The importance of… planning work at height: part two

By Jason Godfrey, general manager of Safesite

In our last the importance of… blog post, we took a look at the auditing and risk assessment aspects of planning work out height, and how they can help keep those working at height safe.

These procedures are vital, but sometimes no matter how carefully we plan something, it can change in the blink of an eye. This is why dynamic risk assessments are so important, and in this post I’m going to explain why they are vital, and how they help to ensure your original risk assessment is still accurate.

The importance of… a dynamic risk assessment

As you probably know, a risk assessment is all about identifying risks so you know what control measures are required to avoid hazards causing harm or damage. A dynamic risk assessment is very similar, but it is a continuous process instead of a final document, and is best used in a changing environment (i.e. busy building sites) in addition to the main risk assessment.

Important: a dynamic risk assessment is not a suitable replacement for a regular risk assessment. These are vital and should still be done.

The dynamic risk assessment is the final stage of the risk assessment process and enables work to be carried out safely. It is carried out by the person actually undertaking the work, so it is hugely import to make sure the worker is competent, and has had the training to properly assess risks.

The importance of… carrying out a dynamic risk assessment properly

All workers must be constantly aware of their own safety, as well as that of their colleagues and anyone who might be affected by the ongoing work. They must be able to take immediate action if necessary in the interests of safety. There are some simple steps which, when followed, can help the worker make informed decisions before starting.

#1 Evaluate the situation/task and make sure you know who might be at risk

#2 Select a system of work

#3 Make sure the chosen system of work is safe. Look at the risk versus benefit and if appropriate, proceed with the work

#4 If the system of work is not safe, introduce additional controls or select another system of work if possible

#5 Reassess systems of work and introduce further controls if required

The importance of… knowing what to cover in a dynamic risk assessment

A dynamic risk assessment is best kept simple so anyone who needs to refer to it knows what they’re looking at straight away. Safesite has a simple tick sheet for our surveyors and engineers to fill out before they carry out any work at height.

The areas that might need covering are:

The working environment: if the weather is wet or windy the risk of a fall is increased so the worker will need to decide whether the work should continue

Asbestos & Hazardous Substances: if the worker encounters what he suspects is asbestos or a hazardous substance, then he should stop work immediately and seek competent assistance

Type of Access: is the selected means of access still possible and is it appropriate?

Violence & Stress: this is particularly important for lone workers. If there is a risk of violence or the work will place undue pressure on the person, then the work should not continue

Fire, Means of Escape: If working on a roof, can the person escape to an area of safety in the event of a fire

Animals/Vermin/Birds: for example, nesting birds can pose a threat to those working on a roof.  In these instances the work should be rescheduled for when the nests are empty

Remember: although dynamic risk assessments are done on-site and on the spot, they should still be recorded. If an accident does occur, then you will have a record of the assessment and how decisions were made.

The importance of… careful planning

In this two-part blog post, we’ve taken a thorough look at what you will need to consider when planning any work at height. By just following some simple steps in the auditing and assessment period before work, you will be in a much stronger position, and any workers or innocent passers-by will be much safer.

However, you should always remember: if you are unsure of what to do, seek professional advice.

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