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Getting a True Head for Heights

31 January 2014 | Updated 01 January 1970
 
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. Falls are one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overhauled its guidance for such activity, setting out what it believes are clear and simple terms what to do and what not to do – and debunking common myths that can confuse and mislead employers.

Altogether, more than 3,000 regulations have been identified for scrapping or improving through the Red Tape Challenge – which asks businesses and the public themselves to identify the rules that hold them back

Health and Safety Minister, Mike Penning, stated: “As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, it’s vital that businesses are not bogged down in complicated red tape and instead have useable advice about protecting their workers.”

 

Key changes include:
  • Providing simple advice about do’s and don’ts when working at height to ensure people are clear on what the law requires.
  • Busting some of the persistent myths about health and safety law, such as the banning of ladders when they can still be used.
  • Offering targeted advice to helping business in different sectors manage serious risks sensibly and proportionately.
  • Helping workers to be clearer about their own responsibilities for working safely.

Judith Hackitt, Chair of the HSE, explained: “It’s important to get working at height right. Falls remain one of the biggest causes of serious workplace injury with more than 40 people killed and 4,000 suffering major injuries every year. We have a sensible set of regulations and have been working with business to improve our guidance – making it simpler and clearer and dispelling some of the persistent myths about what the law requires.”

 

Death of Scaffolder was Avoidable - No safety markings and fragile rooflights led to death at Cornish creamery (pictured)

A scaffolder died when he fell 8m through a fragile roof light while working on top of a chemical store at a creamery in Cornwall. Truro Crown Court heard that Michael Stone, 44, of Hartley, Plymouth, was erecting a scaffold at the premises when the incident happened. Mr Stone landed on a concrete floor when he fell, suffering multiple injuries. He died in hospital seven days later.

Two companies have been sentenced over the incident at Dairy Crest premises at Davidstow near Camelford on 4 November, 2008.

The court heard self-employed Mr Stone was working for specialist fabrication firm, Dartmeet Services, which was contracted to creamery owner, Dairy Crest, to replace the roof on the chemical store.

The building had fragile rooflights but Mr Stone had not been made aware of this and no signs or markings were evident to indicate the danger. The HSE investigation found Mr Stone and his employees were not requested to sign in to gain access to the roof and no one at the site checked his risk assessment for the work.

Dairy Crest Ltd was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs for breaches of health and safety legislation in the case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The other defendant also in court for sentencing was the main contractor, Dartmeet Services, which was fined £30,000 with £10,000 costs.

Dartmeet Services pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 4 of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Dairy Crest pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 9(3) (a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

“This is yet another tragic fatality caused by working on a roof with fragile rooflights where the risks are well known,” explained Barry Trudgian, HSE Inspector. “In this case, no one involved took proper control to make Mr Stone aware of the issue. There should have been signs on the building indicating the presence of fragile rooflights and any work on the roof should have been subject to a thorough risk assessment and supervision. Simple, straightforward, commonsense procedures could have saved Mr Stone’s life.”

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 31 January 2014

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