Edge protection still essential as workplace fatalities creep higher

Newly published figures from the Health & Safety Executive show that workplace fatalities have crept higher in recent months, highlighting the importance of precautions such as edge protection to prevent falls from height.

Falls from height are still one of the main priorities for the HSE, alongside issues like exposure to asbestos, and are not just one of the main killers in the workplace, but also a leading cause of serious injury.

According to the latest figures – which do not yet break down the fatalities by cause – 144 people died at work in 2015-16, slightly higher than the 142 in the previous year.

In construction, the annual total of fatalities was 43, matching the previous five-year average; 27 people died in agriculture, down from the five-year average of 32; but there were 27 deaths in manufacturing, up from an average of just 22.

The HSE stressed that this higher total in manufacturing includes eight deaths from just three incidents, which goes some way to explain the discrepancy.

While it is not yet possible to know how many of the fatalities were caused by falls from height, such incidents are historically high in the total figures, and edge protection remains an essential precaution if fatal falls are to be avoided in future.

But it is also important not to forget the non-fatal injuries that occur when working at altitude, which can often include a broken pelvis or fractured skull or spine, with far-reaching implications for the individual’s return to work.

Simple guardrails are such an easy way to prevent falls, and can complement the visual appeal of the roofline, or even fold flat out of sight when they are not needed.

Combined with man anchors to tether individuals to a safe spot on the roof, this should be enough to ensure nobody can step over the edge without one mechanism or the other preventing their fall.