Managing risk for jobs at height

Powered access platforms have made working at height much safer but it can still be a risky business and a large number of serious or fatal workplace accidents are avoidable if the hazards are effectively managed.

Managing risk means identifying the potential dangers for each job and taking steps to avoid them. It may not be possible to remove a hazard completely, such as an overhead power line, but understanding and documenting how they might affect a particular job, and making the workforce aware, will create a safer working environment.

The flexibility of powered access platforms to operate effectively in a range of indoor and outdoor locations means that risk assessments have to take a range of external factors into account. They also have legal implications if something goes wrong which is why they should be carried out by an experienced and responsible person.

Where to start

By law, employers and self-employed contractors must carry out an adequate assessment of the potential risks on each job so they can do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm. The process does not need to be overly complicated but it is an essential part of planning and completing a job.
The risks will depend on the job location but here are some of the more common issues consider:

Ground Conditions – The access platform should operate on firm, stable ground which has been checked for strength and unseen hazards, such as underground services or cellars.

Confined spaces – Avoid trapping incidents by identifying obstacles and ensuring the safety controls are kept clear.

Weight – Each machine has a maximum weight capacity which includes people and equipment being lifted. Exceeding this limit can lead to overturning.

Weather – Changeable conditions can affect the platform and the ground conditions including heavy rain and ice and high winds.

Fall protection – A harness and lanyard may be required if there is an additional risk of falls such as during adverse weather or working on fragile surfaces.

Obstructions – Overhead power cables, branches or masonry can all pose a risk so safe distances should be assessed at height and ground level.

Falling objects – Workers on the ground may also be at risk from falling tools or objects in the work are. This can be avoided by keeping the platform tidy.

Planning a risk assessment

Identify the Hazards – Walk the site and make observations. It is worth getting a second opinion in case there is something you haven’t noticed.
Decide who might be harmed and how – It may be a job onsite or there may be safety concerns for the general public. Make sure staff are adequately trained to complete the work and briefed on the requirements of the job.
Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions – Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so, for example can you get equipment or materials prepped at ground level?
Record your findings and implement them – Keep a record of the assessment and review the risks throughout the job as circumstances change all the time.

Powered access platforms make working at height safer and quicker but they do not remove all the potential risks such as dangerous structures, bad weather or accidents. A risk assessment will ensure that potential problems are managed and can be prevented, so each job is completed without an incident or injury.