45 staff at Lancashire Police had to complete a two-hour seminar before they were allowed to install roadside speeding signs. The class included guidance on how to use a ladder safely. The devices – smiley-face speed indicator signs (Spids) – were being put up freely by staff before health and safety officers from the local council told the force that they were breaching regulations. Some staff were banned from even moving existing signs until they had attended the seminar. Several of the £3,500 devices were left dormant for up to four months as a result. A police statement, which was issued as part of a Freedom of Information request, said: “It would appear that, although working at less than one metre above ground level, staff should have been on a ladder training course.
“It is fair to say that risks associated with deployment of a ‘SPID’ sign have not changed, but the risks associated with working at height were not fully appreciated initially”. Ben Wallace, the Conservative MP for Lancaster and Wyre, said: “It’s another example of the tail wagging the dog, of bureaucracy gone mad. It beggars belief that bureaucracy stands in the way of common sense, even when it concerns our police force.” Lancashire Police said that the training course had also been necessary because some devices had not been installed correctly and could not detect all oncoming traffic. They said that the courses had not cost anything more than staff time. A spokesman said: “The two-hour class briefly touched on how to use a ladder safely. If we didn’t do it and people were falling off ladders, we would be criticised.”
TB Davies view
As a recognised authority, with over 60 years experience within the access equipment industry (ladders, stepladders, towers etc) we have a duty of care to advocate suitable training for safe ladder usage and inspection etc. What Lancashire Police have done is actually spot-on and in no way should they be criticised as going overboard on health and safety.
They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t! By running the training course they have come under fire from the local MP, who you would have hoped would be more supportive of HSE campaigns to reduce falls from height, rather than fuel the anti “Elf ‘n’ Safety” brigade.
If they failed to provide sufficient training to these staff (who are not actual police officers by the way) and one of them had an accident, whilst erecting a sign, by the roadside, potentially falling off the ladder into oncoming traffic – there would be a huge public outcry as to why they were not trained, not to mention a costly legal action.
Furthermore, Lancashire Police have been prudent enough to get Lancashire Fire Brigade to provide the training internally – so the only cost is time. Not only have Lancashire Police saved tax payer’s valuable money by avoiding the use of a private training company, but few would argue there is anybody more capable on the safe use of ladders than the fire brigade.
It is important to recognise the key issue that underpins the Working at Height Regulations – undertaking a suitable risk assessment before carrying out any work at height task. This will reveal the most suitable equipment and course of action, in a matter of minutes.