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Reaching Dizzying Heights in Construction

Working from height in constructions

 

Working at height is a daily practice in the construction industry, but it has its risks. In 2020/21 the construction industry made up almost 30% of work-related fatal injuries.  Over 25% of those injuries were categorised as falling from height, with just over 2 incidents occurring per month, and 16% were a result of falling objects.

What is working from height?

The health and safety executive (HSE) defines working from height as ‘work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.’

While people typically associate working from height as working on scaffolding or roofs, a distance that can cause personal injury can also be considered as falling from height.  Falling from one level to another, for example falling from ground level into a hole in the ground.

The following are all examples of working at height:

  • Working on a flat roof.
  • Working on a ladder.
  • Working at ground level adjacent to an excavation.
  • Working near or adjacent to fragile surfaces which could give way.  (surfaces? Don’t understand this one.).

Within construction, minimising the risk of falling from height involves managing the hazards and risks commonly found on sites.

There are several working at height regulations that must be met on construction sites in the UK to comply with the Working at Height Regulation 2005.

 

How to comply with the working at height regulations?

Employers and employees are expected to control the hazards associated with all working at height work.

While the best form of protection is prevention, and the HSE advise avoiding work at height where possible, in instances where working at height is unavoidable the Working at Height Regulation must be met.

To meet the 2005 regulations, you must ensure:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organised.
  • Those involved in work at height are competent.
  • The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used.
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed.
  • The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

 

There are two primary forms of fall from height protection. Collective protection and Personal protection.

Personal protection requires the individual to actively engage in fall protection. Such as correctly putting on a safety harness and connecting it to a suitable anchor point.

In contrast, collective protection does not involve engagement from the individual. Examples of this included permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts and tower scaffolds.

Accessing Heights on Construction Sites


Ladders

Ladders are a suitable when a risk assessment shows a higher level of fall protection isn’t required due the short duration and low risk of the activity. This is only considered an option when the period of use is less than 30 minutes in situations where they can be used safely.

To safely use a ladder, the ladder will be level and stable, and ideally the ladder can be secured, if practical.


Working Platforms

Traditionally working platforms were fully-boarded platforms with handrails and toe boards. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 changed the meaning of working platforms. Now, a working platform can be virtually any surface from which work can be carried out.  This includes:

  • A roof.
  • A floor.
  • A platform on a scaffold.
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs)
  • The treads of a stepladder.

 

In a construction setting, there are regulations that must be met when selecting a working platform. Handrails have a minimum height of 950mm, and any gap between the top rail and any intermediate rail should not exceed 470mm. The Regulations also require toe boards to be suitable and sufficient.


Scaffolding

Scaffolding offers a stable base from which to work. However, it must be regularly checked to ensure that it remains safe.

The Health and Safety Executive state that a scaffold used for construction should be inspected before it is used for the first time and then every 7 days, until it is removed. It should also be inspected each time it is exposed to conditions likely to cause deterioration eg following adverse weather conditions or following substantial alteration.

While official inspection records must be held, using a system like Scafftag is  an additional way to record scaffolding has been checked prior to use. This lets all site visitors, contractors and employees know that a scaffold has recently been checked.  

Working at Height Safety Equipment

Working at height safety equipment comes in a few forms. As described previously there are personal and collective Personal Protective Equipment options.

When working at height active personal protective equipment is key.


Safety Harnesses

Choosing the right safety harness is an important decision for work at heights. In addition to safety precautions, it is important to consider durability, functionality, comfort, and flexibility.

The type of harness you require depends mostly on the type of work you will be carrying out from construction to climbing and rigging, we will have a harness to suit your need. 

Harnesses vary in the number of connection points they come with. These vary from 1-point to 5-point.

 A 2-point harness includes a front and back fall arrest attachment point. Whereas a 5-point harness has attachment points on the front, back and two work positioning attachment points and a personal suspension point on the waist.

JSP provide a range of high quality fall arrest harness. As harnesses are category III under PPE Regulations, which requires increased testing and production control. JSP thoroughly tests their harnesses in both dynamic and static use.


Lanyards

Tether yourself to fixings when working at height with a range of lanyards. Lanyards are typically 3 or 6 ft length of rope, webbing, wire rope attached with connectors such as carabiners, snap hooks or other devices.  A fall arrest lanyards are designed to take the impact of a fall with inbuilt shock absorbers.

The length of lanyard required will depend upon the nearest obstruction when falling from height, although in some instances a lanyard can prevent a fall by restraining a worker from being catapulted or falling over the height of the guardrail.

Safety at height is key to the wellbeing and protection of the construction workforce. You’ll find a comprehensive range of harnesses and lanyards for working at height from Bryson.


Training

Comprehensive training can be the difference between a fatal accident and walking away unscathed. Educating employees to on proper equipment usage only scrapes the surface. Employees need to be trained and certified for the roles they undertake. Build a culture of safety with Toolbox Talks.

Toolbox Talks are a popular end effective way to quickly review and reinforce safety procedures. They are often shorter and less formal than classroom training.  Regularly given Toolbox Talks establish and highlight the importance of safety within a company’s culture.

Bryson can work with you to provide Toolbox Talks to workers on site on any project or construction project. Book an appointment with the Bryson Team to arrange your talk today.  

 


Posted: 04/02/2022