Staying alive: a working at height special< Back to Blog

While you may be forgiven for thinking the British parliament has only one thing on its mind right now, just last month a group of MPs were actually calling on the Government to undertake a major review into something that’s rather close to our hearts – working at height.

After a 12-month enquiry into the issues, an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) published its report: ‘Staying Alive: Preventing Serious Injury and Fatalities while Working at Height’.

Addressing the question of why more workplace deaths result from of a fall from height than any other issues, the report explores what steps the government and industry might take to prevent such incidents.

It makes four main recommendations:

1. Introducing an enhanced reporting system through RIDDOR (which at a minimum, records the scale of a fall, the method used and the circumstances of the fall).

2. Appointing an independent body to allow confidential, enhanced and digital reporting of all near misses, to be shared with government and industry and be used in policy making.

3. Extending the Working Well Together – Working Well at Height safety campaigns to industries outside the construction sector.

4. Extending a system equivalent to Scotland’s Fatal Accident Inquiry process to the rest of the UK.

The APPG is now calling for a further period of consultation and review into working at height practices, policies and culture. Download the full report.

Meanwhile, with almost 50% of fall from height fatalities taking place in construction, we thought this was a good time to remind everyone of some important safety notices.

Main hazards

  • Using the wrong piece of equipment just because it is to hand.
  • Weather conditions (e.g. wind, rain, snow and ice).
  • Overloading the working platform.
  • Allowing rubbish to accumulate on working platforms.

Before working at height

  • Avoid work at height where possible. If it cannot be avoided then use collective fall protection (scaffolding, MEWP, mobile tower).
  • Use a safe system of work.
  • Use a net, soft-landing system or even a harness (last resort).
  • Ensure the correct equipment has been provided for you.
  • Ensure that the equipment has been inspected and tested where appropriate.
  • Ensure you are trained to work at height.
  • Ensure your place of work at height has provisions to prevent materials falling.
  • Only use ladders for short duration light work. Ladders must be set at an angle of 1 in 4 and secured at the top. They should extend at least 1 metre above the stepping off point.

Working safely on roofs

  • Keep away from fragile surfaces.
  • Where the roof is liable to collapse use a temporary working platform that will support your weight.
  • If you are unable to use edge protection or a soft-landing system then it may be necessary to use a harness. Ensure the anchorage is secure.
  • Ensure that you have safe means of access.

For further advice, download the HSE’s leaflet ‘Working on roofs’ .

In the APPG report on working at height, Chair of the group, Alison Thewliss MP, writes:

“From the early days of the APPG to the publication of this report, it is clear that serious injuries and fatalities from falls at height are still too prevalent. In the past year alone, 35 families in the UK have been devastated by the loss of loved ones and many more will have had to deal with lifechanging injuries.

I hope that this report and the future work of the APPG, alongside government and industry, will help to bring about action to see these numbers drastically reduced, and ultimately brought down to zero.

We welcome the practical measures that work at height industries are already implementing to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities. The use of new technologies and innovations, such as Augmented Reality and the effective use of drones, is now a reality. Our inquiry and report marks the beginning of the APPG’s work. Working with industry and government, we hope to make recommendations that will create a safer environment for the millions who work at height every day.”

Are there any changes to working at height policies or practices that you would like to see?


Image source: Freepik