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Saving lives by stopping falls

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Falls from height have remained the leading cause of fatalities representing 27 per cent of all of the deaths at work.


Considered by many to be one of the most significant developments in the work at height sector for at least a decade, the first inquiry report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Working at Height (APPG) – Staying alive: Preventing serious injury and fatalities while working at height – was published earlier this year and is now the subject of a wide-ranging consultation with government, industry and the health and safety profession at large.

According to provisional figures recently released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for work-related fatalities between April 2018 and March 2019, 147 workers died as a result of a workplace injury. Hot on the heels of these latest statistics, the APPG has expressed concern over the increase in the number of falls from height fatalities, which have risen from 35 in 2017/18 to 40 in 2018/19.

APPG says there's a lack of data and an understanding of the main causes of a fall from height

The main kinds of fatal accidents for workers in 2018/19 were: falls from a height (40), struck by a moving vehicle (30), struck by a moving object (16), contact with moving machinery (14), trapped by something collapsing/overturning (11). Falls from height therefore remained the leading cause of fatalities representing 27 per cent of the total.

The recommendations of the APPG report are:

  • The introduction of enhanced reporting, without any additional financial or administrative burden through RIDDOR
  • At a minimum, this enhanced reporting would record the scale of a fall, the access method used and the circumstances of the fall. It would address concerns within industry that improvements in safety are being hampered by a lack of empirical data and an understanding of the main causes of a fall from height.
  • The appointment of an independent body that allows confidential, enhanced and digital reporting of all near misses and accidents that do not qualify for RIDDOR reporting. The data collected by this independent body is to be shared with both government and industry to inform health and safety policy.
  • The extension of the ‘Working Well Together – Working Well at Height’ safety campaign to industries outside of the construction sector. These are currently part-funded by HSE through regional Working Well Together groups, which deliver a range of free and low-cost events to educate and inform small, micro and sole employee companies on the benefits of working safely.
  • An equivalent system to Scotland’s Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) process to be extended to the rest of the UK. In Scotland, ministers are required under section 29 of the Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths (Scotland) Act 2016 to report on fatalities. FAIs are the legal mechanism through which deaths in the workplace are investigated.

The report also proposes “as an opportunity for further discussion” the creation of a digital technology strategy to include a new tax relief for small, micro and sole traders, to enable them to invest in new technology. It also proposes a major review of work at height culture to include an investigation into the suitability of legally-binding financial penalties in health and safety funds, which could be used towards raising awareness and training, particularly in hard to reach sectors.

The work of the APPG will feature at the AIF’s 2019 National Work at Height Conference Working at height: Access for life, at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford, on 14 November. Supported by the Association for Project Safety, Hire Association Europe and the International Institute for Risk and Safety Management, the conference will address the latest trends and developments in height safety and how they affect the role of the health and safety manager.

Read the report here

Chris Kendall is chair, marketing & communications committee at Access Industry Forum

 

 

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