• Matthew Bennett
    60
    What is your favorite / preferred, succinct definition of 'Working at Height'?
  • MattD2
    337
    "Work where there is the potential to fall from one level to another which increase the risk of injury."
    Curious though of the actual question behind your question...
    My definition above is very broad and would even apply to walking up/down stairs, but the point is how you manage the risk should be proportional to the risk;
    Just walking up down stairs, the stairs being well maintained and a handrail is fine - but carrying heavy boxes down the stairs needs more consideration,
    Working in the middle of a flat roof 10m away from any edge, no additional controls required - accessing the roof from an unprotected edge, how will that be managed?
  • Matthew Bennett
    60
    "Curious though of the actual question behind your question."
    The definition you've put up is one I often find, and while it does 'define' working at height, I don't like it.

    It works for us safety geeks, however I find it fails to engage the thinking of a lot of workers (who are motivated to get the job done), I suspect because it does expose all the nuance that you identified in the latter part of your response.

    I looking for something that people can read / hear, that then gets them directly to thinking about the influencing factors and options to resolve - I'm just struggling to be it succinctly.
  • Alex P
    15
    As a trainer for working at height, a text book answer would be "Anywhere you could injure yourself if you fell from one level to another. This could be above or below ground"

    To my knowledge, this is what most training providers use to define work at height, and NZQA unit standard assessments are unlikely to stray far from that definition... (having also been involved in that process).

    From my experience, giving examples alongside the definition is the best way for people to understand what it means in an everyday work context. E.g.
    - using a ladder, podium, and temporary work platform
    - working on scaffolding
    - using an EWP
    - standing on a chair/desk to change a light bulb
    - working on a flat deck - trailer, ute, etc
    - standing at the top/edge of a bluff/cliff/pit

    We may see a different and/or legislated definition with the soon to be released Plant, Structures and Work at Height Regs..
  • MattD2
    337
    looking for something that people can read / hear, that then gets them directly to thinking about the influencing factors and options to resolve - I'm just struggling to be it succinctly.Matthew Bennett
    That's the contradiction though - asking workers to think for themselves, but only in the confined scope that has been defined as actual "work of height" so they don't have to think to much.

    It works for us safety geeks, however I find it fails to engage the thinking of a lot of workers (who are motivated to get the job done), I suspect because it does expose all the nuance that you identified in the latter part of your response.Matthew Bennett
    I don't know if it even really works for the safety geeks - as in; is it actually that useful to have a set definition of "work at height". As it either is going to be too broad and be ridiculed/ignored because it's interpreted in the extreme - that fall restraint has to be worn to use a step stool; or too limited to not include all cases that it really should - you've set it as work over 3m, but what about working at 2.9m... what about 2.8m... ad absurdum
  • MattD2
    337
    From my experience, giving examples alongside the definition is the best way for people to understand what it means in an everyday work context. E.g.
    - using a ladder, podium, and temporary work platform
    - working on scaffolding
    - using an EWP
    - standing on a chair/desk to change a light bulb
    - working on a flat deck - trailer, ute, etc
    - standing at the top/edge of a bluff/cliff/pit
    Alex P
    This illustrates what I think the issue most have with the broad definition of "work at height", the implication that it is all the same risk and therefore can be manage similarly. But from the examples you see that there are many different scenarios all requiring different risk management approaches.
    The working on ladders / scaffold is a classic example - these are commonly listed as examples of working at heights but they are also actually controls for working at heights, confusing the workers even more.

    (who are motivated to get the job done)Matthew Bennett
    This is the crux of the matter though - if you are concerned that workers are not spending adequate time to assess the risks of their work because they are motivated to get the job done, then succinct definitions / controls for specific risks is likely to only manage those risk to a limited point. Classic example is workers following the company rules/policies to wear a harnesses when working at height, only to find that on the job that harnesses are either attached to unsuitable anchor points (or not at all) or that the workers would hit the ground before the harness stopped them falling.

    So what are those motivations to get started with the physical work ASAP even if that means insufficient planning is being done? Would stepping back to assess and manage these be more beneficial? And not the reinforcement of the "expectations that workers take time for safety", but actually investigating what is driving workers to not spend time really considering the risk of their work?
  • Alex P
    15
    @MattD2 I believe if you interpret it in the way of the hierarchy of controls, then it starts to make sense to people. Offering 'controls' for various at height activities could be a good place to start.

