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WORKING SAFELY AT HEIGHT ON DOMESTIC PROJECTS

Research highlights role of product innovation and training

HSE has published a Research Report RR978 – Access equipment for construction work at height in residential properties concerning HSL research designed to identify reasonably practical measures to reduce the number of deaths of workers in micro enterprises (MEs), and those who work as sole traders, in carrying out repairs at height on residential

The research objectives were to: review fatal and major injury accidents; assess commercially available access equipment and systems; identify why workers do not adopt better solutions; and identify areas where better solutions are needed.

Findings

Researchers report the following findings:

  • Accidents – showed that the fatalities were caused by unsafe work practices, with ‘haste’ a contributor to the way in which the work was done that led to the fatalities. This factor links to the strong perception from most of the participants in noting the use of ‘common sense’ when doing any type of work. This fairly common perception of what was required when working at height is often in part a product of someone’s experience. This use of ‘common sense’ in defining actions and choices made among small contractors has been raised in other research, and is one element with which they felt comfortable in ensuring that they used a ‘safe’ approach when carrying out their work;
  • Commercially available access equipment a set of various pieces of equipment were shown to the participants to understand their rationale for using or not using ‘different’ equipment. The participants did not show a consensus for either using or not using the equipment, and gave valid reasons for their use or non-use. This indicates that they were aware of what would benefit them when accessing height for their jobs;
  • Why workers do not adopt better solutions – results showed whilst participants did, for the most part, adopt good solutions, the lack of information is the main reason why workers may not adopt different or better solutions. The participants were aware of their limited knowledge on certain issues and would seek guidance from hire companies or health and safely professionals, as and when required; and
  • Areas where better solutions are needed data showed the need to increase the training acquired by this group of workers. Due to the size of the ‘company’ and the specific jobs in which the participants engaged, they focused on doing the work, rather than improving their skill set, or researching how else a job could be done. This is understandable as workers in this group have limited resources (time, money, person) in which to invest in ‘upgrading’ their skills, and would have to consider obtaining training versus paid employment. It would be useful to explore how best to increase the training obtained in this group.
Recommendations

The researchers recommend:

  1. Use of equipment hire companies – explore the use of equipment hire companies as stakeholders for engaging with MEs and STs in respect of occupational safety and health;
  2. Consulting on innovation – explore the benefits that manufacturer/suppliers could gain by consulting a wide range of MEs and STs when developing new products for access;
  3. Continuous training – promote the essential elements of continuous training to MEs and STs in maintaining an up-to-date knowledge base; and one that should be seen as essential in developing and maintaining safe practices;
  4. Checking equipment – explore how best to promote a higher consistency in checking all equipment, those that are owned and those that are hired and/or erected by other contractors, to enhance safety amongst this group of workers; and
  5. Communications – establish different ways to disseminate information on access equipment for work at height to this group.

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