The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Hierarchy of Control for Work at Height

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Working at height is one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries.

Falls from ladders and through fragile roofs are all too common.  

Work at height means work in any place, including at or below ground level, where a person could fall a distance liable to cause injury.

But employers and individuals can take simple, practical measures to reduce the risk of falling while working at height.

Employers must make sure that all work at height is properly planned, supervised and carried out by people who are competent.

This means workers need the skill, knowledge, and experience to work up high.

This must include the use of the right type of equipment for work at height.

To prevent or minimize risk when planning for work at height, consider what needs to be done and take a sensible, risk-based approach to identify suitable precautions.

At the Risk Tool Box, we promotes the use of the hierarchy of control to minimize the risk of a falling.

The hierarchy should be followed systematically and only when one level is not reasonably practicable should the next level be considered.

If at all possible, start out by avoiding work at height so as to eliminate the hazard.

If possible, work from the ground or partly from the ground.

 

If work at height cannot be avoided, use appropriately engineered equipment to minimize the risk of a fall occurring; the distance a person could fall; or the consequences of a fall if one occurs.

 Engineered controls include scaffolds, edge-protection, nets, soft landing systems, reach-poles, systems to lower objects (e.g. lights) to the ground, and measures that protect the individual.

Always make sure the surface/access equipment in use is stable and strong enough to support the worker’s weight and that of any equipment.

Also think about procedures and other "administrative" controls.

Can workers get safely to and from where they want to work at height?

Have you thought about emergency evacuation and rescue procedures?

Is the equipment used for work at height well maintained and inspected regularly?

And remember...

Don’t overload ladders;

Don't overreach on ladders or stepladders;

Don't use ladders or stepladders if the nature of the work is deemed to be ‘heavy’ or if the task will take longer than thirty minutes or so to complete;

Don't use ladders if workers cannot maintain three points of contact at the working position; and

Don't let anyone who is not competent (someone who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job) carry out work at height.

And lastly, consider the requirement for personal protective equipment.

Erecting Scaffolds in Public Places

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scaffolding will frequently be erected in public places; for example alongside buildings on busy public high streets.

In such circumstances; where members of the public will be walking, driving or working in close proximity to erected scaffolds, it is vital that professional and safe standards are applied.

The need for such standards was highlighted recently when a self-employed scaffolder was fined after a member of the public suffered head injuries after walking into an unguarded scaffolding pole on a busy public pavement.

Rothesay Sheriff Court heard that Thomas Hannen was contracted by Argyll and Bute Council in January 2011 to erect scaffolding around the disused Royal Hotel on Rothesay seafront, on the Isle of Bute.

Members of the public were not excluded, or in any way actively discouraged, from using the pavement beneath the work area.

Furthermore, no padding or warning tape was wrapped around teh scaffolding to soften any inadvertent contact, make it easily visible or to alert members of the public to its presence.

As a result, a 61-year-old local woman walking underneath the scaffolding, hit her head on the horizontal pole and fractured her left ankle when she fell to the ground.

An investigation  by the UK HSE found that Thomas Hannen failed to:

Have the footpath where he was working temporarily closed;

Failed to complete a risk assessment and did not guard against risk to pedestrians;

Erect a scaffold on a pavement without any diversion in place to exclude members of the public from the work area;

Failed to display any warning signs alerting the public that it was dangerous to be in the work area;

Failed to attach padding or tape around the scaffolding under erection.

These are all serious breaches of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which states:

"It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety".

Dangerous Use of Scaffolding

Graham Marshall - Monday, February 11, 2013

Regulation 6(3) of the UK Work at Height Regulations (2005) states: "Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury".

So why on earth did Stretford Scaffolding Ltd allow its workers onto an unsafe scaffold outside this row of terraced shops in Oldham (UK)?

 

As you can see, neither of the two men on the scaffold are wearing harnesses, despite working up to six metres above the ground.

There are also no guard rails on parts of the scaffold to prevent the workers falling.

Thankfully, this shoddy situation was spotted by a passing inspector from the UK HSE who issued an immediate Prohibition Notice and got the workers out of the danger zone.

Stretford Scaffolding Ltd, was then prosecuted and received a 12-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of £1,849 after admitting a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Control Pinch-point Risk

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pinch-point incidents are common across workshops, in the field, and in office environments. 

So workers should always take care, even if an environment seems safe and hazard-free.

Typical examples of pinch-point incidents include situations where people trap their fingers in door-jams, in desk draws, in car doors, or inside equipment.

Pinch-points are produced when either two moving parts come together (e.g., when rotating gear cogs turn) or when a single moving part comes in close proximity to something solid (e.g., when a moving door slams against a door frame).

In either case, it is the kinetic energy involved with the movement potential of the object in motion that causes harm when a person gets a body part in the way!  Ouch.

Pinch-points most usually impact onto fingers or hands, but any part of the body can be impacted.

This can be particularly dangerous wherever the space between the moving parts is just sufficient to allow a larger body part to be present when the moving parts come together.

The injury resulting from contact with kinetic energy in a pinch-point can be as minor as a small cut to as severe as having your head pulled off! 

