We are saddened to hear of yet another employee killed as a result of a fall from height. Allied Vehicles Limited, a large vehicle manufacturer based in Glasgow were fined for failing to adequately protect the Health and Safety of their employee who fell whilst cleaning a roof. The Sheriff found that the fall was caused by the failure to provide appropriate safety equipment.
Work at height is inherently dangerous and the danger is multiplied ten fold when the correct Health and Safety measures are not adhered to. Falls and slips at work account for over a third of injuries which happen at work. Falls from height are one of the most common causes of fatal accidents in the workplace. With 142 people injured last year whilst at work we must take health and safety more seriously.
We deal with people injured due to falls at height on a weekly basis and we see time and again how injuries could have been avoided if the correct regulations were followed. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 provide guidance for employers on what they should do to keep their employees safe. Many employees work at height on a regular basis, for example; scaffolders or tradesmen. Other employees only do so very rarely. The same regulations apply.
Employers have a duty to avoid putting employees in danger wherever practicable. If the work can be done from the ground then it should be done so. One example is window cleaners using extendable poles instead of scaling 3 storey buildings. This keeps the worker safe whilst still getting the job done.
In some circumstances work at height can not be avoided or it is not reasonably practicable to be avoided, perhaps because of the expense involved. In these circumstances an employer should minimise the risk of falls and the severity of falls as far as possible. Any work at height activity must be properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. Much of this depends on an employee having the right equipment. A tight rope walker should have a safety net, even if it is unseen by the audience. There will be no applause for a scaffolder who does the job without any safety equipment. He should have all the safety equipment possible and should be properly trained to use that equipment.
Employers should risk assess a job and decide which safety measures are appropriate. In some circumstances hand rails and stable platforms will be sufficient. In other circumstances employees should have harnesses. An employer should also ensure there is suitable lighting and emergency procedures in place in the event that something goes wrong.
Whilst at height workers are focusing on their job, screwing a screw or fixing a piece of machinery. They are working hard performing technically demanding roles and so may have a lapse of balance or concentration. The consequences of this can be fatal, if the correct safety equipment is not provided. A woman should not be widowed because of a momentary lapse of concentration. A child should not be orphaned because of one wrong step. Employees must be protected. Safety equipment whilst at height is not optional.