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Fatal ladder fall prompts safety warning

The death of a Devon man after falling just seven feet,

click on the link to read the full article


12 months of HSE myth busting campaign.

This is another of Judith Hackitt’s blog articles. I truly believe the message must start to get through soon. Well done HSE!

12 months of myth busting

It’s 12 months now since the launch of the Myth Busters Challenge Panel, which has been a real success. It has probably done more than any other initiative to get behind the headlines and set the record straight about health and safety. It’s far from job done but we are making good progress.

We’ve uncovered and exposed abuses and misuses of health and safety right across Britain, and seen ‘health and safety’ trotted out to justify all sorts of ridiculous decisions.

The first case we dealt with involved an allotment owner being wrongly told to remove a children’s swing on health and safety grounds. But for much of the year it has felt like we were on a roundabout – the same underlying issues coming back into focus, time and again.

We analysed the first 100 cases, and found that 38 were poor customer service or people simply making an excuse for an unpopular decision. Fear of civil litigation and the need to do things to get insurance coverage crop up regularly too. Almost a quarter involved disproportionate, over the top interpretation of the regulations. It’s also clear that there is a good deal of confusion between health and safety and other legislation such as food, hygiene and fire regulations.

Basic communication failures when explaining the reasons for a decision often lead to confusion – is it really too much to expect people to explain the reasons for their decision rather than just saying “elf’n’safety innit, guv”?

I suppose it’s easy to understand why poor customer service keeps cropping up – if the real motives were properly explained many more of us would be likely to take our custom elsewhere. I love the fact that a friend of the chap who was refused a toothpick in a restaurant on elf n safety grounds bought the place – there’s one restaurant where he won’t be getting dodgy excuses in future!

Over interpretation of regulations regularly appears – sometimes because it is easier to impose a blanket rule across a whole site rather than apply a risk based approach. But at the core of proper health and safety is reasonableness and a sense of proportion, driven by a need to protect people from serious threats to their wellbeing at work. Regular readers of my blog will know my views on hi-viz in this context.

If we are ever going to restore the reputation of health and safety, myth busting will need to become a popular cause rather than being HSE led. We’ll continue to play our part, and work to tackle the root causes. But we need many more members of the health and safety community in particular to champion sensible, proportionate decision making and to be willing to speak up when things are good enough rather than chasing ever decreasing levels of risk. That would be something to celebrate.


Why Ladder Association training is the only worthwhile ladder training.

ImageThe work at height regulations require that all persons that manage, supervise or actually undertake work at height must be competent. The preferred definition used by the HSE for competency is-

‘A competent person is a person who can demonstrate that they have sufficient professional or technical training, knowledge, actual experience, and authority to enable them to: (1) carry out their assigned duties at the level of responsibility allocated to them (2) understand any potential hazards related to the work (or equipment) under consideration (3) detect any technical defects or omissions in that work (or equipment), recognise any implications for health and safety caused by those defects or omissions, and be able to specify a remedial action to mitigate those implications’.

So clearly use of ladders and stepladders requires sufficient professional or technical training but which training course? There are many courses out there some better than others. Some companies simply expect their Health and Safety manager to create a training course because the equipment is so simple. Some think a tool box talk is sufficient but most don’t bother with anything at all. These approaches hold varying degrees of risk to both the user and the organisation and it is from the point of view of the organisation that I will initially address the question of “why ladder Association Training?”

We know that we must adequately train our employees but how do you measure adequate? It’s tricky and is a balance between risk and cost.

  1. We can do no training, this is free and there is a massive risk of injury, prosecution and a civil suit which we will lose. That clearly works out to be rather expensive.
  2. We can conduct in-house training undertaken by a qualified Health and Safety professional. This training course has not been independently measured, the Health and Safety manager is not a qualified Ladder and Stepladder instructor, no manufacturers were involved and therefore the trained would not be aware of the direction that the industry is moving, new innovations, changes to standards etc. Frequently with this sort of training it is just a case of following the HSE guidance. If there were an incident how would we prove that the training was adequate? That the course corresponded with the very latest industry best practice? We couldn’t, so again we are in danger from prosecution and a civil suit. At least we would have an argument but it would be better to have proof.
  3. We could use a training company that has created their own Ladder course. This is basically the same as the above because without involvement from the manufacturers we do not know if what we are saying is technically correct and the course has not been approved.
  4. We can use The Ladder Association’s network of training centres to conduct the training for us. A Ladder and Stepladder User course for 8 people takes just 4 hours though it is an intensive session. It is possible to train 16 people in a single day. This makes it inexpensive and efficient. This is the correct choice but why?

The Ladder Association began as the British Ladder Manufacturers Association which tells you who the founding members were, yes, manufactures. This provides the proof that it is adequate. This is what we need and it is brilliant value for money.

