Planning work at height: part two

In our last blog post we looked at the auditing and risk assessment aspects of work at height, and how these help to keep workers safe.

These procedures are, of course, of vital importance. But sometimes, no matter how carefully we plan things, they can still change in the blink of an eye. Step forward dynamic risk assessments.

These ongoing risk assessments should change with the circumstances, and help ensure your initial risk assessment remains as accurate as possible.

The dynamic risk assessment

As we covered in our last blog, a risk assessment is all about identifying risks so you know what control measures are required to avoid hazards causing harm or damage. A dynamic risk assessment is very similar, but it is a continuous process instead of a final document, and is best used in a changing environment (i.e. busy building sites) in addition to the main risk assessment.

However, you should remember that a dynamic risk assessment is not a suitable replacement for a regular risk assessment. These are vital and should always be done beforehand.

The dynamic risk assessment should be the final stage of the risk assessment process, to ensure work is carried out as safely as possible, and it should be done by the person actually undertaking the work.

It is also hugely important to make sure the worker is competent and has had the training to properly assess risks.

Carrying out a dynamic risk assessment properly

All workers must be constantly aware of their own safety, as well as that of their colleagues and anyone who might be affected by the ongoing work. They should be able to take immediate action when necessary.

Below are some simple steps which, when followed properly, can help the worker make informed decisions before starting the work:

  • Evaluate the situation/task and make sure you know who might be at risk

  • Select a system of work

  • Make sure the chosen system of work is safe. Look at the risk versus benefit and if appropriate, proceed with the work

  • If the system of work is not safe, introduce additional controls or select another system of work if possible

  • Reassess systems of work and introduce further controls if required

What to cover in a dynamic risk assessment

A dynamic risk assessment is best kept simple so anyone who needs to refer to it knows what they’re looking at straight away. The areas that might need covering are:

  • The working environment: if the weather is wet or windy the risk of a fall is increased so the worker will need to decide whether the work should continue

  • Asbestos & Hazardous Substances: if the worker encounters what he suspects is asbestos or a hazardous substance, then he should stop work immediately and seek competent assistance

  • Type of Access: are the selected means of access still possible and is it appropriate?

  • Violence & Stress: If there is a risk of violence or the work will place undue pressure on the person, then the work should not continue. This is especially important for lone workers

  • Fire, Means of Escape: can the person escape to an area of safety in the event of a fire?

  • Animals/Vermin/Birds: nesting birds can pose a threat to those working on a roof.  In these instances, the work should be rescheduled for when the nests are empty

Remember: although dynamic risk assessments are done on-site and on the spot, they should still be recorded. If an accident does occur, then you will have a record of the assessment and how decisions were made.


Careful planning

In this two-part blog post, we’ve looked at what you will need to consider when planning any work at height. By just following these simple steps in the auditing and assessment period before work, you will be in a much stronger position, and any workers or innocent passers-by will be much safer.

However, always remember: if you are unsure of what to do, seek professional advice.

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