Working at Height
Previously, Working at Height Regulations were only triggered by work above a height threshold of two metres, but the introduction of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH Regulations) consolidated previous legislation (and implement European Council Directive 2001/45/EC) by applying to work at height in any place where a person could be injured falling – even if it is at or below ground level.
Falls from height are a major cause of workplace deaths and injuries in the UK, equating to 12% of all major injuries. In 2007/08, 3,235 people suffered serious injuries as a result of a fall from height in the workplace.
But what is very important to note is that falls from any height can result in serious injury, or even fatality. For example, a maintenance fitter lost his footing on the second rung of a ladder, his feet slipped through the rungs and he was killed when his head hit the floor as he fell backwards.
In July, Simpsons Malt Limited, Berwick, which manufactures a variety of malts, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £5,883.75 in costs, after worker, John Weatherburn, was injured by falling from the forks of a forklift truck while attempting to repair a roller shutter door.
Explains Jagdeep Tiwana, of law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner:
“Previously, Working at Height Regulations were only triggered by work above a height threshold of two metres, but the introduction of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH Regulations) consolidated previous legislation (and implement European Council Directive 2001/45/EC) by applying to work at height in any place where a person could be injured falling – even if it is at or below ground level.”
The WAH Regulations require employers to ensure that:
- All work at height is properly planned and organised
- The work is carried out safely
- Employees undertaking the work are trained and competent.
The WAH Regulations not only cover work at height but also falling objects, fragile roofs and equipment. The wider ranging application of the WAH Regulations means that employers must consider every aspect of their business that involves working at height, whether it is something as complicated as undertaking building work or as straightforward as changing a lightbulb.
The WAH Regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of fall liable to cause personal injury. Employers, the self-employed, and any person who controls the work of third parties (such as contractors) have duties under this legislation.
Employers are under a duty to do all that is reasonably practical to prevent someone from falling. In fulfilling this duty, the employer must adopt a risk control hierarchy from managing work at height (including the selection of equipment). This hierarchy means that employers must first consider if work at height can be avoided altogether. If not, consideration must be given to the use of equipment and other means that would minimise the causes and consequences of a fall, should one occur.
When planning to undertake work at height, regard must be given to:
- The relevant risk assessments
- How the work can be carried out safely
- Adverse weather conditions
- Steps to be taken in the event of an emergency
The WAH Regulations also regulate fragile surfaces (generally roofs) and require certain safeguard measures to be put in place such as:
- Suitable platforms
- Covers and guardrails
Finally, where work is carried out at height which could result in falling objects, it is necessary to ensure the area adjacent and below where the work is being carried out is clearly cordoned off to ensure that no unauthorised persons can enter this area.
Case Study 1
Fatality following fall through light. David Battisson was working on the roof of a DIY superstore in Wigan when he fell ten metres to the floor through a PVC light. The 49-year-old died from his injuries.
HSE prosecuted his employers, CRN Contracts Ltd, for failing to follow proper safety procedures. The company pleaded guilty to two charges – Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – and was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,086.
Mr Battisson and a colleague were applying anti-corrosion paint to the bolts on the corrugated roof of The Range superstore on 27 May 2005 when the incident happened.
“It’s shocking that basic health and safety procedures weren’t followed and extremely sad that, ultimately, it led to a man’s death,” said HSE Inspector, Warren Pennington.
“CRN Contracts Ltd did not provide adequate supervision of the work. It should have used boards to cover the fragile roof lights, and protected the area around the perimeter of the roof. The company also failed to cordon off the floor under the section of roof it was working on to protect the public from the work.”
Case Study 2
Company liable for over £100,000 after Harold Roach was left paralysed when he fell ten feet through roof joists at a refurbishment site in Birkenhead, his employer, Property People (NW) Ltd, was fined £92,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £11,404.
The Court heard that the incident happened while joists were being removed from the ceiling of an archway, and that Property People had failed to provide a safe platform for its employees to use. Mr Roach suffered serious injuries to his back from the fall, resulting in permanent paralysis.