Safety steps to Working at Height

May 21, 2020

For the past five years, falls from height have been the most commonly recorded cause of fatal workplace injuries. With this in mind, roofers must be aware of the steps they should take to ensure they work in the safest way possible, as explained here by Jamie Brassington, Product Manager at WernerCo.

Over the past 12 months alone, there have been several initiatives by industry trade bodies, such as the Ladder Association and Access Industry Forum, to educate tradesmen about the dangers of working at height.

However, despite campaigns and guidance issued, there are still a large number of falls from height recorded. Falls from height remain the leading cause of workplace fatalities and injuries, accounting for 40 fatalities in 2018/2019 according to the HSE annual statistics for workplace fatal injuries in Great Britain.

With this in mind, both employees and employers need to ensure they are up-to-date up on best practice in order to safely work at height.

Be properly informed

Before carrying out any work, it’s crucial to assess the job at hand and determine the risks that could potentially be involved. If the job involves working at height, the new Access Industry Forum (AIF) handbooks offer a good starting point for both users and site managers.

The AIF’s new Safety Steps handbooks, which have been created in conjunction with other work at height organisations, includes comprehensive advice for anybody using a ladder or specifying working at height equipment, as well as handy flow charts and checklists that operatives and managers can follow to make the correct safety decisions.

As part of the guidance provided by AIF, it is highlighted that anybody working at height must have sufficient knowledge and training before undertaking any job. In order to comply with this, WernerCo offers specific work at height training such as the Ladder Association’s Ladders and Stepladders for Users or PASMA’s Towers for Users course to ensure best practice when working at height.

Using equipment safely

When it comes to using a ladder, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published materials on how to safely carry out work, which both employees and employers should refer to.

Ladders should only be used for short periods, for light work and should also not be used if the user has to overstretch. Work at Height regulations prohibits overstretching, which can ultimately diminish productivity if the user cannot move around easily, or if they are confined to a very small work area.

Any work that is done with the aid of a ladder should always be carried out face-on and three points of contact should always be maintained. However, ladders are not suitable if there is a requirement to lift awkward or heavy loads.

If the job at hand does call for a ladder, the next step is to consider whether the product chosen is suitable. This includes checking if it’s the right size and material, and whether the ladder has features that would be suitable for the job required. This could include needing a secure standing platform, handrails for easy climbing or even a high handrail.

For roofers however, the suitability requirement differs because access to another level, such as the roof, is required so a ladder which extends past the stepping point by at least 1 metre is needed.

For the majority of work on a flat roof, temporary fall protection is usually needed to undertake work safely. Additionally, full fall protection will normally be required whilst working on sloping roofs. Although it might seem obvious, when working on a sloping roof, workers should never work directly on slates or tiles, as they do not provide a safe footing for workers, particularly when they are wet. Therefore, a roof ladder should be used in this instance. 

Additional equipment

Whether working on a flat or sloping roof, it’s essential to understand the different precautions that need to be taken to ensure workers minimise the risk of injury, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should also be considered as well as the equipment being used.

When it comes to fall protection equipment, there are many different solutions available on the market. With many tailored to different types of job, it is why it is important for users to be fully aware of the correct application for each task, and the key features they can offer roofers.

WernerCo’s range of Fall Protection kits are specifically designed with safety in mind. The Professional Roofer’s Kit provides the necessary protection for working around roofing installations and is designed to be easy to use on a variety of roof pitches.

By taking all of these factors into consideration, roofers will be in a better position to safeguard themselves and reduce the risk of injury should a slip or fall happen. If the industry as a whole can take more proactive steps to safety, this will hopefully reduce the number of accidents and fatal injuries reported each year.

Media contact:

Lucy Kendrick

E: [email protected]

T: 0121 454 9707

Katy Peacock

E: [email protected]

T: 0121 454 9707