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Avoid a Cirque du Soleil tragedy by minimising the risks for employees who work at elevated heights

by , 03 July 2013
A performer in the famous Cirque du Soleil has died after falling off a stage during a show in Las Vegas, the BBC reported. According to reports, 31 year-old Sarah Guyard-Guillot was being hoisted up the side of the stage when she slipped free of her safety wire and plummeted to an open pit below. She was pronounced dead on Saturday night in hospital. According to the Health and Safety Advisor, falls from working at elevated heights are the single biggest cause of deaths and one of the main causes of injury in the workplace. Read on to discover steps you can take to ensure your employees are working safely at elevated heights.

The tragic death of the acrobat has highlighted the need to take steps to minimise risks for employees working at elevated heights.

Perhaps what you can take from the tragedy is that according to the BBC, Guillot's death is believed to be the first fatality during a live performance in the show's 30-year history. This may be due to the Cirque du Soleil's ability to put measures in place to minimise the risks of their performers getting injured while working at elevated heights to do their aerial displays.

And you can do the same in your company.

Although there's no specific height that's legally regarded as elevated, to reduce the health and safety risks of your employees 'regard anything at the two metre mark or higher as an elevated height,' says the Health and Safety Advisor.

In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), you're not allowed to ask or allow an employee to work in an elevated position unless it's done safely from a ladder or scaffolding. Painters, construction workers, window cleaners, crane operators, electricians, technicians, firemen and emergency workers generally require ladders and scaffolding for elevated work:

So ensure that any work done at two metres or more is done with minimal risk of injury.

Use these five steps to minimise health and safety risks for employees working at elevated heights

The Health and Safety Advisor suggests you take these measures for your employees working at height

Step #1: Plan and organise elevated work properly. Ensure your employees only work at height if the task requires it. This work must be planned, supervised and performed according to safe work procedures. Ensure you have an appropriate emergency and rescue plan in place.

Step #2: Consider the weather. Take weather conditions into account and postpone work if there's a health and safety risk.

Step #3: Ensure a safe working area. This includes safe access to the work area and fall prevention measures. You must always consider the requirement of the task, the equipment and the surrounding environment.

Step #4: Carry out inspections. Ensure inspections are carried out by a competent person and are sufficient enough to reduce the health and safety risks.

Step #5: Provide safety equipment and safety features. Always provide equipment to prevent any falls. If there's a risk of a fall in spite of precautions, do all that's reasonably possible to reduce the effect of the fall. Employees can do this by wearing the correct type of PPE, like safety harnesses. Also ensure that all equipment and safety features (like ladders, scaffolding and fall arrest equipment) comply with the safety regulations and national standards.

Remember, any elevated work is classified as a high-risk occupation. But using these steps can help reduce the health and safety risks of employees working at elevated heights so you can prevent tragic accidents like the one that took place at Cirque du Soleil this weekend.

Turn to chapter W01 of your Health and Safety Advisor to get your 18 safety rules for working at heights

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