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Ways to Increase Your Safety While Working at Heights

Contributor: CableSafe®

Working at heights could be required in several industries and it might be a part of your everyday job. Some occupations are more dangerous than others depending on the nature of the task, but regardless of the height you are dealing with; work at height safety should be established and rigorously followed in order to avoid any serious outcomes. Work at height injuries can have a devastating impact on organizations in terms of lost time, money, and manpower. Employers must incorporate safety tips for working at heights in order to keep their employees safe and their businesses running effectively.


How do you make working at heights safe?

The first and most important thing to do before commencing work at height is to identify all potential hazards related to the task. Conduct detailed risk assessments for each work at height activity and ensure that all work is planned, organized, and carried out by a qualified individual/team. Employers must consider the following safety tips for working at heights to ensure the safety of their employees:

  • Make sure that employees are wearing the right protection gear (PPE).
  • Always strive to work in groups to avoid working alone. If lone working is inevitable, send skilled persons to do the task and establish a system ensuring lone workers are checked on at regular intervals.
  • Provide appropriate training to a workforce that can help employees to work safely and also arrange refresher training sessions in order to keep your employees up to date.

What type of protection is needed when working at heights?

Work at height safety is critical for employers when it comes to employee safety, but the level of protection necessary varies depending on the frequency of work, task duration, and work location. It is preferable to avoid working at heights as much as possible, but if it is inevitable, the task must be completed on a secure platform with sufficient edge protection in place to eliminate the risk of falling. The following points must be considered while choosing the protection equipment:

  • Evaluate your working environment and conduct extensive research before deciding on the type of PPE that will provide your staff with the comfort, support, and ease to move to accomplish their tasks properly. Fall arrest systems, positioning systems, suspension systems, and retrieval systems are examples of personal protective equipment used when working at height.
  • Before commencing work at height, thoroughly assess the work scenario and choose the best piece of equipment for the task at hand, whether it’s a scaffold, a ladder, or a lift.
  • Harnesses and lanyards must be selected based on the employee work requirements and working conditions, as there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach in fall arrest systems.
  • Choose the anchor point carefully; it should be strong enough to withstand not just the weight of the body, but also 5000 lbs. per person attached.
  • Before selecting a fall protection system, make sure you understand the fall distance and have completed your calculations so that you can give the best protection to each employee.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.