The risks and incidents associated with working at height can be reduced if basic precautions are taken, says cleaning specialist Ultra High Level MD and Institute for Work at Height director Rob Urquhart.
“Internationally, falls account for just more than 40% of work-related incidents. Many people think these falls occur from very high areas, when in fact, many occur from low levels such as a stepladder.”
To mitigate this challenge, various access methods that always prioritise safety – rather than costs and client requirements, such as time period for completion, public access and working hours – are to be used, Urquhart notes. Critical basics for working at height include proper planning and documentation, a detailed risk assessment and staff who are fully trained and competent.
Weather – such as wind, thunderstorms, rain, cold (when working night shifts) and heat – also need to be considered in relation to safety. For example, all work at height during strong winds, regardless of which access equipment is being used, must be stopped, he states.
Therefore, Ultra High Level has measures in place to handle extreme weather when working at height.
“In extremely cold weather, the correct personal protective equipment is used, and work breaks – at least every hour – need to be factored into a project. In extreme heat, our staff drink a beverage containing salt and glucose to keep them hydrated.”
Urquhart mentions that deciding on which equipment to use, what is suitable for the site and determining the risk are vital. “On some sites, we had to post security around the work area, as some members of the public ignored warning signs, danger tapes and quite happily walked underneath the work area.”
He points out that, if all parties adhere to the rules, working at height can be done safely without incident or injury.
In addition to providing its services for clients on a daily basis, Ultra High Level has been involved in projects for mining company Anglo American’s offices in Marshall street, in Johannesburg; the company has also worked on all the Gautrain stations, and the Potchefstroom campus of North-West University.