The Dangers of Working at Height

St Ives Scaffolding - The Dangers of Working at Height

“Health and safety,” is a phrase that tends to get bandied about a lot - often in a way that suggests aggravation at the term. However, overlooking this key part of modern business can be of detriment to owners and workers alike. There can even be tragic consequences to ignoring health and safety on building sites.

Falling from a height at work

Falling from height is the largest cause of deaths in the workplace in the UK. The “Work at Height Regulation” act was introduced in 2005, and is meant to protect anyone who works with their feet off the ground. This could cover everything - from a bridge painter working hundreds of feet up to an employee in an office standing on a chair to change a lightbulb.

The most common injuries sustained from working at a height include falls from ladders and through roofs. Many of these accidents could have been avoided if the correct precautionary measures were taken.

Far too often, for example, workers will take the shortcut of using a ladder to do a job instead of erecting scaffolding. Although it might seem tempting to reach for the ladder when it's a relatively small job, if that job takes place at a height, it's always recommended that scaffolding is used. There are different types of scaffolding suitable for any job or budget.

From more advanced modular systems to single access towers and low-level solutions, scaffolding has come a long way in the last 50 years and can be surprisingly easy to erect and dismantle. For internal jobs, trestle scaffolding can be erected to a height of around 5 metres and is often used by painters and decorators. Safety might not feel as important when you're working indoors, but a fall from 5 metres up is still enough to cause serious injury and put workers out of commission.

Death from Above

It's just as important that employees working in these circumstances remain vigilant of things falling from above, too. If a heavy item falls from high enough, it could be potentially life-threatening.

Precautions that can be taken to avoid a workplace injury include cleaning up any spills or potential hazards immediately after they happen, keeping an eye on your fellow employees and making sure that those working at height are equipped with the right safety equipment. More often than not, it all comes down to common sense -  but common sense can be easy to circumvent if there's a corner to be cut and a penny to be pinched.

What Employers can do

Work at height should always be properly planned and supervised. Your employees should always be equipped with the necessary safety equipment and safety gear. This will minimise the likelihood and the severity of any fall.

In jobs that require employees to work above ground, there should also be warning signs stationed in all of the most dangerous areas that make the potential safety risks abundantly clear.

The majority of common accidents in the workplace do not take place in a deliberate or malicious manner, they are simply the result of one person who just doesn't think enough about the safety of their employees or co-workers. Making sure your work is well-planned and supervised and that your workplace is stocked with clear, visible warning signs are always a good start.

What Employees can do

When it comes to safety in the workplace, never be afraid to make your doubts clear to your employers - especially if you're working from a height where a serious accident could prove fatal. Negligence can lead to fatal consequences, so remain vigilant and always look out for your fellow workers.

Of course, also making sure that as much work as possible is done from the ground will always minimise the potential for accidents. In situations where working from height is unavoidable:

  • Always wear the required personal safety equipment.
  • Always take precautions, even when they might not seem necessary.
  • Always consider your evacuations options.
  • Always use supported or suspended scaffolding wherever possible.