Whether you’re a builder, window cleaner, roofer or working in any other type of trade involving working at heights there are some serious points for you and your employer to consider beyond having a hard hat and harness to remain safe. There are some serious do’s and don’ts that need to be considered and implemented in order to prevent serious incidents or even fatalities at work.
The Health and Safety Executive’s published news reports on their media centre in respect of employers who were fined for breaching Health and Safety Regulations, there are numerous reports in respect of employees being injured as a result of a fall from working at height.
Recent reports of falls from heights at work
To name but a few of the most recent reports, in September 2016, a roofing company was prosecuted and fined £5,000 after a worker fell seven metres from a scaffold access ladder whilst accessing chimney repairs. The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) completed an investigation and found that the company had failed to plan work at a height which involved manual handling of construction materials and waste up and down scaffold ladders.
Again, in September 2016 a factory was fined £210,000 and ordered to pay costs as a worker had fallen through a factory roof skylight onto a concrete floor seven meters below and died shortly after. The HSE investigation found that the company failed to appreciate the risks to their maintenance workers when working on the roofs. They had carried out an inadequate generic risk assessment, which failed to identify the risks and control measures necessary when its employees were working at height.
In October 2016, a roofing company was fined £200,000. The companies employee was fitting battens on the roof around holes for the skylights when he stepped on a membrane covering one of the holes and fell approximately five metres. HSE report the company failed to properly identify and put in place controls for controlling the hazard of falling through the roof once the boards were removed. As a result of the accident the employee sustained two broken wrists and four fractures to the skull and was hospitalised for fifteen days. He has not been able to return to this type of work.
What these examples highlight is the severity of injuries you as a business could face if you are not aware of the dangers of working at heights and prepared for the same. The Health and Safety Executive and RIDDOR recently reported that over half of the fatal injuries to workers were of three kinds, being struck by a vehicle, being struck by a moving object, or, of course, falling from heights. This is because the risk of falling from heights can occur in so many of today’s professions.
What can you do to prevent an accident at work when working at heights?
The Working at Height Regulations 2005 (with 2007 amendments) applies to everyone who works at heights and provides rules and precautions that must be followed by employers and employee alike. The Employers have a legal duty to ensure that planning and organisation have been put in place for all activities involving working at height, risk assessments have been carried out, appropriate equipment has been provided and training has been implemented prior to working at a height.
However, there is also a responsibility on the employee.
The HSE have published some helpful do’s and don’ts when working at heights:
- Check that protection from falling objects is in place.
- Make sure there is adequate edge protection to minimise the risk of falling.
- Take extra care on fragile surfaces such as a roof and make sure the surface is stable and strong enough to support both your weight and equipment.
- Confirm that any work that can be reasonably carried out on the safety of the ground is carried out there when practical.
- Check that you are using the most suitable equipment for working at height and that all equipment is fit for purpose and properly maintained.
- Make sure that everyone you are working with is also fully trained and competent for working at height.
- Consider emergency situations and make sure access is safe to the workplace at height.
- Double check everything.
- Be aware of weather conditions.
- Don’t let anyone untrained, inexperienced or otherwise incompetent carry out any work at height.
- Don’t overload your working space or ladder and check products are loaded specifically and carefully.
- Don’t rest ladders against weak upper surfaces e.g. plastic gutters.
- Don’t overreach on a ladder. If your hands and feet can’t keep in contact with the ladder on at least 3 points at all times while you are working, then you are at huge risk of falling.
- Don’t use ladders for heavy tasks and only use them for light work for a short duration, usually for no longer than 30 minutes.
Tim Blackwell, Personal Injury Solicitor & Partner at Lester Aldridge, says “Over a period of 3 years, 150 falls were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive. The results of their investigations evidenced an overwhelming 40% of falls within the workplace occur whilst working on ladders, even alarmingly 20% of fatal accidents within the workplace are as a result of falling from a height, with fatal injuries occurring from heights of less than 2 meters high.
By taking some simple precautions, the risk of being involved in an accident can be significantly reduced and we advocate the campaign #OSHtober run by RoSPA which focuses on accidents at height throughout October this year.