Working at heights continues to be the major cause for work related deaths and injuries. Statistics for 2012 are gloomy -- we've had 208 fatalities throughout the country, more than 5,000 serious injuries resulting in permanent disabilities and over 10,000 accidents resulting in the injured person to be off work for 3 or more days.

According to the same statistics, more than five million Americans work at heights as part of their job. This may include jobs like working on scaffolds, cleaning gutters, mounting displays, working on roofs, stacking shelves, cleaning windows and many more.

The reason why we are still having a huge number of incidents, in spite of all health and safety measures, is the very lack of concern towards these regulations. "It cannot happen to me" is the motto of many workers I've spoken to, and frankly it used to be mine as well, until I had the accident.

The ladder and scaffolding courses I took after the accident opened up my mind and made me understand that you should not be playing with your life. There are very strict rules and regulations in place, and employees as well as employers may be held liable if these are not followed. Did you know, for instance, that if a company has its employees work at heights, then each job has to be thoroughly assessed by a company representative? Each task has to be planned, taking into account a wide range of risks, such as:

  • How high above the ground will the employee be working? If it's above two meters, then safety measures are to be taken.
  • If the employee will be working outside, then weather conditions have to be considered. Wind, rain or snow may be making the tasks even more dangerous -- the employee may slip off the platform, or be thrown off by strong wind.
  • All employees must receive proper training regarding health and safety regulations when working at heights. I haven't received any, and luckily I am still alive -- you may not be as lucky as me though.
Contrary to popular belief, it's not only the employer who has responsibilities regarding working at heights. As an employee, you must:

  • help with identifying potential risks and hazards. You are the one working at heights, not your manager; you can see where the problem is, and it's your duty to report it;
  • use the safety equipment properly. It's the employer's job to provide you with the safety equipment, and your job to use it properly. One cannot go without the other -- it's not enough for the employer to provide you with safety belts and a helmet, you have to be wearing them too!
  • follow the workplace procedures. Stay up to date with what the employer is expecting you to do, and follow the indications religiously;
  • attend all health and safety courses. Most companies who have their employees work at heights must organize H&S courses periodically. It's your duty to attend them, whether or not the employer strictly compels you to do it.

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