June 17, 2015

Working at Height? Plan properly or get fined!

Do your employees need to Work at Height? If you don’t put measures in place to plan, manage and monitor the project properly or you could face a huge fine.

Recently, a man from Birmingham was fined £3000 and ordered to pay £1255.30 in costs at Sandwell Magistrates Court for failing to properly plan or manage construction work.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspected the site after a member of the public raised concerns over work taking place next to a public pavement. It was clear there was a risk of materials falling from the first floor level onto the pavement and the street, and there were no fall prevention measures in place to protect workers on the site.

HSE Inspector, Chris Gregory, said: “He should have ensured the appropriate measures were in place in order to plan, manage and monitor the project. He was informed of his duties by his advisors, but failed to act. He had a duty to ensure that the safety of those working on site and those members of the public, passing by, were not put at risk, he failed on both counts.”

This highlights that it is not just the contractor undertaking the work who MUST be aware of the regulations.

Fragile surfaces

In this instance the client had failed to take account of Regulation 9 of the Working at Height Regulations which states:

  • Every employer shall ensure that no person at work passes across or near, or works on, from or near, a fragile surface where it is reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without his doing so.
  • Where it is not reasonably practicable to carry out work safely and under appropriate ergonomic conditions without passing across or near, or working on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall—

(a) ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that suitable and sufficient platforms, coverings, guard rails or similar means of support or protection are provided and used so that any foreseeable loading is supported by such supports or borne by such protection;

(b) where a risk of a person at work falling remains despite the measures taken under the preceding provisions of this regulation, take suitable and sufficient measures to minimise the distances and consequences of his fall.

  • Where any person at work may pass across or near, or work on, from or near, a fragile surface, every employer shall ensure that—

(a) prominent warning notices are so far as is reasonably practicable affixed at the approach to the place where the fragile surface is situated; or

(b )where that is not reasonably practicable, such persons are made aware of it by other means.

  • Shall not apply where members of the police, fire, ambulance or other emergency services are acting in an emergency.

Working at Height (WAH)

The dangers of working at height are well known and are the most common cause of Fatal Injuries accounting for 45% of deaths within the construction industry

Work at Height can be easily and safely managed and a suitable and sufficient (relevant) risk assessment method statement (RAMS) will identify the control measures required to prevent serious injury or death.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury, and are therefore relevant to nearly all businesses:

Managing work at height follows a hierarchy of controls…

  • avoid
  • prevent
  • arrest

…which begins with the question – can the work be done safely from the ground?

Many employers consider work at heights only relates to tasks such as roof work and scaffolding and mostly affects certain industries such as Construction  Yet with the ‘height’ not specified in the all industry sectors are exposed to the risks presented by working at height some fatalities occur from falls when working at a relatively low height.

What ever and where the work it needs to be properly planned supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience and with suitably resourced to do the job.

A number of prosecutions similar to the one refered to above have taken place and can result in severe penalties for Business owners.  Another  recent prosecution resulted in prison sentences for 45 weeks and an award of prosecution costs of £20, 000

As an employer you should remember WAH is only a wrong step away from a fatality when not properly managed, planned, and carried out by competent experienced and suitably resourced staff.

Need advice on this subject? Contact us and we’ll help you get to ensure you have the right procedures in place.

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About the author

Eamon Griffin