Falls from height are the most common cause of workplace fatality in the UK, with 29 deaths in 2019/20 accounting for 25% of all workplace fatal injuries. While workplace deaths and injuries tend to reduce each year as safety measures become more stringent and technologies improve, it still poses a serious risk that needs to be mitigated as much as possible.
Employers in any industry have a responsibility to ensure their workers’ safety, which is especially true for those working in high-risk environments like construction. Fall protection and arrest equipment is crucial for those working at height to prevent falls or mitigate injury caused by falls. Here’s what you need to know about when fall protection is required for a project.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 outlines the general duties of every person involved in designing and constructing any structure and all workplaces. It is a considerable amount of legislation that enables other regulations to be made and enforced under it and is constantly updating and changing. It states that it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of all persons involved in the construction and use of a workplace.
One of the relevant regulations for construction is the Working at Height Regulations 2005, which outlines the responsibilities and requirements of working at height within the construction industry.
Working at Height Regulations 2005
In 2005, the Working at Height Regulations replaced earlier regulations concerning the minimum safety and health requirements to use equipment for working at height. A significant difference is that it removed the six-foot rule that stated the minimum height workers required fall protection for. Instead, it defines “at height” as any height that a person could be injured falling from, even if it is at or below ground level.
The regulations require any working at height to be sufficiently planned, supervised, and carried out by competent people with the skills and experience required. Before working at height is undertaken, these steps should be run through:
- Avoid – working at height should not be done where reasonably possible.
- Prevent – if unavoidable, prevent falls with the correct type of equipment.
- Minimise – reduce the consequences of a fall where the risk cannot be eliminated.
To prevent or minimise risk, appropriate equipment or PPE should be used by workers, such as scissor lifts, scaffolding towers and fall arrest and restraint systems. A risk assessment needs to be carried out before the work is underway to ensure that it is carried out in a safe manner.
Any working at height job can carry risks, and workers should always be competent and fully trained in using the equipment or machinery required to carry out the job. The following needs to be considered for safe roof work:
- Safe access – can be provided by scaffolds, stair towers, mobile access equipment, ladders etc.
- Roof edges and openings – edge protection should be fitted to roof eaves for sloping roofs, and flat roofs should have a secure guardrail and toe board to prevent falling.
- Fragile surfaces – avoid working on fragile surfaces where possible, but where not possible, guard rails, safety nets and fall arrest systems should be employed.
All equipment should be thoroughly inspected before use and avoided if there are any problems, such as a ladder with bent or split stiles or scaffolding with any broken or missing parts. Equipment needs to be suitable, stable, and robust enough for the job, with maintenance and checks performed regularly.
Under the regulations, you should also consider external factors when planning to work at height, such as weather conditions. When deciding on the right kind of equipment for the job, consider the nature and duration of the work and the risks and safety of everyone involved.
Roof Access and Fall Protection from Altus Safety
If working at height is required for your next project, Altus Safety is your one-stop shop for all your roof access and fall protection equipment. We cover a wide range of products such as roof access ladders, fall arrest and restraint systems, roof walkways, skylight protection and much more. This extensive product range means we can offer you a cost-effective, tailored solution without compromising on quality or safety.
Our fall arrest systems offer personal fall protection on roofs where collective measures are not an option. Whatever your project requirements, we are sure to have a system suitable with our wide range of equipment from MSA Latchways – the world leader in fall protection equipment. Our experienced team will help you through every step of the process, from technical guidance to design consultation. To discuss your requirements, do not hesitate to contact us today.