Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

NI body warns construction firms after fall fatalities

Out-Law News | 03 Mar 2020 | 10:37 am | 1 min. read

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has issued a reminder to construction firms about the need to carry out proper risk management around working at height, after four workers were fatally injured from falls in the first two months of the year.

HSENI said falling from height remained one of the biggest causes of death, disability and injury in construction and was of great concern to HSENI.

Health and safety expert Laura Gillespie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said firms needed to mitigate the risk of falling during construction projects.

“While there has been real focus and progress in health and wellbeing management, these tragic deaths highlight the fact that managing safety in construction and working at height should clearly remain a priority,” Gillespie said.

“When planning and designing work at height, it is essential to eliminate foreseeable risks and ensure that the hierarchy of risk management is adhered to: first, avoid work at height; second, use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls; third, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distances and consequence of a fall should one occur,” Gillespie said.

HSENI suggested a number of ways in which contractors could minimise the risk of a fall, such as decking systems, safety nets or boarding the inside of a roof.

The regulator also said designers should work to eliminate foreseeable health and safety risks at the pre-construction stage, for example by installing permanent stairs early in a build to reduce the need for scaffolding or temporary access.

Planning ahead by the principal contractor was also important, HSENI said, and working from height should be considered when drawing up the construction phase health and safety plan.

In January 2018 an all-party parliamentary group began an inquiry into best practice and solutions for tackling serious injury and fatalities for working at height. The group reported back in February 2019 (15 page / 5.5MB PDF), making six recommendations including the introduction of enhanced reporting in the event of a fall, the extension of safety campaigns outside the construction sector, and a major review of work at height culture.

HSENI publishes a guide (94 page / 6.6MB PDF) focusing on safety in roof work.