Working at height risk assessment

Working at height risk assessment is a very important aspect of working at height if the task is to be completed successfully without accidents like falling from height or falling objects.

Working at height has been one of the biggest cause of fatalities and major injuries. The major risk associated with working at height is fall from height and falling objects.

Height is explain with regard to a location where if there is no precaution in place a person could fall a distance liable to cause injury. It is required by law that employers assess the risk of working at height, assess the risk and plan the work in such a way that accident is prevented.

Some of the major causes of fall from height are:

  • Use of defective equipment
  • Inappropriate use of access equipment like ladder or scaffold.
  • Contact with overhead electrical line
  • Inexperience in the use of equipment, machinery, lifting accessories like body harness.
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Struck by falling equipment/material, etc.

 

To carry out proper working at height risk assessment, the employer must:

  • Identify the risk
  • Assess the risk
  • Decide on the precautions required
  • Record the significant findings and
  • Review the assessment as necessary.

The above points are the basic elements of risk assessment.

Let us consider the elements sequentially as concerning working at height risk assessment:

Identifying the risk of working at height: As I mentioned earlier, the main risk associated with working at height is fall from height and falling object.

Hence, our main concentration in working at height risk assessment is fall from height and falling object.

Assess the risk level of falling from height: These assessment of the risk of falling from height will be dependent of the specific work at height task. Some task at height may pose either low risk level, medium risk level or high risk level.

Hence, in the assessment phase of the working at height risk assessment we can ascertain the level of risk associated with the specific working at height task.

Decide on the precautions required to prevent falling from height: Remember, the precaution will be dependent on the level of risk associated with the working at height task.

The precaution will be based on these points:

  • Avoid working at height as far as reasonably practicable.
  • Where working at height cannot be avoided, avoid fall from height.
  • Minimize the distance and the consequence of the fall.

It is always advisable to consider general protection for falling from height first before considering individual protection. General protection include use of guard rails, scaffold, lifting platform, etc.

Depending on the specific task being carried out at height, some of these precautions could be adopted:

  1. All workers involved in working at height should be duly trained.
  2. All access equipment suitable for purposes should be checked before use and maintained in good condition.
  3. Set reporting procedures for defective items with prompt removal or remedial action.
  4. Restrict high level storage
  5. If working at height is being carried out at different levels, debris net should be used to shield the workers on the lower level from falling object.
  6. Work areas should be segregated.
  7. Maximum level for working height should not be exceeded especially from a ladder or scaffold.
  8. Lone worker should not be encouraged when working at height.
  9. Working at height should not be undertaken in adverse weather condition like rain, wind, snow, etc.
  10. Fall from height accessories should be provided like body harness, retractable lanyard, helmet with chin strap, etc.
  11. Access to and egress from the working at height location must be made safe.

Example of the working at height risk assessment form

Here is how the risk assessment could be tabulated;

Hazard Risk Who is at risk Control measures Additional control measures Risk rating
Defective equipment Fall from height, Falling object. Staff, Visitors, etc.
  • All necessary work equipment should be checked before use.
  • Equipment should only be used by a trained personnel
  • Set reporting procedures for defective items with prompt removal or remedial action.
Debris net could be installed to trap falling objects. High

 

Note that based on the example highlighted above, the same should be repeated for all identified hazard exhaustively.

Record the significant findings: After the working at height risk assessment, all the findings should be duly recorded for subsequent use or review.

Review the assessment as necessary: If there were some level of failures in the working at height risk assessment, the risk assessment should be reviews accordingly for better performance.

 

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