The work at height hierarchy explained

When talking about working safely at height, we often reference the ‘work at height hierarchy of controls’. But what exactly are we talking about?

The hierarchy is a set of guidelines laid out in the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which aims to reduce the number of accidents that occur when working at height.

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Which safety gate is right for you?

Voids created by access and egress points are a serious risk to life and limb in any raised area or roof.

Whilst barriers and guardrailing will do much to protect those working in or accessing these areas, any system is rendered useless if the void created by an access point from steps or ladders is not protected.

Common solutions to this issue include chains or bars which are pulled across the gap. However, as we’ve previously discussed, these can do more harm than good. These solutions rely on the user replacing them once they have passed through the gap, which many often fail to do.

As well as this, these solutions can provide a false sense of security and might lead to someone leaning on them or grabbing them in case of a fall, leading to breakage and injury, or possibly worse.

So, what is the solution? That depends on just what kind of void you have.

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Warehouse steps

Protecting your workers from voids

Whenever there is a fall risk present, either from a roof or a raised surface such as a loading bay or mezzanine floor, you are legally required to provide a form of fall protection.

This will usually come in the form of edge protection such as guardrail, either freestanding or fixed, or another barrier system.

However, if access is required to this raised area via a ladder or staircase, such as for maintenance, and you are unable to close it off with a barrier, then you will be left with a void. This void could be considered a risk and might lead to injury or legal trouble should you be subject to a HSE inspection.

So, if you cannot close the area off, but you also cannot leave the access point open, what are your options?

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