The ladder association has grown since 1947 when it began, actively welcomes members from all sectors and is made up of expert committees. This means that when something gets into the training course material it has been approved by both professional training organisations and the manufacturers themselves via the training committee and approved again by the executive council. The Ladder Association works directly with the HSE to ensure that the HSE are fully informed of any innovations, developments and guidance. The HSE have in fact given their full support to the work of the ladder association. The Ladder Association code of practice contains a forward from the HSE stating this fact and that is why it is PROOF. Ultimately if you want to get it right, protect your people and your business that the only reliable choice is Ladder Association training. Manufacturer members of the Ladder Association include-

Clearly these guys know what they are talking about.

Training members include-

Along with many others and again we know what we are talking about so you get the very best of both worlds.

Ladder Association training centres have to meet very specific criteria and are audited to ensure ongoing compliance. Instructors are trained over the course of a week having had to meet stringent entry criteria to even get onto the instructor course. If they pass that they also have to undertake 2 sessions with a senior instructor mentor and successfully prove themselves before being deemed competent to train the Ladder Association training course. Trainers are also audited and are subject to unannounced visits again to ensure standards are kept up.

Ultimately, if you want the right training, training that is measured, tested and approved by both manufacturers and the HSE, then it has to be from the Ladder Association. Everything else is just a waste of money.

OTJ Training conduct Ladder Association Training all over the country at your premises or at our training centre in Gloucestershire. We are exceptional value for money and everyone goes away surprised at how useful and interesting the training was so give us a call on 01531 821 779 or visit us at and we will make sure that you have everything that your guys get the training that they need keeping both them and you safe.

On that bombshell…

The astonishing thing about the below is how much it sounds like me. It was written however by Judith Hackitt, Current Chair of the Health and Safety Executive! It seems that we sing from the very same song sheet so to speak and with further astonishment it seems that Jeremy Clarkson is too. Read on….

Jeremy Clarkson has never been shy about offering an opinion on health and safety, and I’ve not often Jeremy Clarkson Judith Hackitt Chair of the Health and Safety Executiveagreed with him.

But consider these latest comments in the Sun: “Like many people, I’ve spent the past few years lambasting the clipboard wielding health and safety morons who are turning this country into a risk averse nanny state. But the truth is the real culprits are actually the insurance companies.”

What sparked his wrath is a civil court case in which an insurance company is contesting a compensation payout to a teenage girl who was knocked down and injured by a motorist. The driver’s insurers, he says, have argued that the girl should have been wearing a high viz jacket and in doing so are in danger of setting a precedent that means “every single pedestrian will be told that they can’t go out at night unless they’re dressed up like a riot policeman”.

Is he right? Certainly others will look at the result and worry about what they might need to do now to reduce their risk of civil claims.

We see this all the time in everyday life. Every cup you take away from a coffee shop these days has a warning that the contents are hot. All because somebody sued after being burnt by a drink. Is it really necessary? No, of course not. Coffee should be hot. Is it health and safety? Absolutely not.

But these sort of stories often end up with health and safety getting the blame for something which has nothing to do with the actual regulations. And they are not just stories. They have unintended consequences – activities get watered down because people are nervous about getting sued and want to minimise all risks, not matter how trivial. Others conclude it is just not worth the hassle and abandon events altogether.

I’d like to think that in a small measure, Jeremy Clarkson has picked up on some of the work we have been doing to bust the health and safety myths apart, and the encouragement we have been offering people to question who is really causing this risk aversion.

So if you are reading Jeremy, you made my day. If you want to get me into that reasonably priced car, I’d be happy to show you what managing risk means.



people who care about others care about themselves

people who care about others care about themselves

Following on from the last post this was a truly brilliant method for getting people to actually wear the harnesses that they needed. I asked permission from Peter to share this and he kindly agreed. Take note, its not all about enforcement, its about motivators.

MEWP death statistics

As a senior instructor for IPAF I have long awaited useful statistical data to allow me to ensure that the most important elements are focussed on. After a long wait the figures are out and I feel that they paint an extremely positive picture of the MEWP industry as a whole and how wonderfully safe these machines are.

Considering that there are huge quantities of machines in use daily all over the world so few deaths is testament to quality, training and common sense. Clearly we cannot be truly happy until the number of deaths is zero and that is what I work toward every day along with many others in my field.

Below is the report direct from IPAF

IPAF accident database reports 31 fatalities involving aerial platforms worldwide in 2012

The main causes of fatalities and the machine type involved

There were 31 fatalities worldwide involving mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), also known as aerial work platforms (AWPs), in 2012, according topreliminary results of IPAF’s accident database.

The main causes of these fatalities were: fall from platform (9), electrocution (8), overturn (6), entrapment (4) and mechanical/technical related (4).

