When you are the Building Owner or Manager (PCBU - Person in Charge of Building or Undertaking) it is your responsibility to ensure "as far as reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking"*.
Regardless of the size or amount of the buildings under your control when people conduct work at height the dangers are the same, and the potential for injury or death is just as high.
Sayfa's 7 Point Checklist
1. Learn the Hierarchy of Controls for Working at Height
When work at height is being carried out, it is important to ensure that appropriate measures and controls have been put in place in accordance with the particular location and situation. The Hierarchy of Controls for Working at Heights is as follows:
Eliminate the hazard. Undertake the work from ground level or from a solid construction. Redesign should be considered to eliminate the need for working at height.
Change the control measure to undertake the work from a safe zone. Relocation of equipment requiring maintenance should be considered to eliminate the requirement for the operator to enter the danger zone.
Separate the operator from the hazard by means of passive fall protection. A plant screen, barrier or guardrail will effectively prevent a fall whilst maintenance is being undertaken.
Manage the risk using an engineered control. Work undertaken using fall arrest systems requires operator training but it will prevent a fall from occurring when used correctly.
Control the risk using procedure. Control the environment using signage, demarcation line marking and operational instructions.
It is important to note that the level of Hierarchy of Control is equivalent to the risk of injury, as a result of operator incompetence. A lesser control measure requires greater skill of the operator and is therefore the least preferred.
For more information on the Hierarchy of Controls and the key considerations for fall protection equipment, read our whitepaper "Height Safety - It's Everyone's Business".
2. Keep up to date with Industry Acts, Codes, Standards and Guidelines.
Regulations change and it is difficult to be constantly aware of the latest standards and guidelines. It is very common for industry bodies to visit workplaces and simply saying you weren't aware of the requirements will not make you any less culpable.
To ensure you are on top of all the legislation bookmark our Industry Information page for easy reference.
3. Plan the work and work the plan
Preparation is essential when work is being undertaken at height. What is the activity, who is performing it and how will you ensure the safety of personnel are all questions that must be answered prior to the work being commenced. A risk assessment must be carried out to establish how the site and work areas will be accessed, the condition of equipment, training requirements of personnel, identifiable risks or hazards and general conditions of the work area. This will identify any risks that may be present and the actions that will need to be implemented to control, reduce or eliminate them.
As work at height is classed high risk, a SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement) must be completed prior to beginning this type of activity. Further information on SWMS and a copy of a SWMS template is located here.
4. Hold toolbox meetings on a regular basis.
Toolbox meetings, although not a requirement of WHS legislation, are extremely important to keep workers informed of any hazards, procedural changes or updates to machinery within the workplace. A lengthy talk is not necessary, in fact toolbox meetings may be quite brief, but their value in providing information to the team can be essential. They not only function as a system for alerting risks to workers, but can also be an excellent time to discuss any concerns members of the team may have.
Worksafe Queensland's template can provide assistance in the record keeping process of these meetings.
5. Do not presume that all your workers are correctly trained and supervised.
A large majority of workplace accidents are caused by bad judgement and human error that can be linked back to a lack of training. Training of personnel in the correct use of safety equipment is essential when working at height to ensure that they are operating the systems in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. As part of your checklist workers must provide proof of their relevant industry qualifications and be competent in the work they are about to undertake.
Our article, "Are all your workers competently trained", gives guidance on what needs to be done to provide your workers with the best assistance to prevent injuries. Young and inexperienced workers are especially vulnerable to injury and require as much instruction and supervision as possible.
The provision of instruction manuals gives workers the opportunity to properly understand the functionality of the equipment. These should be placed near the equipment to ensure easy accessibility.
6. Conduct an audit on your systems and equipment now.
How long has it been since you checked your roof access and height safety equipment? Do you know what systems are installed and when they were last certified?
It is most important that you are aware of what is in place so that you can be sure you are offering the correct protection for any personnel working at height on your building. What was a compliant system 10 years ago may not meet the requirements or standards of today. Qualified height safety inspectors can assist in audits and will be able to offer workable solutions should your systems need upgrading or additional protection be required.
7. Review your working at height procedures and practices.
Staying on top of procedures throughout the workplace can be difficult. Maintaining these standards can be just as hard. A thorough review of your working at height practices should be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that things are not slipping through the holes.
To assist you in keeping compliant we have designed the Height Safety Health Check which systematically goes through your processes and analyses if you are meeting your requirements according to industry Acts, Codes and Standards. Why not take the test now?
While there are other important requirements to be met when addressing the risks for personnel carrying out work at height on your buildings, we hope the above checklist assists you with your compliance and workplace safety.
For further assistance download our Working At Heights Manual.
Sayfa's Working at Heights Manual provides additional details for employers and workers on the measures that need to be in place to ensure safety when working at height. You will find further information on SWMS, Risk Assessments, Design Criteria as well as a Working At Heights Checklist and other valuable resources.