Falling from a height is THE single most common cause of occupational fatalities in the UK. Almost a third of all annual deaths in the workplace result from poor health and safety practices involving falls, slips and trips, writes Katharina Busch.
In order to reduce the number of fatalities over the coming years, companies – as well as employees – need to work closely together to create a safer, more productive and enjoyable working environment.
While regular safety training and thorough risk assessments by a professional health and safety consultancy are crucial to ensure every potential hazard is identified and taken care of, following these 10 steps can minimise the risk of accidents.
1) MAINTAINING THREE POINTS OF CONTACT
The golden rule when working at heights is to maintain three points of contact to a safety point, such as a handhold, or a ladder.
This means two feet and one hand should be holding on firmly. If both hands are needed to be free for a brief time, two feet and the body must be in touch with the safety point.
2) CLEANING SHOES AND CLOTHING
Wet, muddy, or greasy shoe soles commonly lead to slips during work. Checking soles and gloves for any residue before going to work should be a daily ritual.
3) TIDYING THE WORKSPACE
Open drawers, left equipment and lunch break spills - or scrap material - can cause unforeseen risks.
Tidying up is often left until the last minute but should be taken care of immediately to avoid trips and other safety risks.
Even soft or small materials, like empty cartons, can be deadly when the person tripping is carrying the wrong tool.
4) UNDERSTANDING YOUR EQUIPMENT
Even the newest and most expensive equipment will not protect a worker from an accident if he does not know how to use it.
Ladders, elevating platforms, or rope systems require an element of training before a worker is able to use equipment safely.
5) WORKING WITH THE WEATHER
Sometimes, working in bad weather conditions cannot be avoided. Especially in the rain or frost, workers need to pay special attention as to how the weather is affecting the site and equipment.
Parking lots and pavements should be clean and in good condition, whereas slippery areas need to be suspended and marked with warning signs.
6) ILLUMINATING THE SITE
Upon entering a dark space – even if you are familiar with the surroundings – turning on lights first is important to avoid running into dangerous objects.
A co-worker might have left boxes in your usual path when leaving in a hurry, which could also cause a fall.
7) USING SAFETY NETS
When working at heights, taking one precaution is not enough – if it fails, death is almost certain when falling off a roof or scaffold.
Put up shielding or warning tape to secure off any dangerous edges. Secondly, make sure everyone is protected by a roof anchor system.
Using a safety net on top cannot hurt either.
8) PRIORITISING SAFETY
If you do not feel well that day – do not push it. Working at a height is a challenging task, and should only be done when feeling well prepared, healthy and secure.
Although time is money, an occupational injury, or fatality resulting from a fall, will end up costing the business much more than just a few lost hours.
9) KNOWING YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
Towards the end of the day, tasks tend to be carried out in a hurry - which leads to sloppy work and potential hazards.
No matter how much time is left or how urgent something needs to be finished, never take shortcuts.
10) HAVING A ROUTINE
Safety should be an ongoing procedure that is part of each worker’s daily performance.
Whether it is checking all equipment for visual damage, planning the day’s schedule, assigning responsibilities, or conducting daily inspections, a good housekeeping practice can prevent many unnecessary accidents.Following a safety plan can not only save lives - the returns from a healthy working environment for a business are quite immense.
Increased productivity, a happier and more sustainable working space, and a lower turnover-rate will profit the employer just as much as the worker.
Katharina Busch is a content contributor for Arinite, a London-based health and safety consultancy which focuses on appropriate safety training, risk assessments and risk management in many different industries.