Lauren O’Connor works at the tools and personal protective equipment retailer Zoro. Here, she talks us through the Work at Height Regulations that you need to be aware of.
Falls from a height were one of the top three causes of work-related injuries and fatalities in 2017, according to a report from the Health and Safety Executive. So it’s incredibly important that business owners and managers carry out plenty of research into the Work at Height Regulations, and put all of the necessary safety protocols in place to keep their workers safe.
To help you with this, I’ve created this introductory guide to the Work at Height Regulations (2005). Read on to learn everything you’ll need to know to reduce the risk to your staff when they’re on the job.
What is working from a height?
If there’s a risk that a member of staff could fall from a level high enough to cause personal injury while they’re on the job, this means they’re working at a height. However, the Regulations don’t automatically apply at a particular height, so you’ll need to consider the factors surrounding a job to determine whether these need to be taken into account.
Scenarios that could pose a threat to your workers’ safety include:
- Work where there is a risk your staff could fall through open holes in the floor
- Work carried out in areas where there are unguarded edges or fragile flooring
- Work undertaken above ground level where this is a risk someone could fall
The Regulations will apply whenever your staff are working in these kinds of environments.
What do employers and managers need to do?
As an employer or manager, you must consider the potential hazards of your employees working at height, and implement safety protocols, install safety equipment, and enforce rules that will help to reduce the risks or consequences of a fall.
Whenever you’re updating your health and safety protocols, the first step should be to carry out a risk assessment. This will help you to identify any potential hazards, and allow you to address them quickly and effectively. During your risk assessment, you should consider factors such as the distance between the levels your staff will be working on, how likely it is that one of your workers could suffer a fall, and what you can do to prevent this from happening. St Helen’s Chamber has a guide to carrying out a risk assessment that offers plenty of in-depth advice on what this process should look like.
Once you’ve taken a good look at your working environment and identified any potential issues, you should address these before any work at a height begins. For example, could you install railings to lessen the chance of anyone suffering a fall, is there any equipment that would help your staff to go about their jobs more safely, or can you eliminate working at a height all together by using alternatives like extendable tools? If you can’t reduce the chance of a fall as much as you would like, you should try to minimise the consequences a fall could have. Safety harnesses, nets, and soft-landing equipment such as air bags are all designed to lessen the distance or impact of falls in the workplace.
What kind of safety equipment should your workers be provided with?
It is your responsibility to provide workers with the equipment they’ll need to stay safe, but the amount and kind of equipment you’ll require will depend on the kinds of jobs your staff typically do.
For most tasks that involve working at a height, you should supply a way for your employees to move safely between levels. And, you’ll also need to provide the most appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the task in hand, this might include body harnesses, safety netting, or fall arrest systems. You should also consider what people on the ground might need to stay safe. For example, if there’s a risk that debris could fall from a height, hard hats and protective footwear will be essential.
Will your staff require any training?
Carrying out a risk assessment and installing safety equipment is a great start, but it’s also vital that you provide your staff with training so they know how they can stay safe, how any relevant safety equipment works, and how to react if there are any accidents.
While your workers won’t require a formal qualification to work at a height, it’s incredibly important that they’re competent and have the skills and knowledge they need to keep themselves and others safe.
Of course, this guide isn’t exhaustive, but it’s your responsibility to do all you can to limit the risk to your staff. And, conducting risk assessments, providing the most appropriate safety equipment, and giving your staff suitable training is a great place to start.