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Elevated safety issue

Work at height needs attention.

There are now more calls than ever for safety to become an integral part of the construction industry’s DNA.

This is a worthy aim without doubt, and one that will require many areas to be addressed more closely, whether it’s objects dropped from height and the physical nature of much construction work, through to less immediately obvious areas such as difficulties caused by the weather or pressures created by the need to meet tight construction schedules.

Prominent among these is the variety of different standards, practices and attitudes that exist in relation to working at height.

Common situation

Despite the fact that working at height is a common, everyday situation, the consequences that can result if it is not managed properly can be dramatic. Today more than ever, different markets are converging rapidly and working to create an increasingly universal set of general safety standards. The same process needs to take place for safety issues that relate specifically to working at height.

If the problem is to be tackled effectively, it is essential that everyone involved comes to clearly understand the many issues which surround working at height. Only once that is achieved can they take the most appropriate steps to ensure effective site safety for those involved. A standardised approach would go a long way to helping achieve this.

While much work has already been done on this subject, there is still plenty more progress to be made - a need that is perhaps highlighted by the task of specifying the most appropriate access equipment for a work at height situation.

Different types of equipment

With so many different types of scaffolding, mast climbing work platforms, suspended access and mechanical access options available, this selection process can seem complex and overwhelming. However a set of standardised guidelines that take into account the strengths and weaknesses of each system in relation to the type of project in hand would simplify the process considerably and improve the likelihood of achieving the safest possible solution.

This is, of course, only one subject that needs to be examined, as working at height is a complex issue which covers many different and detailed areas. Ideally, any common standards would need to give guidance on everything from the correct use of personal and collective fall prevention equipment through to explanations of the variations in safety requirements which exist between different European markets.

Ever increasing safety standards

We should allow the undoubted need for ever-increasing safety standards to drive us forward and help us create a set of commonly accepted standards, guidelines and best practice methods that will deliver real benefits to everyone involved.

Harsco Infrastructure has set out its current thinking and advice on the subject of working at height in its recently updated Guide to Working at Height. The guide can never be considered the finished article, but serves to set out the current thinking and methods whilst being kept under continuous review.

  • Tony Horsfall is Harsco Infrastructure’s director of safety, health, environment and quality

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