Safety at Height: A Step in the Right Direction?

Safety at Height: A Step in the Right Direction?

  • Date: Tuesday 30th June 2015

Falls from height are one of the major causes of deaths and serious injury in UK industry. According to the HSE between 2013 and 2014 there were approximately 6,500 incidents where employees and self employed were injured from falls from height and of that figure, 39 people lost their life. Commonly this equates to one third of the deaths at work each year.

Statistics also indicate that on average there are 14 deaths and 1200 major injuries from falls from ladders and steps each year. From a 150 accidents investigated by the HSE over a 3 year period in the food manufacturing industry, 40% involved falls from ladders. These figures alone should focus any employer's attention on the use of ladders and steps in their company activities.

Research has identified the following common causes of accidents with ladders:

·          Lack of training

·          Use of the wrong type e.g. class, size etc

·          Faulty or damaged ladders

·          Over reaching either above or to the side of the ladder

·          Carrying equipment and tools up ladders

·          Lacking of suitable footing or stabilisation

·          Using on or against uneven surfaces

·          Unsecured and unfooted ladders

The HSE state explicitly that ladders are not banned and can provide a safe means of access for low risk, short duration tasks; but how do we define low risk and short duration? Employers need to be clear when it is appropriate to use a ladder and when other access equipment would be better utilised. As a start the following questions should be asked:

1.     Can working at height be avoided

2.     Is the activity one off or regular

3.     Will the activity take less than 15 minutes

4.     Has the work been properly planned and organised

5.     Do we have a safe system of work and risk assessment for the activities in question

6.     Are steps or ladders the correct access equipment or is there a better alternative

7.     Is it safe to carry out the activity from steps or ladders

8.     Is fall prevention required

9.     Are our employees adequately trained to carry out the task and use the equipment

10.   Do we have an inspection and maintenance regime in place for the access equipment

11.   Do we monitor and supervise work from steps and ladders

The big question is 'do ladders and steps provide a safe platform to carry out any work activity - or is there always something better?'

For further advice on working at height and the appropriate training required please contact SSG on 01752 201616.


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