What is Work Height in Scaffolding?

August 27, 2018

Scaffolding workers can't assess work height distances, not by themselves. After all, a metre's drop down to a flat surface won't create much strain. Knees bend, and the landing force is absorbed. But what if the fall took place headfirst? Or, going back to the original fall, what if the ground wasn't flat? Falls can cause serious injuries, which is why scaffolding users need to recognize specific work heights.

Scaffolding Work Height

In scaffolding, work height distance is used to safely protect workers from a fall. Below this threshold, a fall likely won't cause harm. Above this height, even a minor fall could cause a life-threatening injury. Now, in America and other feet-and-inches nations, a 6-feet threshold is exercised. In Australia, a land where the metric system rules, heights at or above a 2-metre drop are considered high-risk situations. It's here, with workers labouring on a platform 2-metres above the next lowest level, that a fall prevention system is mandated.

Managing Work Height Risks

There's no getting around the problem, employees need access to higher areas when they're going about their daily activities. A straightforward solution suggests the wearing of a harness. More realistically, though, safety measures are added to the scaffolding. Handrails and toe boards are installed. Then, if this is a moving tower, perhaps suspended on twin cables, a wearable harness would add another layer of protection. Next, looking beyond these effective fall risk management solutions, the site authorities and scaffolding competent person take another approach.

Incorporating a Fall Risk Assessment Strategy

Objects strewn around the base of the tower aren't welcome. A piece of rebar is pointing up. Left like this, the structural element could impale a falling worker. Rebar, building materials, and more, the area around the scaffolding needs to be cleared. Incidentally, the steps taken during this clearance action should all be recorded on the site SWMS (Safe Work Method Statement). Clearly, though, the finest employees, those who are trained and comfortable with at-height work, should be assigned above the 2-metre work height threshold. On the move up here, the toe guard and handrail elements of the scaffolding are firmly in place. A secondary harness-like wearable is also snugly in place, and the employees are conducting their business while fully aware of every fall avoidance asset.

Above 6-feet or 2-metres, it's the fall distance that causes harm. Even below the work height threshold, though, there are still dangers. Wear a hard hat and boots. Otherwise, incautiously strewn building materials could trap, impale, or impact a falling worker, especially one who's descending at an awkward angle. In the meantime, above that height, always adopt a series of fall-preventing system aids, such as handrails.

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