During particularly bitter and brutal winter weather, one of the UK’s most prominent workplace hazards becomes even more dangerous, and the need for working at height insurance is more pronounced.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, one of the biggest causes of major life-changing injuries and fatalities in UK workplaces is due to the inherent risks of working at height.
However, it took until 2005 for workers outside of the construction sector to receive the same level of legal protection via the current active legislation, the Work At Height Regulations 2005.
To understand the importance of this legal instrument and why a major industry body is campaigning to protect it from repeal, we need to explore the regulations and why they were needed in the first place.
What The Regulations Cover
The Work At Height Regulations 2005 was largely derived from Europe-wide legislation intended to extend the legal responsibilities of employers, facilities managers and building owners who contract others to work at height.
Working at height is self-explanatory, but is defined as working anywhere where you could potentially fall far enough to hurt yourself.
This does not just mean working on a ladder, at the edge of a roof or on a scaffold or pulley system, but also anywhere where you could fall through a window, fragile roof, surface or opening and fall further.
Contrary to some accusations at the time, it did not ban ladders but instead required employers to either avoid working at height when they could or use precautions to prevent falls and minimise the risk of injury if they should happen.
This meant doing work from the ground, ensuring any equipment used was safe and suitable for the job, taking precautions when climbing as well as when on narrow surfaces, and considering what your protocol is if the worst should happen.
Prior to the 2005 Regulations being brought in, there were limited scattered protections for construction sights and dockyards, but no all-encompassing responsibility, and as a result deaths of people working at height were double what they are today.
However, the Access Industry Forum, dedicated to issues of working at height, has warned of the dangers of repealing the law and making a considerable step backwards for health and safety.
The issue is that, according to the AIF, because it was part of a Europe-wide drive to reduce deaths at height, it has been swept up in the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, which plans to remove more than 2,400 laws from the statute book.
Many of these are health and safety related and cover manual handling and PPE, much to the chagrin of industry professionals and safety experts alike, who believe that this is a backwards step that hurts employees.
Working at height is inherently unsafe; by definition, it involves working in places where the consequences of falling can be life-altering, if not life-ending.
It does not need to be this way, but a legal repeal of current legislation risks encouraging a slip of high standards.