Competence when Working at Height
When employing somebody to work at height, it is essential that you ensure that they are competent so today, we’re going to take a look at what exactly competency means and how you can determine whether a person is competent to carry out the work or not. Competency is defined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as “a combination of the experience, knowledge and appropriate qualifications that enables a worker to identify both the risks arising from a situation and the measures needed to deal with them”. The HSE goes on to state that those working at height must be trained in the selected system of work and any particular work equipment chosen. For example, if a MEWP is selected, the operator must be trained in its use or if nets are used, the net riggers must be trained to erect them safely.
Here are some tips that will help to ensure competency:
- Select companies that are members of associations or institutes or affiliated to recognised industry organisations. These companies will be regularly kept up to date by the organisation or group on any vital industry issues and they will receive updates on changes to legislation and standards that relate to their industry, particularly the services and products.
- Make sure that the company is registered with a recognised assessment scheme (such as CHAS, Constructiononline and/or SAFEcontractor. Every aspect of a registered company’s performance is scrutinised, including staff professionalism, training, products and services, along with health and safety records and environmental impact.
- Check that each of the workers has received individual training and that those carrying out the work have the appropriate health and safety training that is up to date. This training may include training on Work at Height, Personal Protective Equipment, Ladders, Rescue, MEWPs, PASMA, First Aid, Asbestos Awareness, COSHH, Risk Assessor. Refresher training should be undertaken at least every three years to stay current.
- Make sure that you ask to see evidence of training in the shape of training certificates and any relevant industry card schemes such as CSCS or CCNSG before allowing any workers to carry out work on your premises – it is your responsibility to ensure this.
- If you become concerned about the competency of any of the workers or about a contractor’s practices at any point, stop the work and seek professional advice immediately. While this may delay the proceedings and take extra effort on your behalf, ensuring compliance and competency in this way can save you from some serious fines and prosecution in the long run.
Working at height is a specialised business and it’s essential that you commission a competent company to carry out the work and that a competent person assess the risks so that the work can be carried out safely. Don’t automatically assume that somebody is capable and competent because they’ve never had an accident – this could be down to luck rather than competency.