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Making Access to Tasks at Height Secure for Workers

Vehicle engineering firm Mira Ltd. have been fined £12,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £9,305 after two of its workers were injured following a fall from a platform at height. Although neither of the men sustained life-threatening injuries, one broke his collarbone, resulting in a six-week period off work, and the other cut the back of his head and bruised his eye.

The two men were among six workers trying to move a heavy motor back into a motorised ceiling fan at the Nuneaton site, but the mesh platform became dislodged and unstable, leading them to fall 2.2m to the ground.

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was found that the company had failed to properly plan the work at height and implement adequate height safety measures. Even worse, following the incident, they didn’t even then implement satisfactory safety measures, leaving the risks remaining until after the work was completed. The HSE also identified further risks to all six employees, since they were working around a void through which any of them could fall.

HSE Inspector Alison Cook said after the hearing that the two injured men were lucky not to have suffered more severe injuries, especially considering that their heads and upper bodies took the brunt of the impact when they fell. With proper planning by Mira Ltd, this incident could have been avoided and in this case they “fell far short of the legal standard required when planning and organising such complex maintenance work at height.”

Using Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) Safely

Working at height can involve a number of different pieces of equipment and fall prevention and protection systems. When working on roofs or other non purpose-built platforms, a horizontal lifeline or edge protection may be necessary to ensure the full safety of all workers. Where there is not already an elevated platform or surface in place, however, a MEWP may be required to allow safe access to the task at height. MEWPs can be used both inside and outside and offer protection to the worker through guardrails and toe boards which prevent them from falling.

There are a number of different types of MEWP available, including cherry pickers, scissor lifts and vehicle-mounted booms, and the type you choose will depend on the task being carried out. Important considerations should include the height of the job, the ground conditions (stability), and any obstructions or other hazards, such as power lines or tree branches, which might get in the way. Those operating the vehicle should be fully trained to do so and those working on the platform may well need a work restraint or fall arrest system in place to protect them.

A MEWP is preferable to a ladder or other access system when working at height because of the additional security measures it offers. A ladder should only be used for tasks of short duration. As with all other health and safety equipment, the platform needs to checked and inspected regularly for damage to ensure that it remains safe.

18th August 2012 11:18 am

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