“It should have been a perfectly normal working day. Instead, it ended with one man losing his life and the company responsible facing a fine of £1million and costs of £30,000. And all because of a fall from a stepladder which could have been prevented.”
On 5 September 2017, Hull Crown Court
According to HSE statistics (2018) falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injury to workers over the last five years. Working at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.
Any work at height, however ordinary or routine, should be properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. Individuals working at height need to be competent to complete the task safely and trained in the use of the equipment.
Before working at height please follow these three simple steps:
- Avoid working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so;
- In situations where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using the right access equipment;
- Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.
Where work at height can’t be avoided and existing safe place of work should be used. The workplace should be:
- Be stable and of sufficient strength and rigidity for their purpose.
- Rest on stable and suitably strong surfaces.
- Be sufficient size (to allow safe use for persons, plant, and materials).
- Have suitable means for preventing fall.
- Have a surface, which has no gap, preventing a person or material falling through a causing injury.
- Be constructed, used and maintained to prevent the risks of slipping, tripping or any person being trapped between them and any adjacent structure
If carrying out work at height an employee must use the equipment supplied properly and follow any training and instructions unless they think it would be unsafe, in which case they should seek further instructions. Employees must report any safety hazards to their employer.
When selecting equipment most suitable for the task when working at heights, consider the following:
- Working conditions– ground conditions, obstructions (steelwork and overhangs), floor loading, fragile surfaces, and weather.
- Distance to climb.
- Duration and frequency of use.
- The risks of the safety of everyone where the work equipment will be used.
Tower Scaffold– type selected must be suitable for the work. Towers must be erected and dismantled by trained and competent people. Tower scaffolds must comply with the standard of required for all types of scaffolds, eg double guardrails, toeboards, bracing and access ladder.
Mobile Elevated Working Platforms (MEWPs) such as ‘Cherry pickers’, Scissor Lifts, Pop-Ups – Designed for raising workers and materials to required height whilst providing a safe working platform. MEWP operators should have attended a recognised training course and received a card or a ‘licence’.
Use of Ladders and Stepladders
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(up to 15-30 min in one position); or there are existing workplace features which cannot be altered. Ladders should be suitable strength and length for the task intended, constructed to an approved standard and maintained in a good condition (the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998).
Portable ladders are less suitable for higher climbs, particularly if loads are carried. Where possible, provide temporary stairs or scaffold access towers with internal stairs, rather than portable ladders.