The PPE required for working at heights includes:
- A helmet
- Eye protection
- Protective gloves
- Harnesses or lanyards/karabiners
Not only are single pieces important, but it is vital that items have “compatibility with other work wear” to ensure maximum protection. These range from the more general pieces of personal protective equipment, to the more specialised. This type of work is naturally very dangerous, so you need to take all the appropriate safety precautions available to you. Using PPE given to you is part of your legal duties as an employee under the working at heights regulation.
Working at Height PPE
You need to wear a helmet in almost all physically demanding jobs and working from a height is no exception.
This is because you need to protect yourself from falling objects or projectiles that could cause serious head damage.
Helmets are one of the most important pieces of PPE you could wear, because injuries can be life-threatening or life changing.
Secondly, you should wear protective glasses or other eye wear if you work from a height.
This can also protect yourself from projectiles and falling objects or substances.
Any eye wear that you do use should be compatible with your choice of head wear.
Next, you need proper footwear.
When you work at height you need solid footwear choices to avoid accidental slips and trips that could lead to a fall. This is the most common cause of injury in this type of area.
You also need a strong sole if you plan on climbing ladders or other similar equipment. Workplaces can get wet and slippery especially when working from height where you are at the mercy of the weather.
Appropriate glove PPE needs to be flexible but grippy.
It shouldn’t affect your ability to grab and hold onto tools or climbing equipment. If it does, it is really unsafe for working at height. Good gloves ensure your hands don’t get cut, which also affects your ability to hold onto things.
In addition to these general pieces of PPE, you may need more specialised items like harnesses with karabiners.
Harnesses ensure that if you need to repair telecommunication equipment or clean windows, that you can safely do your job. They will hold you in place, get you safely up and down, and prevent falls. This is a part of what is known as a “fall arrest system” where PPE prevents someone from falling onto the ground. Failing this, it will help to minimise any damage.
You may think these items are limiting or uncomfortable, but they are for your safety. It is against the law to refuse PPE if your organisation thinks you need it.
Proper maintenance should be a part of an organisation-wide policy and a working at height risk assessment. It should involve regular checks, cleaning, and repairs.
Both you and your organisation need to inspect all of your PPE choices for defective or missing parts and damage like cracks. These render the equipment ineffective, as they will make you less safe. This needs to be done everyday before and after the working day, or on another regular basis.
If you spot faulty equipment, you need to repair it. Some repairs are relatively straight-forward, like replacing eye wear lenses or laces on boots. However, many pieces of PPE like helmets, gloves and karabiners may need replacing altogether. Your organisation needs to make sure there is a surplus available, and enough replacements to cover the size of the workforce.
However, if there are no required repairs, then you need to ensure that PPE is clean. Dirty equipment, like all machines or tools, doesn’t function to the best of its abilities. In the case of health and safety, dirty PPE can jeopardise your health and safety. As a result, your organisation needs a cleaning schedule.
For more information and training working at heights you can refer to our eLearning course. Being approved by RoSPA, it will prepare your workforce for all things working at height related.