5 Safety Tips for Working at Heights

By: RK 

Safety Week is a perfect opportunity to remind skilled tradespeople how important it is to be cautious when working at heights, one misstep can quickly turn into a deadly mistake. Construction workers face many hour-to-hour physical challenges on jobsites, and these tips can help to get you home to your families safe and sound.

Training is Key

Training employees on height safety is not only required by law, but lack of training can cause confusion and errors on jobsites. Falls are the leading cause of death on construction sites. Creating an environment where open dialogue is welcome and training is a primary focus may prevent employees from making life-altering mistakes. Additionally, ensure employees are briefed daily on height safety and any weather or additional worksite challenges they may face when in the field.

Use OSHA’s Hierarchy of Controls

Eliminate the hazard.  If the piece of equipment or material you are working on is at heights, the hazard can be eliminated by moving the project ground level.

Substitution replaces any jobsite hazard that may put your health or the health of your coworkers at risk.

Engineering Controls (barricades, guardrails, etc.) should be installed and inspected on a regular basis. If for some reason the appropriate protections are not in place in areas where they are needed, report the issue to your supervisor.

Administrative Controls (signs, warning labels, etc.) change the way people work by visually reminding them of dangerous areas.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (gloves, glasses, etc.) are effective if used properly, but PPE is the least effective way of controlling hazards at heights. When working on elevated job sites, there is always a high potential of damage that can make the PPE ineffective. 

Select and Inspect PPE

Personal protective equipment should always be worn on jobsites whether working on the ground or at elevated areas. Wearing ill-fitting, damaged or old protective gear while working can place your life at risk. Make sure you inspect your fall protection gear before each use and other PPE every morning before working. Thoroughly understand the proper protocol when you find an issue with your equipment and have a competent person inspect your gear to ensure it meets safety guidelines before heading to your section for the day.

Use Ladders Properly

For most of us, ladders are a familiar tool we use on the job and at home, but making the assumption that they can’t be dangerous because you’ve cleaned your gutters is a massive mistake. Ensuring that you know how to use a ladder properly is essential. Be certain never to use the top two rungs of a ladder and always keep your belt buckle between the vertical rails of the ladder. Also, make certain all debris and materials are not gathering at the bottom of the workspace; unnecessary rubble can cause additional accidents.

Know Fall Distance

OSHA standards require that workers “must have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of a worker free falling a distance of six feet or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less.” All anchorage points must also be able to withstand 5,000 pounds of force when subjected to a fall. If you’re unsure of the proper fall protection equipment to use, check with your supervisor immediately.

Staying safe when working at heights requires proper gear and more importantly paying attention to your surroundings. If at any time you feel unsafe, safely remove yourself from the location and use your “stop work authority” until the issues are resolved. Remember, you aren’t staying safe just because you were directed to do so, we also want you to get home to your family intact. These are just a few guidelines to keep you safe on jobsites, but you can find additional information here.