Whilst the Health & Safety Executives focus on ladder safety may have improved accidents the Work at Height regulations implemented in 2005 have led to confusion and costly interpretations that are suffocating British industry and not necessarily improving safety.
In March 2011, the Government established an Independent Review of Health and Safety legislation to make proposals to identify opportunities for reducing the burden of health and safety legislation on UK businesses while maintaining the progress made in improving health and safety outcomes. This review was chaired by leading risk management specialist Professor Ragnar Löfstedt.
David Gray, Managing Director of TB Davies, said: “The well intentioned regulations have mutated themselves into a bureaucratic nightmare where the simplest tasks cannot be completed without employers wrapped in reams of red tape and escalating costs passed to consumers.” The Löfstedt report recommends that a number of existing regulations are amended, clarified or reviewed, including the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
“Early indications suggest the final recommendations will offer a sensible review of what has gone wrong and a roadmap for the best way forward. What the industry urgently needs is a clearer marking system similar to the US to more clearly identify ladder products according to their usage.” continued Gray.
Löfstedt acknowledges that the threat to employers of being sued “can be a key driver for duty holders going beyond what the regulations require”. What is needed is a return to the concept that once underpinned legislation – that, provided everything “reasonably practical” was done to prevent harm, then no liability should arise. The intention of the regulations is undeniably a good thing, however one of Löftstedt’s conclusions is that a debate is needed about the balance of risk and a return to what is ‘reasonably practical’.
He says: “The Work at Height Regulations and the associated guidance should be reviewed by April 2013 to ensure that they do not lead to people going beyond what is either proportionate or beyond what the legislation was originally intended to cover. Any changes to the regulations should not result in an increased risk to employees or others.”
Unfortunately misinterpretation of the regulations has undermined the access industry and confidence in ladder related products as the most suitable methods of working efficiently and safely at height David Gray of TB Davies concluded, “Whilst the industry has consistently promoted ladder training it really needs the support of legislation to clarify how it is interpreted and applied. The current problem is the good measures employed to safeguard ladder users are being blanket applied to cover the most trivial tasks and not making the work any safer in the process.”
TB Davies is headquartered in Cardiff, Wales. TB Davies Group is a leading designer and manufacturer of ladder and access equipment products and operates under Horizon, Summit, and Pinnacle Brands. It is the exclusive distributor for US designed and engineered Little Giant and Xtend+Climb ladders.