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Access braced for shake-up

PLANT 2005 CONFERENCE Traditional working practices will have to change under new Work at Height safety regulations

THE NEW Work at Height regulations will require major changes from contractors both in terms of the way they approach jobs and in the equipment they specify, speakers at Plant 2005 warned.

The experts stressed that contractors needed to take more responsibility for checking operators are competent.

It was also claimed that some traditional equipment would be difficult to justify under the new regime.

Robert Vaughan, of the Falls from Height team at the HSE, said: 'Falls have always been one of the top four types of accident. It is the biggest killer, causing 67 fatalities in 2003-4 and giving rise to 3,884 major accidents.Of these major accidents two thirds were caused by low falls of less than 2 m.'

Equipment specialists warned that changes in approach would be required to ensure that the plant used fitted the risk reduction approach called for by the new law, such as fitting guardrails wherever practical.

Peter Bond, product marketing manager for access equipment giant SGB, said: 'Scaffolders are looking at changing methods to ensure that a guardrail is erected first and access tower association Pasma is looking at the development of a single method of assembling towers, regardless of the product or manufacturer. It is clear that the people selecting the equipment will need a level of understanding that they haven't had before.'

He said a number of products would need caution in use, and not just the much-mentioned ladders.

Mr Bond said: 'Painters' trestles are going to be difficult to justify because of the risk of overturning and the difficulty in fitting guardrails, so we are recommending them only for use up to 1 m.And we are unlikely to see much more of roof ladders because of the lack of protection. But even the new guardrailed podium steps will require supervision, because people keep overreaching from them.'

He warned subbies that the major contractors were taking the lead in directing working practice.'There is going to be more change to come, ' he said.

International Powered Access Federation chief Tim Whiteman called for more commitment to training operatives to use the access equipment. He said: 'Please don't let people fall into the trap of thinking that because it looks easy they can use it without proper training.'