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Falls from height defined

Falls from height defined Midlands Health and Safety Counsultancy

The leading cause of workplace deaths continues to sadly be, falls from height. Predominately these are mainly in construction but danger from falls can be in any industry and from any height. Our latest article looks at what counts as a fall from height, common injuries and why people get hurt.

What counts as a fall from height?

According to HSE, a fall from height has no minimum distance. It’s any fall from one level to a lower one that could cause injury without safety precautions.

Working at height

If you’re at risk of falling, you’re counted as working at height. Here are some situations that are considered working at height:

  • Using a ladder or stepladder
  • Being above the ground or floor level
  • Being at risk of falling into a hole or opening in the floor
  • Being at risk of falling through a fragile roof or surface

Injuries from falls

  • Bruises and Sprains: These are among the most minor injuries. Although not life-threatening, they can lead to significant discomfort and time off work.
  • Fractures: Commonly broken bones include wrists, ankles and ribs. These injuries can be severe and require extensive recovery time.
  • Head and Spinal Injuries: Head and spinal injuries can lead to long-term disabilities, including paralysis or brain damage.
  • Fatalities: Fatalities are the most tragic outcome.

Reasons for falls from height at work

  • Falls from ladders – there are many jobs in which access needs to be gained by a ladder and the following are reasons why accidents happen: Sometimes the ladders are faulty or may not have been erected in the right way or incorrect footwear may be being worn causing a slip hazard. Sometimes the ladder may not be fixed in any position and maybe on an uneven surface.
  • Machines – working on top of / in / around machinery. If the machine is switched on then this can provide and extra level of danger as someone could fall into it.
  • HGV’s – falling from the back of heavy goods vehicles is not uncommon as there is no safety barrier to stop you.
  • Roofs – some roofs are not supposed to be walked on but often this is not clearly stated. Some roofs can collapse dropping the worker onto whatever is directly beneath them.
  • Scaffolding – although scaffolding is built with health and safety in mind these days, accidents can still happen and people can fall.
  • Roof lights / sun inlets – people step on these to gain access and if they’re not strong enough they will collapse, and the person will fall down to whatever lies beneath.
  • Unsuitable equipment – whether it is footwear or a faulty harness / anchor point, it can be the equipment that fails and sends you plummeting.
  • Lack of fencing / barrier – whether it is the edge of a building, a hole in a roof or a loading bay, it is necessary that a significant drop should be fenced off to stop people from falling staying safe.

 

The HSE always prioritises eliminating risks before controlling them. So, the best way to make work at height safe is to do as much as possible at ground level.

This is obviously impossible for many work activities. In situations where workers must spend time at height, following the Work at Height Regulations is critical. They detail what employers and workers must do to prevent falls or reduce the consequences if they do happen. The key duties these regulations impose are:

  • Risk Assessment: Before work at height begins, a thorough risk assessment must be conducted. This assessment should identify potential hazards and measures to control them.
  • Plan and Prepare: Every task involving working at height must be properly planned to ensure it’s carried out safely. Planning includes selecting the right equipment and confirming suitable weather conditions.
  • Use the Right Equipment: Equipment must be appropriate for the task and the environment. It must also be well maintained and checked regularly, including before use.
  • Training and Competence: Workers must be trained and competent to work at height. Competence means they must know how to follow safety measures, use necessary equipment correctly and what to do in emergencies. There should also always be adequate supervision, especially if less experienced workers are involved.

 

Proper training is essential for anyone working at height. It ensures they’re fully aware of the risks and know how to handle them safely. For further information on falls from height, please contact us here.

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