Everyone has the right to go to work and come home safely. Despite this, working at height on British roofs remains one of the most dangerous jobs, with too many workers being put at risk of serious injury or worse.
Though improvements in health and safety and greater safety buy-in from employers and employees has led to a fall in fatality statistics, this has plateaued in recent years, and even risen in places.
Work at height is a fact of life in almost every industry, from construction to facilities management, so this should be a concern to everybody.
Fall From Height Statistics
Despite the slow down in work during the COVID pandemic, statistics show that 142 people were killed at work during 2020/21, and that 35 of these deaths were down to falls from height. This is an increase from 2019/20, in which 29 people were killed due to falls from height.
In 2018/19, 3 workers were killed every month due to falls from height. Of the 550,000 non-fatal injuries in the same year, 44,000 were down to falls from height.
Falls from height remain the greatest risk to employees by far, and tackling this lethal danger should be a priority for employers everywhere.
What Is Work At Height?
Though most people think ‘work at height’ only takes place on roofs or ladders, the term actually covers a much greater range of work. The Health and Safety Executive’s full definition is ‘work where if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.’
This includes work:
- Above ground/floor level
- Where you could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface (such as rooflights) or
- Where you could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground (such as vehicle inspection pits)
If you perform any of the above work, you will have legal obligations under the Work at Height Regulations.
Who Is Responsible For Worker Safety?
Everyone has an obligation to safety at work, but the onus is on employers to ensure employees have the training, equipment, and general ability to work safely. This goes double for particularly dangerous tasks such as work at height.
According to the HSE, employers and those in control of any work at height are legally required to make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people, using the right type of equipment. Employees have a duty to carry out work responsibly, respect safety controls, and cooperate with their employer.
Ensuring Safe Work at Height
So what can be done to make work at height safer for everyone involved?
Avoid work at height where possible
Your first step to ensuring safe work at height is to simply avoid it wherever you can. Where tasks can be carried out from the ground, do so. For example, windows and gutters can be cleaned with a ‘reach and wash’ system that keeps workers firmly on the ground.
Where work at height is unavoidable, the first step should always be carrying out comprehensive risk assessments to identify what risks will be encountered and how you can eliminate or minimise them with the right controls.
Ensure those carrying out the tasks are competent, properly certified, and are equipped to carry out this work. Remember, even if you subcontract a company to do the work for you, it is your responsibility to ensure they only employ competent workers.
At Safesite, we are currently offering free, no-obligation rooftop safety surveys, to help you identify areas that could pose a risk of injury or worse to your workers.
If you have planned work properly, you should have a good idea of which control measures you will need to put in place to ensure the work is carried out safely.
This can range from controlling those doing the work – such as ensuring only those authorised to carry out the work can access the risky areas – or employing physical controls like the correct work at height safety equipment and PPE.
The equipment you use will depend on your particular site, but overall, your first port of call should be collective solutions such as guardrails and rooftop barriers. If these solutions aren’t feasible, you can utilise personal solutions like anchor points and harnesses. In this case, anyone accessing the roof must be trained in the usage of your chosen systems.
Remember, your responsibility for this equipment does not stop at buying and having it fitted. You are legally required to have the equipment inspected and recertified at least annually. We provide a comprehensive inspection and maintenance service for roof safety equipment. Learn more here.
The Right Safety Partner
Whatever system you need, it is crucial you choose a reputable safety solutions supplier with a solid industry reputation. At Safesite, we offer a holistic, end-to-end rooftop safety solution from design and installation right through to long-term aftercare.
As part of the global Kee Safety Group, we can offer the highest-quality equipment and service to all our customers, ensuring safe work at height everywhere. To find out more, call us on 01293 529977 or use our online contact form.