Don't rely on luck to keep you safe...

Posted 03 Oct 2018

Planning work at height

You will hear it often in discussions around health and safety: I’ve done it this way for years and never had an accident. Why should I change?

I don’t tie my ladder down, what’s the harm? It gets the job done quicker and works just fine without it.

Edge protection? No problem, I’m not a clumsy person, I’ll be OK.

Sometimes we all have these thoughts. If something has worked well one way for years, and your luck has held up, why bother changing?

The problem with luck is, it isn’t reliable, and sooner or later it will run out. Luck simply can’t do as much to keep you safe as proper planning, fully certified equipment and good site etiquette.

Luck won’t protect you if you continually flout health and safety advice - or even legal requirements - and one day it will come back to bite you. These guidelines are not there to slow you down or make your work more difficult, but simply to keep you, and others safe.

Nowhere are the risks of relying on luck alone more obvious than working at height. One in every 12 recordable injuries in Britain’s workplaces are the result of a fall. Low and high falls kill and seriously injure hundreds of people and account for around 700,000 working days being lost each year.

Every health and safety inspector has horror stories of people working on roofs without proper edge protection or fall prevention equipment. Falls from height continue to be one of the most common causes of workplace fatalities.

The lesson is clear: just because you’ve done something a hundred times without a problem, does not mean you won’t run into serious problems on the one hundred and first time, and it could cost you or someone else their life.

However, following simple HSE guidance can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. And in fact, it’s so simple, we can sum it up in 5 points. You should try to ensure:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organised;

  • That those involved in work at height are competent;

  • The risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used;

  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed;

  • And that the equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

The job might take a little bit longer, and take a little bit of extra effort, but you can carry out the work safe in the knowledge you are protected from both legal ramifications, and more serious consequences.

Remember: don’t rely on luck, because it will run out.

by Carolyn Campbell

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