    Substitute - a chair for a ladder, or a plank of wood and sawhorse for a podium
    Isolate the hazard - scaffolding, edge protection
    Engineering - permanent ladders, railing, and stairs. EWP
    Admin - training, instruction, supervision etc
    PPE - harness safety systems
    All of these still expose someone to height. The hazard still exists unless we eliminate the work or are far enough away from an edge for the hazard to no longer present any risk.

    Classic example is workers following the company rules/policies to wear a harnesses when working at height, only to find that on the job that harnesses are either attached to unsuitable anchor points (or not at all) or that the workers would hit the ground before the harness stopped them fallingMattD2

    Unfortunately working at height courses tend to only deliver training around harness safety systems, which then somewhat implies that all work at height requires a harness. You can buy a 15m extension ladder and a 9m fixed portable ladder - that's a long way to fall! - but when does a course actually discuss, train or assess ladder safety. Should that be covered on a course, or is that up to the employer to train in house?
  • MattD2
    337
    Unfortunately working at height courses tend to only deliver training around harness safety systems, which then somewhat implies that all work at height requires a harness. You can buy a 15m extension ladder and a 9m fixed portable ladder - that's a long way to fall! - but when does a course actually discuss, train or assess ladder safety. Should that be covered on a course, or is that up to the employer to train in house?Alex P
    If they are assessing against NZQA Unit Standard 25045 (which any of the height safety course I look up are) then they should be instrcuting and assessing more than just harness safety systems, as it is pretty clear in the assessment criteria that the course is to cover the common types of height safety equipment employed on height work in the workplace (which to your point specifically includes ladders) - Outcome 1 & 2 > https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/units/pdf/25045.pdf

    I believe if you interpret it in the way of the hierarchy of controls, then it starts to make sense to people. Offering 'controls' for various at height activities could be a good place to start.Alex P
    That is kind of my point, but a bit wider scope - enable workers to be able to assess their workplace task for risks and controls. This will more the likely include needing to consult with them on the common risks and controls for the type of work they are employed to do, but also how to assess and adapt to unusual/uncommon situations, and when/how to defer to others for more guidance.

    However that will be less effective if there are other factors in play that is shifting the workers focus from adequately planning work to just getting stuck in and getting it done. These could be direct instructions from the company - e.g. expectations that if you they should be working from the time the clock in to the time they clock out, or indirect instructions - e.g. production schedules that are based on best-case scenarios with no allowance for delays or other issues, or unintended consequences - e.g. incentives for hitting/exceeding production targets / schedules.
  • Chris Hyndman
    71
    This always works for me.
    "Work where there is the potential to fall from one level to another which increase the risk of injury."MattD2
    (although it could provoke more focus on things falling and not just people).

    As we know, this is only defining the activity. Evaluating the risk requires a lot more thought.
  • MattD2
    337
    although it could provoke more focus on things falling and not just peopleChris Hyndman
    Is that such a bad thing though?
  • Chris Hyndman
    71


    Maybe I could have articulated that better. I would like to see a definition that also considers how we store/stack items at height.
  • jason farrow
    12
    If they are assessing against NZQA Unit Standard 25045 (which any of the height safety course I look up are) then they should be instrcuting and assessing more than just harness safety systems, as it is pretty clear in the assessment criteria that the course is to cover the common types of height safety equipment employed on height work in the workplace (which to your point specifically includes ladders) - Outcome 1 & 2 > https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/nqfdocs/units/pdf/25045.pdf

    i completed this course it was part of a group of 4 including level 3 and 4 credits for working at height.
    it requires refreshers as well........ was actually very good
  • MattD2
    337
    Maybe I could have articulated that better. I would like to see a definition that also considers how we store/stack items at height.Chris Hyndman
    I probably could have articulated it better too (or just not been so facetious) :wink:
    I agree with you that there isn't enough focus of "work at heights" regarding things other than humans falling.
  • Bruce Tollan
    32
    No paper work is protection for front line work at height. Paperwork and Competency training only protects the PCBU from court prosecution. if you wish to protect workers, their risk tolerance and supervision risk tolerance is the margin between safe or dead. plain language messaging would be
    IF YOU FALL YOU GET HURT OR DIE
  • Muhammad Hafidz
    6
    Working at heights is any height you work on which could potentially harm you if you fall. We can't put a measured distance to it even though Worksafe did classify 5 metres to fill up the particular hazardous work form.

