Scaffolding accidents and the sometimes horrible injuries that result simply shouldn’t happen. Although experience and training are required to safely erect and dismantle scaffolding you don’t need a PhD to do it. Likewise there is a pretty concise short list of does and don’ts for people working on and around scaffolding. Language problems and extreme learning difficulties aside, they are not difficult to grasp and apply. Why therefore do falls from height, predominantly from scaffolding, continue to occur at the consistently high rates they do, particularly although not exclusively, in the construction industry?
Well, you don’t need to a master’s degree in braininess to figure that out either; these injuries continue unabated because of inadequate attention by employers and others in control of employees using scaffolding, to comprehensively engage with their legal health and safety responsibilities. Whilst it might be going over the top to suggest that ‘profits above employees health and safety’ is an industry-wide operating model, there are still certainly some pockets of bad practice to be found out there.
The current health and safety legislation charges employers with a duty of care towards their employees and specific regulations, such as The Work at Height Regulations 2005, The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 go into considerable detail as to what that duty practically entails. Health and safety professionals know all about this stuff and although most companies have a health and safety expert on their team or can certainly hire the services of one, having health and safety expertise on tap is of course different from having the commitment to effectively utilise it.
There is no shortage of law or clearly worded guidance on sound health and safety practice for employers using scaffolding to allow their employees to work safely at height. What there can sometimes apparently be is a shortage of employers sufficiently incentivised enough to engage with health and safety in a way that will save lives and prevent injuries. All too often health and safety is regarded as a box ticking exercise and as a box is ticked but a loose bolt is not checked and tightened another worker falls to the ground and a life is ended or changed forever.
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