Work at Height activities according to the HSE the definition means any work in a place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:
- work above ground/floor level
- could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or
- could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground
Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.
Fatal Accident Statistics
In 2018-2019 there were 40 recorded deaths caused by falls from heights, they are the leading cause of fatal accidents in UK workplaces according to HSE statistics. Even when no one is killed, the falls can cause very serious, even life changing injuries. The HSE regularly reports on its News web page about prosecutions and reports regarding dangerous work at height activities.
A Recent Prosecution
The accident that led to this court case occurred as a sprinkler engineer used an extension ladder to inspect for leaks at a site in Hamel Hampstead. Having climbed onto an internal roof, the ladder slipped and he fell almost 3m into a gap between the roof and an external wall. He suffered serious blood loss as well as a fractured vertebra and soft tissue damage.
HSE inspectors found that the Principal Contractor failed to take ‘reasonably practicable’ measures to protect both the engineer and other contractors from falling; they therefore, it was alleged, failed to meet their Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requirements. Section 3 Duty to protect people who were not their employees.
After a 5 week trial, the contractor was found guilty and ordered to pay £68,116 costs on top of the £1.1 million fine.
Interestingly, the case was not taken under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulation 2015 – This legislation covers the specific duties of Principal Contractors, or the Work at Height Regulations 2005 – which deal in details with the planning and safe execution of work at height. Therefore highlighting that All Employers retain health and safety responsibility for work carried out under their control, even where the work is being carried out by third parties such as contractors or anyone else whom they do not directly employ.
The HSE’s latest guidance, HSG33 Health and safety in roof work, stresses that working on roofs is a high-risk activity: falling from or through a roof is a major cause of serious accidents in the UK. With roofers accounting for almost a quarter (24%) of all workers killed in at work falls from height. Also at risk are those who access roofs to carry out other task, as happened in the accident above.
Tips When Risk Assessing Work From Height
- Identify and Risk Assess the roof work involved
- Look for ways to avoid work at height altogether: for example, if the work is inspection, can this be done remotely using binoculars or a drone?
- If you are a client or principal contractor , you have a duty under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 to check contractors competency. This means taking reasonable steps to ensure that they have the knowledge, skills, experience and equipment to complete the work safely.
- For work to be done by contractors, ask for a written method statement / risk assessment. It should specify the safety measures that will be taken, such as wearing harnesses, erecting scaffolding or hiring in a Mobile Elevated Work Platform (MEWP sometimes called Cherry pickers or Scissor lifts). A ‘safe workplace’, through, is preferred to Person Protective Equipment (PPE) such as a harness.
- Make sure the precautions cover the risk of falling tools and materials as well as falls of people.
- If the work is done by your own staff, ensure it is properly planned. Just because it is only short duration work such as inspections its not worth taking a chance. Any precautions should be applied for any roof work, so you will also need to consider preliminary work i.e. to access leaks or inspections carried out by contractors in the planning process, as well as the main work which may follow.
- Only use ladders where there is no better alternative. Ladders should only be used for light work of short duration (HSE advise up to 30 minutes in one position). The ladder should be made to an appropriate standard i.e. EN131 and secured in position. ‘Footing’ using a second person to add weight to the bottom of the ladder to help to prevent slippage. This should only be used when there is no better method such as lashing the ladder in place or using a stabiliser device. All ladder users should be trained in their safe use and ladder inspections.
What Training Courses Are Available?
Kentra training offer numerous courses for Work at Height activities including
- Mobile Elevated Work Platforms – MEWP Boom and Scissor Lifts (Sometimes called Cherry Pickers)
- Mobile Towers
- Tele handlers or Other Lift trucks with Man Basket attachments
- Safe Working at Heights
- Managers Safe Working at Heights
- Safe use of Ladders and Step Ladders
- Emergency Escape
- Harness and Fall Arrest
- Height Safety Equipment Appreciation and Inspection
- Report of Thorough Examination
All these course are available for on-site training where we would come to your site and use your equipment. With the exception of the Man basket courses all the above are available from our Training centre in Middlewich as either open or closed training sessions.
Booking your training
Arranging your training couldn’t be simpler, give us a call or contact us and we would be happy to discuss the Work at heights activities or one of our many training courses and accreditation options available.