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Working at heights in construction works is associated with hazards and accidents. Thus, safety procedures are of utmost importance while working at heights.

At least 50-60 deaths are accounted per year in construction projects with number of injuries around 4000 due to accidents associated with working at heights.

These risks are mostly subjected to the painters and the decorators who maintain the facade beauty of the building structures. Some of the miscellaneous works that are done in large heights are the window cleaning, maintenance work at height, changing of the street lamps, tree surgery etc.

Regulations for Working at Heights were prepared which provides safety procedure to be followed during such works. This not only include the construction work but also all works that must be carried out at height.

A study conducted by the Health and Safety Engineer on past 5-year period record of construction accidents conclude that a well-designed construction projects have lesser chance to welcome hazards and accidents.

Sufficient dimensions for guard rails must be provided as per the building regulation of that particular area / state for the construction of warehouses, factories, public buildings, retail premises, offices etc.

Working at Heights in Construction - Regulation and Precautions

Hierarchy of Control as Per Work at Height Regulations

Certain hierarchy of measures were taken by the work at height regulations to save the workers from accidents due to the working at heights. They are:

  1. The requirement of working at height is avoided to the maximum
  2. An existing safe place for work is employed
  3. Provision of more equipment oriented works to avoid accidents
  4. The chances of accidents due to heights and consequences of falls are mitigated
  5. Proper Instruction, training to the workers and supervision must be controlled.

How to Work at Heights in a Construction Project?

working at height in a construction projects involves hazards and risks. Understanding the safety risks associated with each type of construction work such as brick masonry, wall plastering, painting etc. is required for safety and precautions.

Preparing a checklist for risk associated with each work and then following it on construction site is essential first step towards working at height. Training of workmen for safety risks and hazards is the next step. Regular supervision by a competent supervisor is necessary for working at heights.

For details how to work at heights in construction projects, construction hazards and their control is discussed below.

Construction Hazards due to Working at Heights and Their Control

There are many chances of hazards that can be caused in a construction site due to the high dynamic nature of the work. So, it is necessary to have a precaution while dealing with such dangerous site than to have a reactive mind.

Some of the control measures and chances of hazards are mentioned below.

A Safe Working Place

During the progress of work at heights, it is very essential to have a safe and clear access and egress from the workplace. The units that are used for the works like the working platforms, the scaffolds, ladders, gangways, material hoists; all must be completely safe so that the worker can trust it and do the work.

This check of working platforms must be done through regular inspection and maintenance if needed. The working place must be kept clean and tidy as possible. Otherwise slipping and tripping might be the cause of accidents.

Work Accidents and Protection of Injured

The working activities at heights can result in injuries sometimes to death. It is very essential to bring special care to protect the workers while working at heights. No profit in project is obtained without having any concern on the safety for the workers.

Safe systems of works are essential for the works like roofing, steel work, rendering, cladding, erection, high pressure water, concrete repairs, painting, and demolition works if any. Other hazardous problems due to electricity, vibrations, and noise can also affect the workers while working at height.

Other main cause of accidents is the use of false work. The false work are temporary structures that are used to support a non-supporting structure during its refurbishment or construction.

One such example is the use of wooden structure to have brick work. It is always recommended that competent person must use false work by carrying out proper planning, erection, and dismantling.

Large accidents due to the collapse of false work have been recorded. These accidents at large heights make it more severe problem.

The cleaning of buildings involves grit-blasting and high-pressure water jets which are found to be every dangerous activity. These are mostly carried out by standing over the scaffolding or even ladders for high rise buildings, 30 to 35 stored ones or more.

It is very necessary to have protection of the workers, the occupants residing, the pass-by from harmful effects of debris, dust, noise, flooding of the walkways and more importantly falling of heavy debris and elements. The workers dealing with the same must carry essential goggles, gloves, and ear defenders.

The equipment used must be properly cleaned and must undergo proper inspection by trained specialists. All the above, proper supervision on whether the above-specified activities is undergone or not is necessary.

Protection Against Falls

The recommendations provided by the work at height regulations are mentioned to protect the lives from falls:

  1. If working at height is essential, proper planning and organizing is necessary before its commencing.
  2. The workers involved in working at heights must be competent.
  3. The risk involved in working height must be analyzed and appropriate working equipment must be provided accordingly.
  4. Working near fragile surface if necessary must be properly planned and managed.
  5. Properly inspected and maintained equipment must be used when working at heights. Any undesirable behavior of equipment at the working time at height can cause serious issues.

Fragile Roofs and Surfaces

Falling of workers from roofs made from fragile surfaces are recorded as a severe accident cause every year. Roof works that are carried out in pitched types are dangerous and requires risk management methods. This must be carried before the commencement of the work.

These fragile surfaces deteriorate with age due to the exposure to different climatic temperatures which result in the loss of strength to act as a support for the workers to work. Work must hence be started after looking to the condition of the roofs.

If that is the case, use of scaffolding, ladders and other support platforms becomes essential. Warning signs at suitable locations, indications to show that the roof is fragile must be provided.

If the roof is fragile, the following measures must be taken:

  1. Carrying out the work underneath the roof must be done with the help of working platform
  2. If a working platform cannot be provided, a mobile elevating working platform will work well. This helps the workers to stand on a bucket and carry out the work safely.

Situations where the access to the fragile roof is not possible, then it is necessary to provide perimeter edge protection and staging. This help to spread the load.

Some of the fragility reasons seen for roofs are:

  1. Deterioration of roofs with age
  2. Corrosion of the roof cladding and fixing
  3. Quality of the original materials are poor
  4. The damage due to thermal and impact load
  5. The supporting structure must be damaged
  6. Damage due to extreme weather conditions

The roof materials considered to be fragile are:

  1. Asbestos sheets
  2. On built up sheeted roofs
  3. Glass
  4. Roof lights
  5. Fiber cement sheets
  6. Metals sheets- corroded one

Read More:

How to Manage Safety at Construction Site?

Constructability in Construction and Issues at Design and Execution

Formwork Safe Practices Checklist during Design and Construction

About Neenu ArjunVerified

Neenu is a Civil and Structural Engineer and has experience in Design of Concrete and Steel Structures. She is an Author, Editor and Partner at theconstructor.org.