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Health & Safety: The dangers of falls from height

Health & Safety: The dangers of falls from height


Falls from height – ladders, step ladders etc, can cause major, and even fatal injuries. The HSE reported that in 2010/2011 there were 38 fatal accidents related to falls from heights of which 23 were from heights over 2 metres. That means that 15 people died from relatively low heights! Falls may not kill! The HSE reported that there were over 2,800 major injuries as a result of falling from heights.

It’s easy to do and we are all guilty of not taking sensible precautions when using ladders etc. at home but when it’s your own business or you have responsibility for others, i.e. employees then you need to ensure that you have suitable procedures in place. If one of your employees has an accident you and your business could be liable under the Health and Safety at Work Act or even worse under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act.

In recent cases fines of £14,000 and £30,000 plus costs have been handed to companies where their employees have had accidents relating to falls but of more importance in one of these the employee is now registered disabled and unable to work.

Here are some simple rules to follow to make sure you don’t fall and suffer what could be a very nasty accident. The list is not exhaustive and you should always assess the risks for the task at hand before using ladders.

  • Where possible avoid working at height. Many tasks can be carried out using extendable/long handle equipment.
  • If work at height is unavoidable, the correct equipment must be used - NEVER a chair, maybe a step-ladder, scaffold tower or 'cherry picker' depending on the task/environment.
  • Only people trained to use the equipment should put it up, use it and take it down.
  • NEVER work alone (with the exception of going just 1 or 2 steps off the ground, e.g. on an 'elephant foot' stool)
  • Before using the equipment check it is in good condition and has all the correct fittings, e.g. rubber/plastic feet or stabilizers.
  • Make sure the equipment cannot be knocked or bumped into, e.g. by someone opening a door, walking past, or a vehicle if outside.
  • Make sure you are wearing sensible shoes
  • NEVER over-reach
  • Don't climb if you suffer vertigo or have a poor sense of balance (sometimes brought on by a cold or some types of medicines)
  • NEVER move equipment with a person on it e.g. a tower or a tallescope

And remember – Be careful out there and make sure that you are not the next accident statistic!

For further information, help or advice on the topics covered in this article, contact Basil Gillett at Risk Safety Associates on 0151 203 3777