Competence and Compliance for Work at Height
Working at height is the riskiest type of work here in the UK, with falls from height accounting for the majority of deaths and serious injuries in the workplace. Despite the strict legislation we have in place on health and safety in the workplace, there are still accidents and incidents every year and in the year 2015 – 2016 there were 144 workers killed at work, with falls from a height accounting for 26% of these. Although there has been a long-term downward trend in the rate of fatal injuries in the workplace here in the UK, this trend has shown signs of levelling off in recent years, so there really is no room for complacency if we want to make serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace a thing of the past.
When it comes to the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 2005), Regulation 5 deals with competency, stating that:
• Employer shall ensure that persons engaged in any work at height activities are competent
• Persons must also be competent in
- Selection of appropriate work equipment
- Use of work equipment
The Regulations don’t actually define “competency”, rather than being over-prescriptive, it’s deemed that sector specific guidance developed by duty holders should deal with it. However, when competency is required, that means competency in organising, planning, supervision and selecting appropriate work equipment.
When it comes to protecting those who are expected to work at height, this is the responsibility of the duty holder or employer. Business owners who operate from premises need to ensure that the premises comply with health and safety at work regulations and that any work undertaken is done so in a safe manner. This means providing workers with any necessary protective equipment that will help to avoid or minimise the risks involved.
A business owner with premises that require rooftop maintenance is required to ensure that there are sufficient safety measures in place to carry out the work safely. If it’s a building with a flat roof, as so many commercial and industrial premises are, then making sure that the roof is safe for carrying out maintenance and repair work is essential. If at all possible, the work should be undertaken from below at ground level. When this is not appropriate and roof access is unavoidable, the correct safety equipment should be in place to minimise the likelihood of a fall.
One of the best ways of making a flat roof safer to work on is to use rooftop demarcation barriers to provide both a safe place to work and a safe route to that workspace. Flat roofs, especially older types of flat roof, may have become fragile over time and it may have skylights that need to be avoided when accessing the workspace. The fragile areas and skylight can be avoided by creating barriers preventing access to them with demarcation barriers. Access to the edge of the roof can be prevented by using demarcation barriers – these should be installed at least 2 metres from the edge of the roof.