Safety is the number one priority when working at height.
Following scaffolding safety practices are key to preventing accidents and injuries. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has strict safety guidelines for scaffolders, like wearing a harness and safety belt while working on a scaffold, specific directions on maximum unattached height/width ratios, and never standing on a scaffold while it’s being moved. This is just some of what OHS requires scaffolders to do to stay safe and prevent falls from height.
Here, are some other common-sense tips for staying safe when working from height.
But above all,
Follow Occupational Health and Safety guidelines
You can find more information here:
- Occupational Health and Safety Act – Scaffolding Regulations
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety – Platforms – Scaffold Use
- Occupational Health and Safety Code – Part 23 – Scaffolds and Temporary Work Platforms
We know that OHS has strict guidelines for scaffolders, but there are also other common-sense tips for staying safe when working from height. Here are the most important precautions you should take to stay safe when working from height:
– Always wear a safety harness and lanyard.
– Never stand on the scaffold while it’s being moved.
– Read your scaffold plan before you set it up. Make sure to know the maximum load the scaffold can bear, and that all pieces are installed correctly.
– Make sure your scaffolding is stable and the scaffold planks are tightly secured.
– Always use scaffolding equipment appropriate for the task.
– Avoid overreaching or excessive climbing.
Always follow the safety guidelines set by OHS as well as the scaffolding company you’re working with to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
Wear the right gear
Safety gear is essential to scaffolding safety practices. You can’t work without it. OHS specifies what you should wear and what equipment you need for scaffolding.
For example, you must wear a hard hat, safety vest, boots, and gloves. You also need to wear a harness and lanyard (fall protection) while working on a scaffold. Protective glasses and earplugs are also recommended.
Use the right equipment
It’s important that you use the right scaffolding for the job. When choosing a scaffolding, ensure that it’s large enough and strong enough for your work. It’s also important to get scaffolding with the right dimensions for the end-users. High traffic scaffolds will require a wider walkway for tradespeople to move tools and material.
Scaffolding takes a beating, sometimes so much that it can undermine the structural integrity of the scaffold. Ensure your scaffolding material is inspected and maintained on a regular basis to avoid any accidents or injuries.
Maintain good balance and hydration
When working from height, you need to maintain good balance, hydration, and mental fitness.
Your body will need to work harder to maintain balance when working from height. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and keep your mind alert.
Workers who are too hot or too cold are more likely to fall; make sure you’ve dressed appropriately.
Maintaining hydration is also important. You may not feel thirsty, but dehydration can make you dizzy, which can lead to falls.
If you feel dizzy or light-headed at any time, stop what you’re doing and take a break; this includes working for too long without breaks.
Staying mentally fit is also important when working from height. You need to be able to focus on what you’re doing at all times. If you’re feeling stressed out, take a break and do something else for a while.
Mind your surroundings
Be mindful of your surroundings. Ensure that you’re not working so fast that you lose track of your peripherals, and that you’re not standing on the scaffold while it’s being moved. Collisions with other people on the worksite can be disastrous when handling material as heavy as scaffolding.
When you climb onto a scaffold, make sure the steps on the scaffold are stable and secure. Scaffolding can become unstable if it has been damaged, has been set on uneven ground, or if the ground conditions have changed (due to weather, ground disturbance, etc.)
Ultimately, it comes down to following the tried and true principles of construction safety.
Wear your PPE, communicate with your team and other workers, and plan your work.