How to Work Alone Safely at Height (And Why it’s Best Not to)

working at height alone

Working at height is a dangerous task. It’s crucial to take every precaution you can to ensure the safety of yourself and anyone you’re working with. We would never recommend working alone, but what happens if you have no choice? Let’s go over some critical elements to staying safe on the job site and what to do if you have no choice but to work alone.

Proper Training

No matter if you’re working alone or with others, an important factor in safety is to have proper training. Ensuring that workers are trained to do their job safely is the first step in preventing accidents. A safety harness is no good if it is worn incorrectly. Training employees is something that should be done whether the employee is new or has been at the job for years. If new circumstances or a crisis arise, it’s important to effectively train employees. Training could include anything from manuals to online courses to hands-on practice.

Prior Planning

Having a safety plan in place for any hazardous work is crucial to prevent injury and death. While there should always be a broad safety plan, walking through a specialized plan for the specific work you’re about to be doing can further reduce the risks of working at height. Is there a skylight that’s been painted over? Is there railing that is beginning to degrade and become ineffective? What’s the weather going to be like? These are just a few of the questions you should be answering before going to work. In addition to plans for work, safety plans for a crisis are vital in keeping a business running and employees safe. It’s too late once a crisis hits to begin planning.

Now let’s take a look at some of the reasons you should always work with a partner.

Key Benefits of Working with Others

Someone Has Your Back

Falling can be fatal if you’re alone and don’t have the proper equipment in place. Having someone there in an emergency can greatly reduce the chance of death. Even if you do have safety equipment in place like a fall arrest system, hanging there suspended in your harness can cause permanent injury. Having someone there to execute an emergency rescue with the right rescue equipment is crucial in protecting your safety.

Awareness Vs. Complacency

Two heads are better than one, right? Often, work requires quite a bit of concentration. Maybe your partner is fixing an air conditioning unit by the roof edge and is so focused on the task at hand that they don’t realize where they’re standing. Being there as a second set of eyes to spot and warn them can prevent major accidents from occurring. Plus, you can help with any gear or equipment that might otherwise force them to compromise their safety by having to repeatedly move things around or readjust.

Check In

Continuously checking in with your partner can make sure you’re both in optimum condition to continue working. Checking in can help remind you to take account of how you’re feeling and if you need a break, some water, or even just some interaction or guidance.

We would always recommend working with others. These three reasons show you how having a partner with you can save time, effort, and lives. But, what about an emergency when you don’t have that option?

4 Ways to Stay Safe While Working Alone (If Absolutely Necessary)


There are apps and software out there to help with safety. Checking the weather and setting timers are great ways to work safely, even when working with a partner. If you’re alone, these applications are even more crucial. Even further, there are wearable fall sensors on the market that don’t impede your work and are comfortable to wear. Using one of these can help alert others if you have a fall accident, whether that’s just a trip over a pipe or fall from the rooftop. Some smart watches like the Apple Watch offer a lot of these benefits such as fall sensors and informative apps that can really boost your safety on the job site. The Apple Watch will not only detect a hard fall, but make an emergency call automatically that could save your life.

2. Check In, Again

If you do have to be at height alone, at least check in with someone every 20 minutes whether that’s a text, a phone call, or any other preferred method that keeps you safe. Better yet, have someone else check in with you every 20 minutes. This will prevent you from being in a nasty situation for long periods of time. If something occurs and the check doesn’t happen, the other person will know that something is up and that you need help.

3. Video Chat

Having a smartphone can allow for video support while working at height alone. Not only can this help with safety by involving another party, but it can aid in actually getting the job done correctly by having another set of eyes on the work. Just remember to stay in one place and not be distracted by your phone, especially when working near a fall hazard.

4. Remote Assessment

remote assessment

If you have to check up on something at height, it’s better if you can do without even putting yourself there. Drones or satellite imagery can help remove you from a hazardous situation altogether. Checking on the issue remotely can properly inform you of the type of hazards you might be facing and what equipment is needed to fix the problem. Our free rooftop safety consultation uses satellite imagery to view your roof and determine its hazards while keeping people off the roof. Completing a remote safety assessment can also be done with phones, tablets, or laptops and the right safety expert with an on-site employee. OH&S has a great walkthrough of the process.

Hazardous work is, unfortunately, a necessity in our day and age. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce the risks of working at height. Always have a partner with you, use beneficial software and gear, and have the right safety plan and training in place. Get the job done, but be sure to do it safely.

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