Most people know that working at height is one of the most dangerous jobs in any industry and employers are careful to make sure that anyone who is likely to be doing this kind of work are properly trained. Even so, there are an unnecessarily high number of deaths and serious injuries every year in the construction industry involving falls from a height, whether from scaffolding, ladders or mobile elevated working platforms and most of them could be avoided with just a little more care and attention.
Relevant training is essential
Much of the work done on a construction site is at a height and the means of access vary a lot. It is no good making sure that all staff are trained in the use of ladders (in many ways the most basic of training courses for working at a height) if the commonest method of reaching a working level is a moving platform. On the other hand, extensive training in powered access is not very helpful if most workers reach their jobs by using scaffold towers. Relevance is the keyword when it comes to training courses or the money is wasted and lives could be at risk.
Train as many people as practicable
Although not everyone on a construction site is asked to work at height, it is a very good idea to spread the opportunity for training as widely as possible. When it comes to knowing how to maintain, assemble, disassemble and store scaffold towers and other equipment, it is really good practice that every member of staff who may be called upon to assist is properly trained. The same goes for anyone who must manage those who work at a height, to make sure that jobs are properly planned with correct risk assessments in place.
Never go up high if equipment is in poor repair or unsuitable
It is all too easy to risk it if the job is late to completion or the task above ground is quick and simple to complete. The fact is that a sheared bolt or an inadequately erected tower does not need hours of use to let a person down and the ground is just as hard after 30 seconds as after an hour. No one should ever be asked to take a risk and all employees should be made aware that they are entitled to refuse a task if the equipment is substandard. There are no second chances once a fall is in progress and wishing that you had checked things is too late then – although the few minutes spent on a check may seem a bore, they can save a life.
Any training is only good if it is up to date and all the lessons learned are applied in the workplace, so everyone should have top ups regularly and make sure that they never cut corners. Every safety procedure should be second nature to the entire workforce – only then will it be really safe to work at a height.
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