Falls from height are one of the main cause of fatal and serious injuries which is why any form of work at height must be planned properly, no matter what the height. Even a fall from a low level can cause serious injury.
Plan For Success
The following tips are by no means a definitive list of how to work safely, but can go a long way in helping you to work safely at height, particularly when ladders are concerned.
1. It doesn’t matter what height you’re working at, work at height is by nature dangerous. If at all possible, try to avoid having to work at height, if this isn’t possible then look at alternative ways to do the work. For example, if cleaning windows, use a reach and wash system rather than a ladder.
2. Always carry out a risk assessment before starting the work to determine what equipment you need and to identify who could potentially be affected by your work. For example, is there the possibility that someone could be hit by falling objects?
3. Make sure that the user is competent to carry out the work. Competency is essential. Only those who are fully trained on working at height and using equipment such as ladders safely will have the correct skills, knowledge and experience to work safely.
4. If your risk assessment shows that a ladder is the correct piece of equipment, make sure you use the right ladder for the job. For example, EN 131 for light industrial use with a static load maximum of 150kg or BS 2037/BS 1129 Class 1 for heavy duty use with a maximum load of 175kg.
5. Carry out pre-use checks to make sure the equipment is in good working order and safe to use. For example if using a ladder, check the steps and treads for signs of damage or the anti-slip feet for and signs of wear and tear which could affect its grip.
6. Use the ladder safely. Make sure the ladder is long enough for the task and you don’t overreach. Your belt buckle must stay within the stiles. If you do find yourself stretching to reach an area, re-position the ladder or use a longer ladder if appropriate.
7. Take care when carrying out tasks which require tools such as drills as there is a risk of losing your balance.
8. Make sure you don’t use a ladder for more than 30 minutes. If the task is going to take longer, review your risk assessment and consider alternative equipment such as an access platform.
9. Make sure the ladder is stable and use safety equipment such as ladder ties or ladder spurs to ensure the work can be carried out safely.
10. And finally, it goes without saying. Always plan the work carefully.
If you are ever in any doubt about how to work safely at height, or how to use a ladder safely, always seek professional advice.
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