Working Safely at Height
A number of recent fatal accidents involving the use of cranes and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) have raised concerns about the misuse of safety equipment.
There are several areas of development aimed at accident reduction. However, these are only appropriate if adopted correctly.
A combination of heavy lifting and working at height is intrinsically hazardous. However, training, knowledge of the equipment and experience can mitigate the risk substantially. Recent safety campaigns highlighting the dangers of MEWPs, such as Clunk-Click (ensuring operators wear a harness and lanyard in a boom lift) have been successful in educating users of powered access machines. It is important that a short restraint lanyard is used with the harness and attached to a suitable anchor point.
It is worth noting that the use of all lifting equipment, whether a forklift truck, telehandler or MEWP is completely safe when operated correctly within manufacturer’s guidelines. Operator error is almost always to blame for accidents and incidents. Whether that is unsafe operation of the equipment, or not correctly assessing hazards such as unsuitable ground conditions, adverse weather and overhead obstructions.
Now is the Time to Take Safety Seriously
IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) reported that in 2015 there were 68 fatal accidents involving powered access equipment. This is 4 more than in 2014, with falls from height accounting for the majority of deaths. Another serious concern is crushing due to entrapment – many contractors are now insisting on anti-entrapment devices being fitted to booms.
It must be remembered that even the most straightforward of incidents such as falling tools/equipment can cause serious, even fatal injuries. Care must, therefore, be taken inside the platform by keeping the work area tidy – this will also ensure that there are no trip hazards.
An understanding of the Work at Height Regulations will enable operatives to carry out a risk assessment based on the hierarchy of measures. That is to say that wherever work cannot be carried out at ground level (thereby eliminating the risk of a fall from height) suitable control measures are set in place. These would include fall prevention and fall protection. An IPAF Operator Training Course will demonstrate the difference between fall prevention (guardrails) and fall protection (safety harness)
Although working at height has obvious hazards, a trained, experienced operative with a suitable level of equipment knowledge and an understanding of the job specific method statement and risk assessment should be able to carry out their work safely.