Do We Need Stricter Regulations for Work at Height?
Earlier this month we reported on the UK Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE)’s latest workplace fatality statistics which still demonstrate that the construction industry here in Britain remains one of the most risky sectors in which to work, coming second after agriculture, forestry and fishing.
The publication of the latest annual figures led to concerns being voiced by the MPs in the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) which is sponsored by the Access Industry Forum (AIF), a group of trade associations and federations covering work at height.
With 40 workers killed as a result of a fall from height in 2018/2019, this is still the single biggest cause of workplace fatal injuries here in the UK, and an increase over the previous year’s figure of 35 fatalities as a result of a fall from height. Despite stringent legislation, innovative safety initiatives and an increased awareness of the dangers of working at height in recent years, these figures clearly demonstrate that there is still work to be done when it comes to reducing the number of fatal falls in the workplace.
Most of these incidents are preventable and there continues to be a steady stream of prosecutions against companies here in the UK for poor work at height practices. Whether these prosecutions are for lack of planning, lack of equipment or cultural complacency, the statistics show no signs of improvement so perhaps the time has come to consider even stricter regulations on working at height.
When it comes to individual organisational culture, news reports on court proceedings against companies that are negligent towards their duty of care to workers regularly describe a lack of risk assessment, lack of proper planning and a failure to provide the correct type of access equipment. It seems that in so many cases, it can take a near miss (or in the worst cases) an actual accident, for organisational leaders to take action. In the aftermath of an incident or accident, health and safety colleagues shoulder the blame, whereas managers should be taking a look at the top-down culture and the level of investment in health and safety.
The chair of the APPG, Alison Thewliss, declared that the most recent statistics show that “this issue is not going away”, going on to say that the government should take on board the recommendations set out in the APPG report “Staying Alive: Preventing Serious Injury and Fatalities while Working at Height”. These recommendations include:
- The introduction of enhanced reporting
- The appointment of an independent body
- An equivalent system to Scotland’s Fatal Accident Inquiry process.