Preventing Workplace Falls From Height

Falls from height are among the most common causes of work-related injuries and fatalities in the UK. In fact, according to the HSE, falls from height have been the leading cause of fatalities in the construction, manufacturing and transportation sectors over the last five years. Additionally, during the same time period, falls from height have been the second-leading cause of fatalities in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.

Even outside of the aforementioned sectors, falling from height is a serious risk that must be properly managed. There are a number of precautions that employers should take to reduce the risk of workers falling from height. Consider these steps:

  • Minimise the need. Arrange the workplace so that common tasks can be performed at ground level. Assess other methods that might be possible substitutions for performing tasks at height, such as the use of extendable tools.
  • Install access equipment. When regular or frequent entry to an elevated area is required, employers should install permanent access equipment, such as steps or platforms with handrails.
  • Keep the workplace clean. Many falls from height stem from a worker slipping or tripping. When employees work at height, clutter and wet surfaces become even more serious hazards. As such, proper housekeeping should be practised.
  • Require proper attire. Employees should be instructed to wear non-slip footwear.
  • Issue personal protective equipment. When employees work at height, personal fall-arrest systems that are anchored to a high point can make all the difference in keeping them safe. Ensure that this equipment is in good condition and that employees are trained on how to use it properly.
  • Minimise potential accidents. In the event that a fall from height does occur, planning ahead can save lives. When employees work at height, consider installing safety nets and soft-landing systems, such as air bags.
  • Use ladders properly. Ensure that ladders are appropriate for the task at hand by assessing them to make sure that they can bear the intended load and are not leaned against weak surfaces.

Employers Liability Claims Example

Recycling Firm Sentenced After Employees Become Trapped in Machinery

Stonegrave Aggregates Limited was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £48,952 after an incident left one employee dead and another seriously injured. The accident occurred when the workers were trapped inside of a revolving drum while attempting to clear blockage in a waste processing line. During that time, other employees—who were not aware of their colleagues’ whereabouts—restarted the machine.

An HSE investigation discovered that the equipment had a history of blockages which required workers to enter the equipment. In addition, the machinery was not properly guarded to prevent access to dangerous areas, and the guarding that was in place was regularly bypassed by employees—including the site manager. The HSE also found that control systems—including emergency stop controls—were not compliant with relevant standards, and that management did not adequately enforce machine isolation procedures. In addition to the financial penalties, a director was given a 12-month community order and the site manager was sentenced to six months in prison.

This short video outlines top tips to prevent falls from height in the workplace.

This detailed HSE guidance describes what you, as an employer, need to do to protect your employees from falls from height.

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