    As a working at heights trainer/rope access technician/ WAH PPE inspector, I conduct a refresher training every year for the building wash and roofing team of my company. The refresher consists of specific methods to keep themselves safe while working at heights. I noticed generic 2 days training for 15757 and 23229 do not equipped them with sufficient knowledge to be safe while working on the roofs.

    What I added was practical training on pendulum effect, competency assessment on multiple equipment like rope grabs and lifelines, how to read an anchor info plate and determining safe load, basic knots (butterfly and stopper knots) rigging slings, choosing structural anchors etc.

    The places the roofers work on change most of the time so having someone who is an expert on setting up lifelines, assessing existing anchors, new hazards and pendulum effects is vital. I don't believe anyone who has no experience on the job process should construct the safe work method statement or JSA for any high risk job.

    Making the training program fun to learn is the best way to prevent harm and you will see a change in behaviour. And of course WAH kit that is comfortable fit for them because that's one of the reasons people avoid using them.
  • Steve H
    307
    For about 25 years I owned a pole house high on the Eastern slopes of Lyttelton, built in the 1970's it had a balcony across the front and down one side to the front door. Usual post and three broad railings, easy for small children to climb.

    For each new child visitor, family, friends of either our daughter or son, the following safety briefing was delivered- The child was taken to the highest point, given a raw egg, told to tap it, tap their head, asked if it felt about as hard, and then told to drop the egg and watch what happened.........No child ever climbed on the railings.
  • KeithH
    171
    @Matthew Bennett,
    You first asked
    What is your favorite / preferred, succinct definition of 'Working at Height'?Matthew Bennett
    An open question with few parameters or limitations.

    MattD2 replied
    "Work where there is the potential to fall from one level to another which increase the risk of injury."MattD2

    and you said
    and while it does 'define' working at height, I don't like it.Matthew Bennett

    So what don't you like about the definition Matthew? And why?
    Is it the wording? Is it an interpretation or interpretations? Is it as a definition as a hazard? Or as a risk? Or as a definition of harm. Or as a event or events? Or as a training topic?
    So again, what don't you like about the definition Matthew? And why?


    Once you express what you don't like about the definition - either MatD2's or any in current usage - then your question has a foundation to evaluate and we can provide feedback for you to come to a conclusion.

    And your reply to MattD2's question, "Curious though of the actual question behind your question..." could then be revisited.

    Just my 2 cents worth.
  • Matthew Bennett
    60
    Thanks for bring it back round to the beginning @KeithH. I've been pondering what I was looking / hoping for as the responses have rolled in, and it was probably a bit of a fishing expedition - I didn't know what I was looking for, so I threw the question out just to see what came back. I do know that using the commonly accepted definition for work at height isn't getting the results I aspire to.

    Workers time is a valuable commodity with lots of demands, giving us a small window of opportunity to get the message across - our elevator pitch. When the doors open, they either walk out and the doors close, or they invite as to take a walk and talk. The definition of a particular hazard is that elevator pitch.

    The challenge with height as a hazard is it frequently presents itself as innocuous, many people engage with it routinely with no or limited changes in behavior and there is high normalization to the risk.
    • Walking down the stairs is working at height.
    • Gardening on an embankment is working at height.
    Roll out the common definition of height and people are pressing the button for the next floor just so they can get away from another lecture from the elf 'n' safety police.

    There is no denying that height is a significant issue to be addressed, however it is contextual, and the worker needs to be empowered to make good decisions as the scenario changes. The adage that "a fear of heights is short-sighted; the wise person has a fear of the ground' comes to mind. The real issue is actually an energy (absorbed) over time (the sudden negative acceleration upon landing) question, and the best contextual answer is 'work from a stable platform', so that you never lose balance off your feet.
    • Hiking down a steep track is inherently unstable, leaving you with only one point of contact at any given time. Add a pair of walking poles and you can now maintain three points of contact.
    • At a certain gradient even the poles lose the ability to keep you stable, so you introduce a rope and harness: an abseil system, creating the required stability.
    • However, when you needed to perform a two-handed task, even the abseil system needs to be refined in order to be stable for the job.
    This is a conversation lots of people can engage with as it validates their experience and ability to choose solutions that fit their circumstances. It just can't be delivered in an elevator.
  • KeithH
    171
    Hi @Matthew Bennett.
    I got the impression you were on a fishing expedition.
    In this post, you make some valid points but I'm not sure they relate to your original question.