So take care around all pinch points.

The common causes of pinch-point incidents include:

●  Putting a body part in the "line of fire" of the energy source;

●  Not paying attention to hand or finger placement;

●  Wearing loose clothing, long hair or jewelry which can be caught in rotating equipment;

●  Failure to use a machine's guard mechanism;

●  Poor hand placement when lifting or moving materials during manual handling;

●  Improper use of a tool; and

●  Failing to de-energize and isolate a machine before performing some kind of inspection or maintenance task.

Because of the risk associated with pinch-points, make sure you use the following controls to stay safe:

●  Always use the Think 6, Look 6 hazard management process to identify and control pinch points in every task;

●  Use handles when opening drawers;

●  Keep fingers out of "line of fire";

●  Verify that guards are in place and used on equipment that requires guarding;

●  For some jobs, ensure you're wearing gloves (of the correct type);

●  Identify pinch-point risks and the correct controls for these on your JSA;

●  Apply lock-out, tag-out procedure for energy isolation before working on the internals of any machine; and

●  Never remove equipment safety devices.

Prevent falls from trucks

Graham Marshall - Sunday, November 04, 2012

Every year, there are thousands of lost-time injuries (LTIs) which occur when drivers operating mobile heavy equipment and trucks fall or slip from their machines when climbing in or out of the cab or working on the tray.

Sprains, strains, fractures and other serious injuries occur when drivers jump down from all types of equipment, dismount from the cab of trucks, or fall from wet, slippery or poorly maintained access equipment.

Some drivers even lose their lives in these senseless accidents.

So, in order to control the risk, drivers of trucks and other large mobile equipment should always maintain three-points of contact when ascending into the cab or dismounting from the machine.

Other tips to control the risk of falling from a truck include:

●  Mount and dismount facing in toward the equipment;

●  Mount or dismount only when the vehicle is stationary;

●  Don't rush;

●  Don't jump off;

●  Get on and off equipment using the safest access point and using equipment installed by the manufacturer;

●  Keep access equipment free of threats that can cause tripping or falling (e.g., ice, mud, debris);

●  Perform regular inspections of equipment and replace any access equipment that is damaged; and

●  Maintain access equipment appropriately.

Power Tool Safety

Graham Marshall - Sunday, April 29, 2012

This safety alert from the good folks at the Marine Safety Forum highlights the criticality of using grinders and other electric power tools which have so-called "dead-man operability".

That simply means that the grinder has an auto-shut off switch which kills the power if the tool is not being actively used.

Dead-man operability on powered tools is vital in situations where a tool could be inadvertently set down or dropped; for example if someone slips or becomes ill (e.g., heart attack).

Any auto-shut off switch on a powered tool is safety-critical equipment and it should never be purposefully over-ridden or removed.

As the example from the MSF shows, a worker using a grinder (without dead-man operability) dropped a grinding machine which continued to rotate and cut into his leg causing a 5cm gash.  Nasty!

You can't fix stupid!

Graham Marshall - Friday, January 27, 2012

Thank God it's Friday!  But it never ceases to amaze me the chances that people will take to get a job done.

Maybe the saying that "you can't fix stupid" is true...

 

The use of ladder like this is just asking for trouble.

To review a JSA with adequate controls for the use of ladders, simply click here.

 

 

 

How many Vicars does it take to change a light globe?

Graham Marshall - Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Question: How many Vicars does it take to replace a light globe.  Answer: None - according to the UK HSE.

It's a very old joke, but not particularly funny for Rector Father Paul Smith of St Mary's Church in Cottingham, Humberside (UK).

Father Smith reckons that UK health and safety rules mean he can no longer use a ladder to change light bulbs in the 30 foot tall ceiling of St Mary's; but must, instead hire-in a temporary scaffold each time a globe blows.

Although we at the Risk Tool Box admit to not having been to St Mary's Church, we'd be surprised if an appropriate risk assessment did not find that at least some of the globes in question could not be accessed by ladder using basic controls to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practical (ALARP).  A generic Job Safety Analysis (JSA) on the use of ladders and trestles can be found here.

We do know that UK HSE Rules do not proscribe the use of ladders and that ladders are considered to be a perfectly adequate and acceptable method of accessing and working in higher-areas - provided that adequate types and numbers of controls are in place.

Maybe Father Smith should contact a local safety specialist to conduct a pro-bono comparative risk assessment on the use of ladders vs temporary scaffolding for changing light globes and we'd be confident that both methods for work at height can be shown to be done safely at the ALARP risk level.  

 

Safety is no accident - work at height

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Over the next few days I'm posting links to some provocative OSHA safety adverts.

They make the good point that accidents don't just happen.

In every workplace, there are always hazards and associated triggering mechanisms that need to be properly identified and controlled.

Click here to see the fourth advert.

To manage hazards and triggers at your work place, always Think 6, Look 6.


Tool Box Talk on Safety Triggers

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Today I'm presenting another free tool box talk about triggering mechanisms.

It's free to use and you'll find it by clicking here.

If it's useful, please leave a comment.

Best regards.


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