AIF Conference Discusses Latest Thinking on Working at Height

THE WORK AT HEIGHT sector gathered on 14 November at the Access Industry Forum (AIF) Conference 2019 in Salford.

AIF Chair, Peter Bennett OBE welcomed delegates from AIF’s 11 member trade federations to the conference covering all aspects of working at height, from rope access and safety netting to powered access and ladders.

Sarah Jardine, director of the HSE Construction Division opened the speaker programme with the sobering statistics on injuries and deaths from falls from height. She outlined the work being done with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height and risk profiling using RIDDOR and enforcement data. Some important insights have emerged, such as the fact that 85% of RIDDOR injuries come from SMEs while only 14% come from contractors with 9 or less employees.

Sticky followers

Dr Shaun Lundy from 4Site Consulting took the podium next, making the case for customising safety training for different generations, such as ‘gamifying’ desired safety behaviours for Generation Zs. He spoke about followership (as opposed to leadership) and the characteristics that create effective following of safety leaders. He said, “We need ‘sticky followers’ of health and safety best practice and strategies that will take others along with them.”

Citing the 11% rise to 6,507 suicides in the UK last year, Brian Parker talked through an illustrative fall from height case and its aftermath of safety investigations which could reveal a mental health cause. He also urged companies to adopt the 5-step Building Mental Health Framework developed with Mates in Mind to help safeguard construction employees’ mental health.

Powerful warning

A powerful warning was given to work at height businesses by Stefan Groch of DWF Solicitors who explained that courts expects work at height specialists to deliver special management of their high risk activities. He said that if measures are not implemented then companies can be prosecuted, even when no incident has occurred.

The focus of RoSPA is currently moving on to the role of fatigue in work at height accidents, Dr Karen McDonnell told the conference, explaining that over 2,000 RoSPA winners are now being questioned on how they effectively manage safety.

Chair, Peter Bennett once again took the stage to update attendees on the drive for enhanced accident and near-miss reporting, following the APPG Work at Height report earlier this year – and the push back they are experiencing from HSE.

Virtual reality

Taking a look at the ways virtual reality (VR) can be used to deliver training was Paul Gaze from the Hire Association, Europe. Paul outlined how VR is being used to deliver entry level training in work at height, ladders and powered equipment, all without risk but effectively developing site confidence.

As the chair of the Construction Industry Advisory Committee (CONIAC), Paul Reeve urged the audience to make use of the freely available ‘Safety Steps’, an enabling document that the National Federation of Roofing Contractors and RoofCERT have used, amongst others, to incorporate key safety messages into their courses.

Lastly, Jason Anker, Paul Blanchard and Dylan Skelhorn gave powerful accounts of their own life-changing experiences of falls from height and the work the No Falls Foundation is doing to bring about the shift in thinking needed to make sure everyone goes home safely at the end of the working day.

The conference included a comprehensive exhibition with all types of work at height businesses.

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