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Timely warning issued on working from height

16 November 2023

30% of fatal work injuries linked to falls from height. Horizon Platforms shares critical health and safety rules for working at height.

SHOCKING STATISTICS from the HSE reveal that in 2022, there were 135 fatal work-related incidents in the UK. 40 of these were due to falls from height, making up 30% of the fatal work-related injuries.

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs) offer a secure way to work at heights, designed with dedicated safety regulations for operators and those nearby. Despite this, accidents can still occur, often influenced by various human, environmental, and unforeseen factors.

Adhering to health and safety regulations is imperative for any job, especially when working at height or with heavy machinery in hazardous conditions. Unfortunately, these rules can still be broken due to ignorance, cutting corners or outright disregard, which may result in severe penalties, lawsuits, imprisonment and sometimes even tragedy. 

You or your team may inadvertently overlook essential health and safety rules when working at height. This is why the experts at  Horizon Platforms have shared vital insights into these safety measures that can’t be ignored.

PPE Needed at Height To Keep Workers Safe
We come across instances where PPE (personal protection equipment) is not being utilised as it should.  When working at height, PPE is often referred to as PFPE (personal fall protection equipment). While it's assumed that PFPE is a non-negotiable, not everyone may be fully aware of the list of required safety equipment which helps prevent accidents and injury:

Harness - Is only part of a Personal Fall Protection System. It is a body-holding device worn by an individual and has one or two attachment points, usually one on the chest and one on the back, to which a lanyard can be attached to and is essential for boom lift fall protection.

Lanyards - Connect to the safety harnesses and clip onto the anchor points inside the platform. This lanyard should be adjusted in length to ensure it prevents the wearer from the possibility of being ejected from the platform or getting into a fall situation.
All equipment used at height must be carefully and regularly inspected for faults that may prove hazardous to worker’s safety. However, you may not realise how regularly you should inspect your work from height equipment. PFPE inspections should comply with BS EN 365:2004 and BS 8437:2005. Meaning PPE must be inspected every twelve months,  or more frequently if exposed to extreme environments. Pre-use checks sometimes called a pre-use inspection, should also be completed by the wearer at the beginning of each working shift.

Weather Conditions that Pose Significant Risk
Weather conditions can be crucial when working from height. Work deadlines or not, when working on MEWPs there are HSE expectations you must follow to ensure full safety of workers. 

Wind - The wind speed limit for each MEWP can be found on the manufacturer’s data plate and in the operator’s manual. Many MEWPs are only to be used indoors with a maximum rated wind speed of 0mph. 

Snow and Ice - Present a slip risk. But it can also cause damage to the MEWPs and height safety systems, so full inspections should be carried out before use. Freezing conditions can also affect the movement and response of the controls, so it is essential to do pre-use checks of all functions before use in extreme weather.

Thunder and Lightning - All outdoor work from height should stop immediately. 

A robust risk assessment must be conducted before every job to determine if it's safe to proceed with the work. Undertaking tasks in adverse weather conditions without ensuring it is safe to do so can lead to potential accidents, injuries, or even loss of life, along with legal consequences and reputational damage for the responsible parties.  If it's too dangerous, stop. 

Other Dangerous Scenarios To Avoid
Although wearing the correct PFPE and working in the correct weather conditions may seem obvious, health and safety rules when working at height. There are some rules that many people might need to consider or be reminded about. It’s amazing how rushing to complete a job can get in the way of safety. 

Risk of Traffic Accidents or Collisions
If you are operating your MEWP in a public area, road, highway or construction site, you should be aware of people and vehicles around you, as IPAF’s Global Safety Report noted a significant 38 incidents involving vehicle or machine collisions in 2022, worldwide. 

Overloading Platforms 
Overloading an access platform is extremely dangerous as it could damage the structural integrity of the platform and cause a collapse or result in a MEWP overturning. Preventing an overload can be difficult if you don’t know exactly how much weight is too much for your MEWP. 

Each machine is different and should come with SWL (safe working load) information. If not, get it from your supplier. SWL should be noted as a standard part of the risk assessment before commencing any work. You can make sure you don’t exceed the SWL (which can be found in your MEWPs operating manual) by accurately calculating the weight of all items and taking into consideration the weight of the people working on the platform.  It’s also important to note that the load should not extend beyond the platform edge or lean against the guardrails. 

Insufficiently Trained Workers Are A Huge Risk
To minimise accidents when working at height, essential training for operators and managers should never be overlooked.  It is, therefore, vital to understand what training is needed for each individual, task and piece of access equipment. 

If an accident or injury occurs due to a lack of sufficient training, not only is it distressing for the victim, witnesses and the victim’s family, it creates significant legal complexities for the employer. As Horizon Platforms Training Manager Ben Hughes points out: 

“It is essential that the operators and managers are trained to a competent standard and, if they aren’t trained adequately via approved methods, proving that in a court of law or a tribunal would be extremely difficult and would likely result in a large fine or jail time, or both.”

It is recommended that operators and managers go through fully accredited MEWP training. This helps to minimise the risk of accidents or injuries to the operator or people working on site and protects the employer should the worst-case scenario occur. 

Chris Wraith, Health and Safety Officer at Horizon Platforms, explains: “It is vital to ensure those working at height are appropriately trained and comfortable with heights. Also, on each job, it is essential they have been made aware of the findings of the risk assessment outlining the potential hazards and required safe systems of work, which should also include planning for emergency rescue.”

Managers should also undertake health and safety and work-from-height training for the welfare of the operators to ensure risk assessments and rescue plans are airtight and to correctly oversee safe MEWP work. 

It is sometimes forgotten or overlooked that IPAF certificates must be renewed every five years. So it is always good to double-check them before the work starts.

For more information, visit www.horizonplatforms.co.uk