26th September 2018
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.
Why and where internal fall protection is needed
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:
- stripping and dismantling roofs
- refurbishing roofs
- installing joists or roof trusses
- fixing battens or tile supports and roof tiles
- installing concrete floor slabs or stairs
- working near or over fragile surfaces
- working adjacent to voids in the floor
Internal fall protection – The possible solutions
When working at height internally, site safety managers should consider the following fall protection solutions:
- proprietary decking systems
- birdcage scaffold
- safety trellis (extendable aluminium trellis)
- boarding out the inside of the roof using timber
Internal voids and fragile materials – Solutions for two unique internal risks
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.