Almost half of the number of reported fatalities (16) involved booms (3b). Eleven fatalities involved vehicle mounts (1b) and four involved scissor lifts (3a).

About two-thirds of the fatalities (20) occurred in the USA, the largest single market for powered access equipment in the world. Three fatalities were reported in the Netherlands, two in the UK, and one each in Australia, Austria, Canada, Singapore, Spain and Switzerland.

The data presented is based on accidents reported directly to IPAF and through information collated from various news media. The accuracy of the data cannot be guaranteed, but where appropriate, action is taken to verify the facts and the data is amended should relevant information become available.

“The first year of the accident reporting project is producing significant results and is allowing us to both improve our training programmes and focus our safety campaigns to make this safe industry even safer,” said IPAF CEO Tim Whiteman. “There are over 1.5 million MEWPs/AWPs in use around the world, and while every death is a tragedy, powered access is still a very safe way to work at height.”

IPAF launched its accident reporting project in January 2012 with the aim of building up a comprehensive record of known accidents, in one location and in one common format. Data gathered enables IPAF to analyse and look for common trends, and propose possible actions to further improve and promote the safe use of powered access worldwide. Data collected is kept confidential and used solely for the purposes of analysis and making recommendations to improve safety.

“The accident database has been enhanced with new functions,” said IPAF technical officer Chris Wraith. “A dashboard facility has been added which allows companies who report monthly to track and monitor accidents related to their staff, and from 2013, accident data will also be collected on mast climbing work platforms (MCWPs).”

IPAF rental company members in the UK have voluntarily committed to report any known MEWP accidents involving their staff at the IPAF accident database. All manufacturers, rental companies, contractors and users are encouraged to report any known fatal and serious accidents involving MEWPs and MCWPs worldwide at the IPAF Accident Database.

Harnesses and MEWP’s

Should people wear a harness in a scissor lift?

No, not under normal operating circumstances.

  • If a person absolutely had to lean out of the machine to undertake a task
    IPAF Harness Statement H1

    IPAF Harness Statement H1

    then it would be reasonable to use a restraint system to prevent the person actually over reaching and falling over the guardrails. That’s it, completely  straightforward. You need read no further unless you want to know why it is actually very dangerous to use one under normal circumstances and if you want to understand the reason that we definitely do use short adjustable restraint lanyards in Boom Lifts.

One of my passions is this. 70% of the people that I train as IPAF Operators tell me that they are told to wear a harness in a scissor lift. When I ask them exactly what type of harness or lanyard do they require in these scissors? They usually reply “They don’t actually mind, as long as we wear a harness.” I have heard twice now of separate companies having a policy of wearing a harness in a scissor lift but they did not actually have to attach it to the scissor lift!?


  • It’s clear that an explanation is required and that the explanation should be straight forward (insert Preventing falls from Boom Type Mewps) and make sense to absolutely everyone. I would therefore like to start with what we are trying to achieve by wearing a harness in a Boom. We are protecting ourselves from a very real hazard, that of the innocuously
    Boom flick in action

    Boom flick example

    termed, Boom Flick. Doesn’t sound bad but it will easily throw an unattached operator out of a boom and to their death following a mere glancing blow near the slew ring. The reason is incredibly simple. The further away from the base you are the further the basket will travel in the same amount of time. Imagine a fishing rod, a very small movement from the wrist at one end produces a whipping motion at the other.

  • In a boom lift the length of this imaginary fishing rod is commonly over 12m you are at the whippy end and the resulting force is huge. If a person is attached with a lanyard that prevents them coming over the guardrail they would suffer from being thrown about in the cage. Usually these injuries would be relatively minor and survivable. If however the person was not attached they would be
    Impact force calculation

    Impact force calculation

    thrown clear and would then fall accelerating at 9.81 m/s Squared until they hit the ground. If anyone read one of my earlier posts then they will know that an 80Kg load dropped 2m onto a hard surface will generate an impact force of 1.5 tons. (Insert calculation) This will be likely to cause major injury or death.

Could it be even worse?

