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Why the confederation supports the 2 m rule

LETTERS

Sir,

I was disappointed to read the letter from the Access Industry Forum regarding the Health and Safety Executive consultation on the possible retention of the '2 m rule' for construction (Letters, December 2).

A healthy debate about what is perhaps the most important legislative change facing the industry since the Construction Design and Management Regulations is vital.The contribution of the Access Industry Forum to this debate is both welcome and essential.

But it is unfortunate that the AIF chose to make its contribution on such an important issue by attacking the professionalism and commitment of the Construction Confederation and its members.

The AIF's contention that much of their existing guidance, such as the NASC's excellent SG4 guidance for scaffolders, would be under threat is nonsense and fails to understand the position of the confederation and others who support retention of the 2 m rule.

For the record, let me make clear what the confederation is seeking, and why.

The application of the new regulation is triggered by an assessment of whether work is to be carried out at 'a distance liable to cause personal injury'.The guiding principle for the HSE should be that where work is undertaken at a height above 2 m there should be a clear assumption that this is, in all cases, 'a distance liable to cause personal injury'.This would remove the risk of spurious assumptions about the likelihood of personal injury above 2 m and invoke all the relevant sections of the work at height regulations.

The wording of the proposed amendment to the regulations has led to interpretation in some quarters that the goal of those who support retention of the 2 m rule is to impose draconian restrictions on working practice in our industry.This is not the case and we would do well to remember that it was the HSE that drafted the proposed regulation, not the confederation.

If the AIF had applied its undoubted expertise and had taken a look at the recently released HSE accident statistics, its members would have noted that construction has seen continuing reductions in the numbers of those killed in falls from heights over the past few years. If the 2 m rule is so anachronistic, then why do we see such welcome improvement?

At a time when our industry should be working together on health and safety issues, responsible stakeholders should seek better understanding through dialogue, not seek to score points through unsubstantiated attacks on other organisations.That this attack was made against an organisation that represents a substantial number of their key customers is particularly galling.

The AIF has not sought to clarify the confederation's line in response to the recent consultation at any time. One can only hope that better sense prevails in the future.

Andy Sneddon Director of Health and Safety Construction Confederation London SW1