Working at Height on Commercial Vehicles
Some help and guidance...
The Working at Height Regulations came into effect in the UK in April 2005.
The regulations do not ban particular practices or equipment outright, but they require employers to ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a manner which is, so far as is practical, safe.
Training and inspection
Employers must provide appropriate training and instruction and select equipment which is appropriate for the application with due regard to all aspects of safety. The regulations include schedules detailing specific requirements and considerations appropriate to different types of access equipment, and will require equipment and work places to be properly inspected and the results to be recorded.
In addition, ‘persons at work’ are required to report any activity or defect that might affect safety, and to use the equipment in accordance with their training and instructions.
Step-ladders, ladders, trestles and scaffolds are still the most common means used for working at height (for example access to high sided vehicles for repairs, preparation, painting, sign-writing, application of decals and similar tasks). The regulations state that: ‘Every employer shall ensure that a ladder is used for work at height only if a risk assessment under Regulation 3 of the Management Regulations has demonstrated that the use of more suitable work equipment is not justified because of the low risk and the short duration of use; or existing feature on site which he cannot overcome.’
In many industries working at height is a routine and regular requirement. As a result, it is unlikely that either the ‘short duration’ or the ‘practical problems’ arguments could be sustained.
It is a sad fact that almost as many people are killed and injured falling from heights of less than two metres as from greater heights.
No stretching allowed
Further requirements relating to ladders stipulate that the ladder must be long enough to provide a safe handhold – no more balancing on or near the top rung to reach a bit higher. It should be noted that the term ‘ladder’ includes step ladders and similar equipment.
When considering the alternatives, staging and scaffolds can be made safe, provided that they are properly made and assembled. Such solutions must have properly designed hand rails, toe boards and access ladders for example (the Regulations give more guidance). Generally these solutions end up being somewhat inflexible in application and very space consuming in the restricted width and length of a typical work bay. Another drawback is that often the working height is fixed with such arrangements.
Various forms of scissor lifts are available. Many of them are electric or powered by a small engine, in which case they are not suitable for use in potentially flammable atmospheres such as in paint spraying booths. These types of lifts often use hydraulic rams which present the potential for oil leakage and contamination. Some scissor lifts are totally pneumatic and overcome these problems, but they take up a lot of space and cannot be easily manoeuvred. All scissor lifts generally have height limitations.