Keeping safety top of the agenda

12 May 2015

Falls from height remain one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and injuries, which is why all nine member organisations of the Access Industry Forum (AIF) are standards driven and committed to fostering and supporting codes of good practice; minimum standards for equipment; trained and qualified operatives; and education and information-based activities

Established in 2004 as the forum for the work at height sector, the AIF contributed to the development of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was subsequently consulted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on the revised accompanying guidance, INDG401, published in 2014. ’Working at height - A brief guide’ describes what employers need to do to protect their employees from falls from height. It is also useful to employees and their representatives.   

Each member organisation of the AIF has its own height safety agenda and publishes its own guidance. Throughout 2015 PASMA will continue to warn of the dangers of using incomplete and unsafe towers that do not comply with the European tower standard EN 1004. It follows in the wake of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) growing concern about the number of incidents involving the use of sub-standard, poorly constructed and, in some cases, downright dangerous towers.   

The association will also focus on PAS 250, the specification sponsored by PASMA and developed in conjunction with the British Standards Institution (BSI), which, for the first time, introduces minimum safety and performance criteria for low level work platforms such as pulpits and podiums - equipment  used daily for cleaning and maintenance.

For its part, SAEMA, the Specialist Access Engineering and Maintenance Association, which is focused on raising standards in the permanent and temporary façade access industry, has published three new guidance documents. The first covers rescue and planning, and the second how to determine the necessary loads to comply with the requirements of BS EN 1808, the European standard which prescribes the manner in which suspended access equipment for cleaning and maintenance should be designed.

The third, and latest, published in February, is a guide to using components of existing building maintenance systems (BMUs) as anchorage points for industrial rope access equipment - a cause of increasing concern to the association. According to SAEMA, there have been a growing number of instances where installed suspended access systems have been used incorrectly – and therefore dangerously – as anchors.

IPAF, the International Powered Access Federation, another leading member of the Forum, is currently urging users of mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) to keep the use of this equipment safe by ensuring that pre-start inspections are systematically carried out before commencing any work at height. 

It has produced a series of safety videos which provide visual tours of how to conduct pre-start inspections for scissor lifts and booms. Each video lasts about 10 minutes and is available in several languages.

In the absence of a European or British standard for tensioned access platforms - often referred to as WP nets, walk on nets and tensioned netting - FASET, the trade body representing the fall arrest and safety net rigging industry, has recently published its own guidance which is free to download from the association’s website. Tensioned access platforms are increasingly used to provide a collective and passive working platform for light duty access.

The Edge Protection Federation (EPF) has released its latest revision to its Code of Practice which is free to download from the EPF website. It provides a comprehensive guide to the application of all edge protection systems across the construction industry.

Finally, if proof is required of the risks that people are still prepared to take when working at height, the Ladder Association’s ‘Idiots on Ladders’ campaign provides all the evidence needed. Run in conjunction with the association’s annual Ladder Exchange, it highlights the continuing need for education and training in the height safety sector.