24% of Worker Fatalities This Year as a Result of Falling From a Height – EXPERT Weighs In With Health And Safety Tips

According to a research study from Jason Rowley LTD, falls from a height account for 24% of fatal workplace injuries in 2021/22, with 29 related deaths this year.

In order to prevent further fatal injuries in the workplace, Jason Rowley LTD has also decided to compile a list of simple measures that employees and supervisors should consider when working at certain heights. 

5 Control Measures To Set In Place When Working From A Height

  1. Assess the risks – this includes the height involved in the task, the duration and frequency of a worker being at a certain height, and the conditions of the surface being worked on
  2. If possible, avoid unnecessarily working from a height – this could include removing the need for a ladder by installing cables, lowering lighting masts and using extendable tools from ground level
  3. Where working from heights cannot easily be avoided, minimise the possibility of falling by – continuing to work on non-fragile terrains such as a sturdy roof or a perimeter that uses a guardrail; obtain a mobile elevating work platform such as a scissor lift or scaffolding; equip a work restraint system that prevents a worker from entering into a position that will risk them falling 
  4. If the risk of falling remains, take sufficient precautions that would minimise the damage from the fall – place safety nets or airbags close to the level of work; have workers utilise industrial rope access while working on a building’s facade
  5. For tasks with low risks, ladders may be a more sensible option – make sure you are using the right ladder for the job, as there are several kinds (e.g., a multipurpose ladder is used by many tradesmen to complete a variety of manual tasks); ensure workers are following a safe system put in place by a supervisor

For each step, consider that the measures put in place are for the benefit of everyone’s protection, and not just the individual involved.

Scissor lifts and scaffolds are examples of equipment that protect everyone at risk of harm (collective protection), whereas safety harnesses seek to protect the individual (personal protection).

Other Tips For Working At Heights

  • Ensure that there is enough space when working at a height so that workers can move safely to and from their location
  • Ensure that the equipment being used is maintained and checked regularly and stable enough for the job, especially if it is supporting someone at a height
  • Work slowly and carefully if you are in fact working on a fragile surface
  • Provide protection from falling objects such as a safety net
  • Ensure that employees are knowledgeable about emergency evacuation and rescue procedures
  • Check the pictogram or label on a ladder to make sure that you do not overload it with weight – consider the equipment or materials you will have to carry throughout the day
  • Do not overreach on ladders; instead, safely get off the ladder and move to it to the desired location
  • Only rest the ladder against sturdy surfaces like a brick wall
  • Only use ladders for light work and for a short duration (maximum 30 minutes) 
  • Do not let employees that are not fully trained in health and safety when working at heights begin work on rooftops, ladders or scaffolding 

Other Key Points

  • The construction sector is responsible for the most fatal workplace injuries in Britain in 2021/22, with 30 worker deaths this year. Between 2017 and 2022, the average workplace death in construction was 36 a year.
  • A total of 123 workers were killed in work-related accidents in the country in 2021/22, a decrease of 22 fatalities from 2020/21.
  • For more information on annual workplace-related fatal injuries, visit the Health and Safety Executive 

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About the Author: Michael O'Sullivan