According to the HSE 147 workplace deaths occurred in 2018/19. The leading cause for this is working at height, at a staggering 40% of fatal accidents in the workplace. The HSE advise companies to consider the prevention of these deaths as a priority for health and safety.
What steps can you take to reduce or manage the risk?
In many cases where accidents occurred safe access had not been provided for work to be carried out. A risk assessment should be performed for all operations requiring work at height and proper management of the risks identified should be implemented.
Access to height should be designed out wherever possible and eliminate the risk completely. For example, a window cleaner can carry out jobs from the ground using extendable cleaning equipment.
Ensure safe access
Permanent safe access arrangements should be installed when frequent access to height is required, such as handrails and steps. For temporary access portable equipment can be used to improve safety through the use of scissor lifts or cherry pickers for example.
Minimise distance of fall
When carrying out high risk tasks where it is not reasonably practicable to prevent falls by use of permanent or temporary safe access arrangements then consider minimising the distance and/or the consequence of the fall by use of safety nets, air-bags, and or the use of fall arrest systems.
Use of steps/ladders
For tasks of low risk and short duration, ladders and stepladders can be a sensible and practical option.
If your risk assessment determines it is correct to use a ladder, you should further minimise the risk by making sure workers:
use the right type of ladder for the job
are competent (you can provide adequate training and/or supervision to help)
use the equipment provided safely and follow a safe system of work
are fully aware of the risks and measures to help control them
Falls from slipping and stairs
Falls are often caused by a slip, many of which take place on stairs. This is due to water or food products being left on walkways or the use of inappropriate footwear. Places where workers stand should be dry and free from contamination, and all workers should be encouraged to wear appropriate footwear.
You can make your employees and stakeholders aware of their exposure to risk through educating and re-educating them. By completing working at height training employees will have a greater understanding of the Working at Height Regulations and general precautions, and how to safely work at height.
Alcumus PSM offers Working at Height training courses which will teach attendees about legislation, management, selecting the right equipment, and working safely on ladders and roofs. If you have any queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Alcumus PSM Health and Safety team for assistance via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01484 439930. Alcumus PSM (People & Safety Management) specialises in human resources (HR) and health & safety (H&S) consulting for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Written by Steve Ross BSc CMIOSH OSHCR, Senior H&S Consultant, Alcumus PSM