ARTICLE

Maintaining safety at height

26 May 2017

Everyone welcomes the reduction in the number of UK fatalities resulting from falls from height as recorded in the HSE's annual ill-health and injury statistics announced in November 2016. Fatalities were down from 42 in 2014/15 to 37 in 2015/16, and total reported non-fatal injuries from 6,165 to 5,956 respectively.

Everyone welcomes the reduction in the number of UK fatalities resulting from falls from height as recorded in the HSE’s annual ill-health and injury statistics announced in November 2016. Fatalities were down from 42 in 2014/15 to 37 in 2015/16, and total reported non-fatal injuries from 6,165 to 5,956 respectively.

However, of the 144 people killed while at work in 2015/16, falls from height still accounted for the highest percentage at 26%, with ‘struck by moving vehicle’ at 19% and ‘struck by moving object’ at 10%. 18 of the fatal falls occurred in construction, seven in agriculture, forestry and fishing, and four in manufacturing.

 The downward trend is encouraging, but behind the numbers remain families, friends and colleagues whose lives will never be the same again. 

As a leading not-for-profit organisation in the work at height sector – both in the UK and increasingly overseas – PASMA, the trade association representing the mobile access tower industry, is raising and maintaining standards by fostering and supporting codes of good practice; minimum standards for equipment; trained and qualified operatives and education information activities.    

PASMA partners with industry, academia and professional bodies, promoting collaboration, innovation and the exchange of knowledge and information.

Planning 

The prevention of falls begins in the planning stage when a thorough risk assessment should be carried out. There are many issues to be considered which all contribute to eliminating the ‘risk’ factor as much as possible, but the strategy dictated by the HSE’s Work at Height Regulations must form the basis of any risk assessment, namely: avoidance, prevention and mitigation.  

The right choice of access equipment is essential. This will largely be decided by the outcome of the risk assessment, taking into account a number of factors. If a mobile access tower is then considered to be the best choice, PASMA offers the following advice and guidance:

  • Make certain you have the knowledge, experience and professional training necessary to build, inspect, use, move and dismantle a tower safely. PASMA offers a range of ‘industry standard’ courses catering for all levels of experience - from the essentials of work at height through to advanced modules such as working with towers on stairs and towers with cantilevers.
  • Buy or hire your tower from a PASMA member. This will ensure that your tower complies with the requirements of EN 1004, the European product standard for towers, and uses one of the two recognised safe methods for assembling and dismantling towers:  Advance Guardrail (AGR) and Through the Trap (3T). Both methods ensure that nobody stands on an unprotected platform.
  • Check that you have all the necessary components to build the tower, that they are compatible, and that they have been supplied complete with the manufacturer’s instructions. Always follow the specific instructions which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. 
  •  Once the tower is built, make sure it’s inspected by a competent person. It must be inspected (a) before it’s first used (b) at suitable intervals depending on the environment and how it’s being used, and (c) every time something happens that may affect its stability or safety. 
  •  Carry out a routine and documented inspection of the components of the tower. Do this when it’s unassembled for deterioration, contamination and damage, otherwise you may not be able to check certain parts properly. Damaged components should be immediately segregated, marked and reported for attention, and repairs only carried out by the manufacturer or their approved agent. If the parts cannot be repaired by the manufacturer they must be replaced. 
  • Finally, good maintenance will extend the life of a tower, but good storage conditions are essential. If the equipment is stored outside in poor conditions and for extended periods, then it will require more frequent inspection, more maintenance and probably earlier replacement. Storing it indoors in reasonable conditions always makes good sense from both a safety and commercial point of view.

BS 8620:2016 

Throughout 2017, PASMA is making buyers, owners and users of low-level work platforms (LLWPs) – commonly referred to as pulpits and podiums – aware of the introduction of a new product standard, BS 8620:2016. Low-level work platforms are used extensively for repair and maintenance work.

Designs for LLWPs had previously been developed in the absence of a formal specification, and whilst the majority provided a safe solution to low-level access, there were some aspects that could be improved by relevant and specific design criteria which PAS 250, a Publicly Available Specification sponsored by PASMA, first introduced in 2012.

With PAS 250 now converted to BS 8620 by the British Standards Institution (BSI), safety and performance criteria have been further enhanced with a dimensional change to side protection and modifications to specific tests. 

The association is quick to point out that the conversion of PAS 250 to a full British standard does not mean that existing PAS 250 compliant LLWPs are now obsolete. John Darby, chair of PASMA’s technical committee, comments: “You can continue to employ PAS 250 type-approved podiums and there is no necessity to change product immediately. You can introduce the upgrade when the time comes for replacement. 

“BS 8620 compliant product started to become available from April 2017 and we are encouraging users to update their procurement policies accordingly to guarantee that they are purchasing equipment that meets the very latest criteria for strength, access, stability and rigidity.”

 To assist purchasers and users over this transitional period, PASMA has introduced a fact sheet and an FAQ section on its website: www.pasma.co.uk/bs8620 

The new standard has industry-wide backing. The steering group which first contributed to its development includes: the Association of British Certification Bodies (ABCB); the Health and Safety Executive (HSE); Hire Association Europe (HAE); the Ladder Association, PASMA and BuildUK.

EN 1004 towers 

2017 will also see the association continuing to champion the safety critical features of EN 1004 towers - the European standard for towers - which can be recognised by the distinctive EN 1004 label. According to PASMA, if you don’t use towers that conform to EN 1004, you risk your own life, or the life of someone else every time you use one. Non-compliant towers, often referred to as ‘domestic’ of ‘H-frame’ towers, represent a serious risk to users. 

Importantly, PASMA has been the driving force behind the need to revise and update the requirements of EN 1004 in order to reflect and respond to the changes in both UK and European legislation since it was first published in 2004.

It has been successful in reactivating and now chairs Working Group CEN/TC53/WG4 which consists of representatives from the UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Turkey. The aim is to draft, ratify and publish a revised, updated standard by the end of 2017. 

EN 1004 covers standard mobile access towers in the height range 2.5 to 8 metres for external (outdoor) use and 2.5 to 12 metres for internal (indoor) use. BS 1139 Part 6 Metal Scaffolding is the British standard covering mobile access towers outside the scope of EN 1004, but which use the same components. Examples are high level towers greater than 12 metres, towers with cantilever platforms, linked towers and high clearance towers.         

Under the AIF banner PASMA will contribute to the London Work at Height Seminar on 10 July 2017 at The Guildhall, London, organised jointly by the City of London Corporation and the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association (IRATA).

If you would like further information, the PASMA website – www.pasma.co.uk – provides a wide range of resources focusing on safety and best practice – posters, pocketcards, infographics, inspection records and the PASMA Code of Practice.

 
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