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Falls from open edges

If you are working on a roof you will normally need protection against falling from the roof edge. As well as roof work, various other maintenance tasks in agriculture can also involve the risk of falling; for example, cleaning crop stores or crop-processing plant.

Fall while cleaning the top of a machine

Problem

A farm worker died after falling from a grass-drying plant. He was working at night and was using a hand brush at height to clean parts of the plant. There was no protection against falling. He was found with head injuries the following morning and died the next day.

Solutions

  • Consider whether there are ways of doing the job that avoid working at height. For example, it may be possible to carry out cleaning work from the ground or catwalk using long-handled cleaning equipment.
  • If working at height cannot be avoided, aim to protect against falls by providing a suitable working platform fitted with permanent or temporary edge protection. Normally, as a minimum, edge protection should consist of:
    • a main guard rail not less than 950mm high (or 910mm for existing rails);
    • a toe board that prevents people, materials or objects from falling;
  • an intermediate guard rail or similar so that there is no gap of more than 470mm.
    Exceptionally, in some circumstances, it may be more appropriate to use fall-arrest equipment, for example safety harnesses. Where such equipment is used, you must provide adequate training and supervision. You must also have systems to check the anchor points and emergency rescue arrangements to free the worker if the fall-arrest is deployed.
  • Consider how else you could do the job before deciding to work from a ladder. It will often be safer, easier and quicker to use a mobile elevating work platform (MEWP), a working platform on a forklift truck, or a tower scaffold.

Fall from platform gantry

Problem

A farm worker received head, shoulder and back injuries when he fell 3m from a platform gantry in a grain store during dismantling. He fell from the catwalk when a support bracket was cut and a weld failed. He fell to the floor and one of the platform boards landed on top of him.

There was inadequate assessment of risk and a failure to ensure protection from a fall despite the reasonable and practicable precautions available.

Solutions

  • Alterations to buildings often involve working at height and may involve a risk of structural collapse. You should carry out a risk assessment.
  • Except in the most straightforward circumstances, prepare a written method statement to make sure that all involved understand exactly what they have to do.

Fall from roof of a poultry shed while cleaning fans

Problem

An employee suffered permanent spinal injuries when he fell almost 3m from the roof of a poultry unit while cleaning extraction fans. He had gained access to the roof by climbing up at the low end, then walking along the edge of the roof to the fan housings at the top. At one point, he had to duck beneath a live power line which ran over the building. There was no roof edge protection to prevent falling; no risk assessment had been carried out; and no one had devised a safe system of work which would have prevented the accident.

Solutions

  • Take appropriate precautions to prevent people falling from the edges of roofs.
  • Where there is a risk of falling more than 2m, you will normally require roof edge protection, consisting of suitable guard rails and toe boards.
  • Exceptionally, you might rely on fall-arrest equipment; for example, safety harnesses.
2016-01-05