven days or more often to ensure safety
- before it is used for the first time
- if it has been brought from another workplace.
- Any piece of equipment leaving one workplace to go to another must have its latest inspection report with it.
The improper use of ladders will contribute to working at height hazards. Controls should be in place ensuring:
- That ladders are always inspected before use.
- That ladders are not used as work platforms but only for access and egress.
- If working on a ladder is the only way to get work done, it must be authorized by a responsible supervisor or manager.
- When in use, a ladder should be:
- long enough for the worker to do the job safely without overreaching
- secured to prevent slipping
- supplied with a handhold so the worker has three points of contact.
The danger from falling objects needs to be contained by ensuring that:
- Throwing of tools or materials is strictly forbidden.
- A proper chute is provided to channel material to the ground.
- All equipment and materials are stored securely.
- The outsides of work areas are secured with netting.
- The area below people working at height is either roofed or indicated and access controlled.
Digital Solution to Identify Hazards When Working at Heights
Working at height is associated with high fatality and injury rates. This makes it more critical that companies regularly conduct a working at height risk assessment to select the best tools and equipment to minimize these risks.
Digital checklists are ideal for assessing the risks of working at height, instructing employees, and installing fall protection systems and protective equipment. They can be used to clarify and reliably assess all hazards step by step. They minimize the risk of forgetting inspections and overlooking checkpoints.
Lumiform’s mobile app and desktop software enable safety officers and construction workers to improve risk assessment practices so that problems can be identified and corrected as quickly as possible. Clean and transparent digital documentation will also help avoid hefty fines for non-compliance with regulatory requirements.
Take advantage of these benefits and further features of the app and desktop software to ensure the safety of your employees:
- Download ready-to-use templates for working at height from our library, convert your existing paper templates to digital format or create a template from scratch with the flexible Form Builder.
- Access the relevant checklists and forms anytime and from anywhere using a mobile device.
- Report risks and hazards immediately via the app and assign necessary corrective actions to the right employees. Keep an eye on successful implementation.
- Schedule equipment inspection and maintenance digitally and be automatically notified of upcoming and missed inspections via push notifications.
- Capture and annotate images during the inspection for a more comprehensive and detailed report.
- Create and send comprehensive, professional reports automatically after completing your working at height risk assessments. You no longer have to compile the data manually.
- Secure inspection data in unlimited cloud storage. Custom permissions let you ensure that only authorized personnel access inspection data.