Planning Work at Height – Part One

By Jason Godfrey, General Manager

Much has been written about the need to plan work at height properly in order to ensure that it can be carried out in complete safety, but do you know how to go about this?  Over the next two weeks I’m going to look at planning the work through auditing and risk assessments and hopefully help you to plan your future work at height tasks so that you can avoid potential accidents.

Work at Height Policy

Your first step should be to develop a Work at Height Policy. This might simply state that you don’t work at height, but remember, work at height covers a vast range of activities so it’s more likely than not that work at height of some description will need to be considered.

As part of your policy you should look at how employees, contractors, visitors and members of the public might be affected. This Policy will outline your strategic document which establishes the procedures for working at height and what controls could be introduced.

Roles and responsibilities within your organisation should be clearly defined, for example, this may include Senior Managers who are responsible for ensuring all contractors are competent to work at height.

Assessing Work at Height

Work at Height Audit

With your Policy in place, you should then carry out an overall Audit of work at height activities and ensure that relevant procedures are covered. These may include:

  • Risk Assessments (are they completed, relevant to the specific task and reviewed regularly?)
  • Inspections (is equipment inspected, inspection sheets and reports completed?)
  • Maintenance (if access equipment is used, is it maintained and records kept?)
  • Ladders (is there a ladder register, is it up to date, are ladders individually tagged and inspection sheets updated?)
  • Lanyards and harnesses (is there a register, is it up to date, are items individually identifiable, inspection sheets up to date, users properly trained and are emergency/rescue procedures in place?)
  • Training (are all relevant personnel trained in equipment being used, are they trained in height awareness and rescue, and is all training up to date?)

Once you have your Policy and Audit in place, you will need to ensure that risk assessments are carried out for individual tasks which require work at height.

Assessing Individual Tasks

When it comes to assessing tasks, your responsibilities will vary depending on who is carrying out the task, and how.

If your employees are doing the work, you will need to carry out a thorough risk assessment of what’s required and prepare a method statement for the work. However, if you are employing a contractor, you would expect them to provide you with a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and method statement.  You should also ask contractors for proof that they’re competent to do the work.  This could include:

  • Relevant insurance details
  • H&S Policy
  • Training records for the task and equipment being used
  • Maintenance & inspection records for equipment being used

When you are happy with your own or, if being hired, the contractor’s risk assessment and method statement, then you’re ready to start the work.

Planning Work at Height – Part Two

Next week I’m going to continue my look at Planning Work at Height with an overview of Dynamic Risk Assessments.  Work at height is by its very nature high risk, so assessing the risks must be a continuous process. Carrying out a dynamic risk assessment before work starts will help you to ensure that circumstances have not changed since your main risk assessment was prepared.

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