The importance of… planning work at height properly: part one

By Jason Godfrey, general manager of Safesite

Most contractors and workers know the importance of planning work at height properly, making it less likely serious incidents will occur, but do they know how to put this knowledge into practice?

Planning work via auditing and risk assessments, as well as ensuring other requirements are met, is vital to ensure any work carried out at height goes smoothly.

In this two part blog post, we will take a look at the different facets of planning work at height, so you can ensure any work carried out on your premises or by your workers is safe and effective.


The importance of… a work at height policy

The first step, before any work at all takes place, should be to make sure you have a work at height policy. This might be as simple as saying you don’t work at height under any circumstances, but the term work at height covers a vast range of activities so it’s likely you may eventually need to consider some variation of it.

Look at how employees, contractors, visitors and members of the public could be affected by your activities. The policy should be a strategic document which establishes procedures for working at height, and what controls could be implemented.

You should also make sure all roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, which could even extend to senior managers with responsibility for ensuring the competence of all contractors.

We don't recommend this. Source: Google

The importance of… a work at height audit

Once you have a policy in place, the next step is to carry out an overall audit of working at height activities, ensuring that all relevant procedures are covered. These include:

  • Risk assessments: they should be completed, relevant to the specific past and reviewed regularly
  • Inspections: has the equipment been inspected regularly, with inspection sheets and reports completed?
  • Maintenance: if you’re going to be using access equipment, you should make sure it is maintained properly also
  • Ladders: is there a ladder register, is it up to date, and are items individually identifiable?
  • Lanyards and harnesses: are the register and inspection sheets up to date? Are items individually identifiable? Are users properly trained with correct emergency and rescue procedures in place?
  • Training: are all relevant personnel trained in equipment being used, are they trained in height awareness, and is that training up to date?

Training is vital with any work at height. Source: Safesite

The importance of… assessing individual tasks

When you’re assessing tasks, your responsibilities will vary depending on who is carrying out the task, and how they will be doing it.

If your employees are doing the work, you need to carry out a thorough risk assessment of what’s required, making sure you prepare a method statement for the work. If you’re employing a contractor, they should be expected to provide you with a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and method statement. Ensure you also ask contractors for proof they are competent to do the work. This could include:

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

When you are happy with your own or, if hiring, the contractor's risk assessment and method statement, then you’re ready to get started.


In Part Two of this Blog, we’ll look at Dynamic Risk Assessments. Remember, work at height is inherently high risk, so assessing the risks must be a continuous process always at the forefront of your mind. 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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