Head for Heights?
Working at height describes work undertaken "off the ground". Commonly, it involves the use of scaffolds, ladders, hoists, gantries or general roof work.
Are You Safe?
Work on a roof is particularly dangerous. The level of controls will depend on whether the roof has edge protection or not, allied to the plant or roof lights that may be on it. A useful control measure is to ask contractors for a method statement covering the following - access and egress procedures, fall prevention, supervision levels and work equipment that may be used. Access to the roof must be restricted so doors leading to it must be kept locked and additional controls such as a Permit to Work may be appropriate. For unguarded roofs a safety barrier away from the edge should be used to identify the work areas and safe access routes. Walkways across the roof should have a barrier each side. Where plant or equipment is within 2 metres of an unprotected edge a barrier must be erected to prevent falls. Roofs constructed of fragile materials must be accessed only by use of roof ladders or crawling boards coupled with a fall arrest device.
Roof lights are a particular hazard, as they are not load bearing. These should be clearly marked or painted and be protected by barriers where possible.
Netting, sheeting or fans should be used to protect pedestrians from falling debris. It may also in certain circumstances be necessary to fence around the working area at ground level. Debris must never be thrown from height. Chutes or baskets must be used.
Other equipment used at height includes the use of scaffolds and ladders. Scaffolds may be fixed, tower or mobile.
Fixed scaffolds should be erected and inspected by a competent person and be secured to a permanent structure. They must be based on solid ground with working platforms wide enough to allow safe working. The platform must be capable of withstanding the loads put upon it. Guard rails and toe boards must be provided.
Tower and mobile scaffolds must in addition be erected with regard to the base to height ratio to ensure stability. Wheels and outriggers must be locked before use and the scaffold must not be moved with persons on board. The safe working loads marked on the base must never be exceeded.
Ladders may be fixed or freestanding. Ladders must be considered a second best option. Alternatives such as tower or mobile platforms provide a safer access. Fixed ladders must incorporate a landing no more than 6 metres apart and back hoops must be fitted more than 2.5 metres high. Ladders must be fitted with boarding or a device to prevent unauthorised access. Where the ladder provides access to an unprotected roof there must be barriers of at least two metres each side at roof level. Ladders must be checked before use looking for solid rungs and straight sides. Wooden ladders must never be painted. Boarding or cones must protect ladder feet. Any extensions must overlap by at least 3 rungs. Ladders must be secured by the use of eyebolts and hooks or by another person stabling/ footing the ladder if less than 5 metres in height. Always use the 1 in 4 rule i.e. 1 foot out for every 4 up and never work higher than one metre from the top rung.
Elevating platforms must never be left unattended when in use. Work must be undertaken from within the platform only and the platform must never be moved with people on board. Warning signage, cones or safety barriers must be placed around its base.
Window cleaners and building maintenance teams use access cradles. They are potentially dangerous and there must be a safe means of getting in and out of them. Operatives within must be harnessed at all times and if working over pedestrian routes tools must be secured by lanyards. There must be a means of communication between the cradle and the operators by mobile phone or a similar device.