Falls from height remain the number one cause of death, lost working days and industry costs, especially in the construction industry. In the most recent statistics, one third of all construction fatalities were attributable to falls, with legislation violations, issues with fall protection, scaffolding and ladders being behind the reasons behind the deaths.
Over the last eight years, leaps and bounds have been made by contractors who now better understand their responsibilities for external fall protection (with 95% of sites now in compliance). Yet there remains one glaring issue – some contractors still don’t realise that they need internal fall protection when working at height.
Working internally at height carries the same risks as working on the exterior of the building, but it also has two unique risks: falling through fragile materials (such as certain roofing materials) and falling through internal voids. The Health and Safety Executive outlines the following examples as being among the most commonly unprotected internal construction tasks:
When working at height internally, site safety managers should consider the following fall protection solutions:
First and foremost, it must be understood when and how each internal void will create risk. Potential solutions include the use of strong, durable mesh covers which are fixed into place, along with signage. Where possible it may also be advisable to use scaffolding or safety landing bags underneath.
Ideally any site should be managed in a way to completely avoid working on, or passing across, fragile material. However where this isn’t workable an appropriate safety solution must be situated underneath the material, with all work carried out efficiently without delays.