By Jason Godfrey, General Manager
Time and time again, when reading about a company being prosecuted following a fall from height, it’s reported that the victim had received no formal training and wasn’t qualified to work at height.
Training is an essential part of work at height and should not just be limited to those carrying out the work. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at training for each aspect of work at height, starting with manager/supervisor training and how to understand and identify hazards, followed by equipment training including usage and inspection and then finishing with the all important rescue training.
Those involved in work at height must be able to demonstrate competence, as stipulated in the Work at Height Regulations, this includes not only those carrying out the work, but also anyone responsible for the organisation, planning or supervision of the work. Companies who follow good working practices will find that they are already complying with the regulations as much of what is required is common sense. The main things to remember though are to follow the risk assessment which has been carried out for the work, make sure all work at height is planned and organised and only carried out by competent people.
More often than not accidents occur because of poor management rather than equipment failure so it is important that managers and supervisors are fully trained in all aspects of health and safety, not just working at height. Correct training should provide them with a thorough knowledge of current regulations and the
ability to manage the safety of others by providing a safe working environment. In order to do this their training should include how to identify potential hazards, carry out a risk assessment of the required work and select the appropriate equipment for that task.
A fall of just a couple of metres can prove fatal. A thorough risk assessment is essential prior to work so an understanding of what to consider when assessing a risk is crucial. For example, weather conditions, competence of those carrying out the work, potential risks from installing and dismantling equipment such as scaffolding
The Work at Height Regulations set out a hierarchy for managing the risks which begins with avoiding work at height, if this is not possible then the next step is to use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls. Finally, if the first two steps cannot be met, then you should eliminate the risk of a fall by using equipment or measures which will minimise the distance and consequence of a fall. In order to manage any form of work at height effectively, managers must understand this hierarchy so that they’re then able to make an informed decision as to what equipment or systems should be specified.
For example, if regular access to a roof is required such as for maintenance of plant and equipment, measures must be put in place to prevent a person from falling from the roof. In this case, as regular access is required, a permanent form of protection such as guardrails should be installed.
When choosing equipment, collective measures which prevent falls should take precedence over personal fall protection such as lanyards and fall arrest equipment. BS 8437 provides clear guidance on the selection, use and maintenance of personal fall protection systems and equipment and will help those responsible to comply with legislation.
Essential Work at Height Training
With falls from height still being a major cause of accidents, training is key to reducing the number of incidents. In my next Blog I’ll discuss equipment training and what this should entail.