Basic Safety Guidelines for Working on an Access Tower

21st August 2018
Safety

 

Working at height can be dangerous if either risk assessments aren’t created and actioned, or if basic safety guidelines are overlooked by users.

We’ve previously covered information on how to perform a risk assessment for working at height, and some of the most frequently asked questions for access towers, so in this post we’re going to touch on some of the basic safety guidelines for working on an access tower.

There are multiple safety hazards to be considered when using an access tower to work at height, these could be:

  • Falls from height due to improperly set up guardrails (this accounts for 40% of fatalities in construction each year)
  • Injuries during the setup of an access tower due to lack of a thorough risk assessment
  • Items falling from access towers due to lack of toeboards (improper set up)
  • Access tower collapse due to improper erection

Ways to stay safe while working at height

Perform a thorough risk assessment

Before your access tower is even erected, you should always perform a risk assessment. This will allow you to identify any potential hazards in the construction, use or dismantling phase of work. The risk assessment, however, should not be used as a statement. They’re designed to inform action – anything that you identify in your assessment should have an action performed to reduce any risk before you continue.

Ensure all involved in the construction & use of the tower are trained correctly

One of the most important safety recommendations that we can give you for working on an access tower is to ensure that anyone involved in the work is correctly trained. Lack of incorrect training is one of the most common reasons for accidents when working at height. At the very least, there should be a qualified individual present who is considered competent enough to supervise the construction and use of the access tower.

There are various courses available when it comes to access towers, and we’d always recommend that anyone planning to continuously dismantle access towers seeks to complete one of these courses.

Ensure that guardrails are properly set up and tested

Guardrails should be installed, these are simple components that should be included with your access tower.

You may also want to consider using Advanced Guard Rails for your access tower. These are rails that are placed on the level above the one that you’re working at to provide a guard railed level before access to that level is required.

An Integral Advanced Guard Rail is a type of AGR used to form part of the tower structure, meaning that it is never removed and remains in place until you dismantle your access tower

Whatever your choice of guardrail system is, make sure that it is correctly installed and that it is tested fully before use.

3T (Through The Trap) System

The 3T system is often cited as the alternative to an advanced guardrail system. It’s an assembly method approved by the HSE due to the fact that it reduces the risk of a fall. Users would add or remove any guardrails by sitting on the platform trap door of their tower, stopping them from having to stand on an unprotected platform.

Ensure toeboards are correctly installed

Toeboards should be installed on all access towers. They’re designed to work in conjunction with handrails on your tower and provide a buffer which stops tools and objects from falling or being knocked from the edge of your access tower.

When installing toeboards on your access tower, you must ensure that they meet these requirements as stipulated by HSE:

  • They must be at least 150 mm
  • The board must be robust enough to withstand a weight of 15 kg

Other considerations

The above are a list of the large but basic elements to consider when it comes to staying safe on an access tower. However, there are other, smaller considerations which can help you to stay safe. For ease, we’ve listed them below:

  • Always wear PPE equipment
  • Ensure you clear all tools away and that none are left on the access tower at the end of a shift – these could cause an obstruction for anyone using it after you
  • Don’t overload the tower – always try to be aware of the maximum weight capacity of your access tower and ensure you stay within it
  • Do not increase the height of your tower by any means other than raising the tower itself – legs are for adjusting the level of the tower only, by no means should you be using boxes or ladders at the top of your tower to gain extra height
  • Check for damage and tampering – if you think that someone may have damaged or tampered with your tower, we’d recommend against using it until a full assessment has been undertaken
  • Be cautious of outdoor elements – if your access tower has been left outside overnight, there’s always a risk of rain or snow causing the platforms to become slippier. Debris such as fallen leaves can also cause a slip hazard
  • Avoid erecting an access tower too close to power lines – PASMA Operators Guide of Practice states:  ‘If you need to work in the vicinity of overhead electrical cables, consult the appropriate HSE Guidance note and your local power company for advice on safe distances, and be aware of the flash factor, (arcing), particularly in wet conditions
  • Never try to carry tools with you as you climb the access tower – these should be hoisted up once you are in position and secure

Regardless of how many precautions that you take, working at height will always carry some form of dangerous elements. Whilst you can’t completely negate all of these elements, we hope that this guide will give you the tools that you need to keep yourself as safe as possible when you’re next working on an access tower.

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