Working at height is one of the most hazardous jobs anyone can do, with falls and slips as well as impact from things dropped from above representing a clear majority of the deaths and serious accidents every year in the statistics compiled by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) and safety charities such as RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents). It may seem obvious to state that working above the ground is a very dangerous thing to do and most people have a built in regard for the situation they are in once they start climbing which increases as the height above the ground grows more, but familiarity breeds contempt and this is why training – and in particular retraining after a period of years – is so vital. The health and safety implications of working with moving platforms or scaffolding are addressed in safety training courses from IPAF (International Powered Access Federation) and PASMA (Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association) and every member of staff who is likely to have to use either method of working above ground should be thoroughly trained in all aspects.
Although in principle everyone knows that climbing a scaffold tower or ladder or using powered access to work above ground comes with many risks, after a while most people working above ground level come to take it as normal and perhaps don’t give it as much thought as they did at first. This attitude can be lethal and not only to the person actually working at a height. Items falling from above can be instant killers and because they are likely to fall on someone’s head the results can be catastrophic even if death does not result. Whilst most workers who have been recently trained will take care to ensure that they use harnesses and safe scaffold tower building techniques as well as attachments for tools, as time goes on shortcuts can start to appear and these can be lethal. Many companies find it beneficial to train non-climbing members of staff to recognize sloppy practices and although most people would agree that ‘spying’ on colleagues is not in the end helpful to morale or productivity, it is true that the more people there are looking out for problems, the more likely it is that the problem will be solved before it hurts someone.
Making training count
Many people dislike safety training courses because they don’t like the feeling of being ‘back in school’. The IPAF and PASMA courses which most people use for training workers who are asked to do tasks at a height are designed to be short – normally one day – and appropriate to the situation, with most providers such as Boss designing courses to be delivered in house if necessary. This is a particularly useful element if the situation is somewhat unusual, for example, using powered access with limited head space or for ladder work in hazardous conditions. This way, the delegates on the courses don’t feel that their time is being wasted. More importantly, most courses result in certification of some kind, making the delegate respect the training more and because there is usually a limit to how long the certification lasts – typically three years – there is a built in reminder for retraining.
Manager training is an important tool for safer working at height
Many workers complain that they are asked to do work by managers who do not understand what is involved and this can cause some degree of ill-feeling. Managers’ courses are available across the range and it is recommended that at least some of the higher executives take and pass the course as it gives a real insight into what is required of people working above ground level. Apart from this, it also means that there can be a designated person in charge of risk assessments, which can be tricky to write as well as very time-consuming. Risk assessment writing is a large part of some training courses, as is method statement construction. It isn’t really possible to do either of these things untrained, so everyone in a company should be required to have at least a working knowledge of the safety implications in working at a height.