Why is a working at height risk assessment so important for farmers?


Falls from height are one of the main causes of fatalities in agriculture and HSE states that at least eight people die each year in the UK from falling at height. It’s important to note that the duty of care towards employees and workers falls with the employer, the self-employed and those who have control over work at height, which is why a working at height risk assessment and training is so important.

Most falls can be avoided with appropriate care, planning, supervision and training as well as following the law. These simple rules should form part of any working at height risk assessment;

  • Avoid working at height when you can; and if not
  • Use work equipment or include measures to prevent falls; and if not
  • Use work equipment that minimises the distance and consequences of a fall.

When considering work at height in your agricultural business, it’s not simply how far you climb, but how far you can potentially fall. This means it’s not just obvious areas such as working on a ladder but also, for example, working alongside deep trenches. This all needs to be taken into consideration when writing your risk assessment.

On farms, falls from working at height commonly occur when;

  • Working on roofs

Is it crucial that you access the roof? Can the roof be accessed in a different way with a platform or from below? If an employee or worker has to access the roof, then make sure the work is planned, they have all the right safety equipment, you take into account weather conditions and they know the safety precautions to adhere too.

  • Working on or passing near to fragile roofing material

If someone is working closer than two metres from fragile roofing material or even just passing by, you will need to provide protection. A secure covering is recommended or providing full edge protection, so that you are preventing access to the area. If this isn’t possible then use safety nets or harnesses with full training for their installation and use. 

  • Working on glasshouse roofs

Wherever possible, avoid working at height in glasshouses. Otherwise reduce the risk by replacing glass from below, stop any activity below the area in which the work is taking place and if possible use alternate roofing materials which are less likely to be damaged and need repairing.

  • Working on vehicles

When working in high vehicles such as tractors or trucks, take care climbing down and always wear safety footwear. Assessing vehicles regularly and having a risk assessment to support maintenance for the high parts of a machine is also important.   

  • Working with bales: loading trailers and stacking

According to HSE “many incidents (some fatal) involve loading bales onto the trailer, or during or after stacking”. It’s important full training is given for stacking and the de-stacking of bales.  

  • Standing on work platforms on fork-lift trucks

When working at height on the farm and raising people above the ground, avoid using ladders and instead use properly designed work platforms, not makeshift equipment. If work is planned then you should use a full integrated and properly constructed working platform.

  • Working on scaffolds

When erecting a scaffold it’s important to use an experienced worker and that they are inspected regularly by a competent person.

  • Climbing and working while up a ladder

HSE advise that ladders aren’t banned if the job is quick and simple, however, if more complex “you should never work from a ladder if there is a safer way of doing the job, e.g. by using a scaffold or suitable working platform”.

Source: https://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/falls.htm

How to write a working at height risk assessment?

When writing a risk assessment you need to consider the following;

  • Establish the hazards
  • Identify who could be harmed
  • Evaluate the workplace risks
  • Record your findings
  • Review regularly

When working at height it is extremely important to have duty of care for yourself, your employee or worker. If you need support or training Atlas Safety Management can help. 

Atlas can help support with your working at height risk assessment

Our agricultural expert is on hand to advise on all aspects of working at height, including our time-saving online course. If you’d like to know more about our bespoke safety services, designed specifically to keep your agricultural business compliant and your workforce safe, request your FREE consultation today.

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