11th September 2018
Falling from height is the UK’s biggest workplace killer – accounting for 25% of all on-the-job fatalities. And beyond this sobering stat, falling from height also accounts for 37,000 cases of non-fatal injuries each and every year.
As an employer, you of course have a moral duty to protect your workers, but you must also adhere to the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Make no mistake – your responsibilities (and the legislation that defines them), are imposing. In a bid to simplify your role, the Work at Height Regulations have a ‘Hierarchy of Risk Management’ that explains the process in a straightforward visual.
The golden rule: Where protection measures can’t be used (which include guard rails, podium steps, scaffolding or cherry pickers), the distance and potential outcome of a fall must be mitigated by employing either safety nets or air safety bags.
The Hierarchy of Risk Management therefore sets out the following three suggestions in a running order…
- avoid work at height, or if this isn’t possible…
- use equipment or other measures to prevent falls, or if this isn’t possible…
- use equipment or other measures to minimise the distances and consequences of a fall should one occur
The Hierarchy of Risk Management – Our Step by Step Guide
Step One – Fully understand the job at hand
First you must understand what work is required, and ensure that you thoroughly plan, supervise and action work in as safe and secure a way as is possible.
Step Two – Identify and document all relevant risks
Your risk assessment will underpin the safety standards on site, so it must:
- Identify all hazards
- Identify who might be harmed, and how
- Assess the risks and identify precautionary steps
- Review your findings and implement appropriate protection/equipment that will mitigate the consequences of a fall
- Continually review the assessment and update it as soon and as often as necessary
Step Three – Put appropriate training in place
Every person involved in the protection of workers must be fully trained to be able to plan, supervise, supply and maintain safety equipment.
Step Four – Select the Right Equipment
Procedures must be put in place for the selection of the correct equipment (with advice sought if necessary). Once the proper protective and safety equipment is selected, it must be used as intended.
Step Five – An aerial rescue plan must be put in place
Before any working at height takes place, a plan must be in place as to how workers would be rescued if needed. This plan should assess what injuries may occur and how the unique environment should influence the plan.
Key question: From what height are safety landing bags required?
Previously legislation dictated that any height over two metres required suitable measures to be put in place. This is no longer the case. Law now states that if the worker could be injured by a fall (no matter the height), then the employer must have adequate protection in place.
For those not accustomed to fall protection, the options can be overwhelming. If you need further explanation as to what fall protection is ands when it must be in place, read our blog: What is Fall Protection and when do you need it?