Working at height legislation
So what does the working at height legislation actually involve? Once it has been established that it is necessary to work at height, the next stage is to select the right equipment for the job.
There are plenty of different kinds of scaffold tower but remember, wherever you get your equipment from, according to legislation, the supplier has a duty to give you a comprehensive instruction manual on how to put the tower together accurately.
The tower’s strength comes from being assembled correctly and if just one piece is missing it may cause it to collapse. The lightweight aluminium towers could also easily overturn if they are not used according to the manual.
Working at height legislation covers all aspects of assembling a scaffold tower including general safety features. Before you start you need to establish that the ground is level and firm and that the locked castors or base plates are properly supported. Using bricks or building blocks to support the tower is extremely dangerous and could spell disaster for contractors working on and around the tower.
Make sure you check the tower’s safe working height referred to in the manual and adhere to it. If the guide advises you to install stabilisers or outriggers, follow the instruction book.
There are two approved methods to assemble the tower in line with legislation recommended by PASMA and the Health and Safety Executive; the advance guard rail system and the through-the-trap system.
The advance guard rail system involves a specially designed temporary guard rail unit which can be secured in place from the level below. The user can then move it up to platform level.
The temporary rails offer protection from falls before the user accesses the platform eliminating the risk of falling from an unguarded area.
The through-the-trap method allows the user to be positioned at minimum risk while installing the guard rails for the higher platform. It means the user can work from the trap door to continue adding and removing safety features without putting themselves at risk.
Working at height will always be a dangerous occupation and the stability of a scaffold tower can be affected at the slightest activity including strong winds, being overloaded with heavy equipment, hoisting materials or rubbish chutes.
Legislation also states that you should always use the appropriate method to climb the scaffold tower which is usually a purpose-built ladder on the inside of the tower. Never use a tower to support ladders, trestles or other equipment, in bad weather, if it has broken of missing parts, if you have incompatible components or when you or someone else is moving the tower.
Other simple safety measures recommended in the legislation include checking that there are no power lines overhead and never use a powered vehicle to manoeuvre the tower.
A contractor using a scaffold tower also has a duty to protect the public. In public places, a contractor must put up barriers at ground level to stop people from walking into the work area, avoid storing materials and equipment on the work platform where possible, and prevent unauthorised access via the ladders if the area is left unattended.
Legislation must also be observed when dismantling the tower. Using the advance guard rail method, the user should begin at the top and put in the advance guard rail unit before removing the permanent guard rails and toe boards.
The through-the-trap method involves dismantling the scaffold tower starting at the top and working downwards. The user should release the guard rail hooks furthest from the trap and then remove the guard rail components while working through the trap.