04.12.2003

HSC calls on industry for work at height guidance

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) is seeking views from industry, unions and workers on draft work at height regulations and guidance.

Bill Callaghan, HSC Chair, today opened a four-month consultation period and launched a consultation document that sets out the proposed new regulations and guidance to improve the planning, organising and management of work at height.

In launching the draft Work at Height regulations for consultation, Bill Callaghan said:

"Despite recent improvements, falling from height remains the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and the second biggest cause of serious injuries.

"Working at height is a common activity at work. While the risk of injury will differ, for instance when constructing buildings or using a step ladder, it is important that the risks are properly managed.

"These draft regulations are designed to ensure that people work at height safely in Great Britain across all industries.

"The consultation document sets out the draft regulations and guidance and we welcome views from all those with an interest.

"We have already consulted widely with industry in drafting these regulations in an effort to get them right. But if there are any outstanding issues or concerns about the proposed regulations and guidance, now is the time to tell us.

"The draft regulations bring together all existing regulations on working at height into one set of regulations and will implement the European Community Temporary Work at Height Directive."

Bill Callaghan went on to say: "If you are already working to current good practice standards and are complying with existing regulations for preventing falls, then this should be enough to also comply with the proposed new regulations."

The consultation period will run until 2 April 2004, after which time final drafting and changes will be made, based on respondents¡¦ feedback, and it is expected that final proposals will be put to ministers by late 2004.

The proposed new regulations and guidance to improve the planning, organising and management of work at height are set out in a consultation document, CD192, which is available on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/consult/live.htm

Each year 50 to 60 workers are killed as a result of a fall from height and around 4,000 workers suffer serious injuries, representing the biggest cause of death and the second biggest cause of serious injury at work. The HSC is so concerned about these incidents that it has made reducing falls one of its nine Priority Programmes. The draft regulations and guidance will contribute to this Programme to tackle this major cause of death and injury.

The draft regulations adopt a risk-based approach to working at height and propose that the following three key steps be considered before carrying out work at height:

1. If you can avoid the need to work at height then do so. With a little planning many activities can be conducted safely from the ground;

2. Where you can't avoid working at height then you must take steps to prevent falls by either working from a safe place of work at height, or if this is not available, by selecting the most suitable equipment for working at height. You should take into consideration the risks and factors such as the duration of the work and the environment in which the equipment is to be used;

3. If there is any remaining risk of a fall you should take steps to mitigate the effect, for example by using fall arrest equipment.
Risk assessment is the key to the proper planning and organisation of all work at height and should inform the selection and use of appropriate equipment.

HSC's approach to developing the regulations has been to:

- Bring together all the current legal requirements for safe work at height, making a cohesive, single set of goal-setting regulations which will be flexible enough to apply to all industries and allow for technical innovation;

- Ensure that the regulations are practical and tackle high-risk areas whilst avoiding unworkable requirements;

- Adopt a risk-based approach, so that measures taken to comply with the regulations are proportionate to the risks involved, and can build upon existing good practice in the various industries they will apply to and compliance with the current law.

The draft regulations bring together relevant parts of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 (CHSWR), the Workplace Regulations 1992 and certain other current legislation relating to work at height, and reiterate parts of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER 98).

These regulations are also intended to implement the European Community Temporary Work at Height Directive (2001/45/EC), which is the second amendment to EC Directive 1989/655/EEC on the provision and use of work equipment.
Included in the consultation document are a number of key questions, on which HSC is seeking comments. These questions include:

- Should there be a transitional period before the Regulations come into force?

- Is the definition of work at height appropriate?

- Should competence be defined?

- Has an acceptable approach been taken concerning fragile surfaces and the duties of persons at work?

- Have we got the details right on the use of particular equipment such as ropes and ladders?

Those who receive or access the electronic version of this document will be able to respond using the electronic questionnaire, which along with other forms of electronic responses will facilitate analysis.

All responses will be acknowledged, and a summary of the main issues raised will be produced once the consultation period has been completed. The HSC will consider all responses carefully over the summer before it puts final proposals to Ministers late in 2004.


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