Safety for Working at Heights

When it comes to working at heights, the dangers are numerous and can be quite serious. Falls from heights, particularly roofs, ladders or scaffolding, can leave workers, or home and business owners, with both permanent and debilitating injuries.

At a height of less than one metre, a fall may cause serious injuries like fractures, broken bones, concussion and even brain damage. When the height is increased, to the roof of a multi-storey building, these injuries quickly escalate and can be fatal.

So, it is imperative that if you decide to undertake any type of roof replacements or maintenance that you abide by all necessary safety requirements. If you’re uncertain, don’t own the necessary safety gear, or are not 110% confident in your ability to work safely at heights, then call in the roofing professionals.

Tips for Working Safely at Heights

Minimise the Height

Before you immediately jump into working at any type of height, take a minute to assess the situation. Is it possible to redesign the project or the task at hand to minimise the height, or the need for people to do the work at such a height. If you’re undertaking repairs to your roof, this may not always be an option.

Use the Right Equipment

If, once you’ve assessed the situation, there is no possible way to reduce the height, then make sure that the work is completed using the appropriate equipment. So, workers should be standing on (in order of preference):

  • An elevated work platform or portable scaffold that comes complete with secure handrails around all sides.
  • Travel restraint systems where workers are coupled or anchored onto the roof or building.
  • Fall arrest systems such as safety harnesses, an industrial safety net or a catch platform. Even if you are using scaffolding with handrails, it is still a good idea to equip workers with safety harnesses as well.
  • Step platforms, used in conjunction with safety harnesses.
  • Ladders may be used, depending on the height involved.

Train Your Workers

If you expect your employers to undertake roof replacements or other work at heights, then you must provide them with adequate training before they undertake the work. Similarly, if you intend to carry out the work yourself, make sure that you are familiar with all the safety requirements involved. For example, if you are using travel restraint systems or safety harnesses for the first time, familiarise yourself with how they operate, and how to use them in the best possible manner.

Use Ladders Safely

Ladders often pose the biggest risk when it comes to working at heights. Ladders are obviously not as stable as secure structures like scaffolding or elevated platforms, making them somewhat more dangerous. So, when it comes to using ladders, always make sure you:

  • Use a step platform ladder because they have a much larger, more stable work surface than other types of ladders.
  • Always maintain three points (such as two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot) of contact when climbing up or down, or standing on, a ladder.
  • Do not use ladders on balconies or other areas that the potential distance that you may fall is increased.
  • Do not stand any higher than the second top rung on any ladder.
  • Do not use ladders if you are using tools that require a high degree of force or are designed to be operated with two hands.
  • Do not use ladders to work over other people.
  • Always place ladders on firm, non-slip surfaces.
  • Secure ladders by tying them to a support at the top and/or bottom. Alternatively, have another person ‘foot’ the ladder.
  • Inspect ladders regularly. Repair or replace ladders where rungs, steps or treads or top plates are missing, worn, damaged or loose.

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