When working at a height, any worker is in one of the most hazardous situations for any workplace, more or less worldwide. It doesn’t need too much thought to work out why – even if the actual surroundings are quite benign, in other words, there are no chemicals, gases, fumes, poisons, dust or sharp implements involved, the fall will be serious and often fatal. Most people are aware of the figures relating to how much difference a car’s speed can make to subsequent injuries if it hits a pedestrian but there are no such hard and fast guidelines for falls from a height. So much depends on whether the person falling is prepared for the fall and can jump and take defensive action on landing, how heavy they are and what surface they land on. There are well-attested cases of people surviving falls of well over 100 feet and equally well-attested cases of people dying from a fall of less than fifty. The secret of guaranteed survival is simple, however and that is – make sure you don’t fall in the first place.

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Training is simple, inexpensive and vital

There are a number of training courses which prepare workers and their managers for working at a height, whether from fixed platforms or mechanized elevating work platforms. There are also courses for the safe use of ladders and everyone who works in an environment which may involve a climb, however infrequent, should attend at least one of these courses at the recommended interval, which is usually three years. There are top up courses available for anyone who is a returner but who had received training more recently than the three year gap. Some people fall into the trap of assuming that because they ‘rarely’ work at a height, they don’t need training, but this is not so – anyone untrained is not only a danger to themselves but also anyone with whom they work so it is irresponsible not to seek training. There is also the issue of those working beneath; all training courses covering working at a height have a module dealing with safe stowage of tools and wearing of harnesses.

It must become second nature

Any training course gives the people attending it a good level of knowledge on the day but it is important to make sure that everyone who passed the practical and theory are actually following what they have learned. Managers should also attend courses – there are some available specifically for them – so that they can assess the staff and their attitude to health and safety.

It is the legal responsibility of employers and so by inference the managers put in place by them, to make sure that everyone is working in safety. Part of this responsibility is to monitor the behaviour of all staff to make sure that they do not constitute a safety threat. This can be particularly important with the building of static towers because there is no room for corner-cutting, so everyone should work as a team, snagging for problems and making sure they are solved before they cause an accident. Training courses help to reinforce a good working attitude as well as giving staff the knowledge to ensure everyone is safe.

Training courses can be tailor-made

If your business has very specific needs then a tailored course is very helpful because staff often find it easier to see the importance of safety measures when they can see them in action where they work. Also, some places use equipment in very specific ways and so it is very handy for the trainers to see that they are delivering information that is relevant to the setting. This can be very important in cases such as elevating platforms in a closed environment, where careful use of instrumentation is essential to prevent crush injuries. Harness-wearing is often a bone of contention with workers who can find them cumbersome, but seeing them in action where they will be worn day to day often is enough to prove to them that they could easily save a life – their own or someone else’s.

Alan Higgins writes for Boss Training which is a professional health and safety training company based in Leeds, West Yorkshire.