Working at height refers to any work performed above or below ground level where an employee could be at risk of injury or death in the event of a fall. Whether employees work at height every day or occasionally, ensuring work at height safety should always be the top priority. A small mistake, lack of proper equipment, or negligence can turn a routine task into a potentially fatal danger. Within the scope of workplace injury prevention, all necessary measures must be taken to ensure the safety of employees whenever they are exposed to fall hazards. Employers can implement simple and practical measures to ensure work at height safety.

Working at height remains one of the primary causes of serious injuries and fatalities, especially within the construction sector. Common incidents include falling from ladders and moving across fragile surfaces. In this article, we will briefly examine the 10 common hazards associated with work at height.

What is Working at Height?

Although when people think of working at height, they often imagine working at significant heights like cranes, boom lifts, and scaffolds, working at height actually refers to any work at a height where a person could potentially fall and injure themselves. A ladder, roof edge, excavation area on a job site, and even a loading ramp can all be considered working at height.

How to Minimise the Risks of Working at Height?

Ensuring work at height safety starts with proper training of the employees. It’s important to make sure that each employee is trained, experienced, and equipped with the necessary skills for working at height.

Another way to mitigate the risks associated with working at height is to simply avoid it whenever possible. Look for opportunities to minimize the number of tasks that require work at height safety.

It’s also important to ensure that employees are using the provided equipment correctly to make working at height safe.

Familiarity with the work site is also a crucial aspect of work at height safety. Understanding the work site is essential for the safety of your workers and the workplace and to avoid unexpected accidents.

Working At Height Hazards and Control Measures

Working at height is risky and dangerous. Ensuring work at height safety starts with identify potential risks that could pose dangers and take appropriate precautions. It’s very crucial. Below, we briefly discussed the 10 most common hazards related to working at height:

1. Falls from Heights

Falls from heights are the most common causes of accidents in the construction industry, leading to fatalities and serious injuries. Fall from height accidents can take different forms, including falls from fragile surfaces, falls from ladders, scaffolds, roofs, or elevated work platforms, and falls into pits or maintenance shafts.

The primary goal of protective measures should be to prevent falls. This can be achieved through measures like guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall protection equipment. Providing working at height training to employees is also essential.

2. Unstable Working Surfaces

The primary factor that increases the risks of slipping, tripping, stumbling, and falling while working at heights is uneven, sloping, slippery, and similar surfaces. Conditions such as rain, ice, snow, as well as debris or rubble, structural defects, or the nature of the surface material can result in unstable surfaces.

To minimize the risks arising from unstable surfaces and ensuring work at height, it’s important to regularly inspect and clean surfaces, use non-slip materials in hazardous areas, provide workers with appropriate footwear, use the right equipment, and be mindful of weather conditions.

3. Inadequate Edge Protection

Especially when working on elevated surfaces like roofs, platforms, and other elevated work areas, or near excavation sites, edge protection must be in place. Insufficient or absent edge protection significantly increases the risk of falling from heights. To prevent this and ensuring work at height, measures such as guardrails, edge barriers, safety nets, fall prevention systems, and the like can be implemented.

4. Falling Objects

Falling objects pose a serious danger not only to workers at height but also to those below, potentially causing severe injuries or even fatalities.

To mitigate the hazards arising from falling objects, systems such as edge barriers, nets or screens, safety ropes can be used. Additionally, measures can be taken such as workers using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), securing tools, providing training to employees, and restricting access to areas where objects have a risk of falling.

5. Scaffolding Collapse

In construction sites, scaffolds, which are commonly used for tasks requiring work at height, can pose a significant risk of collapse, leading to severe injuries or fatalities, when improperly erected, overloaded, with damaged/broken components, or due to strong winds.

To reduce the risk of scaffold collapse, measures such as regular inspection and maintenance, proper installation, avoiding overloading, and appropriate anchoring can be taken.

6. Failure of Lifting Equipment

Lifting equipment failure can result from factors such as overloading, mechanical breakdowns, inadequate maintenance, incorrect usage, or environmental influences. Lifting equipment failures can lead to serious injuries such as falls, pinching, or crushing and can jeopardize work at height safety.

Measures such as preventive maintenance, safe operation and attention to load limits can be taken. It is also important to be aware of the environment and train workers on emergency procedures.

7. Poor Weather Conditions

Poor weather conditions can make working at height even more dangerous. Rain, snow, or ice can create slippery surfaces, strong winds can cause materials to be blown away and structures to collapse. Extreme hot or cold weather can negatively impact worker health.

To mitigate the risks arising from adverse weather conditions, measures like selecting appropriate clothing, postponing tasks, regular inspection of work surfaces, and providing protection against weather elements can be taken. Continuously monitoring weather reports and providing training to workers are also effective.

8. Lack of Training

Failure to provide necessary training significantly increases the risk of accidents when working at height. Not knowing potential risks, how to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or emergency procedures can invite accidents. The only way to prevent this is by providing employees with sufficient and essential training.

9. Improper Use of Equipment

Using equipment for purposes other than its intended use, not using it correctly, or neglecting equipment maintenance are examples of inappropriate equipment use. Such situations are factors that jeopardize work at height safety.

To mitigate the risks associated with inappropriate equipment use, you can reduce the risks stemming from improper equipment use by conducting regular inspections and checks, promoting safe usage, creating clear instructions and guidelines, providing appropriate equipment, and offering necessary training.

10. Lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential for the safety of workers at height. The use of appropriate PPE reduces the risk of injuries from falls, falling objects, and other hazards.

To minimize the risks associated with the lack of PPE and ensuring work at height, measures can be taken such as providing appropriate PPE, conducting regular maintenance and inspections, enforcing mandatory PPE usage, and ensuring the use of PPE suitable for the job.

Okan Ergin

Okan Ergin

Okan Ergin has been working as the General Coordinator at Ergin Makina since 2005.