Working at Height

Introduction

Working at height is a high-risk activity, and as such, all precautions must be taken to prevent incidents while working at height. 

The objective of this procedure is to outline the process and ensure that a common management approach is adopted throughout AISJ in preventing falls-from-height incidents.

Requirements
Fundamentals:
a) Wherever reasonably practicable, preference must be given to the performance of work at ground level as opposed to in an elevated position.

b) Where work in an elevated position is necessary, preference shall be given to fall prevention measures such as, but not limited to, effective barricading and the use of work platforms.

c) Persons may only work from a fall risk position if:

  • a working at heights risk assessment has been completed for the work to be conducted;
  • a safe work procedure/task analysis and work instruction, approved by a competent person, are in place;
  • a fall rescue plan, along with necessary equipment and trained rescuers, is in place;
  • appropriate training, as determined by the risk assessment, has been provided; and
  • appropriate height safety equipment and personal protective equipment have been issued to the individual.

d) While work is in progress, adequate warning signs and/or barricades shall be used in all areas where there is a risk of persons being injured by materials or equipment falling from the work area.  Barricades should be continuous and easily visible.

e) A drop zone shall be established with appropriate warning signs and barrier tape or barricading, warning personnel below of workers above and potential falling objects.

Risk assessment

A risk assessment allows for careful examination of what could cause harm to people as a result of a work activity, and it allows you to take the necessary precautions to prevent the harm occurring.

a) When considering work at height, a risk assessment must be conducted.  There are four basic steps that should be followed:

Step 1:     hazard identification (identify the problem).
Step 2:     assess the risk (determine the seriousness of the problem). 
Step 3:     eliminate or control risks (decide what needs to be done to solve the problem).
Step 4:     review the risk assessment process and control measures to ensure that risks are still adequately addressed (update if necessary).
 
b) Working at height risk assessments shall take into account factors such as:

the necessity for the work to be done in an elevated position as opposed to on the ground;

  • barricading and other fall prevention measures;
  • requirements of the safe work procedure;
  • height being worked at;
  • possible injuries;
  • duration of exposure;
  • frequency of performing these activities;
  • type of work and ergonomic considerations;
  • work site/area congestion;
  • potential/likelihood/causes of a fall occurring;
  • endurance of workers;
  • risk control measures;
  • electrical hazards and safe clearances from overhead power lines;
  • structure (ease of access, secure footing, and compatibility with fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment);
  • terrain;
  • restrictions with reference to working alone;
  • falling objects; and
  • suitable anchor points.

c) Approved written safe work procedures/task analysis and work instruction shall be developed for all elevated work and made available to all persons carrying out the work. 

Standard procedures may be suitable for most work; however, unusual conditions or architectural features may require additional site-specific procedures.  The person supervising the work must ensure that safe work procedures/task analysis and work instructions are followed at all times.

d) Be aware of hazards resulting from adverse weather conditions, and where necessary, modify the work method accordingly.

e) The content and intervals of planned job observations shall be determined during the risk assessment.

f) Risk assessment shall include the rescue plan. 

g) Risk assessments shall be performed and documented by competent persons. 

h) The mitigation process from the risk assessments must influence the content of the Fall Protection Plan.

i) In the case of live work, work shall be conducted according to standards and procedures while maintaining minimum safe working clearance.

 j) Take into account the risks associated with objects falling from heights. Tools and equipment shall be safely secured and attached to the body or structure.

Fall Protection Plan

a)    A task-/job-specific Fall Protection Plan shall be developed and approved by a competent person for any activity where there is a risk of a fall.  

b)    The Fall Protection Plan shall include a task-/job-specific risk assessment and requirements relating to the following:

  • Training program for employees working from a fall risk position.
  • Appointments and authorizations.
  • The procedure addressing the inspection, testing, and maintenance of all fall protection equipment.
  • The processes for evaluation of the employees’ medical fitness necessary to work in a fall risk position and the records thereof (medical surveillance program).
  • Equipment use and specification.
  • Fall prevention, fall arrest, and fall rescue.
  • Method statements or safe work procedures/task analysis/work instruction.

c)  The Fall Protection Plan and its requirements shall be integrated into the Health and Safety Plan.
d) Adherence to the Fall Protection Plan is mandatory.

e) The Fall Protection Plan shall be suitably amended in accordance with the risk assessment, equipment technology, standards, and legislation.

