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Top tips for working safely at height

Working above the ground in any industry can be dangerous, often leading to serious injury and death. 
 
In 2018 falls from height were the leading cause of workplace fatality in construction, and represented the third highest proportion of workplace fatalities across all industries. With falls presenting a particular hazard for many trades, the construction industry also produces more serious fall-related claims than any other industry.
 
Broadly defined as “falling from one level to another” these incidents are not limited to falls from significant heights. In fact, small falls can be just as dangerous, with half of all fall from height fatalities in the construction industry involving falls from 3 metres or less
 
In many instances when working at height there are less hazardous ways for this work to be performed. Here are some ways to minimise these hazards and stay safe.
 

1. Only work at height when there is no other way

Removing the need to work at height and reducing the amount of time we spend working at height are the most effective ways to minimise the risk of elevated work. We must encourage our workforce to assess the need to complete work at height, and to complete all possible tasks on solid construction or at ground level, before moving up.

 

2. Complacency can kill

According to Safe Work Australia, complacency is another big safety issue – particularly in industries like construction where tasks can quickly seem repetitive. Add complacency to already high-risk tasks (like working at height) and you have a recipe for disaster. 
 
Performing thorough hazard assessments every time high we work at height is essential for staying safe. These checks are important no matter how familiar we are with our task and our work environment, and regardless of how often we work at height. 
 

3. Maintain competency 

Whilst industry tickets for working at height don’t technically ‘expire’, regularly revisiting your training will help to keep you focused and across changes in legislation and safe work practices – it could even save your life. As a registered training organisation, Coates Hire provides a working at height training course, and can help prepare your team for working in many other high risk environments. Get in touch today to book your refresher

 

4. Safe access 

As employers we must provide safe means for our workforce to enter and exit the workplace, and any area from which they could fall. To minimise risk when working at height it is also important to provide the safest and most appropriate means for accessing elevated work sites for any given task. 
 
With 30% of all serious claims for falls from a height caused by falls from ladders, this high-risk equipment should be considered a last resort when working at height. Scaffolding, booms, cherry pickers and scissor lifts provide far safer alternatives. 
 

5. Appropriate PPE and fall prevention  
Often working at height is unavoidable. In these situations, once all access hazards have been addressed, employers must further minimise the risk of working in these environments by providing adequate and appropriate personal and procedural protection. Some examples include:
 
  • Implementing fall prevention solutions like guardrails, barriers and safety mesh can prevent workers from inadvertently falling from height. 
 
  • Work positioning systems (like lanyards and anchors) can reduce the risk of falling from height by limiting free-fall to two feet or less. 
 
  • Other personal fall arrest systems, like harnesses, can provide an additional layer of protection for people working at height. Whilst this equipment can’t prevent falls from happening, it can limit the severity of injury sustained.

 
For more information on spotting hazards and minimising the risk of working at height, check out the Work Health and Safety Act and Managing the Risk of Falls at Workplaces Code of Practice.

For all your access equipment hire and training needs, contact Coates Hire or find your local branch.

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