A review of the recent prosecution activity of the HSE shows a continued emphasis on falls from height.

In October a contractor was fined £145,000 following the death of an employee who fell through a fragile roof.  The employer in this case had not carried out a risk assessment for the work and failed to put into place improvements suggested by HSE.

Another roofing contractor was fined £3,500 following a fatal fall through a fragile roof light.  The deceased was escorting the contractor onto the roof to supervise him in the preparation of a quote for repairs.  It was found that the contractor had taken no precautions to protect the safety of those going onto the roof.

In November a roofing contractor was fined £14,000 after workers were spotted by a passing HSE inspector working on the roof of a cash & carry without any edge protection or harnesses.

It should not be forgotten that the risk of work at height is not restricted to falls involving people.  In September a building company was fined £6,000 following the fall of a 10kg stone that caused a serious head injury to a self employed construction worker.  The builder had failed to put in place brick guards on the scaffolding.

Work at Height is governed by the Work at Height Regulations 2005.  The regulations put in place a hierarchy of controls.  At the top is the requirement for employers to avoid work at height where they can.  If that is not possible then measures to prevent falls (such as barriers or guards) would be the first choice.  If that is not possible or does not entirely contain the risk then work equipment designed to minimise the distance and/or consequences of the fall may be used (for example, harnesses).

The starting point is, as always, risk assessment followed by thorough planning.  Further information can be found here