Construction sites present danger and hazards in many ways. The nature of the industry and work projects that are carried out means that risk is inevitable. But, as a site supervisor or manager, managing risk and protecting your employees is one of your biggest priorities. Working at height poses one of the biggest risks on a construction site. So, you need to consider your control measures for this across your construction site. 

Sadly, serious injury and fatalities from working at height can occur. HSE statistics show that 51% of fatal injuries on construction sites were as a result of falls from height. Working control measures can help prevent such incidents from occurring, by following the hierarchy of control for working at height. If you don’t know all the steps to follow and implement, this blog post covers all bases. 

Defining working at height 

When you think of the term ‘working at height’, your mind is likely to think of ladders, and work carried out on high-rise buildings or roofs. Whilst this is all very much true, the HSE stipulates the following definition when defining what working at height means:

“Work at height’ means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury (for example a fall through a fragile roof)”

What is the working at height hierarchy of control?

The working at height hierarchy is split into four key categories with a total of eight steps, ranking in order of priority. The hierarchy is designed to aid fall prevention in construction. 

  • Avoid working at height by eliminating hazards 
  • Collective fall protection
  • PPE – Work restraint
  • PPE – Fall arrest

Each of the four sections is split into two steps. You should assess each of the eight steps, moving down the hierarchy of control in order. Below, we’ll explore the eight hierarchy control steps in greater detail.  

Avoiding working at height completely 

Is it necessary to work at height or can you implement measures to eradicate this? Consider design changes or working practices first. Eliminating the need to work at height isn’t always feasible, but if you can find a workaround that prioritises safety, you should do so accordingly. Ground-level work should be carried out where necessary by lowering equipment to the ground for repair or using extending tools that allow for safer operation from the ground to work on higher surfaces. 

Ensure adequate training and supervision is provided

Thorough training to maximise fall prevention measures on construction sites should be your next consideration. Every worker should be trained and have the knowledge and awareness to guarantee their safety and that of others. Our CITB training courses can help train you and your employees in the measures to take to ensure fall prevention is adhered to on construction sites. 

Use suitable work equipment that protects against falls

Where the first stages can’t be fully applied, the next phase of the working at height hierarchy looks at protection against falls. The equipment used on a construction site should be safe, adequate and in working order. For example, elevating work platforms are used for carrying out work at height depending on the nature of the project. They should contain adequate protective rails to guarantee the safety of workers. 

Check equipment is strong and stable

Fall prevention measures should be tested, to make sure they’re sturdy and fit for purpose before use. Equipment should be frequently monitored to check for any wear or tear and replaced or not used unless all tests are passed. As an employer, the buck stops with you to ensure the correct processes are followed when checking and monitoring all fall prevention equipment. It should be maintained and inspected regularly as outlined in standards BS 7883:2019 and BS EN 365. 

PPE equipment that helps prevent falls

Fall arrest equipment is a range of solutions that help workers carry out jobs at height safely, protecting them if the worst happens and a fall occurs. They can include harnesses, connectors, evacuation equipment, vertical and horizontal lifeline steam and confined space equipment. They help workers to work within specified areas without reaching a fall risk or hazard. 

Deploy measures to guarantee a safe working environment

Protective equipment should be designed to protect workers in the event of adverse conditions. Weather conditions when working outside can increase risk when working at height. Obstacles can be hazards too depending on factors such as location and proximity. Always consider this when installing protective equipment measures. 

Emergencies and rescues 

Your construction emergency response plan should include details of how to deal with emergencies as part of your working at height control measures. This should include measures and equipment for rescues, evacuation plans and a strategy for limiting the impact in the event of an emergency. 

Partner with Smas and benefit from our online training

We offer a range of training courses to help you cover every aspect you and your employees need to ensure everybody can work at height safely. Our Site Management Safety Training Scheme is a simple online course aimed at helping managers develop working at height control measures safely. The Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme covers the same topic, aimed at supervisors. Courses can be done online at pace, delivered by a CITB-qualified instructor.

If you want to request a quote about any of our services, then why not give us a call at 01752 697370? Our team will be happy to offer any advice and further information.