Working at Height: A Guide to Staying Safe
There are many types of businesses that employ people to work at height. At Merson Group we regularly work at height to install signs on large retail stores, railway stations, commercial property, and motorway gantries. Other industries that often work at height include construction, advertising, window cleaning, entertainment and forestry. These industries hire contractors to work on tall buildings, roofs, fragile surfaces or on structures such as platforms, lighting rigs, or lattice structures. With so much time spent off the ground, staying safe is hugely important.
So, whether you work with a signage business, a construction company or in the entertainment industry, it's important that you – and the people you work alongside – know exactly what to do when it comes to working at height. Working with fully-qualified, skilled contractors ensures the safety of your project and that the end product (clean windows, festival stage, billboard or motorway sign) is of the highest quality.
Education, inspection and experience are crucial in creating a safe working environment. Read on to find out more about why you should only hire skilled companies who have the knowledge and experience to work at height safely. We've compiled some key points, questions and considerations you should keep in mind when working on a project at height.
WHERE TO START?
Always ensure work is properly planned out in advance, supervised by senior staff and completed by skilled people with the experience and knowledge to do the job correctly. Not only that, but the right tools and technologies must be used to make sure staff can work at height as safely as possible. Of course it's important to keep safety in mind for high-risk work, but take a common sense approach to low-risk, simple jobs. If the work is straightforward then it will require less planning and minimal safety risks will be necessary. But don't get complacent: vigilance is essential to ensuring the safety of everyone working on a project at height.
Remember: Always assess the risks. Monitor the height of the job, how long it will take, who may have access to the site and the conditions of the work location. All of these factors will allow you to understand the risks involved and help you to plan your working strategy.
Before work commences, you should consider some crucial points:
• Try to avoid working at height where reasonable and possible to do so
• If this cannot be avoided, prevent falls by using the correct equipment or an existing site that has already been made safe on previous projects
• If the location is high-risk, minimise the damage that could be caused by a fall
• Always endeavour to protect all employees at risk rather than just investing in protection for individuals only.
PERSONAL OR COLLECTIVE SAFETY MEASURES?
Examples of collective protection are temporary or permanent guard-rails, tower scaffolds and scissor lifts. This type of equipment is considered collective protection because it does not require an individual person to act in any way for it to be effective; it protects all employees working without their input.
Personal protection on the other hand, is the use of equipment that requires an individual to act for it to work. An example could be using a safety harness, which involves an individual correctly wearing and connecting the harness to a suitable anchor point in order to protect themselves.
It is preferable to place higher importance on collective protection because these safety measures will protect everyone who has access to the site and is more effective in reducing risk at height.
DOS AND DON'TS
• Do...work from the ground as much as you can
• Do...make sure all equipment is maintained, secure and high quality
• Do...make sure you offer safe methods for workers to get to and from the site
• Do...check all equipment and tools on a regular basis
• Do...assess risk and take steps to protect yourself when working near fragile surfaces
• Do...always provide protection from possible falling objects
• Do...keep updated on emergency evacuation and rescue operations at the site
• Do...train employees and educate staff on Health & Safety regulations.
• Don't...allow inexperienced or unskilled employees to work at height
• Don't...let employees carry too much equipment up ladders
• Don't...lean ladders against unsuitable surfaces
• Don't...overreach when working on ladders at height
• Don't...allow staff to work on ladders or stepladders for longer than 30 minutes at a time
• Don't...cut corners – always follow proper procedures and legislation
• Don't...become complacent – always stay observant and on guard.
Working at height often requires the use of specialised equipment and tools to allow employees to do their jobs safely. Always ensure a competent person is regularly inspecting all equipment and that you have processes in place to replace or repair sub-standard equipment. You may want to think about:
• Ladders – Are they in good condition? Are they the right equipment for this project? Are they secured to avoid slipping? Are they positioned correctly, so workers don't have to overstretch to use them?
• Scaffolds – Are scaffolds being erected and dismantled by a competent person? Is there safe access to the scaffold platform for employees? Do the uprights have brace plates? Is the scaffold secured correctly to avoid collapse or slipping? Are there enough guard-rails and toe boards in place? Are the working platforms fully boarded?
• Hoists – Is the hoist protected by an enclosure? Are gates provided at landings? Is the hoist operator fully trained and competent in its use? Does the hoist have adequate warning signs to prevent unsuitable use? Is the hoist inspected weekly by a trained person?
Personal protective equipment such as harnesses and ropes should also be inspected on a regular basis to ensure individuals are always protected. These preventative measures can help avoid falls or injuries at work, for both individuals and all workers accessing the project. For a comprehensive legal overview of safety considerations when working at height, please refer to information provided by the Health and Safety Executive.
At Merson Group we regularly work at height on a wide range of commercial, retail and branding projects. This can involve erecting signs on tall buildings, on the front of retail stores, on motorways, and building brand signage for well-known organisations. We have a team of fully qualified, highly skilled signage experts who create and erect signs on a variety of buildings and surfaces, as safely as possible.
our latest projects in the Merson Group portfolio.