Saying that working at heights is dangerous is almost too obvious. And yet, it cannot be stressed enough just how many hazards and risks await rope access technicians as they do their job. Rope access window cleaners, for example, may face additional risks caused by the fact that they use water to wash the windows, making the surfaces more slippery. Identifying the hazards and risks in every single project is a crucial step to reducing the risk involved in the job.
Hazards vs. risks
First things first – what exactly are hazards and risks? Are they the same thing? Though they may appear as such on the surface and they’re most certainly related, there is a meaningful difference between them. When it comes to the legislative definitions, a hazard is a factor that has the potential to cause harm. Whether this is damage to a person, an animal, or even property, the very thing that may cause an unfortunate turn of events is defined as a hazard. A risk, on the other hand, is more of an estimation of the likelihood of things going awry. Due to this fact, we talk of hazard identification and risk assessment.
What can go wrong and why it does (when it does)
No matter how professional a technician is or how much experience they have, every project involves hazards and risks. Accidents simply happen, and this is especially true when talking about something like work at heights. It could be items being dropped or the aforementioned windows being slippery – there are plenty of tiny things that could go wrong and once they do, the results may range from insignificant to catastrophic. Then there are also issues related to physical overexertion, such as muscle tear, sprains, and other injuries that can happen at a moment’s notice, sometimes just because the technician made one wrong move.
Of course, while it’s hard to predict everything, it’s not rare for accidents to happen due to a mistake on the technician’s part. Checking manufacturers’ instructions, being aware of one’s surroundings, and taking any possible safety measure can go a long way in preventing accidents, and in the majority of cases, it is actually through human negligence that these hazards and risks result in actual injuries.
What can you do?
It all boils down to four points:
- stop – consider every step,
- look – be aware of your surroundings before you start anything,
- assess – make sure you have everything you need on you,
- manage – if you’re a manager of a rope access site, it’s your job to ensure hazards and risks are reduced to a minimum.