Working at height retains the undesirable title of number one cause of accidents in the workplace. Things are certainly improving in the UK however, thanks to the increasing number of employers and staff undertaking the appropriate PASMA and IPAF training programs that ensure they are fully versed in safe working at height practice. However, the fact that accidents still happen is due, in large to the many common mistakes that are made when working at height. Let’s take a good look at what to avoid in order to reduce the risks of accidents.
Failing to gauge the risk
One of the gravest mistakes is failing to properly assess the risks for any given job. This is why the ‘working at height for managers’ training programs are crucial as they are responsible for risk assessment. The sorts of risks that should be assessed include environmental and weather conditions; fragile surfaces and risks below the working platform; the risk of falling objects; the suitability of equipment and the strength of the structure.
Lack of appropriate training
As already mentioned, accredited training programs by PASMA and IPAF are the industry standard and having staff and managers that are appropriately trained is the single biggest factor in mitigating against risk when working at height. Failure to ensure appropriate training has been given is a horrendous and potentially costly and disastrous mistake.
Inappropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is a vital tool in the armoury of those working at height in all kinds of environments and conditions. The kind of PPE needed depends on the job specifics and again appropriate training will aid in the decisions to be made. A failure to insure guard rails are fitted on MEWPs (Mobile Elevating Work Platforms) has been the cause of many avoidable accidents and fall arrest cable systems could have prevented injuries occurring from some falls, where there is already a high risk. Where there are no rails or fall arrest system, clear painted lines should be present so that everyone is aware of where the edges lie.
Inappropriate respect paid to ladders
The humble ladder is probably responsible for more accidents when working at height than any other piece of equipment, although chances are the fault usually lies with the user. Failing to set the ladder at the correct angle and secure it properly is a major cause of accident and making it clear that there is a ladder set, when in a pedestrian zone could have prevented many accidents caused when the ladder has been knocked by a passer-by. The longer that a ladder is used, the higher the risk of an accident. Ladders are only suitable for quick jobs.
Other Common mistakes with MEWPs
- Failing to park them on firm, stable and flat terrain
- Failing to wear safety harnesses
- A lack of a trained operator at ground level
- Failing to respect environmental conditions and weather changes.
As you can see, there are a great number of avoidable mistakes that are involved in accidents when working at height. By far the biggest among them is failing to ensure that everyone on site is properly trained.