7 Safety Tips for Working in High Places

Tags: workplace safety

In many industries, employees are required to deal with the many risks involved in working in high places. Most people automatically think of a skyscraper building when considering dangerous occupations where work is done above ground level, but death or serious injury can occur much closer to the ground. If a simple fall is hard on the body, imagine the same fall from a distance of 8 to 10 feet. It's exponentially harder on the body with every foot of height.

"Safety should be the No. 1 priority in any job, especially one in high places," says John Chesterfield with Melwood.  

To help keep clear of the emergency room, implement and follow these safety tips.

1. Team Up and Trust Your Partner(s)

For obvious safety reasons, you should never do anything in high places without having help. If nothing else, have someone to steady the ladder, which is a must. But if something does happen to cause a fall, you need the other person to call for help. If possible, get to know the people you work with well enough to feel confident alongside them. Make sure each person on the job knows what his or her particular job is and whom to call for assistance if needed.

2. Know the Plan

Before starting any project, whether work-related or a home do-it-yourself job, if it requires working on a ladder, roof, platform or any height, know the plan. What exactly will you be doing up there? If you don't have a plan for the task, make one. By drawing up and executing a plan for your task, you can minimize trips up and down, which will cut the risk of falling and making mistakes.

3. Use Proper Equipment

The equipment you choose will vary depending on the job. You may need nothing more than a sturdy ladder, proper footwear and gloves to help with your grip as you go up and down. If you're working on a steep gabled roof, a harness and safety line are in order. Barriers around the worksite are required for almost any job as well as hardhats, safety goggles, vests and a myriad of other items. While the list of safety equipment can be rather long, proper safety equipment is cheaper than a seriously injured employee or a lost life.

4. Overcoming Anxiety

It's been proven that fear adds risk, especially in high places. Healthy fear is a good thing because it will remind you to be careful and put safety first. However, imagining the worst during a bout of height-related anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Shore up your mental strength by imagining the best outcome for a job well done without a single slip. If you have trouble with serious anxiety while working in high places, there are mental exercises a professional counselor can guide you through. Don't be afraid to seek help if it's needed. Your safety, and that of others, may depend on it.

5. Be in Good Shape

Working in high places not only requires good mental health but also involves physical strength. Beyond just the ability to climb a ladder or scaffolding, it's about the sleep you got the night before and the food you eat. Your ability to focus depends on good life choices from proper sleep to the foods consumed. Without a good night's sleep, you're going to be tired, which makes you inattentive and prone to mistakes. The same thing happens if you have a belly full of greasy chips instead of healthy energy-providing food. Proper hydration is also important for physical endurance. Few things will cause someone to become weak and dizzy faster than being dehydrated.

6. Illegal Mind-Altering Drugs

There should be a zero-tolerance policy regarding mind-altering and illegal drugs for any employee working in high places and/or operating machinery or vehicles. Periodic on-the-spot drug tests will catch problem employees, and immediate removal from the job is best for all concerned.

7. Education

Employers should ensure all employees undergo regular safety training sessions and classes on handling emergency situations. New employees should be assigned mentors, with more experienced workers showing new hires the ropes. Regular safety inspections of equipment are helpful as well. Safety can only be as good as the equipment used.

Finally, be careful up there. Never underestimate the risk, even if it seems routine. In the long run, taking a little extra time for solid safety protocols will save money and possibly a life.