Each year in Ireland, falls from a height are one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities. All work at height can lead to injury where falls occur. Our Health and Safety team prepared this guide for our own on-site teams and we thought it would be good to share this information with everyone as it could save a life.
Work at height is work in any place, including a place at, above or below ground level, where a person could be injured if they fell from that place. Access and egress to a place of work can also be work at height.
Examples of work activities that are classified as working at height:
- Working from a ladder, including a step ladder
- Working from a scaffold or mobile tower
- Work from a MEWP / Boom / Cherry Picker
- Working at ground level next to an excavation
- Working near or adjacent to fragile surfaces such as roof lights
What is not considered Work at Height?
Examples of where Work at Height regulations do not apply would include:
- Walking up and down a staircase in an office
- Working in an office on the upper floors of a temporary accommodation building
- Sitting in a chair
How can we minimise the risks associated with Working at Height?
- All work must be planned, organised and carried out by a suitably competent person
- Only authorised personnel should carry out Work at Height
- A Risk Assessment must be undertaken for all Work at Height
- The correct equipment must be used to prevent falls – this includes the correct selection of access equipment and the correct PPE
- Equipment used for Work at Height must be properly inspected and maintained
Safe Ladder Use
The work at height regulations require careful consideration to be given to the use of ladders. As a guide, only use a ladder or stepladder:
- Where the work is of short duration – The HSA advise that ladders are not suitable where they are in one position for 30 minutes or more
- Where the risk is low, i.e. because the nature of the work makes a fall unlikely or where there is a fall that the nature of the fall would be unlikely to cause injury
- For ‘light work’ – ladders are not suitable for strenuous or heavy work
- For work that does not involve carrying heavy or awkward tools or equipment
- Where a handhold is available both for climbing the ladder and in the working position
- Where you can maintain three points of contact (hands and feet) at the working position
- On a ladder where you cannot maintain a handhold, other than for a brief period of time, other measures will be needed to prevent a fall or reduce the consequences of one
- On stepladders where a handhold is not practicable a risk assessment will have to justify whether it is safe or not.
Where the use of a ladder has been authorised, ensure the following:
- Only use a ladder if you are trained and authorised to do so
- Use the correct ladder for the task
- Inspect the ladder before use (See below)
- Avoid Over-reaching
- Don’t Overload
- Maintain 3 points of contact
It is advisable to ensure employees are required to complete a visual inspection of ladders prior to use. This is in addition to formal planned inspections. Furthermore, on-site teams should only use ladders which have been authorised for use for a particular task. There should also be a procedure in place for employees to request information on this matter.
Ladder inspections should be formally recorded and all Ladders should be tagged to verify the most recent inspection date. If the ladder you are required to use is not tagged, bring this to the attention of your Line Manager. Ladder Inspection should include the following:
Any ladders which are found to be defective should be removed from use. Mark them as defective and store them in an area where they cannot be inadvertently used by others. Never use a ladder known to be defective.
Safe Use of MEWP
MEWP or Mobile Elevated Work Platforms are very useful piece of equipment to enable safe access to often difficult to reach places. As with all work at heights, the use of MEWP can involve risk especially if not used correctly. There are some basic rules which should be applied to help ensure safe use of MEWP:
- A risk assessment should be carried out for tasks requiring an MEWP
- MEWPs require regular maintenance and inspection by a competent person
- A statutory inspection must be carried out every 6 months &
- A pre-use inspection should be carried out prior to each use
- The correct machine should be selected for the job
- The operator must be trained appropriate to the equipment – training must be up to date
- The area around the MEWP should be cordoned off to prevent unauthorised access and to reduce the risk of being struck by falling items
- When operating an MEWP, be mindful of overhead hazards including electrical cables
- When using an MEWP outdoors ensure that the weather conditions are suitable to permit the works to proceed safely
- Make sure that the ground surface is suitable and can withstand the weight of the machine
- Always have a rescue procedure in the event that things go wrong