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Falling From Height Is Still A Real Risk In the Workplace

Very tall office buildings
17th December 2013
It is often imagined that Britain now lives in a Health & Safety ‘”gawn mad” world where children are not allowed to play conkers without wearing safety goggles and every takeaway tea or coffee must be accompanied by a warning that the beverage is scalding hot and can cause serious injury if accidentally spilt.

The same assumption may also mistakenly be applied to the workplace where it seems every available wall space seems to be filled with warnings about every type of procedure that needs to take place for every conceivable circumstance.

In reality, many workplaces can still take a casual attitude where it may be felt necessary to take a chance by cutting corners to save time and expense. Hence, accidents at work are still commonplace, and costing the British economy around £ 22 billion every year in lost productivity.

In the period 2010 to 2011, it has been estimated that around half a million workers were involved in an accident in the workplace. With the numbers of those who were injured and subsequently, off from work for more than seven days reaching some 15,000, the size of accident compensation payouts also continues to increase.

“Falling from height” is probably one of the most well known among the different types of accident claims that can take place - and not just on building sites. Between 2008 / 09 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report that in the UK there were more than 4, 650 major injuries and over 7, 000 further injury categories as a result of a fall from height.

In many cases an accident was entirely preventable if time had been taken to both plan and supervise the work being carried out and adequate protection provided. A most recent example involves a HSE prosecution of a plant equipment company where one of their employees stood on the engine canopy of one of their ‘cherry picker’ extendable platforms to make a repair to the mechanical arm without any protection to prevent a fall from the machine.

Unfortunately, the employee fell 2 metres (over 6 foot) onto a concrete floor, the impact of which resulted in fractures to the spine, ribs and collar bone as well as compression to the skull causing internal bleeding. Following a two week period in hospital, recovery has been painfully slow and consequently, the employee is currently incapable of returning to work.

The outcome for the company was to plead guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and a total fine of nearly £14,000 including costs.