Working at height: a life-saving checklist

on 17 March, 2014

The majority of workplace accidents can be attributed to human error. Aiming to achieve zero breaches of safety, Roger Hastie of Deborah Services shares lessons on how best to work at height.

1. Working safely is the only option. When you feel safe, you work faster and better. For us, safety is a value, not a priority, because priorities change and values don’t.

2. Integrate. World-class organisations have one policy governing every aspect of health, safety, environment, quality and training policies and procedures. Our Help Eliminate All Risks Today (HEART) programme, for example, orchestrates all our efforts and we establish annual targets and review monthly.

3. Track your team’s positive and negative behaviours. What gets measured gets done. Load events into a database to spot the trends, learn from questionable activities and share the lessons with your team. This allows you to intervene and make the workplace safer for everyone.

4. Assess the risk ahead of the task. Risk Assessment and Method Statements (RAMS) document risks and how they’re mitigated. Similarly, a Point Of Work Assessment (POWA) should be undertaken by frontline operatives just before the job starts. Use a Safe Performance Self-Assessment (SPSA) form to ensure those doing the job know and can own the risks.

5. Ensure you’re on the latest edition. For instance, best practice in scaffolding is governed by SG4, devised by the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC).

6. Procure through one supplier. Keep all the responsibility in one camp and ensure all equipment meets both British and European standards. It makes good commercial sense to procure from the most ethical and sustainable sources, because they’re more likely to be in business in decades to come.

7. Check qualifications are valid. You can have what seems to be the best kit in the world, but it can be dangerous if you don’t know how to put it up properly. Ensure qualifications are legitimate and pertain to that activity.

8. Engrain the need to train. Whether it’s in a classroom or a practical, get training done by those who are qualified, dedicated to the discipline and understand your culture, because it will then dovetail with your policies and procedures. Use every working at height safety training opportunity to cement lessons in other areas such as quality and environment. Refresh every three years.

9. Communication is crucial. Interpersonal skills are essential for safety leaders who are training frontline supervisors – the safety ‘keystones’.

10. Collaborate. Work as closely with your suppliers as you do with your customers. There’s plenty of support available from your supply chain to help keep your customers safe when working at height, such as training, webinars, builders’ breakfasts, checklists and leaflets.

Roger Hastie is director of Deborah Services, supplier of a broad spectrum of equipment and disciplines involving working at height.

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