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December 12, 2023

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Concerns over lack of improvement to reduce falls from height at work in UK

There has been little improvement in reducing the number of workplace falls from height over the past year, statistics have revealed.

Working at Height - Site Services ArcoThe statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show over 5,000 people were injured at work in the UK last year due to a fall from height – and 40 people also lost their lives.

It also showed self-employed people only reported 12% of workplace incidents and – while these incidents are required by law to be reported by employers through RIDDOR – the HSE estimates the scale of non-fatal workplace injury by employed people over the last 10 years could be up to 425,000 – using the self-reported Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The statistics relate to 992,000 working days lost through non-fatal falls from height in the UK over the last year.

And the total cost of these is estimated to be over £770 million, made up of costs to the employer and the individual, government tax losses and benefit payments.

No signs of improvement 

Now an industry body has said they are concerned that these figures have been consistent over recent years, with no signs of improvement.

The Access Industry Forum (AIF), a forum that represents the principal work at height trade associations and federations, has called for clearer reporting of workplace accidents in a bid to save lives.

Research by the AIF found limited data collected on the circumstances surrounding accidents and a problematic reporting system, make it difficult to pinpoint the underlying causes of falls from height and identify whether they are related to issues such as faulty equipment, lack of training, or negligence.

The body has now called for is calling for the government and businesses to work together to simplify reporting systems and prevent accidents.

They believe if reporting more accurately reflected the cause of workplace accidents, then informed, preventative measures could be implemented to address the cause of fall from height incidents.

“Robust measures” needed

Peter Bennett OBE, AIF Chair, said: “This year’s statistics show that there is much work still to be done to ensure those who have to work at height do so in as safe an environment as possible.

“Very little information is provided on the circumstance around non-fatal and fatal incidents, with current reporting focused on the type of incident as opposed to what caused it in the first place. 

“This needs to change if we are to see a decrease in the number of people who tragically lose their lives while working at height, and those who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height.

“We know that working at height can be dangerous, but we should be able to put appropriate and robust measures in place to make it safer.
“I look forward to attending the meeting of the APPG in December so we can demonstrate to lawmakers the need for a simplified reporting system and ensure all those working at height go home safely at the end of the day.”

The AIF is supporting the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height.

Meeting with MPs and stakeholders from across industry, there will be discussions about how government and business can work together to ensure technological and regulatory progress can be made to make the UK the safest country in the world for those working at height.

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