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Working at height is one of the most dangerous workplace activities. If sufficient protections are not in place, falling from even a moderately high position can result in severe injuries, including broken bones, brain damage or ruptured internal organs, or even death.
For this reason, workers should ideally not be put in situations where they could fall more than a few feet. Wherever possible, work should be carried out at ground level. However, when this is not possible, employers should make sure that strict precautions are in place and that they have the right equipment for safely managing work at height.
In 2022, 46 fatal workplace accidents were reported in Singapore, eight of which were due to working at height. Falls from height (FFH) incidents were the second most common cause of major injuries.
Since the start of 2023, there have been another eleven workplace fatalities. Due to the high number of fatal accidents at the workplace the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) extended its Heightened Safety Period until 31 May 2023 with Additional Measures.
To reduce workplace deaths and injuries – especially in high-risk sectors , MOM has recently announced the new requirement: "companies will have to deploy video surveillance systems at construction sites for projects valued at $5 million or more from June 2024". Video systems will be required at construction sites where high-risk activities take place, and companies will bear the cost of implementing them.
According to the official WSH work at height definition, it’s any task that is performed:
Due to its hazardous nature, all work at height in Singapore is subject to stringent regulations laid out in the Workplace Safety and Health Act as well as the WSH Code of Practice for Working Safely at Heights. Moreover, employers are required to carry out a proper risk assessment for working at height, obtain a work at height permit by adhering to the permit-to-work system, and ensure that workers have the right safety tools and equipment for this type of job before any such work can commence.
Working at height can involve many different kinds of safety equipment, depending on the project and the work environment. Some of this equipment is designed to prevent falls while some is designed to provide protection should a fall occur. That said, the following items are essential in most work-at-height situations.
PPE consists of wearable equipment designed to protect the wearer from harm. When working at height, a worker should be kitted out with the appropriate PPE, namely: helmet, harness, high visibility vest / jacket / tabard, eye protection, footwear and protective gloves.
Workers should be tethered to lifelines or anchors to ensure that they can move freely but won’t fall far if they trip or slip up. This includes fall restraint and fall arrest systems that do well to protect workers working at height in the absence of collective fall protection systems.
Barriers like roof guardrails and safety rails should be installed to prevent workers falling off an edge or balcony.
Platforms and walkways allow workers to safely and easily access roofs and other elevated areas.
Self-closing safety gates should be installed wherever there is a point of access to an elevated area, such as the top of a flight of steps, to ensure that these points are always safely blocked off when not in use.
In factories and warehouses pallet gates should be installed, they are helpful for when employees need to transport equipment onto mezzanine floors.
When work is being done on a roof, it is important to ensure that covers or domes are erected over or around skylights and rooflights to prevent workers falling through them.
While fall protection equipment needs vary according to project and work environment, the above safety tools and equipment must be present and readily available in any workplace that involves work at height. But then again, it will still depend on the project’s needs.
Aside from knowing what to how it is also good to know the fundamental safety preparations that can be done to prevent any injuries from happening.
Likewise, the upkeep must also be done regularly and safety equipment needs to be replaced when necessary. It is important to ensure that all tools are maintained properly and replaced when they become damaged or worn out.
Lastly, it pays to partner with a provider that is knowledgeable and has the best interest of your employees at heart.
As a global safety solutions provider which has been in the business for decades, Kee Safety is uniquely placed to cater to your fall protection equipment needs and advise you on how best to ensure that elevated work areas are safe.
If you would like to know more about the fall protection equipment we provide or discuss your specific equipment needs please contact our safety experts.