A clean head for heights

07 March 2013

The latest figures issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for 2008/09 show that over 4,000 workers suffered major injuries due to falls from height.

The latest figures issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for 2008/09 show that over 4,000 workers suffered major injuries due to falls from height.

Boss Training looks at the safe options

The HSE statistics serve as a reminder that all businesses need to be aware of the dangers employees face when working at height and ensure that they fully understand the legal duty of care placed on employers through the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Employers not employing a duty of care in their health and safety processes and procedures face the risk of a serious accident or even a fatal injury to one of their employees due to falling from height.Where companies have been found negligent in this respect, the result has been a heavy fine or directors sent to prison.

When cleaning at height, it is vital that the safest access equipment is chosen to prevent accidents and reduce the risk of potential injury, with initial consideration given to the height of the cleaning project; the conditions on site; the duration and extent of the work and the frequency of the access required.

For cleaning companies using access equipment such as ladders, tower scaffolds and mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) it is essential that all equipment is properly maintained and inspected on a regular basis. If equipment has been hired it must be fit for purpose and workers must be trained and competent in their use.

Limit ladders Alternative methods of cleaning at height should always be considered before choosing ladders as an option. For some small commercial buildings, it may be that ladders are the only option available to cleaning companies, although they should only be used for light work of limited duration and at lower levels. In terms of window cleaning, current best practice suggests that 9m is the maximum height at which a portable ladder should be used, after this a MEWP is considered to be the safest option.

Tower scaffolds can provide workers with a safe and effective method of cleaning at height, although great care must be taken throughout the erection process, as most accidents occur when towers have not been erected properly. In addition,many towers are made of light material such as aluminium and can overturn easily if all the parts have not been assembled correctly. It is essential that only fully trained and competent people should attempt to erect a scaffold tower, following a safe method of work recommended by the Prefabricated Access Suppliers and Manufacturers Association (PASMA).

Elevation's what you need There are a number of MEWPs that are used for cleaning at height, including cherry pickers, scissor lifts and vehicle-mounted booms, which are all regarded as safe options in preventing falls.Whichever MEWP is used,operators must have attended a recognised operator training course and gained relevant certification such as the International Powered Access Federation's (IPAF) Powered Access Licence, which clearly shows the categories of MEWPs that a person is trained to operate.

Any company providing high quality work at height training will ensure that the training is specific to a company's individual requirements.A recent example of this is work carried out by Halifaxbased Boss Training for one of the largest window cleaning companies in the country, RSSUK.

RSSUK specialises in cleaning windows at some of the country's largest industrial organisations and commercial properties, including retail shopping centres. RSSUK has an exemplary record in terms of health and safety, which is due to the company's continued investment in professional training for all its employees.Boss Training carried out a series of MEWP operator courses for 70 RSSUK employees at various locations across the UK, including Leeds,Manchester and London.

The IPAF-accredited training course focused on training operators in the use of cherry pickers and scissor lifts, combining elements of both theory and practical on site training for workers to achieve a higher standard of competence.

The advantages of introducing an element of on site training ensures that operators are assessed using the equipment safely in their own place of work.Operators from RSSUK all achieved the NVQ Level 2 Standard, the only nationally recognised qualification regarding window cleaning.

"Boss Training was thoroughly professional in all aspects of the MEWP training and feedback from attendees has been excellent,"says Richard Grinham, health and safety director at RSSUK."As a company we take the health and safety of our employees very seriously and have invested a lot of time and money to ensure that all staff are fully trained in every aspect of cleaning at height.

"Boss Training also went that extra mile by helping us to secure funding for the courses under the Action for Employment scheme." Contact Boss Training for further information.