Health and Safety Gone Mad? We Don’t Realise How Lucky We Are!
Last week we took a look at the difference between aluminium and fibreglass ladders for domestic use and discovered that when it comes to electrical work, using a metal ladder (whether aluminium or steel) is not a good idea. Fibreglass ladders, although they are more expensive than metal ladders, are a much better option when it comes to electrical work as they are non-conductive and will represent a much safer choice. Today we’re taking a look at just how important it is to ensure that you choose the right type of access equipment when it comes to carrying out electrical work, whether in a domestic or commercial setting.
When it comes to working with electricity or on electrical circuits or equipment, ladder safety must be carefully considered and metal ladders should never be used. It’s vital that any ladder used for electrical work is made from a non-conductive material such as wood or fibreglass. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that you shouldn’t work within 6 metres horizontally of any overhead power line. In order to ensure safety, the material that a ladder is fabricated from must match the conditions of the working environment which means that an aluminium ladder should never be used by electrical contractors. In fact, working near exposed electrical lines is a common cause of electrocution in all trades.
We’ve come across some pretty shocking images of Greek workmen changing light bulbs in a village square in Crete in a clear demonstration on how not to use a ladder, especially when electricity is involved. The first image shows three workmen carrying out their (non-existent) pre-use ladder safety check before beginning the work at hand. In fact, the preparation involved hauling the aluminium ladder from the back of a pickup truck and placing it underneath the electrical cable from which the light bulbs hang. Then, one contractor went up the ladder to change the bulbs while the other two held the ladder in a stable position on a sloping street. Amazingly, the guy on the ladder (who wore no personal protective equipment at all, not even insulated gloves or boots) changed two light bulbs, watched by several people drinking outside the local tavernas. The ladder was then dragged further down the street (still open) and plonked underneath another broken bulb. The light-changing guy ran up the ladder, changed one more bulb and then descended. The three men then collapsed the ladder, chucked it into the back of their pickup truck (without securing it) and drove off into the sunset.
This was a classic example of how to come a cropper when it comes to using a ladder. Although European Health and Safety legislation applies in Greece, unlike the UK, Greece has no method of enforcing the regulations so this type of behaviour is quite common.
This just serves to remind us just how lucky we are here in the UK when it comes to health and safety in the workplace. We not only have stringent legislation, we have a very effective enforcement process that protects workers. We often moan about “health and safety gone mad” but there are reasons for the rules and regulations that really cannot be ignored.