Update: Working at height

heightUpdate1Although the number of accidents whilst working at height has fallen year on year, they are still a major cause of workplace deaths and injuries in the UK, explains Jagdeep Tiwana, Bond Pearce LLP.

Of the 42 fatal incidents in construction in 2009/10, 60% (25) were caused by falls from height, and two fatalities were caused by falls below two metres. 63% of all reported incidents are caused by ‘low falls’ (i.e. below two metres).

Working at height is defined as any work carried out at any place where a person can fall and injure themselves, which can include:

  • Working above ground level using a platform or scaffold;
  • Working on a roof where there is risk of falling through a fragile surface;
  • Working at ground level where there is risk of falling in a hole on the ground;
  • Working on the back of a lorry unloading goods;
  • Climbing fixed structures; and using a ladder.

Use of Ladders
A third of all reported fall-from-height incidents involve ladders and stepladders, accounting for approximately 14 deaths and 1,200 major injuries to workers each year.
heightUpdate2Because many of these injuries are caused by inappropriate
or incorrect use of the equipment the HSE advises that a ladder should:

  • Be prevented from moving before it is stepped on;
  • Be long enough to do the job safely;
  • Have a handhold available to allow the worker to maintain three points of contact where possible;
  • Be used without overreaching;
  • Be inspected and checked regularly where necessary.

Further information

INDG 401 (rev 1) – The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) A Brief Guide: www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf

A roof worker has been fined £3,500 with £2,742 costs after a man fell to his death in Leicester. Landlord Trevor Hall, 65, died on 8th March 2010 after falling around 3.5 metres through a fragile roof light at premises he owned.

He had gone onto the roof to observe Kristian Varnam, a director of Roofwise (UK) Ltd, whom Mr Hall had asked to provide a quote for repairs.

An investigation found the roof was made of fragile asbestos cement sheets and clear plastic roof lights, but Mr Varnam took no reasonable or practicable steps to ensure his safety or that of others in going on to the roof. The investigation also found he had failed to inform the building’s tenants of his intention to go on to the roof.

Three roofers were spotted working on top of a Nottingham cash and carry store without any safety equipment by a passing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, a court heard. The inspector noticed the workers were using no safety equipment, edge protection or harnesses to prevent falls. It was discovered this unsafe system of work had continued over a period of three weeks, risking injury to the roofers and to employees and customers inside the store.

SPV Road Carpet Ltd, of Aldridge, Walsall pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to protect their own employees and members of the public in the store at the time. It was fined £14,000 with £6,659 costs.

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