Working At Heights
Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:
- Work above ground/floor level
- Could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or
- Could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground
A well-operated drone needs none of these limitations.
As long as the pilot can see the drone and there is no interruption to the radio signal there will be no problem. All our drones will return to the take-off point in the event a signal is lost
The Regulations apply to all work at height, where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury. They place duties on employers and those who control any work at height activity (such as facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).
As part of the Regulations, you must ensure:
- All work at height is properly planned and organised
- Those involved in work at height are competent
- The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used
- The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
- The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained
The Acronym ‘Proper planning prevents P poor performance’….
Drone surveys need a lot of care in determining if the site is safe if there are unseen obstructions or powerful radio signals
None of the factors on the left should affect a drone survey.
Strong wind currents or eddies may cause some flying problems but these can be eliminated by an experienced pilot.
The law says that ladders can be used for work at height when a risk assessment has shown that using equipment offering a higher level of fall protection is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use, or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered.
Short duration is not the deciding factor in establishing whether an activity is acceptable or not – you should have first considered the risk. As a guide, if your task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, it is recommended that you consider alternative equipment.
You should only use ladders in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and where it's reasonably practicable to do so, the ladder can be secured.
A drone will not slip, slide or break in half. The operator needs to be fully fit and unfatigued but otherwise, there is no huge drain on human strength.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 changed the meaning of working platforms, which were traditionally seen as fully-boarded platforms with handrails and toe boards. A working platform can now be virtually any surface from which work can be carried out, such as:
- A roof
- A floor
- A platform on a scaffold
- Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs)
- The treads of a stepladder
No limitations for a drone no safety barriers. Just a site free from crowds and a clear take off and alternate landing point.
Working at height can also mean down wells etc, drones don’t do deep holes in the ground very well as their radio signal can easily be blocked.
The Regulations require that, for construction work, handrails have a minimum height of 950 mm, and that any gap between the top rail and any intermediate rail should not exceed 470 mm. The Regulations also require toeboards to be suitable and sufficient (eg a toe board of a minimum 100 mm height would be acceptable).
Drones are unaffected
Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act to be effective. Examples are permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts and tower scaffolds.
Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it, via an energy-absorbing lanyard, to a suitable anchor point.
A drone survey may need the operator to reposition a few time if the survey is large and to change batteries or data cards but there is no need to cover a building in scaffolding, a movable tower, or re-pitch ladders – all of which requires time and manpower
If you are thinking of using a MEWP, (Mobile Elevated Work Platform) consider the following questions:
- Height – How high is the job from the ground?
- Application – Do you have the appropriate MEWP for the job? (If you're not sure, check with the hirer or manufacturer)
- Conditions – What are the ground conditions like? Is there a risk of the MEWP becoming unstable or overturning?
- Operators – Are the people using the MEWP trained, competent and fit to do so?
- Obstructions – Could the MEWP be caught on any protruding features or overhead hazards, eg steelwork, tree branches or power lines?
- Traffic – Is there passing traffic and, if so, what do you need to do to prevent collisions?
- Restraint – Do you need to use either work restraint (to prevent people climbing out of the MEWP) or a fall arrest system (which will stop a person hitting the ground if they fall out)? Allowing people to climb out of the basket is not normally recommended – do you need to do this as part of the job?
- Checks – Has the MEWP been examined, inspected and maintained as required by the manufacturer's instructions and have daily checks been carried out?
Some of these hazards may affect a drone flight but a pre-operation survey should make these limitations visible and a planned work route would alleviate accidents. The DJI drone is equipped with proximity sensors and will warn the Pilot of obstructions.
Traffic may need to be managed but if the pilot can see the drone and be clear of traffic there is no problem.
If you are thinking of using a Tower
You need to be competent to build, inspect, use and dismantle a tower
The following are all essential safety features that should be supplied upon purchase or hire of the tower:
- purpose-built platforms with trap door entry and exit. There must be enough platforms so that they can be installed at 2m height intervals during assembly and dismantling.
- guardrails fitted all the way around every platform at a minimum height of 950mm and with a maximum 470mm vertical gap between the guardrails and the platform
- a built-in access ladder or staircase for safe ascent and descent
- 4 stabilisers of the correct size for the height of the tower
- toe boards to prevent the fall of any materials
- user instructions which show one of the two recognised safe assemblies and dismantling methods
You should use one of the 2 recognised safe methods to assemble and dismantle a tower:
- Advance Guardrail (AGR). Guardrail side frames are put in place in advance of anyone getting onto the platform. They are put in place from ground level for the first platform level, and from the protected position of a platform below for the higher platform levels.
- Through The Trap (3T). Guardrails are put in place before stepping onto the platform. The operator positions themselves within the open trap door, seated on the platform, from where they install or remove the guardrails.
Once the tower is built it must be inspected by a competent person
- Before it is first used
- At suitable intervals depending on the environment and use
- Every time something happens that may affect its stability or safety
A huge responsibility here – A drone with a pilot and one or two safety officers can do almost any work without the need to build, check, test. Pilots work to a set of rules laid down by the CAA. No higher than 400 feet and no more than 500 metres from the pilot. Of course, the pilot can move to cover larger areas, Standing in a field means he can cover 1000m from him in a circle.
It is possible, with suitable safety measures to increase these distances but they are not generally needed.