Under pressure: Pause for thought, beat the fall

Falls at work can have devastating consequences

We’d like to think workplace safety is a given, but the stats don’t bear this out. According to the HSE, there were 111 workplace deaths in 2019/20. Of those, half were caused by falling from height.

Height implies a long way but remember: F1 legend Michael Schumacher suffered life changing injuries just falling off skis.

Who and where?

Most at risk are workers aged between 16 and 59. The biggest risk areas on site, based on accidents are:

  • Ladders 40%
  • Platforms 10%
  • Stairs 8%
  • Roof/false ceiling 7%
  • Scaffold/gantry 4%

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) highlights the cost of an accident. In March, energy company Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy Ltd, was fined after an agency worker fell 1.8 metres from a blade platform. The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6 (3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and were fined £533,334 and ordered to pay £16,274 in costs.

Dr Karen McDonnell, occupational safety and health policy adviser at RoSPA, says: “This is the cycle we need to break. So RoSPA encourage you to PAUSE and reflect.”

PAUSE is their assessment guidance:

  • P – prioritise your people
  • A – assess the risk but remain situationally aware – are you really managing working at height?
  • U – update your risk management plan
  • S – speak to your people – their insights save lives
  • E – evaluate the changes you make to working practice, share what works

The HSE also has comprehensive guidance for employers on how they should comply with the law.

The purpose of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 is to prevent death and injury caused by a fall from height. If you are an employer or you control work at height (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height) the Regulations apply to you.

Core advice is simple: plan and use a competent person for the job.

HSE inspector Denise Fotheringham says: “Falls from height often result in life-changing or fatal injuries. In most cases, these incidents are needless and could be prevented by properly planning the work to ensure that effective preventative and protective measures are in place, such as edge protection or barriers built to the correct standard.”

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