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8 tips for working at heights safely

In many industries, working at heights is a must. Construction workers, painters and roofers all must climb ladders and use scaffold systems, often going high enough that a fall could lead to life-changing injuries or even death.

You do have to accept some risk on the job, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do to reduce it. Below are a few tips that can help you work safely, no matter what heights you need to reach on the job:

  1. Use the right gear. Personal protection equipment is a must. For instance, workers may need to use a full-body harness that can catch them if they fall. This may not eliminate all injuries, but it can stop a fall from resulting in death.
  2. Check over that gear every day. Do inspections. Look for safety issues. No matter how many times you use it, do not just assume it will work. Perform your checks every day.
  3. Consider the true distance you could fall. For instance, if you are 20 feet off of the ground with a 10-foot rope, how far does the rope stretch? How far to any deceleration devices need to work? How tall are you? Sometimes, people fall with their gear on, thinking they're safe, and they still strike the ground.
  4. Do not use improper devices. If a scaffold would be safer, for instance, do not use a ladder. Understand what your devices were created to do and only use them in acceptable ways. Never cut corners.
  5. Check your anchor points. When using ropes and fall protection systems, the anchor point must hold you. Always double-check to make sure it is secure. You are very literally entrusting it with your life. Take that seriously.
  6. Get the right training. So many companies skip over training, assuming workers already know how to use their gear, or they rush through it to get to the "actual work." This is very dangerous. You must have proper training.
  7. Use devices as intended. For instance, do not stand on the top rung of a ladder or climb the wrong side. Do not lean from a ladder. Taking chances often leads to accidents.
  8. Practice. Work at lower heights until you feel comfortable with your gear. Practice in low-pressure situations. Never do a job that makes you nervous or where you think you will get injured. Make sure your skills with devices and protection equipment are well-developed.

Of course, you can do all of this and still suffer an on-the-job injury due to faulty equipment, unforeseen circumstances, issues out of your control or someone else's negligence. If you do get hurt, make sure you know what rights you have to workers' compensation in California.

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