The importance of retaining Working at Height Regulations
Jun 21, 2023
The news that the UK government has scrapped plans to review or repeal all laws set out during the country’s time in the EU by the end of 2023 may come as welcome news for those eager to protect Work at Height Regulations (WAHR). However, there is still no guarantee that these protections will remain safe. Here, Dave Elson, Compliance Manager at WernerCo, discusses the importance of the regulations and why they should stay.
In May, the government announced that it was changing its approach to the sunsetting of EU Retained Laws. It was also confirmed that the WAHR, established in 2005, are not set to be repealed in December 2023 as was initially planned, as a result of this change.
However, WernerCo, the world-leading manufacturer and distributor of access equipment, inclusive of the Werner, BoSS and ZARGES brands, warns that there could be uncertainty over the future of these important regulations. And with a vested interest in offering products that ensure the safety for tradespeople who regularly work at height on ladders, towers and access platforms, WernerCo is keen to emphasise just how vital these regulations are.
While, there is no imminent threat to them, reforms could lie ahead, which leaves them at risk of being diluted or revoked at a later date; affecting the 10 million plus people who are estimated to work at height in the UK.
This is particularly poignant as this month marks a year since the launch of Werner’s Stepping Up to Safety campaign which outlines the ways in which trade professionals can stay safe on-site in a collection of safety guides.
This article explores why these regulations are vital to maintaining the safety of the portion of the population that work at height.
What are the Working at Height Regulations?
The purpose of the WAHR is to prevent injury and deaths caused by falling from height in a professional environment. It dictates that employers and those in control of working activity have a legal obligation to implement the correct planning, supervision and auditing for undertaking working at height; with a view to avoiding accidents.
Why are they at risk?
Following Brexit, the government announced that EU-era laws would expire as of 31st December 2023, inclusive of the WAHR. Whilst only a small remainder of these laws are due to sunset on this date (excluding WAHR) following a change in approach, it leaves questions around their future. Potentially meaning a revocation at a later date, or the replacement of regulations with less water-tight legislation.
This could result in unclear guidance for employers and those in control of workers who are working at height, which could mean a higher risks of accidents and a lack of accountability in some circumstances.
Why should they stay?
The Health and Safety Executive reports that the most common cause of fatalities at work is falls from height. Between 2021 – 2022, of the 123 work-related injuries that lead to a fatality in the UK, 29 of them were a consequence of falling from height.
While this is far too many, a 2019 inquiry from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Working at Height found that since the introduction of the regulations, the UK has had some of the lowest fatality and injury rates in the European Union.
With this in mind, it is evident that the Working at Height Regulations in its current form is helping to ensure that there is clear guidance on the matter, which is leading to fewer devastating accidents.
Simple guidelines are listed in the WAHR, such as the following instructions:
- ensure equipment is suitable, stable and strong enough for the job
- make sure you don’t overload or overreach when working at height
- take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces
- provide protection from falling objects
- consider your emergency evacuation and rescue procedures
Many of them, which are echoed in Werner’s Working At Height Safety Guide provide clear rules for employers and employees on how to tackle jobs that require equipment such as ladders and access platforms. Without this clear guidance they may be open to interpretation leading to potential mistakes and actions that could cause serious incidents.
Without them at all, employees would be left vulnerable given the relaxation of guidance and lack of legal obligations concerning their employers. For this reason, it is essential the industry works together to ensure the regulations remain and continue to protect those who work at height.
For further information on ladder safety, which includes guides on how to choose the correct ladder, equipment inspection and general working at height guidance, visit Stepping up to Ladder Safety.
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