Reporting Falls from Height
We have stringent legislation in the UK that’s designed to make the workplace safer and reduce the number of falls from height on construction projects. However, a fall from height is still the single biggest cause of death and injury in the workplace in Britain. The Access Industry Forum (AIF) was established in 2004 to liaise with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) during the development of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 2005) and is committed to promoting safety, best practice and competency when working at height, on all types of access equipment.
AIF held its first national conference last year, “Implementing Change and Innovation in Work at Height” which focused on the issues that will shape the future of the work at height sector. With more than 120 delegates in attendance, a panel discussion focused on the need to get “falls from height reporting right”, starting with a look at the existing system and the limitations it presents, particularly the systematic absence of structured, comprehensive information to identify the root cause of any incident. It seems that it is often impossible to gain a complete understanding of the circumstances and nature of a fall from the data gathered in the report. The panel discussed the following issues:
- The benefits to be gained from a more comprehensive and meaningful reporting system that will enhance future equipment design, guidance and training.
- The case for recognising the expertise and experience of industry organisations (such as the Forum and others) when it comes to the evaluation and assessment of falls from height so that recommendations for improvement can be made.
- The requirement for industry and trade and professional organisations to collaborate in order to bring about positive changes.
- The advantages of developing a standardised approach to the generation and circulation of safety alerts in the work at height industry. Reference was made to the protocol proposed by the Strategic Plant Forum MEWP Safety Group which defines a safety alert as “A communication distributed, following an incident, to share known facts and learning – during or following an investigation – where others may benefit from distribution of the learning experience”. In other words, how everybody in the Work at Height industry can benefit from learning about past mistakes and avoid them in future.
The aim is to provide clear and concise guidance and a template that can be used by those considering issuing a safety alert after an incident, as well as those who are considering forwarding to others a safety alert that they have themselves received. It’s hoped that this will avoid the transmission of factually incorrect, misleading or poorly written information contained in a safety alert which can (and very often does) cause unnecessary confusion which adds to the risks involved when working at height.