While many of the incidents we report feature life-changing injuries, it is particularly tragic when a simple lack of edge protection results in a fatality.
That is what happened in Exeter in November 2011, in an incident that has recently reached the end of HSE prosecution proceedings.
A subcontractor was working on the glass canopy over the front entrance to a department store and, as part of the work, left the safety of his mobile platform to walk along the canopy itself.
The canopy held his weight; however, one pane of the glass surface had been removed during earlier repair works, and had not been replaced.
He simply walked out over the gap, falling four and a half metres to land on the granite pavement below, and suffering fatal injuries in the process.
Inspector Jonathan Harris from the HSE said: “The risks associated with work at height are very well known and recognised in readily available guidance.
“Planning and effective coordination between contractors is a requirement of the relevant safety regulations.”
There are plenty of good options to prevent such incidents; radius guardrails can enhance the appearance of canopies on the fronts of buildings, while a temporary guardrail can be removed when work is complete.
Collapsible guardrails provide a middle ground option, as they remain in place but are simply folded up when a barrier is needed; any of these could have marked where the gap in the glazed canopy began, and may have ultimately saved a man’s life.