Low Roofs and Ladders - The Big Killers!
Fatalities are Still on the Rise
Despite the increased pressure from work place health and safety to have "working safely at heights training" fatalities from falls are still on the rise.This extract from a recent Worksafe QLD article shows an alarming trend.
“Deaths and serious injuries resulting from falls from height continue to be a major workplace concern and the number of workers dying in falls has increased steadily from 10.4% of all worker fatalities in 2003 to 11.9% in 2013 and 13.3% in 2015. Most falls resulting in deaths were from roofs (59 in the last 13 years) and then ladders (54 over the same period)"
It appears that working on roofs and ladders is still by far the most dangerous thing we are doing.
So what is driving this upward trend? Taking more risks? Is there less accountability? Is there more pressure to get more work done faster with less equipment? Are registered training organisations handing out “tickets” and not skills?
I suspect all of these factors are in play and more.
So whats going on with roofs and ladders? Why are they involved in so many accidents?
The frequency of use likely has a lot to do with it. Ladders are still the go-to first choice when people are looking to leave the safety of the floor, and move into a very dangerous working at heights position.
I believe the main culprit is a low perception of risk(AKA Stupidity), familiarity and complacency.
Ladders are notoriously unstable and very easy to upset, topple or slip and low roofs are simply not very scary. People just don't feel compelled to set up an appropriate safety system.
No matter what control measure we put in place, guardrail, proper scaffolding, harnesses and restraint lines or EWP’s, there is always a residual risk left. We then accept the residual risk and proceed with the task - or not. With very low risk perception, people tend to accept the residual risk with no controls in place at all.
The next, and possibly even more influential reason for taking the risk with no controls is MONEY. Anchor points, harnesses and scaffold all cost a load of money. As every good contractor know, that money is much better in your pocket than being wasted on rubbish like safety!!
A friend of mine broke both wrists at the same time when the ladder he was working on suddenly slipped backwards on a polished floor. In a split second, eating, washing, dressing and using the toilet became something he couldn't do without a very understanding Wife! Earning money in this condition is almost impossible.
Ladders are banned on most construction sites for these reasons, and other forms of access are opted for.
I see people riding around in scissor lifts fully retracted so they can work just 1.5m off the floor. Seems a little excessive, and it probably is. I personally believe the issue should be risk assessed every time.
There are, however, some very simple things you can do the improve ladder safety.
- A ladder stabiliser bracket that fixes to the ladder is major safety hack. The extra stability is huge and they are inexpensive.
- Tieing the base of the ladder to the wall you are working on. This combined with the bracket up the top make for a much safer means of access.
- Use a restraint line and harness, also known as a roofers kit. Attach this to a solid anchor point and adjust it so you can’t even get over the edge.
- Get better training! The demand for increased safety is not going away from a legal point of view. My advice is to really get to know what height safety equipment is out there and learn how to use it correctly.
Roofs are becoming a much more popular place to be. They are valuable real estate and people are now opting to load this space up with air conditioners, solar pool heaters, aerials and solar panels. All these extra services require extra servicing and maintenance. We also really encourage building owners to take some responsibility and put ladder brackets and permanent safety point on their roofs when installing services up there.
As an equipment retailer and trainer in the height safety and rescue industry, I get to talk to everyone from the Tier 1 construction company safety officer to the small business owner trying to get setup without blowing the budget. The one thing I have noticed that is present in the industry at ALL levels is a gap in knowledge around best practices.
For more information on how we can help you keep you and team safer, please visit our website
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Written by: Christopher Roberts Copyright Rope Access & Rescue Pty Ltd 2018