Tips and advice on preventing falls when working at height.
In many churches, there are a number of everyday tasks that involve working or gaining access at height, and as such, pose a risk of serious injury from falls to those involved. Thankfully, these are not common in a church, but where they do happen, many have resulted in injuries that have been permanently disabling. Usually, these have involved falling from ladders and stepladders or through fragile materials.
Falls can also occur from raised, open edges (e.g. in galleries, triforia or external walls) that are not adequately protected by handrails or other features (e.g. balustrades). Sometimes, they can also occur during roof work or where temporary work platforms are used (e.g. scaffolds and mobile access towers).
Because injuries resulting from falls from height can be serious, it is important that any work or access is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment.
As a first step, it is sensible to identify where work or access at height is required in your church.
Either as an employer, or someone who has control of this work completed by others, you may then need to:
- Consider if this work can be avoided in the first place (say, completing it from ground level)
- If this can’t be done, prevent falls by using an existing place at height (e.g. galleries) if this is already safe, or using the correct equipment (e.g. scaffolding, access towers etc.) depending upon the nature and duration of the work; and if a risk still remains
- Minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall (e.g. using a safety harness).
You should only use ladders where their use is justified because of the low risk and either the work is of short duration, or there are existing features at your church that cannot be altered.
In some situations you may also need to:
- Complete risk assessments if you are an employer to identify the precautions you need to take
- Provide information and training for any employees and volunteers on what they need to do
- Make periodic checks and inspections to ensure that your precautions remain adequate and that equipment is safe
- Document your arrangements and responsibilities for working at height, perhaps as part of your health and safety policy
- Keep records of what you have done.