The incidents we report regularly show the risks posed by an absence of edge protection when working at height – but a report from the HSE puts this into a broader context of human cost and financial cost.
In its ‘vital statistics’ for 2014-15, the HSE reports that ill health and injury cost the UK 27.3 million working days in the past year, at an estimated monetary cost of £14.3 billion.
The worst-case scenario is where the affected individual never returns to work – and in 142 incidents, a fatality was reported.
Within the number of lost working days, more than four million were due to injury, rather than ill health, with 611,000 injuries in the workplace over the course of the year.
Of course, this includes all the different potential causes of injury – but the risks posed by falls may be greater than you think.
The report notes that slips, trips and falls are a recognised risk in around half of all workplaces, a greater proportion than are at risk due to machinery and tools, the presence of vehicles, loud noises and extremes of temperature.
A greater proportion of workplaces recognise repetitive movement or lifting objects as risks – but while a pulled muscle or RSI can be uncomfortable, a fall from height can be fatal.
HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “Behind the statistics are people, their families, friends, work colleagues, directly affected by something that’s gone wrong, that is usually entirely preventable.
“Nobody should lose their life or become ill simply from doing their job.”
This is why edge protection is so invaluable – providing a physical barrier that simply stops people and objects from falling from an elevated position.
Guardrails can be installed easily in a huge range of different locations, so there is no good reason not to protect anyone working high up on your premises.