5th September 2016
Occupations that involve working at height are amongst the most hazardous and result in a substantial number of accidents and a disproportionate number of fatalities when compared to most other types of work. Whilst the construction industry accounts for the majority of incidences of injury or fatality as a result of working from height, working in a factory brings with it certain risk factors, especially when the employment involves a work station that is difficult to access, working in changing spaces, on a manufacturing assembly line that needs to be accessed from a height or the use of working mobile access platforms.
Certain duties of a factory worker, such as the cleaning, maintenance and repairing of machinery often also involve working from height in areas varying size and accessibility and in changing spaces and there is also an inherit health and safety risk related to those. In every type of work in a factory that involves risk the factory’s owner or manager is responsible for taking the necessary measures to prevent or minimise the risk of a fall. This involves the performance of a number of duties.
Employer Health and Safety Duties to Factory Workers
- Avoid working at height wherever possible. Unfortunately, in the context of working from height in a factory, this is unlikely to always be achievable and, in those circumstances, it is necessary to take the appropriate steps to prevent falls and to minimise the risk and consequences of a fall by the use of the correct equipment.
- Carry out as much work as possible from ground level.
- Provide a safe means of access for employees to get to their workstations at height.
- Make sure that all fall protection is suitable and kept in a proper state of repair.
- Ensure that the work does not involve the employee in over stretching and over reaching.
- Take particular care if the work is on or near fragile surfaces.
The employers and managers of any work at height task must ensure that the work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by employees who are competent within that role. This involves carrying out an assessment of the condition of the area within which the work is to be carried out, including the size of a workstation, and whether the work involves carrying out any tasks in changing spaces. This type of work may well require more detailed assessment and planning and the provision of special protection. It may also demand additional training for members of staff, so that those engaged in work of this type have the required skill, knowledge, expertise and physical capabilities to fulfil their duties.
Working at height requires special care and it is ultimately the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workforce receives adequate protection from some of the serious consequences of a fall. This is especially the case when considering some of the health and safety issues that arise from working in a factory where there is an inherent risk of falls from height in areas that can be large or small and constantly changing, such as manufacturing assembly line or areas that need to be accessed to carry out repair, cleaning and servicing of machinery. Whilst it is impossible to completely eradicate a fall, a thorough assessment of risk and the provision of a properly thought out system of work and the appropriate fall-protection will minimise the risk significantly.