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Under-estimating the risk, over-estimating the urgency. Safety when working at height.

Updated: Sep 27, 2021

‘A sole trader has been fined after a sub-contractor fell five metres through a sky light onto a concrete floor’.

‘Working at height breaches increase by 84% on construction sites.’ Building Safety Group (BSG)

Headlines such as these still appear far too often in the press. There were 40 fatalities during the 2019/20 period and the HSE report that nearly half of all construction related accidents were related to falls from height, so why after years of publicity and education do the statistics tell such a depressing story?

Under-estimating the risk…

We are used to the force of gravity, it is after all what keeps our feet on the ground, but when that is not the case gravity causes us to accelerate downwards at an increasing rate of 9.8 metres/sec/sec. That means that after 1 second you are traveling at 9.8 metres/sec but after two seconds you are traveling at 19.6 metres/second. That is a speed of 43.88 mph. Scary in a car, potentially deadly in free fall.

Familiarity with the danger reduces the perceived risk. A construction site is an inherently dangerous place and it is very difficult to keep everyone sensitive to the threats which surround them every day. Over a period of time, the impact of the original message will wane and it is a challenge to keep awareness high.

Awareness will not be always 100% - and it is in these moments, the moments that are often not even recalled after the event, that attention drifts and accidents happen.

...Over-estimating the urgency

A construction site is an environment of deadlines. At the very least the weather causes deadlines to drift backwards and sites are always playing catch-up. As a result, everything is always urgent. This is another reason for lack of compliance.

There is always a trade-off between speed of execution and the risk involved. If everything could be foreseen and everything went according to plan then risk could be entirely planned out of the building sequence, and that certainly is the direction of travel of the modern building process. However, there are an infinite number of interruptions and unforeseen events where we are forced to adjust.

What serves us best on those occasions is equipment which is both rapid and easy to deploy and also effective in its application. People will always take the path of least resistance so the easier the equipment is to use the higher the rate of compliance and the fewer incidents.

AirDeck is an inflatable air cushion that not only reduces the height of the fall, but softens the landing and reduces the force considerably to less than the 14g as required by PAS 59 -14. It is quick and easy to deploy, taking just seconds to inflate each unit. Flexible and interlinking, Airdeck is also suitable where conventional systems are difficult to deploy.

AirDeck is manoeuvrable in use and easy to transport and store. It is inflated at the point of use. 50 units fit on one pallet, which covers an area of 80m2 once inflated.

The product is designed, tested and manufactured in the UK. AirDeck is always in stock and is available for same day despatch.

Air bags should be viewed as part of an overall falls from height control strategy. Read our article in the July / August edition of the IOSH Magazine.



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