Responsible for nearly 8% of non-fatal injuries and causing more deaths than any other work activity, working at height remains the top and most dangerous area of work in most workplaces including the construction sector.
To avoid these injuries and accidents, the Work at Height Regulations require employers to have necessary preventive control measures to prevent the safety of workers. This requires having the right equipment for work and practices to minimize the risks.
So, stick around as this article will explore different types of access equipment for working at height and how to ensure a safe place of work for everyone.
Types of Different Access Equipment
Access equipment is used in a wide range of sectors but is most commonly found in construction work sites. Their key purpose is to prevent the workers from injuries and keep them safe while performing their work activities.
Numerous types of access equipment are available to use, but picking the right one to get the job done safely depends on certain factors like:
- Floor space
- The task at hand to perform
- Environmental restrictions
Below are some of the types explained in detail:
Scaffolds are commonly seen on construction work sites that provide a safe means of access to the higher levels of a site and are often used as working platforms. However, it is to keep in mind that scaffoldings may also pose serious risks or injuries. As they are huge so they may collapse which could result in fatal consequences for the workers or bystanders.
There are generally two types of scaffolds mostly seem; fixed scaffolds and tower scaffolds. Fixed scaffolding is primarily used in buildings, maintenance, cleaning, or demolition tasks, and is mostly used by the workers to reach the highest points of the buildings.
While tower scaffolding is different from fixed scaffolds. They are commonly used in construction, engineering, or maintenance and are used where there is no structure to secure but can be tied to a structure when required.
- Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)
Mobile Elevated Work Platforms or MEWPs are vehicles with platforms that can be elevated for working at height. They are not built on-site like the scaffolds which is why they must be operated by a competent person and inspected regularly to avoid any injuries or accidents.
- Ladders & Stepladders
Ladders and stepladders are commonly sighted equipment on construction sites as they are easy to use and moved between floors. However, it is also required that employers and supervisors conduct regular ladder inspections to ensure their safe use and proper working as well as avoid the risk of accidents.
- Edge Protection Systems
As the name tells, edge protection systems are commonly used where there is a risk of falling from the rooftop. Edge protection systems provide robust barriers while preventing falls from height by surrounding the edges of raised walkways.
- Podium Platforms
Podium platforms provide an increased level of safety as compared to standard step ladders. The common purposes they are used for are changing or fixing the light bulbs, plastering at height, or other general maintenance work.
- Trestles & Staging
Trestles and staging are used when the work requires more than one person or where ladders or stepladders cannot be used. They are usually used by decorators and builders. They are meant to use for short-duration light work activities and if there is a risk of injury, there must be adequate fall protection measures.
Deciding What Equipment to Use
When talking about what equipment to use, employers need to ensure that they provide collective protection measures to their workers rather than giving personal protection measures. As the name suggests collective protection measures help in assisting more than one person at a time. It is once installed correctly does not require any further action to ensure it will work fine.
All in all, collective protection measures are easy to use, effortlessly maintained, and provide robust safety to more than one person at the same time.
Additional Steps to Follow
While having an understanding of different types of access equipment, employers must also create safety awareness among their workers which includes educating, informing, and guiding them on the health and safety risks their wrongdoings can produce.
For this very reason, they must take working at height training, ladder safety training, ladder inspection training, and working at height risk assessment to be familiar with different hazards and preventive approaches.
Health hazards associated with working at height requires serious attention as falls from height and accidents are among the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal consequences at work.
Managers and supervisors of the staff working at height need to be fully aware of such potential dangers while having proactive approaches to control and eliminate the risk to ensure workplace safety for everyone.