Tips for Working Safely at Heights

These quick tips from a safety consultant can help contractors remember and act on the important elements of safety when working at heights

Preplanning, training and enforcing safety measures are key to keeping employees safe when working at heights.
Preplanning, training and enforcing safety measures are key to keeping employees safe when working at heights.

Fall prevention is a huge topic in the construction industry as falls are one of the biggest causes of injury and death in the industry. Like with most areas of safety, people have the tendency to think "it won't happen to me". As a business manager, can you afford to think like that? Can you afford to let your employees think like that?

OSHA Fall Prevention Fact Sheet

Earlier this year, at World of Concrete, I attended an educational seminar on safety when working at heights. The seminar was presented by Matt Murphy of SEE Inc., a safety consulting firm. Here are some of the biggest take-away tips and reminders I picked up at the seminar.

  • Be organized, think ahead and preplan
  • Think about fall protection from the ground up
  • Use common sense
  • OSHA is a minimum set of guidelines; don't wait for OSHA to tell you what to do
  • Think about "how can we remove the fall hazard?"
  • Floor hole covers need to protect from both people and objects falling through; also be sure they don't become a trip hazard Video: Falls in Construction - Floor Openings
  • Personal protection equipment needs to be replaced once it experiences and impact
  • When working with lanyards: make sure it has the right length of lanyard to protect from falls at the specific height an employee will be working at
  • Putting a knot in a rope weakens it
  • When using personal fall arrest systems, anchor points should be as high as possible to limit the fall
  • Don't tie off to wire rope, it amplifies the impact

Safety Video: Basics of Fall Protection Part 1

Video: The A, B, Cs of Fall Protection

Murphy says to make sure you are also planning for the rescue prior to a fall occurring.

It's important to perform the rescue immediately. Murphy says a person hanging in a fall arrest system for more than 15 minutes can risk the build up of toxins in the blood which could permanently hurt or even kill them.

All employees should identify what can or will be used in case of a rescue and train on it. "If you don't teach and practice it they won't remember," Murphy says.

The Goal of Jobsite Safety Is Getting Workers Home at Night

Do you have any other tips on working safely at height? Share them in the comments section below.