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Work at Height in Schools and Colleges

Posted on: 10/10/16

Falls from height account for nearly three out of ten fatal injuries and the second biggest cause of specified injuries at work and not just restricted to construction sites. The education sector with on-going use and maintenance of large buildings and grounds has a wide range of work at height scenarios.

Work at Height in Schools and Colleges

Examples include tree work, roof work, small scale painting and decorating, cleaning guttering, light bulb changing, access to wall clocks and theatre lighting systems and erecting and dismantling stage scenery. As falls can occur below ground level, items such as pits, excavations and foundations must also be considered.

Your management system will usually include the following steps:

  • Write your Work at Height Policy which must carry a presumption against the use of ladders unless alternatives are not reasonably practical. A ladder is both a secured means of access and also a place of work. It is generally taken to be an acceptable place of work for short duration one-handed operatives such as dealing with wall clocks
  • Identify all your work at height scenarios. These will be locations or activities where a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Many of these will be of a school-wide nature and known to senior staff. Some of an infrequent nature will only be known to Departmental Heads.
  • Risk assess each example defining not only the type of access but training, competence and other controls such as lashing of ladders, guarding fragile areas of roofs or specifying ‘contractor only’ activity.
  • If necessary, produce a Safe System of Work based on the risk assessment findings

Using a school theatre as an example, what follows is the type of information usually required for undertaking a risk assessment. The information should be incorporated into the standard risk assessment format used by your school. You may elect to use the Severity and Probability rating to produce an overall risk rating or elect to follow the lead recently given by the HSE and abandon use of the rating. If the former, the severity rating will always be 5 (on a scale of 1-5) with the probability rating depending on the existing controls and further action required.

Identification of Hazards

These may include slipping ladders, falls from ladders, falls from gantries, falls when accessing storage areas or lighting control points, falls of heavy theatre lights from gantries

People affected

Any person involved in accessing at height and persons in the vicinity below

Control Measures to consider

One person in control whether technician or teacher

Training and experience of that individual

Fixed access where reasonably practicable

Edge fencing on all lighting gantries

Pupils or teaching staff not to access at height unless trained to do so

Ladders tagged and inspected on a monthly basis

All access to scenery lighting and other props under the supervision of the person in control

Ladders secured top and bottom

Any tower scaffolds used must be erected, used and dismantled by trained individuals and used according to instructions regarding stability and mobility

Lights secured by cable loops

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