Training and authorization

a) All users of height safety equipment for working at height shall be trained, assessed, and declared competent for the specific height safety equipment and associated structures. 

b) The need for refresher training shall be determined by the employer, taking into account factors such as period of inactivity and changing circumstances as determined by risk assessments and job observations.

c) Work at height and rescue training shall be provided by approved instructors and service providers, taking into consideration the appropriate unit standards. 

d) Rescue training, where necessary, shall include self-rescue and buddy rescue. 

e) Documented training records for all work at height training shall be maintained.

Height safety equipment specifications

a) All height safety equipment purchased shall conform to relevant national standards, international standards, statutory requirements.

b) All height safety equipment shall be supplied with an appropriate maintenance, testing, and inspection standard.

c) Any new or amended specification and/or standard for height safety equipment shall be subjected to a technical assessment by a competent person or relevant divisional work groups prior to any acquisitions.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

a) When working at height, appropriate PPE as determined by the risk assessment and written safe work procedure/task analysis/work instruction shall be used at all times.

b) The type of PPE to be used must be appropriate to the activity and provide adequate hand, eye, face, foot, and head protection.

c) Work restraint methods must be used before placing workers in fall arrest situations.

d) Once issued to an individual, that particular fall prevention and/or fall arrest system shall be for the exclusive use and control of that user.  A formal issue control system shall be implemented that records:

  • condition of equipment when issued;
  • condition of equipment when returned;
  • name and employee number of user;
  • name and employee number of issuer;
  • date(s) of issue and return;
  • any acceptable repairs carried out; and
  • any deployment of the fall arrest system.


 

Inspection, care, and maintenance

a) All fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment shall be uniquely marked and/or numbered and registered on a statutory and/or approved maintenance register for inspection, testing, and maintenance. 

b) Only competent persons shall be allowed to inspect, test, and maintain fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment.

c) The inspection by the competent person shall not replace the inspection that must routinely be performed by the user prior to using the equipment.

d) Where a user suspects that fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment is unsafe, the equipment shall immediately be withdrawn from service and inspected by a competent person.

e) Where an inspection carried out by a competent person reveals that an item is unsafe to use, that item shall be withdrawn from service immediately and either repaired to original specification by the supplier or approved agent or destroyed. 

f) After a fall arrest system has activated/operated, it shall be removed from service until it has been inspected and re-certified as safe for use by the manufacturer or the authorized agent.

g) All fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment shall be transported and stored as per the manufacturer’s specifications. 

h) No fall prevention and/or fall arrest equipment may be painted and/or defaced or modified in any way without the prior approval of a competent person.

Medical fitness
a) “Working at height” shall be indicated on all job specifications of employees expected to work at height and shall be taken into account in all medical assessments/ surveillances.

b) It is a prerequisite for workers to be medically  fit to work safely in a fall risk position or such similar environment, and as proof thereof, those workers shall be in possession of a medical certificate of fitness. 

c) Where applicable, medical certificates shall indicate any restrictions and/or cautions with respect to a person’s ability to work at heights.  This may be in the form of a recommendation or an absolute prohibition.

d) Subject to the medical certificate, the supervisor’s on-the-job assessment, and the working at heights risk assessment, workers may be prohibited from working at heights on the following grounds:

  • Underlying medical and psychological conditions (for example, vertigo, epilepsy, partial physical disability, etc.).
  • Medication (acute and/or chronic).
  • Uncontrollable chronic medical conditions (for example, diabetes, hypertension, etc.).
  • Temporary emotional distress.
  • Any psychiatric and cognitive impairment.
  • Any disorder that has a bearing on safety of self and others.

Use of ladders

Ladders should:

  • not be used unless constructed according to applicable safety standards;
  • be constructed of sound material;
  • be suitable for the purpose;
  • be fitted with non-skid devices;
  • be lashed, held or secured while being used;
  • have correctly fastened rungs (no nails, screws);
  • have no damaged stiles or rungs;
  • not be longer than 9 m when resting against an object;
  • not be joined together without an inspector's permission.

