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Overhaul And Prevent A Fall?


Ashley Hoadley of Darwin Clayton, outlines the recent changes to HSE guidance for working at height.


Working from height is an unavoidable task when it comes to cleaning and maintaining the majority of our public buildings. While the Shard has highlighted the most extreme aspect of this sector, working from height is something that is needed for nearly every building – be it a university, hospital or offi ce block. By its very nature, working at height poses signifi cant risks to both operatives and members of the public, so it must be carried out professionally, and with due regard to the law.


According to the government, more than a million British businesses and 10 million workers are estimated to carry out jobs involving some form of work at height every year – with falls being one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work.


This is backed by fi gures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which reveal that over half the fatal injuries to workers in 2012/13 were of three kinds: falls from height, contact with moving machinery and being struck by a vehicle (RIDDOR). During the same period, around 148 workers were fatally injured – a rate of fatal injury of 0.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. However, one fatality or injury is still one too many.


In January this year, the HSE overhauled its guidance on working at height in a bid to set out, in clear and simple terms, what to do and what not to do – ‘debunking common myths that can confuse and mislead employers’.


There have been no changes to the 26 | REGULAR


Work At Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), which set out the law as it applies in Great Britain. These place a duty on employers and those who control working at height activities, such as facilities managers or building owners, to adhere to the regulations. This includes ensuring that:


• All work at height is properly planned and organised


• Those involved in working at height are competent to carry out the role


• Robust risk assessments are carried out, and the appropriate equipment is used


• The risks of working near or on fragile surfaces is properly managed


• The equipment used for working at height is properly inspected and maintained


The new guidance includes some information on the do’s and don’ts. It advises employers to do as much work as possible from the ground, to provide protection from falling objects, to consider emergency evacuation and rescue procedures, and ensure that workers can get to and from where they work at height safely.


Employers and managers are advised not to:


• Overload ladders • Overreach ladders or step ladders • Rest ladders against weak surfaces


• Let anyone who is not competent – i.e. who doesn’t have the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job – to work at height


www.tomorrowscleaning.com


Despite this guidance, accidents still happen. Recently, the UK division of a global documents security company was fi ned for safety failings after an employee fractured his arm falling from a dangerous step ladder. Similarly, a scaffolding fi rm was fi ned in February for dangerous scaffold installations at sites in Wantage and Oxford. At the latter location, a HSE inspector witnessed an employee working on a partially-completed structure with no guard rails or other safety features to prevent a fall.


The new guidelines – available at www.hse.gov.uk/work-at-height – are essential reading for cleaning contractors and facilities managers. We all have a duty to ensure that both employees and members of the public are protected from the risks posed by working at height.


www.darwinclayton.co.uk


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