  • Incredibly yes, It is potentially worse if a person uses, as people commonly do, a standard 2m fall arrest lanyard. Yes the person would be attached but they would not be restrained and would be thrown out of the basket sideways. The fall arrest lanyard would then deploy reducing the force on the person to >6Kn. Thats about 600Kg by the way. The main problem now is that most MEWP’s in common use have a maximun allowable side load rating of around 400n (40Kg). It doesnt take a mathematition to understand that if we put 6000n on a machine capable of dealing with 400n we have a possible, even probable overturn situation. This would increase the overall risk as it would involve anyone else in the basket and anyone that could be hit by the falling MEWP etc. Examples of maximum side load or manual force from a range of equipment are below.
Genie Z45-25J Specification (Side Load)

Genie Z45-25J Specification (Side Load)

jlg-260-mrt Specification (Side Load)

jlg-260-mrt Specification (Side Load)







  • Lanyard length and height of anchorage point are therefore critical and therefore a lanyard must be adjustable and must be adjusted short enough to prevent someone being thrown out. I use a 1.5m Adjustable Lanyard that adjusts down to 0.75m and I only ever have problems when thoughtless manufacturers put the specified anchorage point on or close to the top rail.
  • I would certainly wear a harness and lanyard in a scissor lift if I was worried about floating away. I am not concerned about this however as I have a rudimentary understanding of gravity and the direction that gravity takes (down in case you are wondering). I am surrounded by guardrails set at a minimum height of 950mm and I am not away from the point of rotation so cannot be flung out like a boom. I keep my feet on the floor as there is no other acceptable place that I can stand whilst in the machine. I cannot fall out uness I lean out over the guard rail and I would then undertake a job specific risk assessment to take this into account and would then consider this an exceptional circumstance and refer back to the very start of this article.

Harnesses and Scissors.

  1. Some people say- ‘Why not wear one anyway, we are covered for anything then?’
  2. Others may say- ‘By attaching people are prevented from climbing on the guardrails so are easier to police.’
  3. Or the classic- ‘Its company policy to wear a harness over 6 feet so we have to.’
  • This is all rubbish of course and it is clear that the risk assessments are inadequate. For point 1, there is no hazard so what are we being protected from? Worse though, we are creating a hazard. If we select a short restraint lanyard we now cannot see all around the effectively as we are trapped in one place. If we need to manoeuvre the machine we are effectively doing it blind. Clearly a significant hazard with real risk of crushing or overturn. OK then, use a 2m fall arrest lanyard, then the operator has freedom of movement. In this instance I refer back to the Platform side force limit (frequently 400n) and the imposed side load of up to 6000n. Any policy that deems this as acceptable is extremely flawed.
  • On point 2 if people are willing to stand on the mid rail or even above that they will be perfectly happy to either detach themselves to achieve this or wear a lanyard long enough to enable themselves to. Either way, disastrous.
  • On point 3, why the rule? Work at height is based on the person being ‘liable to suffer a personal injury if they fell from that place’ this includes a place at, above or below ground level. Where did the arbitrary height come from and how have they missed the at or below ground level bit? Company policies should take into account industry best practice and advice from the enforcing authority and Industry experts.  The people planning work at height should be Trained and Competent . MEWP’s for Managers training from IPAF (The International Powered Access Federation) would create this competency as required by law and would create understanding of the hazards and risks associated with MEWP’s, just one being the use of harnesses. We run the MEWP’s for Managers training courses from OTJ Training and without exception attendees have rated the course as excellent and have enjoyed the experience.
Work at Height Regulations a brief guide

Work at Height Regulations a brief guide



Preventing falls from Boom Type platforms

Preventing falls from Boom Type platforms


  • If we accept all of that, and you should because it is correct, what about the users of the harnesses? They need to be trained to don and doff them correctly, to know why they are wearing them and what they are trying to achieve with their use. They should know how to adjust the lanyard to the right length and test that it will be effective prior to using a boom or under the above stated exceptional circumstances in a vertical lift. IPAF have a harness training course specific to use in a MEWP and this is highly recommended for all MEWP operators including those that will only use a vertical machine as they may find themselves in one of those ‘exceptional’ situations.

Frequently asked Questions-

1. Q) Does the hydraulic oil or engine oil in a MEWP cause degradation of polyester harnesses and lanyards and if so, should I put my harness on before or after my MEWP pre-use visual and function checks?

A)     Yes they both cause deterioration and would cause the harness and lanyard to be scrapped. I conduct the pre use checks up to the point of having to enter the platform to check the operating controls without my harness and don it to enter the cage keeping it away from potential contaminants, in it’s box until needed.

2. Q)   Is it o.k. for me to wear my jacket / hi-viz vest over the top of my harness and lanyard?

A)     There is no problem with wearing something over the harness as long as it doesn’t effect the way that it works. A jacket can even protect the harness from the elements and some harnesses are built into jackets for just this reason.

3. Q)  Has it ever been proved that wearing a safety harness has directly saved a MEWP operators life… are there any photos?

A)     Yes, many times and by clicking on this link you can see an example. The Website holds many instances of harnesses saving lives, just type harness in the search box.

4. Q)  Is it o.k. to buy second hand harness safety equipment… there are some bargains to be had on eBay…some descriptions include ‘opened but never used’… ‘new with defects’… ‘slight wear’… ‘I fell in it once so I know it works!’… all of them less than a £10!

A)     NO! