How to protect yourself from falls from height?
Did you know that 10% of work accidents are due to falls from height? Indeed, it is the third cause of work accidents, after repeated handling and falls on the same level.
Even if falls from height can occur in many fields of activity, it is mainly in the construction industry that they are present. In this sector, it is the leading cause of accidents at work.
As far as the law is concerned, it does not give precise definitions of workplaces at height. It is the employer, generally through his QSE (Quality Safety Environment) department, who must look for the existence of a risk of falling from a height when he carries out the Professional Risk Assessment.
What are the risks?
When we talk about falls from height, we usually think of workers on roofs: carpenters and roofers. However, it is important to know that all construction professionals are concerned. An electrician who installs a light fixture on the ceiling, a mason who consolidates or mounts a wall, a plumber who works on the floor of a building, etc. Moreover, it is important to know that a fall from height does not necessarily require an activity several meters above the ground. For example, a painter, working on a step, can lose his balance, fall backwards and hit his head. If he is not wearing protection, the consequences can be fatal.
Falls from height can occur from a roof, a tower, a wall, a ladder, a footbridge, a pit, a stationary vehicle, etc. They occur when the workstation is not sufficiently or not at all protected, or when the protective device is not adapted.
Fractures, bleeding, paralysis, coma, death... Falls from height can cause significant damage. But beyond the physical damage, they can have psychological repercussions (post-concussion syndrome, post-traumatic stress) for the person who has been the victim.
What causes these falls?
Generally, these falls are due to a lack of awareness of the risk and a lack of prevention. Indeed, even if the worker is equipped, if he does not know how to use his equipment correctly, it is ineffective. It is very important to make workers aware of the risks and to make them take their safety seriously. Prevention is very important because it is what will generate good concentration and good use of the equipment.
To ensure good prevention of the risks of falls from height, 5 main principles should be applied:
- Avoid the risks
- Evaluate the risks that cannot be avoided, by not limiting yourself to those directly related to the effect of height, but by analyzing all the risks present at the workstation or related to the work to be performed
- Combat the cause of the risk: put in place appropriate measures (such as a guardrail)
- Give priority to collective protection measures, by setting up permanent installations for example. If technically impossible, provide for the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against falls.
- Give appropriate instructions to workers: mandatory training in the use of work equipment providing collective protection, instructions and training in the use of PPE
Train the workers
First of all, interventions at height must be carried out by people who have received training.
Each employer must train and inform his employees on the professional risks incurred and the prevention measures put in place. Appropriate training is then provided for the use of certain equipment, such as motorized equipment (aerial work platforms) and scaffolding. For example, for any use of aerial work platforms, professionals must follow a training course on the use of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs). The training will cover the use of the aerial platform and its operation, but also the proper use of the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) provided.
The employer has a very important role to play in raising awareness and training his employees. He must go to the end of his approach in the protection of his workers.
Equip yourself with the right equipment
Within the framework of a company prevention and safety policy, the employer is required to implement certain measures:
- ensure that all equipment is in perfect condition
- to detect rapidly any deterioration of the means of protection
The regulations also provide for initial and periodic inspections of certain work equipment to ensure its condition. The maintenance of certain equipment is necessary on a recurring basis.
In addition, it should be noted that individual protection against falls from height (harnesses, lanyards, etc.) is reserved for situations where it is not possible to use equipment providing collective protection (guardrails, etc.).
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