All together against falls

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A newly formed All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) into working at height will produce a report and recommendations aimed at reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries resulting from falls from height in UK workplaces.

Considered by many to be one of the most significant developments in the work at height sector in recent times, the group is currently considering evidence submissions from interested stakeholders.

Sponsored by PASMA, the not-for-profit organisation dedicated to advancing safety in the mobile access tower industry, and with the support of the Access Industry Forum (AIF), the APPG is chaired by the Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central, Alison Thewliss, and brings together concerned MPs from across the political spectrum to examine the effectiveness of the existing regulations.

Alison comments: “That 18% of the people who died at work in 2016/17 did so as a result of a fall from height is a shocking statistic. The APPG inquiry is intended to investigate the reasons for this and to ensure that the current regulations are sufficient to keep people safe.”

The submissions received so far, and currently under consideration, include comments about the primary reasons for falls, the appropriateness of the existing regulations, the additional measures considered necessary to prevent falls, the case for enhanced falls reporting and the role of innovation, in particular, the use of digital technology, in improving height safety.

Peter Bennett, managing director of PASMA and chair of the Access Industry Forum, says: “PASMA and the AIF are delighted to be championing the work of this new parliamentary group. We look forward to seeing its recommendations on how the number of people and families affected by falls from height can be further reduced. We want everyone who works at height to return home safely every day.”

Fall arrest safety net. Photograph: AIF

The Ladder Association thinks the changes to BS EN 131, the single British and European product standard covering all types of portable ladders, are “the most extensive review and update since ladders were first introduced”. The changes are designed to improve the safety of ladders and to make buying the right ladders much simpler and more straightforward.

The changes include improved stability together with enhanced test requirements designed to augment strength, rigidity and durability. Following these changes there are now only two classes of ladder: ‘non-professional’ for domestic users only and ‘professional’ for use in the workplace.

According to the Ladder Association (LA), businesses should consider updating their purchasing policies now to be ready to specify EN 131 ‘professional’ ladders to the new standard when existing ladders need to be replaced, or when new ones are needed. A free, eight-page guide explaining the changes and implications for specifiers, buyers and users is available from the LA website.

The National Access & Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) is a founder member of the AIF and throughout 2018 will be headlining its flagship guidance SG4:15 Preventing Falls in Scaffolding Operations. Described as ‘evolution not revolution’, the guidance is broader in scope to reflect a significant increase in the number of TG20 compliant scaffolds, changes to scaffolding good practice and innovation across the industry. It is available from the NASC website.

The Confederation will also be highlighting the need for all trades to undertake a systematic risk assessment and produce a thorough method statement when selecting and using scaffolding.

The Rope Access Manager/Rope Access Safety Supervisor course is the latest development from IRATA – the international association dedicated to rope access. A brand new course aimed at providing technicians and rope access managers with specific supervisory and management skills will be launched later this year.

To become an IRATA qualified rope access manager, candidates must have previously qualified as an IRATA Level 3 rope access technician. Eligibility for the rope access safety supervisor course is specified on the IRATA website.

For its part, IPAF, the International Powered Access Federation, has produced a selection of 3D virtual mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and mast climbing work platforms (MCWPs) and made them available for free download from the UK-based National Building Information Modelling (BIM) library.

BIM is increasingly recognised and used around the world by architects and project managers when designing new buildings and considering how they will be constructed and maintained. So far IPAF has had four virtual models accepted by the library: MCWP, Vertical Lift; Mobile Boom – Telescopic and Mobile Boom – Articulated. Three more models are in development. 

The AIF is the forum for the principal trade associations and federations involved in work at height. Each organisation represents a different sector of the access industry and fosters and supports codes of good practice, equipment standards, training, education and knowledge.

More information on the AIF at: accessindustryforum.org.uk

The APPG on Working at Height at: https://workingatheight.info/

Chris Kendall is chair of AIF Marketing and Communications Committee


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