New working at heights guidance issued

An overhaul of guidance on working at height has been launched to help an estimated ten million British workers avoid accidents and injuries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued the new guidance on 28 January, to help tackle one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work. More than 40 people are killed and 4,000 suffer major injuries every year as a result of falls from heights.

The new guidance sets out what to do and what not to do when working at heights and exploring common myths that can confuse and mislead employers.

Health and Safety Minister Mike Penning said: “As a former fireman, I know that the ten million people who are working at height in this country face risks in their job. But I’m also clear that managing these risks can be done sensibly, by giving simple and clear advice and tackling the myths that can confuse employers.”

The guidance was issued just days after an employer has been fined following the death of a decorator after a fall from a ladder in what the HSE described as “an entirely preventable tragedy”.

Alan Beutner was decorating the exterior of a house in Plymouth on 15 June 2011 when his ladder, which was untied and placed on a curved section of ironwork, twisted free and he fell onto the concrete path below. He died in hospital nine days later, leaving a widow and three children.

His employer, David Faulkner, a partner in Roofcare Roofing and Building Contractors, appeared before Plymouth magistrates on 17 January in a prosecution brought by the HSE, which found that a more robust trade ladder should have been used instead of the domestic-type ladder Mr Beutner was using.

It also said the work should have been carried out from a scaffold to prevent the risk of falls but failing that, Mr Faulkner should have ensured the ladder was securely braced and tied to the building. Mr Faulkner, of Cattedown, Plymouth admitted an offence under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

The case illustrates how everyday work situations and simple equipment can become potentially highly dangerous if proper health and safety procedures are not followed properly.

Employers seeking clarification or guidance on their health and safety responsibilities or facing prosecution can find out more by contacting Palmers’ health and safety specialists Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell. Jeremy is based at our Basildon office and can be contacted at JSirrell@palmerslaw.co.uk or on 01268 240000.