Falls from height: an occupational hazard or preventable risk?
Falls from heights consistently rank as one of the most frequent—and most fatal—workplace accidents. In 2014/15:
- falls from height accounted for nearly three in ten fatal injuries to workers (41 out of 142);
- almost half of fatal falls took place in construction (20 out of 41 fatal fall injuries);.
- around half of the fatal fall injuries were to workers aged 55 or over (20 out of 40 falls, where the age was known), but less than a fifth of the working population is in this age band.
Lack of safety equipment responsible for dangerous fall
It is clear that all work at height needs to be properly planned, supervised and carried out by people who are competent (having the skills, knowledge and experience) to do the job. This must include the right type of access equipment.
A Warwickshire-based firm was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay total costs of £1,229 and a victim surcharge of £120 after a worker sustained serious injuries from a 4-metre fall. The worker fell from a flimsy raised platform, sustaining injuries to his lungs and ribs and causing bleeding on his brain. In its investigation, the HSE found that the provided equipment lacked safety features and that the firm was guilty of breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
The do’s and don’ts of working at height
- Review your insurance policy to check whether you are covered for working at height and whether there are any restrictions you need to consider.
- Use work equipment to prevent falls /minimise the distance and consequence of a fall, where work at height cannot be avoided
- Consider measures that protect all those at risk, or collective protection measures such as scaffolds, nets and soft landing systems, before you consider measures that only protect the individual, or personal protection measures such as harnesses
- Make sure the surface/access equipment in use is stable and strong enough to support the worker’s weight and that of any equipment. Any edge protection should be wide enough and strong enough to prevent a fall.
- Work as much as possible from the ground or partly from the ground. For example, assemble structures on the ground and lift them into position with lifting equipment.
- Take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces, such as an asbestos cement roof, to prevent a fall or to minimise the distance and reduce injuries in the event of a fall.
- Ensure workers can get safely to and from where they want to work at height, and also consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures.
- Make sure everyone involved is competent to do the work they are responsible for, including those who plan and organise it.
- Choose the most appropriate equipment for the type of work being done and how often it will be used.
- Provide protection from falling objects.
- Make sure equipment used for work at height is well maintained and inspected regularly.
- Overload ladders. The worker and anything he or she is taking up should not exceed the highest load stated on the ladder.
- Overreach on ladders or stepladders. Keep your belt buckle (navel) inside the stiles and both feet on the same rung throughout the task.
- Use ladders or stepladders if the nature of the work is deemed to be ‘heavy’ or if the task will take longer than 30 minutes to complete.
- Use ladders if workers cannot maintain three points of contact (two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet) at the working position. If this is not possible, consider an alternative safe system of work.
- Let anyone who is not competent carry out work at height.
Source Zywave Health and Safety recap Work at height
Zywave Construction CI Quarter 3 2015
HETAS Ltd is an introducer appointed representative of Jelf Insurance Brokers Limited. HETAS Insurance Services, Jelf and Jelf Clarke Roxburgh are trading names of Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd (Reg No. 0837227), which is part of Jelf Group plc (Reg No. 2975376) and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Registered address: Hillside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol BS37 6JX (Registered in England and Wales). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA. JIB015.02.16
 HSE Kinds of accident in Great Britain, 2014/2015 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causinj/kinds-of-accident.pdf. Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence