Pitfalls to avoid when working at height


Working at height is one of the most dangerous aspects of many construction workers’ jobs. Any sector of the construction industry can face dangers when working at height, whether this is on a high rise building or in confined spaces. Any building job that needs ladders, scaffolds towers or cradles to support workers, materials and plants is potentially hazardous.

It’s all too easy for accidents to happen when work is being carried out on platforms raised high in the air, so it’s vital that proper precautions are taken at all times. 

With our guide, you’ll learn what you need to know about the risks involved and how to stay free of personal injury while working at height on any type of construction site.

What is considered working at height?

Working at height refers to any situation where you are exposed to the risk of falling or other injuries due to elevation.’ Although working at height is a broad term, it applies to anyone who is working above ground level.

Construction-related accidents account for a significant number of workplace injuries and deaths. According to RIDDOR, 29 construction workers died as a result of falls from height in 2019/20, making working at height the biggest single cause of workplace fatalities in the United Kingdom.

Construction workers are often required to work at height, making this an important issue for the industry. 

We’ve put together a guide of the common pitfalls and how to avoid them, along with valuable safety tips.

Overconfidence 

Overconfidence is a major factor in many construction accidents. Experience and inexperienced workers alike can be tempted to take risks or ignore basic safety practices when they feel safe on a platform. It’s not always easy to remember that even the smallest oversight can lead to an accident that could be fatal.

Doing the same job continuously, for years can give you a sense of false security when working at height. There should be no place for complacency on a worksite – whether you are a new worker or have been doing it for years, you should always follow the safety guidelines and be on your guard.

Remember working at height can seem routine or even low risk to an experienced worker but overconfidence is a cause of many workplace injuries and fatalities. 

To avoid overconfidence when working at height, always carry out a risk assessment and follow all health and safety regulations for each job you undertake.

Never take risks or put yourself in danger

Be vigilant about your surroundings and the potential hazards that are present

Always be aware of what you are doing – remember that one simple slip could mean serious injury or even death

Risk assessment 

It is vital to carry out a risk assessment when you’re working at height. This should be part of your daily routine and considered before taking on any new task or project. You should always assess the risks involved in every job that involves working at height – even if you’ve done this job before. 

It’s tempting to not carry out an assessment when you are in a hurry to finish a job or if you feel you are working with low heights and potential risks are minimal. The potential dangers for any job that is not properly planned and assessed can be fatal and so all jobs should be risk assessed.

A risk assessment when working above ground level would include:

Identify the hazards.

Assess the potential consequences of an accident, including any injuries and fatalities that could be caused. 

Ensure that you have all the right equipment to complete each job safely – this includes wearing the correct safety equipment.

By making a careful examination of what harm might come to you or the people around you, you can make sure that the right safety measures are in place and avoid any accidents.

Potential Hazards to look out for when carrying out a risk assessment.

Fragile surface

Falling objects

Weather

Ground conditions

Condition of working platforms

Appropriate equipment

When working at height it is crucial to make sure that you have all of the right work equipment, including harnesses, lanyards, rope access systems and other support equipment. Personal protection equipment such as a hard hat and safety footwear should also be worn at all times when working at height.

Each job may require different work equipment so be sure to check what is required. Fall protection equipment must be properly inspected and maintained to ensure it is fit for its purpose.

When working above ground level all equipment including fall protection equipment should be checked before climbing your ladder, scaffold or undertaking any height activity. You don’t want to wait until you are at the top of your scaffold or ladder to find out your rope is frayed or any part of your equipment is faulty.

Training

It’s important to be properly trained in order to work at height. Appropriate training will ensure health and safety is properly assessed for every job by a competent person and construction work is properly planned. 

Always make sure you are properly trained, your employer should provide the correct training and resources for you to do the job correctly. Suitable training will minimise personal injury and prevent falls.

Ladders

It’s easy to forget height regulations when working with ladders. Just because you are doing a simple task doesn’t mean there are no risks involved. 

Ladder safety:

Resting ladders on unstable or fragile surfaces.

Never lean out too far when using a ladder.

Only place ladders on flat, level ground. 

Keep at least two points of contact with the ladder at all times.

Keep your hands free when climbing the ladder.

Be careful of slippery conditions. 

Always remember your safety comes first – don’t cut corners by hurrying a job. Keep yourself safe and avoid the common mistakes that are made due to over confidence or not being properly prepared for a task.

By following these simple guidelines, you’ll ensure not only your own safety but that of your colleagues as well.