May 30, 2019

Working At Height Procedure | Frequently Asked Questions

Working At Height Procedure | Frequently Asked Questions

Having a comprehensive working at height procedure is key to avoiding disastrous fall-related accidents.

This article will introduce some considerations when codifying height safety measures.

Rules can differ depending on your state or province. Here is a guide for minimum fall protection height requirements in all Provinces in Canada.

For Ontario, working at heights requirements, for example, involves getting a training program approved by the fall protection Chief Prevention Officer (CPO) — essentially a height work permit. This is required when a workplace is covered by the Construction Projects Regulations. According to Ontario Safety Guidelines, a guardrail system is the best option for eliminating a fall hazard is a guardrail system.

These training requirements for specified methods of fall protection are enforced by inspectors who may ask an employer for training records for his or her employees.

We will provide you with answers to commonly asked questions about working at height hazards.

This article is for information purposes only and should not be interpreted as a substitute for the input of a qualified health and safety professional when planning a safe job site.

Working At Height Procedure FAQ

Here are some answers to common questions about the topic of health safety system development.

What are working at height regulations?

Working at height regulations are often in reference to the training requirement in Ontario under the Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training Regulation.

Training programs under these regulations must be approved by Ontario’s CPO. The regulations are enforced by the Ministry of Labour inspectors. Employers who fail to prove their employees have gone through the necessary working at heights training may be fined $550.

What height is considered working at height?

Regulations may vary depending on your state or province. In Ontario, heights of 3 meters (10 feet) warrant CPO-approved training as these heights expose workers to fall-related hazards

How high can you work without a harness?

Most requirements recommend a harness if you are working anywhere above 3 metres. But depending on the unique situation, if there are other fall protection measures around, like guardrails, and safety nets, they may not be required.

It is important to note that guardrails may eliminate the need for a safety harness in certain scenarios. This frees up contractors and employees to work unhindered. However, personal safety restraint systems (PFRS) can provide an extra layer of protection, even when they are not strictly required.

This was part of the rationale in a 2016 proposal to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make harnesses a requirement for employees working at 6 feet or more.

Consult with your field safety officer about the unique requirements at your job site.

What is the OSHA height requirement for fall protection?

OSHA requirements differ depending on the type of environment:

  • Construction Industry: fall protection required at 6 feet
  • Shipyards: fall protection required at 5 feet
  • Longshoring Operations: fall protection required at 8 feet
  • General Industry Workplaces: fall protection required at 4 feet
  • Working Over Dangerous Equipment: fall protection required, regardless of height

What is the maximum wind speed for working at height?

Assessing the risks introduced by high wind speeds needs to be done on a per-job site, per-day basis. There are some general guidelines that can be used when beginning to make an assessment.

According to Heightec, Telecom tower climbers avoid working at heights when wind speeds reach 37 kms per hour.

Ladder & Scaffold Safety FAQ

What is the maximum height you can work from a ladder?

There is no black and white answer for how high you can work from a ladder.

Generally, workers should only work from a ladder as a last resort when use of a work platform is prevented due to the nature of the worksite. If a work platform can be used, the expectation is that it <strong>will be used</strong> so that the employee does not have to work from the ladder.

If the employee is working on a ladder at heights that exceed 3 metres, fall protection is required. This could mean implementing a vertical safety line to protect the worker as he or she scales the ladder.

Furthermore, OSHA adds this:-

‘Definition of “high wind”: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration normally considers winds exceeding 64.4 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), or 48.3 kilometers per hour (30 miles per hour) if the work involves material handling, as meeting this criteria, unless the employer takes precautions to protect employees from the hazardous effects of the wind.’

The Ontario Ministry of Labour states that if wind speeds exceed 40 kms per hour, boatswain’s chairs and suspended work platforms are to be avoided.

If mobile elevating devices are being used, employees should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding winds. If the winds exceed these recommendations, employees should avoid using them until the winds have died down.

Real-time assessments need to be made as weather conditions change. Snow, heavy rain and high winds all introduce new risks that have to be mitigated by the employer.

Ladder & Scaffold Safety FAQ

What is the maximum height you can work from a ladder?

Generally, workers should only work from a ladder as a last resort when using a work platform is prevented due to the nature of the worksite. If a work platform can be used, the expectation is that it will be used so that the employee does not have to work from the ladder.

If the employee is working on a ladder at heights that exceed 3 metres, fall protection is required. This could mean implementing a vertical safety line to protect the worker as they scale the ladder.

At what height is scaffolding required?

Scaffolding can be more secure for working at heights than a ladder, but even so, there are important considerations to consider.

Check the allowable height jurisdiction for your Province or State. With scaffolding comes the requirements of guardrails, rest platforms, toe rails and secure ladders.

There does not seem to be a set rule about scaffolds being mandatory at certain heights. The decision to use or not use a scaffold will depend on the nature of the job site. However, as stated above, the expectation is that platforms will be used to avoid having employees work from ladders, except when aspects of the job site prevent this.

Scaffolding is one option for fulfilling this requirement, regardless of height. This should be factored in when planning your working at height control measures.

What is the maximum height of a mobile scaffold?

In Ontario, the height of a rolling or mobile scaffold cannot exceed three times its base width.

If the height of the frame scaffold is greater than 15 meters, an engineer will be required to produce a design. The scaffold will then need to be erected by carefully following the engineer’s design.

As with anything, it is critical that employers account for all scaffold hazards and control measures by following the manufacturer’s recommendations and attending to the laws in their jurisdiction.

Conclusion

The questions discussed in this article help show just how varying and complicated planning for height safety can be. Developing a policy and SOP for working at heights requires the involvement of knowledgeable and experienced voices.

Every worksite is different. No standard working at height risk assessment checklist is going to comprehensively cover all the variables in a construction environment. Instead, your working at height procedure needs to be iterative and designed according to each unique job site.

If you need help from our knowledgeable and skilled staff, we can help to design a custom solution to make sure your working at heights jobs are safe and secure.


Find out more about our Custom Engineered Fall Protection Systems

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