Monday, 15 June 2015


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A place is at 'height' if a person could be injured falling from it, even if it is at or below ground level. Remember you don’t have to be working very high up to suffer a serious fall, recent incidents reported to the HSE included one fatality and numerous serious injuries due to falls of 2 meters or less.

A third of all reported fall from height incidents involve ladders and stepladders, on average this accounts for 14 deaths and 1200 major injuries to workers each year. Many of these injuries are caused by inappropriate or incorrect use of the equipment. 

The main hazards associated with steps and ladders are;

  • Side loading (occurs when the user pushes against an adjacent work surface causing the steps of ladder to move in the opposite direction).
  • Over reaching (causing the steps or ladder to move suddenly and the operative to fall).
  • Ladder base slipping (occurs when the ladder is not secured at the base and slips outwards).
  • Unsuitable ground surface (soft, slippery, voids or holes.
  • Operative making contact with an overhead structure (whilst climbing the ladder the operatives head or body strikes part of the structure being worked on resulting in a fall.
  • Ladder making contact with an overhead power supply (can occur whilst being moved into position or whilst being carried across a yard in an upright position).
  • Not maintaining 3 points of contact (operative standing on steps or ladders and using both hands to work).
Mobile Work Platforms & Scaffolds

Mobile access towers are widely used and can provide an effective and safe means of gaining access to work at height. However, inappropriate erection and misuse of towers are the cause of numerous accidents each year. Aluminum and thin wall steel towers are light and can easily overturn if used incorrectly. Towers rely on all parts being in place to ensure adequate strength, and can easily collapse if sections are left out.
Hazards associated with mobile work platforms & scaffolds can include, manual handling injuries, falls from height, contact injuries, contact with overhead obstructions or power cables, uneven or soft ground causing the equipment to topple, failure to use out riggers, underground voids or holes, weather conditions.

Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWPs)

MEWPs are probably the best choice for undertaking work at height; they are often used when height or access restrictions prevent the use of mobile and access towers. MEWPs are a work platform that can be extended to various heights by use of a hydraulic boom, and are normally controlled by the operator’s position within the MEWPs basket. To use a MEWP your must have specific training and hold a valid certificate to do so. There are basically 3 types of MEWP, vehicle mounted, self propelled and trailer mounted.

Hazards associated with the use of MEWPs can include, collapsing, sudden mechanical failure, poor maintenance schedule, contact with a fixed structure, overturning or toppling, use on uneven, wet, soft ground, failure to use out riggers, over extending boom at wrong angle, overloading of basket, push up against a structure, contact with a structure, MEWP struck by vehicle, basket struck by load, loading or unloading the MEWP, high wind conditions, underground voids, operator falling from the basket.

Check all equipment used in work at height must be regularly. Steps, Ladders & scaffolds should be inspected at least 3 to 6 monthly depending on the environment in which they are used  The more frequent the equipment is used the more frequent the inspection will need to be. Mobile Work Platforms & Scaffolds require a specific inspection and maintenance regime.

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