Managing the Risks when Working at Height
Work at height is almost impossible to avoid for those who work in the roofing sector here in the UK – after all, roofing by its very nature involves working higher than can be reached without some sort of access equipment. Whatever equipment is chosen (and each job needs to be assessed carefully to determine the specific type of access equipment necessary to complete the tasks at hand), the hazards need to be assessed by carrying out a risk assessment. This needs to be done for each individual job and, despite the fact that these assessments may be carried out on a regular basis, there is no room for the type of complacency that comes with familiarity when it comes to work at height.
Despite the stringent legislation in place to ensure that safety is increased when working at height, it’s vital to ensure that we always meet (or surpass) these standards and that equipment and procedures undergo constant review to ensure maximum protection from falls and falling objects for the worker and others on site. Once a risk assessment has been carried out (which includes whether the work needs to be done at that height, the duration and frequency of the job, and the condition of the surface being worked on), the correct PPE, protective and access equipment should be chosen to reduce the dangers involved. The weather, the type of roof and the work required will impact on the equipment needed to ensure safety and whichever equipment is chosen, it should be maintained and checked on a regular basis.
Pitched or sloping roofs present a challenge when it comes to maintaining stability and the risk of slipping. Scaffolding, work platforms, towers, lifting equipment and PPE (such as harnesses) may be needed for access whilst the transportation of materials and mortar using a hoist system may be necessary too.
Flat roofs present a different type of danger – the unprotected edges. Unless workers and equipment are properly secured, there is a risk of falling. Guard rails and rooftop demarcation barriers may provide an effective solution in such cases and ladders should only be used for short-duration, low-risk work.
Fragile roofs are commonly found on commercial and industrial buildings and these are not often structurally reliable to withstand the weight of a worker and the equipment they may be carrying. The risk of falling through the roof are high and access equipment should include a stable platform on which to work. Access to work areas can be made safer by including a suitable roof walker system to provide workers with access.
Falling objects present a risk to those working below the roof so it’s vital to ensure that no tools or materials are thrown of tipped from height, meaning that all such materials should be stored in a manner that prevents this from happening. Using tool tethers will help to ensure that tools remain on the roof and it’s essential to remain vigilant to ensure that materials being used to carry out the work are secured to prevent slips and falls.