Working at Height Not Just Above the Ground at Street Level
Common Conceptions of Those at Risk from Working at Height
When people think about the health and safety dangers associated with working at height, their thoughts will primarily turn to images of people high up on scaffolding or in harnesses, working on skyscrapers or large monuments. Whatever the exact image, their thoughts will typically picture somebody out in the open air. However, working at height does not solely relate to activities which are taking place outside above street level; it also includes work which takes place underground.
Hitting the Ground is the Main Danger
Although serious injuries can be acquired during the fall if the person's body bangs against or scrapes surfaces on the way down, the main cause of death or injury from working at height obviously comes from hitting the ground. But this ground does not have to be the street level, it also includes the surface level for work underground.
Falls to the Surface can Happen Out in the Open Air, Underground or Inside Buildings
Falling from height underground can sound a little like a contradiction at first, but it is a very real danger in industries such as mining or underground construction. The height of the working area can sometimes be in the hundreds of feet, with a requirement for people to be up high on platforms performing a task such as securing fixtures, mining material or even just decorating the area before it is open to the public (e.g. an underground subway station).
Even Falls From Small Heights Can Cause Injuries
For all intents and purposes the surface level underground is exactly the same as the ground outside at street level, which means working at height regulations and health and safety precautions apply just the same as they would were the person to be in the open air working above the street level. In fact, working at height safety measures apply whenever work takes place where a fall to the surface below could cause harm to a person. This means that not only will working at height legislation and regulations apply to work which takes place out in the open, underground or inside a building, but it also applies to work which is taking place even just a couple of feet above ground as a fall from this small height can still cause injuries such as sprains, broken bones or serious head injuries.
Working at Height in Health and Safety Training Courses
So rather than working at height being restricted to people who work on top of scaffolding which soars up into the sky, or specialists clad from head to toe in abseiling gear scaling towers and monuments, working at height is actually a common occupational hazard that affects a large number of employees in virtually every industry. Even workplaces which are considered safer than most such as offices still have working at height risks through the use of portable steps to reach items stored up high in cupboards or shelves. This makes working at height training necessary for pretty much every employee. Obviously it will need to be tailored to the specific requirements and attributes of the job, for instance those who abseil up buildings will require different training to office workers going up stepladders, but the dangers of working at height need to be taught as part of the health and safety training programmes for employees of companies in all industries and occupations.