Do we have to go through more hoops to comply with the Work at Height Regulations?
Posted by Tracy Seward
Work at height and means of access via hooped or caged ladders has always been a difficult area for duty holders such as Employers and Landlords to manage. Some new research may help further clarify the requirements.
Research Report 657, titled an ‘Investigation into the fall-arresting effectiveness of ladder safety hoops when used in conjunction with various fall-arrest systems’
The paper provides the following conclusions:
1. There’s no evidence that hoops (also known as cages) on vertical ladders provide any positive fall arrest capability which has been recognised by stakeholders for many years
2. The way a person falls and their interaction with the ladder hoops in many cases can interfere adversely with the operation of personal fall-arrest systems that are installed to protect workers
3. The results showed that in most cases there was a risk of serious injury following a fall
4. There is some concern by the report’s author who believes that BS 4211 gives a false impression that caged ladders confer superior protection to that of personal fall-arrest systems.
5. The EN standards for certain types of fall-arrest equipment do not appear to address foreseeable modes of fall and interaction with the ladder and hoops.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is not:
• Seeking to prohibit the use of hooped ladders
• Recommending the blanket removal of hoops from ladders as this could increase the overall risk
• Prohibiting the use of personal fall-arrest systems within hooped ladders
The report concludes that hoops alone do not provide positive fall arrest capability however the HSE recognise they may provide other safety benefits that the report does not explore.
As normal duty holders should carry out risk assessments to see whether work at height can be avoided or if the provision of a safer means of access is reasonably practicable. Risk assessments should take into account the latest guidance.