Working at Height - Planning a Safe Approach

By HSE East Africa | Saturday Oct 7, 2017

The first article in the Working at Height Series identified the need to ensure that all work at height is properly planned and organized as critical in enhancing safe working at height. In this article, we look at some of the lessons that Kenya could borrow New Zealand’s Working Safely at Height Toolkit to help plan a safe approach to working at height. 

Too many falls from height are caused by a failure to plan and organize work properly. Planning safe working at height means: 

  • Identifying the hazards 
  • Assessing the hazards 
  • Controlling the hazards 
  • Monitoring your approach 
  • Documenting your approach. 

Let us look at these five aspects in more detail.

1. IDENTIFY THE HAZARDS 

Identify any hazards of working at height where someone could fall. Four ways of identifying hazards are: 

  1. Physical inspections – walk around the workplace using a checklist to identify and manage hazards 
  2. Task analysis – identify the hazards involved in each task of the job 
  3. Process analysis – identify hazards at each stage of the production or service delivery process 
  4. Analysis of accident investigation – identify hazards and causal factors from investigations involving similar types of work. 

2. ASSESS THE HAZARDS 

Decide if the hazards you have identified are significant. How badly harmed someone would be if they fell and how likely a fall could be? If serious harm could result, then it’s a significant hazard. 

3. CONTROL THE HAZARDS 

Select the best work method to eliminate, isolate or minimize (in that order) the risk of the significant hazard. Provide additional training and instruction to keep people safe when working at height.

Effort is in proportion to risk – the greater the risk, the greater the controls. But remember, doing nothing is not an option. Eliminate the hazard of working at height: 

  • Use long-handled tools from ground level. 
  • Build structures at ground level and lift into position when finished. Isolate people from the hazard of working at height: 
  • Use edge protection. 
  • Use a guard railed work platform (e.g. scaffold or elevating work platforms). 
  • Use a total restraint system to prevent people being near height hazard. Minimize the distance and impact of the fall: Only take this step when you’ve exhausted both elimination and isolation as controls. 
  • Use a fall arrest or work positioning system i.e. personal fall minimization method. 
  • Use safety nets or soft landing systems to minimize a fall to any worker at height. This is a fall minimization method for a group of workers.

4. MONITOR YOUR APPROACH TO WORKING AT HEIGHT SAFELY 

Constantly assess your approach to ensure it is fit for purpose. This includes: 

  • Regular inspections of the hazard control measures 
  • Discussing the control measures at tool box talks and site meetings 
  • Discussing the control measures with clients, contractors, sub-contractors and workers 
  • Actively supervising the work. 

5. DOCUMENT YOUR APPROACH TO WORKING AT HEIGHT SAFELY 

Keep a good record of your planning process and communicate your safe approach to clients, contractors, sub-contractors, workers, and other site visitors.


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