Falls from height

Falls from height are the most common cause of death and serious injury to people at work and are the cause of nearly 10% of injuries in MVR. The main cause is falling from ladders.

Practical methods for controlling the risks

Mobile platform
Mobile platform for vehicle access

Workplace maintenance, cleaning, and repair at height.

Provide appropriate access equipment and ensure it is well maintained and used. Train employees in its safe use.

pivoting barrier
Pivoting safety barrier

Raised storage areas eg top of offices, mezzanine floors.

Where practicable, provide permanent access. Otherwise ladders should be secured. Provide guard rails around open edges.

Spray booth
Spray booth for commercial vehicles with moveable gantries

Tops of commercial vehicles and trailer units under repair

Provide proper access to any work at height and means to prevent persons from falling.

moveable bridge
Photo of moveable bridge allowing access across middle of vehicle inspection pit

Vehicle Inspection pits or rolling roads.

Mark edges of all openings in floors, fence or board them when not in use. Ensure good lighting levels. Control customer access.

Work at Height Regulations

The Work At Height Regulations 2005 apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury.

They place duties on employers, the self-employed, and any person that controls the work of others (for example facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

Experience shows that such events usually arise due to poor management control rather than equipment failure. In MVR, risk assessments should include:

  • work at height on vehicles
  • prevention of falls into vehicle inspection pits
  • working on raised storage areas
  • use of portable ladders eg for access to vehicles; building maintenance
  • safety of stairs, steps, fixed ladders

Case studies

  • Employee working on a box trailer vehicle fell 4m from the top of an extension ladder sustaining multiple fractures to his hip and left wrist. The ladder was neither footed nor secured and he lost his balance when the bottom of the ladder slipped away. His employer had not carried out a risk assessment and there was no safety equipment provided for work on the tops of commercial vehicles.
  • An employee had gone onto a storage area above an office. Permanent access and guardrails were in place, but on the day of the accident the barrier that normally prevented persons going onto a non-load bearing part of the office roof was missing. When someone in the office below called out to the employee, he stepped onto the fragile section of the roof and fell to the floor below. He sustained two cracked ribs. Management was not aware that the barrier had been removed and there was no warning of the danger.
  • 17 year old apprentice was clearing the gutters on the workshop roof when he fell through a fragile roof-light onto the concrete floor 5m below. He fractured his pelvis in three places. For convenience, his employer had always used unsupervised and untrained apprentices to carry out this work. There was no Risk Assessment no appropriate safety equipment available.
  • An employee was assisting a driver position a vehicle over an inspection pit. He was walking backwards when he fell about 1.5m into the pit sustaining three broken ribs and a broken left wrist. Both the driver and the other employee had ignored management's safety procedures published in the company's induction pack which warned of the danger of reversing in this way.
  • A paint sprayer fell from a stepladder whilst spraying a lorry and was left with broken ribs, broken collarbone, and a shattered shoulder. The same sprayer had fallen off the same stepladder a month before but no action was taken by his employer. They should have identified that a working platform was necessary for this spraying work. The company went into voluntary liquidation but were still prosecuted by HSE.

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Updated 2024-06-05