Working at height is any work where someone could fall from one level to another. It is inherently hazardous and it is up to employers and mangers to ensure that the appropriate precautions have been taken to protect workers from harm. That means that you need to carry out a risk assessment. Here are five important questions that you need to answer in order to assess the risk of working at height.

Who could be injured by the work at height?

Firstly, you need to understand exactly who is at risk from working at height – this is not always obvious. Clearly workers who could fall and injure themselves are the most at risk but if they are working with tools (or anything that can be dropped) it should be recognised that people below them are at risk too. It should be noted that the people below could include members of the public as well as other workers. Members of the public may be at even more risk as they won’t be wearing hardhats, so you need to make especially sure you have precautions in place to deal with this risk.

Are the workers competent and supervised?

You need to be sure that the workers who are being placed in this position have suitable experience and knowledge to carry out the work. While in many cases there is no specific training required to work at height, it will need to come down to a judgement on whether a worker has the competence to be in this position. Also remember that due to the dangers of this kind of work, it should be supervised at all times. There should never be a point where an individual is working entirely alone.

Is the equipment suitably maintained?

Whether you are working with a ladder, scaffold tower or platform, it’s important to ensure that it is properly maintained and safe to use. Equipment that has become heavily worn can be extremely unsafe and before it gets to this stage you should repair or replace it. Before each use you should inspect your ladder or tower to ensure that workers will be safe using it.

Is there a safer way to get the task done?

It is sometimes that case that work at height is undertaken without consider other, safer options to get the same tasks done. As an example, take the idea of cleaning windows on a high floor. You might come up with a plan to use a ladder in order to get up to the height and clean. But it may be the case that there is no need to do this. It may be possible and even preferable to clean the windows from the inside of the building. If the windows open it is possible to get the cleaning done internally without anyone having to take the risk of working on the ladder.

This won’t be possible in every example, but it’s always a good idea to consider whether there are potential alternatives to putting workers in precarious positions.

Is your equipment suitable for the task?

Also remember that you need to make sure you are using the right equipment for the job. It may be the case that the ladder you have is not quite high enough for the job, or alternatively that, in this situation, a scaffold tower would provide a far safer environment. No matter what, you focus needs to be on minimising risk, even if that means you need to purchase new equipment.