Wooden ladders must be constructed of straight grain wood:

  • the grain must run the length of the stiles and rungs;
  • the wood must be free from defects;
  • not be painted or covered.
  • When working from a ladder:
  • prevent articles from falling off;
  • use suitable sheaths or receptacles for hand tools.
  • Factors contributing to falls:

Factors contributing to falls from ladders include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, the condition of the ladder (worn or damaged), the user's age or physical condition, or both, and the user's footwear. 

Although the user's weight or size typically does not increase the likelihood of a fall, improper climbing posture creates user clumsiness and may cause falls. 

Reduce your chances of falling during the climb by:

  • ensuring that where ladders are not fixed, secured, or lasted, that it is held and secured by a second person.
  • wearing slip-resistant shoes with heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue;
  • cleaning the soles of shoes to maximize traction;
  • using a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that the climbers hands are free when climbing;
  • climbing slowly and deliberately while avoiding sudden movements;
  • never attempting to move a ladder while standing on it;
  • keeping the center of your belt buckle (stomach) between the ladder side rails when climbing and while working.  Do not overreach or lean while working so that you don't fall off the ladder sideways or pull the ladder over sideways while standing on it.

Ladder Inspections

Monthly inspections:
Ladders will be inspected on a monthly basis by the appointed ladder inspector(s). 
All ladders would be numbered and each ladder will have a ladder register.

Inspections before the use of a ladder:

Before the use of a ladder the user shall inspect upon receipt and before each use. 
Never climb a damaged, bent or broken ladder: all working parts must be in good working order.
Make sure that the ladder is in a good condition.

Conditions
Keep ladder clean, free from grease, oil, mud, snow, wet paint and other slippery material. Keep your shoes clean. Leather soles should not be used.
Never make temporary repairs of damaged or missing parts.

Replacement of ladders
Immediately replace a ladder if damaged, worn or if exposed to fire or chemical corrosion.

General precautions before each use
Read the instructions printed on the ladder and follow them.
Ladders are designed for one person.    Never leave a ladder set up and unattended. 
Special care should be taken to keep children away from all ladders.
If you anticipate the use of chemicals or other possibly corrosive materials, the ladder manufacturer should be consulted before use.
If you are in poor health, subject to fainting spells, have a physical handicap that would impair your climbing ability, or if you are under the influence of any drug or alcohol (including legal drugs that may cause drowsiness), you should not use a ladder. 
Do not use in high winds or during a storm.
Stay focused on safety whenever you are on the ladder, and keep your body weight between the rails.

Proper care and storage of ladders
Store ladders in a safe, dry place.
Hang ladders on racks.
Properly secure and support ladders while in transit.
Keep ladders clean and free of foreign materials.
Never store materials on ladders. 

Step ladders: Proper set up

  • DANGER! Metal Conducts Electricity! 
  • Do not let ladders of any material come in contact with live electrical wires.
  • Make sure ladder is fully open, spreaders secure, and pail shelf in position.
  • Place on firm level surface with a secure footing. 
  • Do not use on slippery surfaces. Do not place on boxes, unstable bases or scaffolds to gain additional height. 
  • Do not place in front of door opening toward ladder.

Proper climbing and use
Face ladder when climbing up or down; keep body centered between side rails.
Maintain a firm grip. Use both hands in climbing
Never climb a ladder from the side unless ladder is secured against side-wise motion, or climb from one ladder to another.
Do not overreach; move ladder when needed.
Do not "walk" or "jog" ladder when standing on it.
Do not stand, climb or sit on ladder top, pail shelf, braces, or back section.
Do not overload. Ladders are meant for one person. 
Keep ladder close to work; avoid pushing or pulling off to the side of ladders.

The three point-of-contact climb
When climbing a ladder, it is safest to utilize Three Points-of-Contact because it minimizes the chances of slipping and falling from the ladder.  

At all times during ascent, descent, and working, the climber must face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder steps, rungs and/or side rails. 

In this way, the climber is not likely to become unstable in the event one limb slips during the climb.  
It is important to note that the climber must not carry any objects in either hand that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. 

Otherwise, Three Points-of-Contact with the ladder cannot be adequately maintained and the chance of falling is increased in the event a hand or foot slip occurs.