With the new year underway, it’s a good time to take stock of what progress has been made in terms of the safety of working at height, and the ongoing need for edge protection to avoid future incidents, or to reduce the severity of any slips or trips while working in an elevated position.
Statistics published by the Health & Safety Executive towards the end of last year show the scale of falls from height in 2015-16 in some of the nation’s key industries.
For example, in the construction industry, 66,000 self-reported non-fatal workplace injuries were recorded, of which 20% or around 13,000 involved a fall from height, according to the Work at Height Safety Association.
In the agriculture sector and the transport and storage sector combined, 68,000 injuries were reported, and here 11% involved a fall from height, equivalent to about 7,500 incidents.
Together those figures total over 20,000 falls from height in just the construction, agriculture, and transport and storage industries, with any injurious fall capable of putting a person out of work for months and potentially leaving lasting damage due to fractured bones and the associated impact on nerves.
Clearly falls from height remain a major cause for concern, both in terms of the actual number of incidents that occur and the still relatively high proportion of injuries that arise from incidents involving falls from elevated positions.
Edge protection is the essential first line of defence against falls from roofs and similar elevations, and also provides a physical barrier to prevent objects from rolling or sliding over the edge and falling on to passers-by below.
Combined with safety ladders for protected access to the roof in the first instance, and man anchors to secure individuals to a safe and sturdy position on the roof, this all combines to reduce the number of incidents that occur.
And if a fall does take place, the man anchor keeps the individual within reach of getting back up on to the roof – or ideally tethers them to where they cannot fall in the first place – to reduce the severity of the incident and avoid any significant injuries.