34 HPM 0816

HPM-08-AUG-2016

34 T R A I N I N G & T E C H N I C A L Taking ladder safety seriously HPM’s technical expert, John Love, discusses working at height regulations, the risks that ladders pose in the workplace and what precautions workers should be taking One area that is often neglected in domestic projects is the requirements for safely working at height. The Working at Height Regulation came into force on April 6, 2005, and one of the most important aspects is in relation to the use of ladders, which I am looking at here. A few months ago I was on site at a very large domestic project and one of the heating technicians was limping around. When I asked what the problem was, he said he had fallen off a ladder, or rather the bottom of the ladder had slipped away when he was half way up. This prompted a discussion about health and safety (H&S) and he said he had been sent on a H&S course and it really 'opened his eyes' to the dangers and things to look for, particularly when working at height. Based on the latest information from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2013/14: • Falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for nearly three in ten (29%) fatal injuries to workers, according to Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) • Slips and trips were the most common cause of major/specified injuries to employees, with falls from height the next most common • Slips, trips and falls from height were responsible for more than half (57%) of all major/specified and almost three in ten over seven day injuries to employees, making up 36% of all reported injuries to employees. So what constitutes working at height? You are considered to be working at height if you can fall any distance which could cause injury, this could be below ground level, working alongside a hole, or drop, or even on a steep slope. This will include not only when you are working in the location but also when gaining access to or leaving the location, as you would often be doing with a ladder. The employer, for example, main contractor/site agent, obviously has the primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of the site for which they are responsible, but every one of us can be deemed to have a duty of care, both in regard to our own safety and the safety of others. This means that we need to recognise potential risks. It is with respect to ladders that the most common risks are associated, so what precautions do you need to take? Ladders can be used for working at height, rather than for access to a working platform, provided a risk assessment has been carried out which demonstrates that the use of more suitable work equipment is not justified because of the low risk, and that the period of use of the ladder is short. This is a judgment that you have to make. A common situation where you may work off a ladder is when servicing a high level heater at, say, around three to four metres off the ground. You have to ask yourself how long you will need to be on the ladder and whether there is any possibility of a problem being in one position for a while. Do you ever suffer from cramp in the legs or sudden muscular pains and if so, could you deal with it while standing on the ladder? I know a technician who has no problems at all, but he still wears a harness and clips it to some secure position. As he says, the fixing may not be able to take his full weight, but it will help to steady him if anything does happen. If a ladder is to be used, then the surface on which it rests must be firm, stable and of sufficient strength and composition to safely support the ladder with the load that will be imposed on it. Most importantly, when using a portable ladder (as distinct from one which is tied top and bottom to scaffolding, for example) it must be prevented from slipping from its position by either securing the strings/stiles at or near the top or bottom to a fixed, immoveable point. Alternatively, an effective form of anti slip device can be used, or any other equivalent arrangement which achieves the same effect. If the ladder is to be used for access to a working platform, it must be long enough to protrude above the level to which the access is required, unless there is some other form of secure handhold in place for when you reach the top and step off the ladder. When using a ladder it should be used in such a way that a secure handhold and secure support are always available to the user and that the user can maintain a safe handhold when carrying a load. If, as in the case with a step ladder, this is not possible then a risk assessment must be carried out to show that the step ladder was needed for the task because of the low nature of the risk and the short duration of the task. The use of an extension ladder or a interlocking ladder is prohibited, unless the sections of the ladder are prevented from moving while in use. A mobile ladder must also be prevented from moving before it is stepped on. Where ladders rise to a vertical height of nine metres or more above their base then there will be the requirement to provide sufficient safe landing areas or rest platforms at suitable intervals. This is likely to be associated with a scaffolding and the responsibility for this will be with the scaffold erectors. There is a very useful HSE document called Top tips for ladder and stepladder safety which can be downloaded; but below is a snapshot. As well as covering the use of ladders and step ladders, the Regulations also include requirements relating to the provision of guard rails and toe boards on working platforms; the use of fall arrest devices such as, nets, airbags etc., and personal fall protection such as work restraints, work positioning, fall arrest and rope access. Another very important consideration, which is invariably ignored, is how easily accessible is the exit route from the area of working, in the event of a fire or other incident? John K Love CEng, FCIBSE., FIPHE., FIDHE., MInstR., FConsE www.hpmmag.com August 2016 Top tips for ladder and stepladder safety • Maximum safe ground side slope 16°(level the rungs with a suitable device) • Maximum safe ground back slope six degrees • Have a strong upper resting point (not plastic guttering) • Short duration work (maximum 30 minutes) • Light work (up to ten kg) • Ladder angle 75° B one in four rule (one unit out for every four units up) • Do not overreach make sure your belt buckle (navel) stays within the stiles and keep both feet on the same rung or step throughout the task • Do not work off the top three rungs B his provides a handhold “In 2013/14, falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for 29% of fatal injuries to workers”


HPM-08-AUG-2016
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