From the dawn of man we have always had a fascination with flying. During the last century it is something we managed to achieve with great success courtesy of the Wright Brothers endeavours. However, without the proper planning, training, equipment and knowledge it is something which should not be undertaken as the consequences could be severe; remember what happened to Icarus?
The same could be said for those who are required to work at height. Not realising or failing to realise that there is a risk and therefore failing to implement the necessary controls could have disastrous consequences.
Over recent years the construction industry’s performance has steadily improved by following three basic principles when working at height:
- Avoid work at height where you can
- Use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls where you cannot avoid working at height
- Where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distances and consequences of a fall should one occur
The hierarchy has to be followed systematically and only when one level is not reasonably practicable may the next level down be considered.
However, over the last year the number of construction workers falling from height has increased by 60% according to shock figures from consultants at the Building Safety Group. The data is based on accidents reported in the three months from May until July by Building Safety Group’s membership of more than 20,000 construction workers across the UK.
These figures in construction prove that allowing complacency to creep back in and not remembering or learning from our past mistakes only increases the chance of death, serious injury and ill health, which is still the highest of all industries. These deaths, injuries and ill health cause pain and suffering. They also have a cost in industrial injuries claims, medical treatment, and lost time at work.
It is the duty and responsibility of all on site to ensure work is properly planned and undertaken safely, in line with guidance and best practice. Man was not meant to fly without the correct planning training, equipment and knowledge. By following the three basic principles for work at height we can aim to ensure we do it “Wright” like the Brothers of old. By being complacent to the risk and not following instruction we will only end up crashing to earth just like Icarus.
By Stephen Woolf, ProAktive Risk Adviser