Work at height carries risks when it is not done safely. In an ideal situation we should avoid it altogether, but this is not always possible. When working at height (in the Netherlands) we follow the Dutch legislation.
We speak of working at height if the height is more than 2.5 meters. When there is no other option, we investigate which work method is safest and most practical. The Dutch legislation states that work may only be carried out from a safe location, such as scaffolding, a mobile elevating work platform or a platform.
If this is not feasible, the RI&E (risk inventory & evaluation) will decide which working method is most suitable. In a RI&E all potential risks of the various working methods at height are identified. The method with the lowest risk is chosen.
Various methods are used to reach a work location at height. The most common methods are scaffolding, aerial work platforms and rope access. All three methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Scaffolding is ideal for reaching a large work area when working for a long time. Mobile elevating platforms can be used to move around quickly and easily.
But there are work locations where a scaffolding and a mobile elevating platforms are not possible or not safest. Think of confined spaces, locations above water or sloping roofs. In these cases rope access offers the solution. With rope techniques and safety materials we make difficult to reach locations accessible. These rope techniques enable us to be on location quickly and safely, to climb everywhere and to work efficiently. Rope access is a recognized safe method of work at height according to the Dutch health and safety legislation, if carried out according to IRATA guidelines.
Once the working method has been chosen, various control measures are taken to limit the risk of falling and the safety of the environment. We distinguish between collective and personal measures.
Collective measures ensure that everyone is protected from the danger at the same time. Examples are the installation of temporary edge protection or a permanent cage ladder.
When collective measures are not sufficient, the danger of falling can also be minimized with personal measures. This can be done with workplace restrictions that make it impossible to make a fall. Or with fall protection, which makes the effect of the fall as small as possible.
When working at height, we take into account a variety of factors. In addition to the risk of falling, there is also a risk to the environment. Think, for example, of falling objects. Various control measures exist to prevent this. One example is the proper cordoning off of the work area. Because working at height is not always visible. Another example is the use of lanyards, to which material is attached to prevent falling objects.
Once at the work site, it is important that everyone knows exactly what needs to be done. This is discussed during the toolbox talk. The supervisor discusses the day’s work, the hazards involved and assigns the tasks.
Just before work begins, one last check is done. An LMRA, Last Moment Risk Analysis. This is a checklist with questions such as ‘Am I familiar with the risks of the work?’ and ‘Am I using the right PPE?’. Only if everyone answers all questions with YES, the work may start.
Of course, there are more risks of working at height and there are more measures to be taken to carry out the work safely. To make employees aware of these risks, we organize monthly training courses. During this training we cover a broader range of topics in order to convey the basic knowledge of working safely at height. Topics include: how to calculate the fall factor, what to do in case of an emergency and the importance of a toolbox.
In addition to this training for employees, we also offer a training course for operational managers. As an operational manager, good preparation is essential. That is why, in addition to the basic knowledge, we also focus on making risk assessments and rescue plans.
Before you start working at height, we’ll give you a few tips on how to get started safely: