While most of us commute to work each morning, or sit in the comfort and safety of our own homes, a hardy band of men and women prepare to dangle themselves from trees and buildings, all in the name of maintaining our environment, buildings, and infrastructure. Often hanging hundreds of feet in the air, tree surgeons, window cleaners, power line engineers and construction workers do a job that many of us mere mortals wouldn’t consider in a million years. The health and safety implications of working at height, using harnesses and equipment are considerable but essential; a single mistake or misjudgement can mean the difference between a job well done and a life-changing injury, or even worse, death.
Horrific accidents while working at height
In February 2017, Gregery Bulbuc, a 31-year-old tree surgeon died after his chainsaw appeared to ‘kick-back’ while he was on a routine job in Bermondsey, South London. The father of one who worked for Aralia Tree Services was pronounced dead at the scene due to fatal injuries caused by his chainsaw. While the results of the investigation are still to be published, it is apparent from the media accounts of the case that Mr Bulbac was secured by a rope, and in this instance didn’t die from falling but from the chainsaw hitting him.
There are many cases in which workers have not been using a safety equipment and suffered injury or death as a consequence. In one such case, Kevin Dolan, a 51-year-old man died after falling to his death while cleaning windows. The matter was presented to the Old Bailey who heard that Mr Dolan was working for a Surrey based cleaning company called Blades (London) Limited, and was not using a rope or harness. Mr Dolan’s employer was fined £45,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 costs.
Working at height – Health & Safety regulations
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) cite working at height as one of the biggest causes of fatality and major injury and report that in last ten years; 24 tree surgeons have been killed during tree work, and 1400 injured.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (The Regulations) define how the risks from working at height should be managed. The Regulations emphasise the importance of the fundamentals of risk assessment, training, supervision and use of appropriate equipment. They also make it clear that it is the employer’s duty to make every effort to mitigate the chance of an accident occurring. Specifically, the Regulations state that when working from height, the employer must, “so far as is reasonably practicable, provide sufficient work equipment to minimise
- the distance and consequences; or
- where it is not reasonably practicable to minimise the distance, the consequences, of a fall; and
- provide training and instruction or take other additional suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
If it is established following assessment that working from height is unavoidable, based on detailed research by HSE, the order of hierarchy of safety measures that should be considered by the employer is as follows:
1) Prevention – guardrails / barriers / purlin trolleys / safety decking
2) Passive arrest – safety nets/fall arrest mats
3) Active arrest – cable and track-based systems / SG4:00
4) Mitigation of any consequences of an accident
In essence, employers have a duty to plan the work and select appropriate work equipment make it as safe as possible.
Claiming compensation if you have been the victim of a workplace accident at height
If you have been the victim of a serious injury while working at height during the course of your job, you may be eligible to claim compensation if you can prove that your employer was negligent. It might be that your employer failed to undertake a thorough risk assessment, placed you at unnecessary risk, failed to supervise you adequately or provide the training or equipment you needed.
Working from heights is risky enough without the added danger of negligent risk assessment or work-safety procedures.
Free Claim Assessment
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have received an injury while working at height and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.