Don't Sacrifice Safety for Speed when Working at Height
The stringent regulations we have here in the UK when it comes to working at height are a welcome positive force in the construction industry. These rules and a close attention to detail are what keeps us safer than our counterparts in many parts of the world where similar regulations do not exist, or if they do exist, are not enforced. While all of us will have a moan now and again about “health and safety gone made” – it’s this madness in the field of health and safety that helps to prevent many of the accidents that lead to life-changing injuries or even death.
One of the major issues that can impact on building project is speed – getting the job done within a deadline in order to keep costs down and meet customer expectations. Sacrificing safety for speed, however, is never acceptable as it puts lives and livelihoods at risk.
Working at height often involves the use of specialised access equipment – safety ladders, scaffolding, towers, podium platforms and mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) – all of which need to be assembled or installed and often need to be moved into different positions during the work undertaken.
In order to save time workers may be tempted to cut corners when it comes to safety with towers being erected with few or no toe plates and the addition of guard rails being neglected with a wooden ladder propped against the hand rail to offer full access. MEWPs are sometimes driven across quite rough ground with the occupants being flung around precariously. Then there could always be the site joker who may remove the keys from the ground level controls, leaving an operator shouting down much to the amusement of the rest of the workforce. None of this is acceptable and such practices leave workers at risk of falling, leading to injury of death. There is no place on the construction site for cutting corners in this way to save time and there is definitely no place for fun and frolics when it comes to access equipment and machinery.
Safety needs to be taken seriously at all times which is where a systematic approach to training comes in. Work at height training should be undertaken by all those who work at height and the training should be relevant, covering the use of MEWPs, mobile towers and podiums. If the work at height training is also extended to labourers and storemen, they would also be qualified to assist in erecting platforms, a practise that could save time without risking lives.
Thorough and methodical inspection is essential when it comes to using access equipment and an inspection should take place every time a piece of equipment is moved to access a different work area. Dismantling, moving and re-erecting mobile towers may be a time-consuming job but this should not lead to a blasé attitude when it comes to erection and inspection. Here in the UK, health and safety in the workplace has improved in recent years due to the stringent regulations we have in put in place to protect our workforces. It’s up to all of us in the construction industry to ensure that we follow best practise and comply with the regulations in order to ensure that our construction sites present a reduced risk to the workforce.