Think SAFE when working at height

Make sure and use the appropriate equipment when working at height this winter
Make sure and use the appropriate equipment when working at height this winter

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is reminding farmers to take extra care when working at height this winter.

Roof work is a particularly high risk activity, not only during construction or repairs, but also when getting onto an existing roof for a few minutes to “have a look”. So, before any work starts, ask if it is really necessary to go onto the roof at all?

If you need to go on to a roof, please remember that on top of the usual dangers, adverse weather can bring added risks. Roofs can be extremely slippery and the additional weight of snow may also weaken its structural integrity.

Make sure you know where all roof lights are located. Fragile roofs and roof lights won’t support your weight and if covered by snow or ice you will not be able to see them and you could fall through the roof in a split second.

For many tasks carried out at height, the use of a suitable, purpose built work platform correctly secured to a suitable fork lift or materials handler will provide greater protection against falls than the use of a ladder – and will be quicker and easier.

Remember, people should never be lifted on alternatives such as grain buckets, potato boxes, or pallets.

Farmers, and any contractors they hire, need to consider how all work at height will be undertaken to ensure the safety of themselves and workers – the following checklist should help.

Working at height checklist:

q do I need to go onto the roof at all?

q have I thought about the best way to get up to the job?

q is the roof material fragile, for example roof lights, rusted corrugated iron or asbestos cement sheets?

q have I got crawling boards or staging to bridge the joists?

q can I see all the roof lights and avoid stepping on them?

q can I use a cherry picker?

q do I have a suitable cage or platform attached to a suitable machine?

q can I avoid using a ladder?

q if using a ladder, is it in good condition – are the rungs and stiles sound?

q is the ladder long enough - reaches to at least 0.9m above the stepping off point?

q is the ladder tied or footed?

For more information on all farming health and safety issues in Northern Ireland, please contact the HSENI helpline on: 0800 0320 121 or visit: