In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of working at height risk assessments, explain how to conduct one, highlight common hazards to avoid, and provide control measures to minimise risks.
Tip: A risk assessment matrix is a great way to reduce hazards in your business.
How to Conduct a Risk Assessment for Working at Height?
Working at height risk assessment typically involves the following five steps:
- Identify the hazards: Determine the potential dangers of the specific task or work environment.
- Decide who may be harmed and how: Understand the potential consequences of the identified hazards for workers and others in the vicinity.
- Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions: Assess the likelihood and severity of each hazard and determine the appropriate control measures to minimise the risk.
- Record and implement your findings: Document the risk assessment process and control measures, and ensure they are effectively implemented in the workplace.
- Review and revise your risk assessment if necessary: Regularly evaluate and update the risk assessment to account for changes in the work environment or after an incident.
Importance of Working at Height Risk Assessment
According to Safe Work Australia, 13% of worker fatalities (122 fatalities) between 2015 and 2019 resulted from falls from a height. This alarming statistic underscores the critical need for organisations to assess and mitigate working at height risks.
Conducting a risk assessment helps prevent harm, accidents and injuries. Also, it ensures compliance with relevant height regulations and legislation.
The model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations impose duties on businesses and undertakings regarding work at heights. These duties include specific requirements and procedures for managing the risks of falls.
You can find further information in the model Code of Practice: Managing the risk of falls at workplaces.
As a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU), you have a responsibility to ensure, to the extent that it is reasonably practicable:
- The health and safety of all workers and other individuals present in your workplace;
- Consulting with workers who are directly affected by any health and safety matter;
- Cooperating and coordinating activities with all relevant duty holders.
Common Hazards to Avoid
When working at height, workers may face several hazards, including:
- Unprotected edges and unguarded openings: Unprotected edges and unguarded openings pose a significant risk to workers as they can easily fall off.
- Fragile surfaces that may not support weight: Fragile surfaces, such as roofs, or working platforms, may also collapse under the weight of a person, causing them to fall.
- Sharp edges on structures: Sharp edges can cause cuts or puncture wounds if workers accidentally come into contact with them.
- Weather-related hazards: Weather-related factors, such as strong winds or rain, can increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls.
- Falling objects and tools: Falling objects and tools can also pose a danger to persons on the ground level, causing injury or death.
- Obstacles or structures overhead: Obstacles or structures overhead can also pose a hazard to workers as they may collide with them while working at height.
- Vehicles in motion near the worksite: Vehicles near the worksite can cause a distraction for workers and increase the risk of accidents.
- Close proximity to large water bodies: Close proximity to large water bodies can also pose a risk, especially if workers are not trained in water safety.
- Proximity of utility services: The proximity of utility services, such as power lines, can also be hazardous to workers as they may come into contact with them.
The following control measures can be implemented to mitigate or eliminate the risks associated with working at height:
- Perform thorough evaluation: Evaluate the activity and determine if working at height is necessary or if alternative methods can be used.
- Explore alternative methods to avoid working at heights: This may include using remote access tools or implementing proper scheduling to minimize the time spent working at heights.
- Training and education: Provide employees with adequate training and education to ensure they understand the risks associated with working at height and how to use appropriate fall protection work equipment.
- Limit the number of workers exposed to risk: Ensure that only essential personnel are working at height and minimise the risk of injury to other workers.
- Use appropriate fall protection work equipment: Workers should use the appropriate work equipment, such as PPE equipment, safety harnesses, lanyards, and anchors, to prevent falls. Appropriate equipment and PPE training are beneficial ways to eliminate risk.
- Implement regular equipment inspections and maintenance: Regular inspections and maintenance of work equipment will ensure they are in good working condition, reducing the risk of equipment failure.
- Install permanent safety features, such as guardrails or barriers: These features will provide a physical barrier to prevent falls or workers coming into contact with hazardous materials or equipment.
- Use mechanical aids: Using mechanical aids, such as cranes, hoists, and cherry pickers, will reduce the need for workers to work safely at height.
- Establish robust safety culture: A strong safety culture within the workplace will promote safe practices, reduce risk-taking behaviour, and improve overall safety.
- Continuously review and update safety procedures: Properly plan the regular review and updates of safety procedures. It will ensure that the procedures remain effective and up-to-date.
Promote Worker Safety With Working at Height Risk Assessment
Working at height is a high-risk activity that requires careful examination, planning and control measures to ensure the safety of workers. Risk assessment is essential to:
- Identify potential hazards
- Evaluate associated risks
- Implement appropriate control measures
Workers and employers must know the common hazards associated with working at height and the control measures required to mitigate or eliminate the risks.
Regularly reviewing and updating safety procedures ensures that workers remain effective and current. Give proper risk training to workers to help mitigate the dangers associated with working at heights. This way, implementing appropriate control measures can significantly reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities associated with working at height.
Other Workplace Hazards to Avoid
If you are trying to reduce risk in the workplace, you may want to consider these hazards: