Falls from height top cause of fatal injury in construction
Ladders come in all shapes and sizes, but they share a common purpose; which is to provide assistance when working from height to get a job done. Whilst you don’t need a formal qualification to use a ladder, you do need to be competent and understand some basic rules to keep safe when working from a height. Using a ladder or even a step ladder will be considered as working from a height, alongside the more obvious methods of working from height such as a crane, rooftop or scaffold. Ladders can still pose a serious risk to a worker’s safety if used incorrectly.
The HSE figures show that in the construction sector, falls from height result in 47% of fatal workplace injuries, and are responsible for 19% of non-fatal injuries. It’s clear to see that working from height is a real threat to a worker’s safety and demonstrates why this risk must be managed effectively. But the good news is that injuries and fatalities as a result of working from height are preventable.
Using a ladder incorrectly, overstretching, or standing on incorrect equipment to reach a height, for example, can all increase someone’s chance of falling. On top of that, a worker can become complacent when regularly carrying out work from a height, causing a greater chance of an accident. In construction, many workers are up and down ladders all day, whether it is on a building site, customer premises or to gain access to scaffolds. Care should be taken, and employers should help to keep workers safe.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) requires employers to create safe methods of work to reduce the risk of working from height. They are legally obliged to ensure any task where working from height is required is suitably planned, supervised and carried out by a competent worker. A risk assessment for each task from height should be carried out, which will include factors such as the weather conditions, the competence of the worker, the place of work, any necessary equipment and specific training required, for example.
The HSE suggests some straightforward and practical measures to help prevent injury when working at height. These include:
- Complete as much of the work as possible from the ground
- Make sure workers are able to get safely to and from the area they are working from height
- Provide suitable, strong and stable equipment for the task, and ensure it is maintained and checked regularly
- Do not overload or overreach when working from height
- When working on or near fragile surfaces take extra precautions
- Provide protection from falling objects
- Establish emergency procedures for evacuation and rescue
Often ladders are deemed the most suitable equipment for a specific task, especially where the task will take 30 minutes or less and it’s generally considered low risk.
“In fact they can be a sensible and practical option for low-risk, short-duration tasks, although they may not automatically be your first choice. Make sure you use the right type of ladder and you know how to use it safely.”
– The HSE
An employer is required to ensure any ladders are suitable for use, maintained and regularly inspected under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).
Similarly, employees have a responsibility to take reasonable care of themselves and others, use equipment inline with any instructions and training, comply with their employers and any safety provisions, as well as notify their employer of any foreseen issues with their equipment and protection. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Why is training important?
Providing suitable training for working from height, including ladder safety, will help employers meet their legislative duties and keep their workers safe. eLearning can particularly help with educating employees about the dangers of working at height and help them understand their responsibilities when it comes to keeping themselves and others safe. Ensuring safe working practices are established and providing regular training is a good way to minimise the risk of an accident and avoid any costly compensation claims.