OBUHSN-42 Issue 01 April 2009

Working at heights

Introduction

  1. This Health and Safety Notice should be read and understood by all staff of Oxford Brookes University. Where appropriate it should also be brought to the attention of the student body.

    Under the Work at Heights Regulations, Deans of Faculty and Directors of Directorates, as employers, have a duty to control work at height, in which the fall of a person, or items falling onto a person may cause injury.

Definition of ‘At height’

  1. A place is ‘at height’ if a person could be injured by falling from it, even if it is at or below ground level. For example a person standing at ground level could sustain an injury if they were to fall into a trench. The regulations do not designate a minimum height at which they apply, but refer to any height at which a fall may cause an injury.

Duties

  1. The duty holders must:
  • avoid work at height whenever possible. For example, if possible, use should be made of methods where the person will remain at ground level and appropriate extendable tools be utilised to reach high level workplaces;
  • when working at height can not be avoided, make use of work equipment or other measures to prevent falls, for example by using a scaffold tower with edge protection;
  • where the risk of a fall cannot eliminated, make use of work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, for example by using appropriately set out nets and fall arrest systems.
  • Preference should always be made of collective and passive protection methods rather than individual methods. Edge protection of platforms or the deployment of nets should have priority over personal fall protection equipment. See section 14 for further details regarding fall arrest equipment.

Risk assessments

  1. Before work at height begins, a risk assessment must be carried out and appropriate measures put in place in order to reduce the risk of injury to the person(s) working at height or to other persons in the vicinity. Methods for caring out risk assessments are given in the University Health and Safety Notice OBUHSN-36
  • When carrying out a risk assessment, consideration should be given to the following;
  • the training, the instruction given to and the competence of the person(s) who will carry out the work at height;
  • the type of equipment to be used, such as ladders or scaffolding to reach the high level. See section 6 below for guidance in the selection and use of such equipment;
  • the risk of a person falling. This must include the risk a person falling through a structure such as a fragile roof or a roof light;
  • the risk of objects falling;
  • the risk of overhead power cables;
  • the weather conditions;
  • any other relevant site specific considerations.
  • Having carried out the risk assessment, except in the case of low risk work, a method statement should be drawn up. The method statement, including sketches if necessary, will clarify to all who are carrying out the work how it is to be done safely.

Contractors working at height

  1. Reference should be made to the University Safety Notice,
    OBUHSN-14, Safe Working by Contractors. In the case of a contractor being appointed by the University to work at height, the University’s Contract Administrator must be satisfied with the method statement for the tasks to be carried out and with the competence of those who are to work at height. In certain circumstances a risk assessment may indicate that it is necessary to draw up a Permit to Work.

Selection of equipment to access heights

  1. In order to access the location where work at height is to be carried out, it will often be necessary to make use of equipment such as steps, ladders, scaffolding, or mobile elevating work platforms (MEWP). The equipment which is to be used should be selected and utilised in order to minimise the risk of injury to those working at height or to others in the vicinity of the work. The risk assessment, will form part of the decision making for the equipment selection process. Guidance in the use of this type of equipment is given below.

Appropriate use of Steps and Ladders     

  1. Steps and ladders should only be used where work is for a short duration, for no more than 30 minutes in one location, and is for relatively light work, with loads of no greater than 10kg and in which three points of contact with the ladder can be made at all times.

Pre Use Checks of Steps and Ladders

  1. Steps or ladders may only be used if they have a label which indicates their class. Class 1 (industrial use) steps or ladders for loads (including the weight of the person using the ladder) of up to 130kg, or EN1312 (commercial use) steps or ladders for loads up to 115kg should be used on University business. Class III (domestic use) ladders are prohibited.
  2. Before every use, steps or ladders should be examined to ensure that they are in good condition. Ladders must not be used if they are bent, have missing or damaged feet, have damaged, loose or missing rungs. Stepladders must not be used if the fixings for the locking bars are loose or damaged or if the platform is damaged or does not properly engage. Further guidance of checks to be carried out before using ladders can be found on the HSE website.

Correct Usage of Leaning Ladders

  1. A leaning ladder is in a good position when it
  • Is at an angle of 75° - one unit out for every four units up
  • Will not move at the bottom
  • Stands on a surface that is firm, level, dry, not slippery
  • Rests on a strong upper resting point (not plastic guttering or a window)
  • Has horizontal rungs

When in use

  • Only work on a ladder for a maximum of 15 - 30 minutes at a time
  • Only carry light materials and tools (up to 10 kg)
  • Always grip the ladder when climbing
  • Do not overreach - make sure your belt buckle stays within the stiles
  • Keep both feet on the same rung or step throughout the task
  • Do not work off the top three rungs - this provides a handhold
  • Try to keep three points of contact  with the ladder

