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Preventing Falls From Scaffolding

Nearly half of the fatalities within the construction industry are due to falls from height, occurring when erecting, adjusting or dismantling a scaffolding structure.

When planning for work at height the framework of preventative and protective measures that are contained within the Work at Height Regulations must be observed.

Measures include:

Avoid work at height

The construction industry finds it near impossible to avoid working at height. However, during the planning stages of a new project thought should be applied to reducing exposure to risk by having guardrails pre-assembled in any walk ways and gantries, removing the need for scaffolders to install them at height.

Prevent Falls

Scaffolders should prevent falls from height by providing adequate work platforms with suitable guardrails or other measures, in addition to using personal fall protection equipment. Scaffolders should not work at height while being exposed to a risk of a fall, without taking appropriate actions to prevent to mitigate a fall.

Mitigate the outcome of a fall

Where possible, the distance and outcome of a potential fall must be minimised. Use a fall arrest harness and anchor it at a high point above the working platform to prevent a major fall.

Collective over personal protection

Scaffolding contractors must consider collective protection over personal protection, providing measures that protect everyone working at height at all times, i.e. guardrails or safety nets should be installed before deploying personal fall arrest systems.

Competence and capability

The Work at Height Regulations require that any person carrying out work at height is deemed competent to do so by their employer, supported by relevant practical and theoretical knowledge, training and experience for the particular work to be completed. CISRS cards should be relevant to the work being undertaken and renewed every five years.

Training and instruction

All scaffolders should have appropriate training. This should be recorded and should be properly organised, including both theory and practical instruction. Apprentice scaffolders may work at height with suitable training and instruction, but only under the direct supervision of a competent scaffolder.

Site inspection and risk assessment

A risk assessment must be performed, identifying the preventative and protective control measures required to facilitate a safe and controlled working environment. These controls should be recorded as part of the scaffolding risk assessment.

Rescue planning

Contingencies for rescue from height need to be considered as part of the planning and risk assessment. It is a legal requirement for scaffolding contractors and their clients to address the need for timely evacuation and rescue in an emergency when working at height.