A fall from heights is still one of the leading causes of workplace injury in Australia.
As an employer or PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking), it’s your responsibility to ensure that everyone who works on your property is kept safe from unnecessary risks, including those that come with working at height.
Luckily, with the right height safety measures in place, the risks of working at height can be significantly mitigated.
Follow our top 10 safety tips for working at heights and you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you are operating compliantly and in doing so, keeping your employees and contractors safe.
1. Working at Heights Training
Anyone working at heights needs to be fully trained to operate safely. Most states issue a “work at heights” ticket, which is usually a 1-day course that will teach you everything from identifying hazards to the safe use of height safety equipment and hardware.
If you are hiring contractors or employees who will be exposed to working at heights during their day to day operations, ensure that you have asked them to produce their work at height ticket before allowing access to high areas such as rooftops, plants boxes behind balustrades, scaffolding, or ladders.
2. Ladders and Access Points
Only ladders rated for industrial use should be used in the workplace. Additionally, when being used to gain access to a roof it’s imperative that a height safety ladder bracket is installed to prevent the ladder from slipping down or fall sideways.
Access points for ladders need to be kept clear at all times so employees can safely dismount and so that it doesn’t become a hazard to the public or other workers. Your employees should also know about safe ladder handling before attempting to use a ladder, as improper use can lead to a serious fall.
3. Ensure Anchor Points are Compliant
Compliant anchor points need to meet minimum load rating requirements – 15kN for fall arrest. If the anchor points are compliant, it will display the load rating somewhere either on the anchor point or on an identification plate near it.
There are many different types of anchor points to suit different purposes and roof structures. Be sure to check the height safety user manual before accessing the system. This should have been provided to you by the company which carried out the height safety installation.
Additionally, most roof anchor points and height safety systems require load testing and/or visual inspections by a competent height safety professional on an annual basis. Upon completion of the anchor point testing they are to be tagged with the date of next inspection and a formal certificate to be issued to you for your records.
Untested anchor points are a serious workplace hazard as they can lead you to have a false sense of security whilst working at height. Always ensure that they have been tested by a height safety professional in the last 12 months.
4. Understanding Roof Safety System Design
Height safety systems can take many forms, so you need to make sure that you study the one on your building and your employees know how to safely access heights. This may constitute fall protection systems, safe access points, or other safety design.
As part of your user manuals, you should have a system layout and rigging map, which shows you which anchor points or systems are to be used to access each area and how to use them safely. If you don’t have this on record, phone the company that carried out the install and ask them for a copy of the height safety user manual.
5. Understanding Fall Distance and Pendulum Swings
When working on low roofs, you run the risk of a fall resulting in a ground impact if you aren’t using the right equipment. This is can be due to your shock absorber deploying, pendulum swing, running out too much rope, or a combination of all 3.
To minimise your risk, make sure your working line never extends longer than the distance from the anchor point, to the nearest fall line. This will keep you working in “fall restraint” with the anchor point actually PREVENTING you from falling, as opposed to “arresting” a fall.
Often technicians will put themselves at risk of “pendulum swing” by working out close to fall lines at sharp angles to the anchor point. If the worker were to sustain a fall from this location, they would swing like a pendulum towards the centre of the anchor, which can be harmful or fatal.
Fall arrest systems like deceleration lanyards should only be used with the proper calculations that take into account deployment, body length, and harness sag. Otherwise, your employee has no protection against falls or swings.
6. Using the Right PPE
Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS) need to be carefully selected for the height your employees are working at, comfort, and safety during other tasks.
Before safely working at heights, ensure your employees are using the right PPE and have been properly trained in its’ selection and use.
For instance, if you are ladder climbing you may want a light harness with a dual “y” style lanyard so you can maintain 1 point of attachment whilst moving the other.
If you are using a static line, however, you may opt for a standard lanyard with a shock absorber.
7. Importance of Guardrails
When following the work at heights hierarchy of control, you will see that guardrails should be installed wherever is reasonably practical in order to prevent falls from height.
This is because guard rails, as passive fall protection, are the safest way to keep employees safe at heights.
If guardrails are not reasonably practical for the area, then static line systems or fall arrest anchor points should be considered.
8. Importance of Walkways
Walkways, especially when combined with guard rails, provide a safe stable way for workers to traverse across rooftop areas.
Often made of aluminium, rooftop walkways can be installed on all types of roof profiles and negate angles in the roof so the worker has an even footing.
Aluminium walkways also double as protection for the roof, preventing the impact of continuous traffic damaging roof sheets.
9. Height Safety Supervisors
Height safety supervisors stay on-site to monitor employees working at heights to provide assistance and act as a rescue crew in case of an emergency. This not only gives employees additional peace of mind but further prevents an accident on-site.
Before allowing contractors on site to work at heights, ensure that they have at least 1 team member with the training and equipment required to perform a rescue from height.
10. Testing and Certifying Height Safety Systems
Before any at-heights work is carried out, you need to make sure that your height safety systems are fully tested and certified for use.
At Skypro Height Safety, our team of expert inspectors are fully licensed to test and issue annual certification for your height safety systems, no matter how complex your system is.
To learn more, take a look at our website and our Facebook page. Still have questions? Our friendly team of experts are on hand to help you with all of your height safety needs.
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