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Working at Height - Top 10 tips

Holly Garaghty 01/08/17

Whether you work at heights every day or just every now and then, your focus on safety during those times is vital. It only takes one mistake to turn a routine work task into a fatality. Ensuring that you are taking the correct precautions can significantly reduce and even eliminate these risks. You must be prepared to protect your employees each and every time they could be exposed.  

Here are our top ten tips on working at height.

  1. Rails

Where possible, use rails.These can be permanently affixed or portable to suit your needs. Once these are in place, rails are certainly the easiest fall protection system you can use. We refer to this as a passive protection method which means that there is nothing that the user has to do to protect themselves other than stay within the rails.

2. Use the correct Personal Protective Equipment

Do your research and decide what it is you need. All full-body harnesses that meet ANSI standards will perform to the same standard. A difference in price may indicate additional/fewer functional features such as extra D-rings, fireproof material, or arc-safe design.  Sometimes, paying a little extra will just give you a little extra comfort. Whilst this may not be your main concern, it is worth considering to help you get full cooperation from your workforce. It is important also that all users know how to properly adjust their harnesses so they fit correctly.

3. Regularly check all equipment

It is just as important that your workforce all use the correct equipment as it is that it is regularly checked. Checks should take place prior to every use. It is important however that it is being checked by a competent person with the correct knowledge to recognise a potential hazard and who also has the authority to correct it. The inspection should be thorough, but does not need to take a lot of time.

 

4. Ensure You Understand Fall Distance

Your actual fall distance needs to not only include the length of your lanyard when deployed, but also your body length below the D-ring and any sag in your harness and anchor system. You will therefore need to add 3.5’ of distance to account for the deployment of your deceleration device. Already that means the lanyard itself is 9.5’ long.  Count on a good 18.5’ minimum before you’re able to use a 6’ lanyard with deceleration device.

5. Ensure the Selection of Acceptable Anchor Point

An anchor point must support not just the weight of the person attached, but also an additional 5000 lbs per person attached. Many fixtures are not going to withstand those forces. It is important that you have the correct documentation and/or an engineer’s approval to use something as an anchor point.

6. Ensure You Select the Best Means of Working at Heights

The right option is going to depend on the task in hand. In some situations, a scaffold is going to be your best solution to work at heights. Other times, scaffolds will be unfeasible and you’ll find yourself on a lift.  Depending on the type of lift, you may or may not need to wear a harness and a lanyard. There will also be occasions where you’ll need to use a ladder, the requirements for fall protection here become a little more difficult. Always evaluate your situation carefully and determine what the right piece of equipment is for the individual job and location.  

7. Use Ladders Properly

Ladders are responsible for the cause of many industrial and workplace accidents. The reason for this is largely due to the fact that ladders are familiar to most of us. You use them to hang your Christmas decorations, paint the living room and clean your gutters. We use them so often that we all think we know how to use them because we have never been injured before. Despite this familiarity, adders can be dangerous if used improperly. Once you are sure that a ladder is the best thing for the task in hand, make sure that the user is fully equipped and trained to use them properly.  

8. Know Your Roofing Regulations

Roofing regulations are some of the most misunderstood requirements.  Not only do roofers not know exactly what is required of them much of the time, but many other contractors working on roofs who are not roofers believe that certain methods of fall protection are available to them when, in reality, they’re not. There are many nuances to the rules for roofers.  If you are one, make sure you are familiar with the regulations and your requirements or speak to somebody who is.

9. Ensure Proper Use of Lifts

There are many ways in which a lift operator can do something wrong,  we won’t get into the actual operation of lifts here, but we do need to discuss fall protection in regards to lifts. One thing that gets missed quite often is that any person in a boom lift, at any time, at any height, must be properly tied-off.  The term “Properly tied-off” essentially means that they need to be secured to the engineered anchor point designed with the lift, but it means that they can’t wrap their lanyard around the rails and they need to have a lanyard that is actually going to protect them at the height at which they are working. With scissor lifts, things are a little different. While the site you are working on or the owner of the facility/project may require you to tie-off in a scissor lift, there is no regulatory requirement to do so.  However, the moment you forget to close your gate or secure your chain, you are no longer protected by the rails and are now in a fall protection violation.  It’s that simple.  Also, it is very important to keep your feet planted firmly on the platform.

10. Training is key

If you really want to enforce safe working practices, your workforce must be properly trained. Not only is training required by law, but there is also simply too much room for error and confusion when it comes to a person without the proper knowledge trying to protect themselves at heights. Ensure that you equip your employees with the knowledge they need to keep themselves and your business protected.