The speakers at the one day conference included regulators (HSE and City of London Corporation) as well as representatives of industry organisations, and work at height experts. Greg certainly found the day interesting and informative – here is what he came away with, including a number of good reminders and some upcoming changes on working at height.

1. Working at height the current situation?

Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths in the UK, as well as one of the main causes of workplace major injuries.

Statistics from the HSE indicate of the 144 workers killed in 2015/16, 37 (26%) were as a result of fall from height and 2907 (16%) of specified injuries also relating to the same area.

An unattributed statistic used at the conference by one of the speakers also indicated “75% of all work from height fatalities worldwide involves a fall of less than 10 meters”.

2. What was the key message from the conference?

A theme to a number of the different speakers was the responsibility placed on employers (and those in control of work at height), to properly risk assess the activities and also to consider:

  • Avoiding working at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so;
  • Where working at height cannot be easily avoided, prevent falls using either an existing place of work that is already safe or the right type of equipment; and
  • Minimising the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.

Additional considerations covered, included:

  • Doing as much of the work as you can from the ground;
  • Ensuring any equipment used is suitable for the intended work and regularly checked and maintained;
  • Ensuring workers can access the areas at height they are working safely;
  • Minimising overloading and/or overreaching;
  • When working on or near fragile surfaces, this is recognised and as required precautions taken;
  • Providing protection from falling objects; and
  • Considering emergency evacuation and rescue procedures

Toby Thorp from the City of London Corporation, provided a history of the local authority, and highlighted in his conference talk, the need for task and building specific risk assessments – rather than the generic variety – and explained that cultural reinforcement was a much better driver than purely compliance based enforcement.

3. Where are the risks?

Any work where you could fall, remembering this could be above, on or below ground, needs to be properly risk assessed and managed. The type of equipment you may employ will be dictated by the risk and the environment you are working in.

Much of the focus of the day was naturally on the construction side of working at height, but it is as well to consider other sectors too where it remains an issue but not as readily obvious.

Not featured in the conference, but as illustration, in 2014 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published “analysis of 150 falls from height accidents investigated over three years” in the food and drink industry. This work identified the following patterns of falls from heights;

  • Ladders: 40%
  • Vehicles/Fork Lift Trucks*: 17%
  • Machinery/plant: 10%
  • Platforms: 10%
  • Stairs (see below): 8%
  • Roof/false ceiling: 7%
  • Scaffold/gantry: 4%
  • Warehouse racking: 4%

(*Where workers fell from vehicles, 35% fell from the back of a lorry, 31% fell from FLT forks, 13% from cab steps, 9% from the top of a vehicle and 4% from tanker steps).

How many of these systems and this type of equipment exist in your organisation?

4. Something that Greg Davies learned!

We have all seen netting systems employed as collective, passive protection on construction sites. But he was unaware of the process that underpins their use as implemented by The Fall Arrest Safety Equipment Training (FASET) members; their presentation talked us through it:

  • All new nets are checked and registered prior to use.
  • Once rigged a certificate is issued.
  • Before striking nets are inspected again and any damages marked by the rigger.
  • Once the nets return to the yard they are quarantined and the register is updated.
  • Nets examined.
  • If good they return to use, if not they remain in quarantine until repaired.
  • Register updated.
  • All nets need to have an annual UV test.

Greg has been looking at safety nets differently now! FASET were also just one of a number of organisations, talking and exhibiting at the seminar, many members of the Access Industry Forum (AIF), and all identifying similar processes for their work activities.

5. Stepping up

EN131 (the standard that covers trade and light industrial use ladders (old class 2) parts 1 and 2 is being revised and Don Aers of The Ladder Association identified “the old ladder standard will be withdrawn” at the end of 2017.

There are a number of amendments new requirements planned, including changes to dimensions and enhanced testing for new ladders, as well as the possibility that Class 1 ladders will go, being replaced by “professional” and “non-professional”.

Existing ladders can still be used after the implementation date, although as and when they fail inspections they will need to be replaced with equipment compliant with the new requirements. 

Assurity Consulting are leading experts in workplace health, safety and environmental compliance. For more information on our services, and how we can help you, please contact us on tel. +44 (0)1403 269375 or email us.