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Working at Height – Preventing Falls

28th May 2020

Here at H&H Safety, we share some valuable advice on how to keep safe on the farm focussing on when working at height, how to prevent falls and thus avoid common injuries as a result.

Neil Elsender, Managing Director of IRM Safety (in partnership with H&H Safety) explains:

“Falls are the second highest cause of death in agriculture – every year at least eight people die falling from a height. Those who survive suffer broken bones and worse. Falls often happen from roofs, lofts, ladders, vehicles, bale stacks, and unsuitable access equipment, such as buckets. These accidents and injuries cause you pain and cost your farm time and money and the reality is that most fall injuries can be avoided.”

On farms there are a number of tasks that involve working at height, examples include working on roofs, working on or near fragile roofing material, working on vehicles & machinery, loading trailers & stacking bales, use of ladders and work platforms on forklift trucks & telescopic handlers.

The law states that you need to follow these rules in this order:

  • Avoid working at height where you can, work from ground level if possible, for example using a pole saw to remove the need to climb a tree to carry out work
  • If you can’t avoid it, use work equipment or measures to prevent falls
  • Also, use work equipment that minimises the distance and consequences of a fall

Some simple steps can be followed to prevent falls from a height include:

Fall Prevention
Work from an existing place of work that is already safe such as a non-fragile roof with a guard rail or use work equipment such as mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), man cages or scaffolds.  In addition to suitable work equipment ensure that all persons working at height have adequate personal protective equipment such as harnesses and lanyards.

Minimising Consequences of a Fall
If the risk of a person falling remains, you must take sufficient measures to minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall, some examples would be safety nets when working on fragile roofs or suitable fall arrest systems using high anchor points.

Ladders & Step Ladder Use
For tasks of low risk and short duration, ladders and stepladders can be a sensible and practical option.  If your risk assessment determines it is correct to use a ladder, you should further minimise the risk by making sure workers:

  • Use the right type of ladder for the job
  • Are competent (you can provide adequate training and/or supervision to help)
  • Check the equipment condition before starting the task, faulty equipment must be repaired or replaced
  • Use the equipment provided safely and follow a safe system of work
  • Are fully aware of the risks and measures to help control them.

Other than the priority to keep everyone safe, following health and safety working practices and standards can also help to significantly reduce the number of accidents in your business, explains Paul Graham, Managing Director of H&H Insurance Brokers:

“It’s worth knowing that awareness of and a culture of robust health and safety practices will not only keep the number of incidents and severity of claims down, but it can in turn help lessen any insurance premium increases for your business.  Seeking expert advice when looking at your insurance needs is always advisable, and H&H Insurance Brokers can assist with this.”

H&H Safety is a health and safety support service for farm and rural businesses, and a partnership between H&H Insurance Brokers, specialists in rural insurance and IRM Safety, founded by Neil in 2006 as health and safety specialists.