Scaffolding, including built scaffold or scaffold towers

  1. Those erecting scaffolding must be fully trained and competent in the erection and operation of the equipment

When intending to use Tower Scaffolding it must be ensured that

  • before work begins a risk assessment has been carried out and appropriate measures are put in place in order to reduce the risk of injury to the person(s) working with the scaffolding or other persons in the neighbourhood. Methods for caring out risk assessments are given in the University Safety Notice OBUHSN-36
  • those erecting and utilising the scaffolding are fully trained, competent and fit to use the equipment
  • the appropriate methods are used for assembling the tower, to minimise the risk of a person falling from the tower whilst it is being erected. Either the ‘advanced guard rail system’ or ‘through the trap’ method should be utilised.
  • stabilisers or outriggers are deployed according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • the equipment has been inspected prior to use and has been maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • the ground conditions are suitable and do not give rise to a risk of the scaffolding becoming unstable or overturning.
  • the work area is free from hazards or obstructions such as passing traffic or live power lines
  • the working platforms are equipped with guardrails at at least 950mm above the platform, with an intermediate guardrail so that the unprotected gap does not exceed 470mm.
  • the working platform is equipped with toe boards to minimise the risk of falling objects.
  • once in erected and before use an inspection reports completed, see 12 below

Detailed guidance for the use of Tower Scaffold may be found in the HSE Information sheet. 

Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWP), including cherry pickers, scissor lifts, vehicle-mounted and self propelled booms.

  1. When intending to use MEWP it must be ensured that
  • before work begins a risk assessment has been carried and appropriate measures are put in place in order to reduce the risk of injury to the person(s) working with the MEWP or other persons in the neighbourhood. Methods for caring out risk assessments are given in the University Safety Notice OBUHSN-36
  • the operators are fully trained, competent and fit to use the equipment, and must hold an IPAF licence appropriate to the type of MEWP in use.
  • that the appropriate MEWP has been selected for the task, if necessary consult with the hire company or the equipment manufacturer
  • that, in compliance with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) the equipment has been thoroughly inspected by a competent person at least every six months and has been maintained according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  • that the ground conditions are suitable and do not give rise to a risk of the MEWP becoming unstable or overturning.
  • that the work area is free from hazards or obstructions such as passing traffic, steelwork, tree branches or live power lines
  • suitable safety harnesses with fixed lanyard restraints are utilised to prevent a person falling from the basket.
  • once in place and before use an inspection reports completed, see 12 below

Inspections of Scaffold Towers and MEWP prior to use

  1. To comply with the Work at Height Regulations, inspections of scaffolds and other work platforms for construction work over two meters high, including tower scaffolds and MEWP must be carried out by a competent person, with appropriate experience, knowledge and qualification. When put in place by University personnel, the inspections will be made by competent University staff. The inspection should be carried out before first use, after substantial alteration, following events, such as high winds likely to have affected stability and at regular intervals not exceeding seven days.
  2. An example of the type of inspection report which should be used for scaffolds is given in Appendix 1 and for MEWP is given in Appendix 2.

    The report should be completed before the end of the working period and retained for a period of at least three months.

    More details about the inspection process and reports can be found in the HSE information sheet

Periodic Inspections of Equipment for Working at Height

  1. The University has systems in place to have ladders, scaffold towers, MEWP, and lifting equipment assessed by professional inspectors on a regular basis, in order to determine their suitability for use. Dean of Faculty and Directors of Directorates must ensure that these procedures are followed for the equipment within their Faculties or Directorates.
  2. The procedure for utilising these processes can be found in Appendix 3.

Fall arrest equipment

  1. If providing working platforms or edge protection is not possible or reasonably practical, alternative methods will need to be utilised to minimise the risk of falls.
  2. If collective fall arrest systems, such as nets, are to be used to minimise the distance of fall, they must be installed by competent riggers, as close as possible below the work area.

    Personal fall protection equipment, such as safety harnesses should only be used when collective preventative measures, such as barriers, air bags or safety nets are not practical.

    Those who intend to use safety harnesses must:

  • be competent to check their equipment for defects and do this before every use;
  • be suitably trained and assessed for competency in the use of the equipment
  • select the appropriate fall protection systems and equipment for the particular application;
  • have read and understood the product information before using the equipment;
  • have checked that the components in the system are compatible.
  • When fall arrest equipment is to be utilised a robust system must be in place to ensure that a person can be promptly and safely rescued from the suspended position should they fall.

    Guidance in the use of personal fall protection equipment can be found in the HSE guidance Selecting, Using and Maintaining Personal Fall Protection Equipment 

Reference documents

  1. The Health and Safety Executive have produced a number of useful documents in relation to working at height, these include the following;

Appendices

Appendix 1 Working at heights inspection report

Appendix 2 Mobile elevating work platforms checklist

Appendix 3 Periodic inspections of equipment for working at height