    Looking at
    What is your favorite / preferred, succinct definition of 'Working at Height'?Matthew Bennett

    there is an assumption that "Working at Height" is a hazard. Trying to define working at height as a hazard is, as you point out, likely to result in innocuous definitions.

    As an option, consider "Working at height" not as a hazard, but as an activity. Abet a general activity similar to say - driving a car or walking across a sports field.

    If working at height is an activity, then evaluate what actual or potential hazard does this activity present?
    In this activity, the hazard will usually be a fall to a lower level or in some cases falling and being suspended.

    The harm may be anything from nothing through to life changing or life threatening injuries.
    Possibly, the hazard is what happens before the harm occurs but after the activity.

    As you also mentioned, context needs to be taken into account. Continuing from working at height as an activity, where will the activity occur?
    Consider the location the activity occurs to be a hazardous situation. Several have been mentioned - walking down stairs, working on roofs, working near unprotected edges, walking on a sloping surface. if these are the source of the hazard, then an opportunity exists to control the hazard proactively rather than reactively (though this is a topic for another occasion).



    How does this fit together?
    Start with an activity - working at height.

    Consider the hazardous situations.
    In this discussion I found 19 but there may be more

    Determine the hazard.
    There are many but most involve falling, some stepping and a few being bounced.

    Look at the hazard outcome.
    Most outcomes result in landing on a lower level though some result in being suspended.

    Then consider the harm caused by the hazard outcome.
    And this can vary.

    Attached is a table for discussion.

    Just my 2 cents worth
    Attachment
    Hazard option (11K)
  • KeithH
    171
    @Matthew Bennett
    Now you have had an opportunity to read the spreadsheet, try changing "Working at heights" to "Collecting raindrops" and decide whether you are looking at a hazard or an activity.

    Decide where the potential for harm exists. Is it at the activity stage? If not, where?

    Just my 2 cents worth.
  • Lee Bird
    14
    "if you leave the ground there are risks - Controls can be as simple as 3 points of contact and good housekeeping to full height safety equipment etc" - Doing nothing is not an option.

    There can be no succinct way of saying this, heights is anytime you leave the ground.

    Unfortunately, the HSE Regs 1995 still add the red hearing of 3 metres which is still misinterpreted. This is then further confused by companies and boffins lowering this height and further messing with the interpretation and its requirements, often adding a completely unrealistic expectation and introducing a whole new set of risks to control.

    (shhh ... Ladders *GASP*)

    Its not "3 metres put a harness on" its that means are provided and fit for the purpose its intended. (ish)

    Us nerds need to teach the non nerds that reasonable controls aren't hard or complicated, but then keep it simple ourselves to be practical to implement.
  • Matt Ward
    13
    Literally W@H is any work where a worker or object can fall from one level to another.
    In a H&S / risk context we need to add where you can harm yourself or others as a result of falling - person(s) falling or something falling onto persons(s).
  • Muhammad Hafidz
    6
    Hi all, anyone else realised that some training providers state 2 years while some state 3 years before the working at heights certificate "expire" and due for refresher? Im referring to 23229 and 15757 in specific.
  • Alex P
    15
    Yes, it's been like that for a few years. Unlike first aid training, there is no defined refresher period for many industrial training courses - this is ultimately up to the training provider to express their recommended 'refresher' time.

    Of course, though, the business seeking training for their staff can choose to send them to a course sooner.
  • Craig Carlyle
    7
    I have been asked this same question in one of those awkward confrontational moments with a worker. My answer? How far can you bounce?
  • James
    4
    Bit late to the party but I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in anyway.

    The intent behind the rules and regulations around working at height is to prevent a person from falling a distance which will cause significant injury or death.

    Looking at what guidance there is for what is deemed a height where, if you were to fall, is likely to cause significant injury or death is 1000mm (based on the building code).

    At any height greater than 1000mm, some form of controls are required. Based on the hierarchy of controls, Eliminate is generally impossible, substituting is likely difficult to achieve, engineered controls like fixed barriers are the most common control, then it turns to PPE and administrative controls (harnesses, scaffolding, mobile work platform, PTW, JSEA,etc)

    While it is a broad coverall statement, if the level is greater than 1000mm, a means to prevent falling is required.
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