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Look Up — Stay Safe! How to Protect Yourself When Working at Heights

David Cant - CMIOSH

Think working at heights is one of those things you can take lightly? Well, here’s a sobering stat: the number of working days lost due to slips, trips and falls from heights added up to a whopping 1.5 million.

That’s a lot of time lost.

Not to mention the severe, life-changing impact any major injury from heights can have on a person. Take this recent story — leaving a self-employed roofer left with head and spinal injuries, because he didn’t take the basic precautions needed. Working at heights is necessary — but it’s also one of the biggest causes of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace. So it’s important to take safety here very seriously — read on for some essential health and safety pointers.

Can you avoid it?

It might seem a little odd — but one of the first essential questions to ask when tackling a project that involves working at heights is: can you avoid it? Can the work be done just as well — and safely — from the ground instead? With the level of risk involved, if it ain’t necessary, don’t do it!

Assess the risk

Next up — check out what is involved and carry out a full workplace risk assessment. This will help you to identify the risks involved, and work out what precautions need to be taken as well. You’ll want to make sure there are measures in place to prevent anyone from falling at a height they could injure themselves, and plan out what equipment is needed to minimise the distance of a fall.

Working on a roof?

Are you going to be up on a roof? Don’t make the mistake of underestimating it — even if you’re only up for a few minutes, it is still potentially dangerous. And anyone carrying out roof work must be trained and competent in what they’re doing. Make sure that there is safe access to the roof at all times, and that there are measures in place to stay safe around roof edges, sloping roofs and any fragile surfaces you may be walking on.

Ladders and scaffolds

If you’re planning on using ladders to access anything at height, then make sure you use them safely! It might sound simple, but you must always check the ladder before using it, or anytime something has changed — such as moving position, or if the ladder has been dropped. When it comes to scaffolds, check out this helpful scaffold checklist — it gives you a comprehensive list of what you need to look at. And remember that all scaffolding should be put up and dismantled in a safe manner at all times.

Your takeaway points

  • Avoid it if you can! Is there a safer alternative to working at heights?
  • Carry out a full risk assessment and see what precautions you need to take
  • If you’re working on a roof — even for a short while — always take measures to protect yourself
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely — use the scaffold checklist! 


Do you have any questions about working at heights? Give us a shout!

Originally published at

January 06, 2016 @ 09:02 AM EST Construction Health & Safety

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Tamara Parris's picture
Tamara Parris

Thank you @davidcantcmiosh for the great post and joining the community.

I am interested in hear members thoughts; @omarjackson @erinloza what are your insights

January 07, 2016 @ 05:06 PM EST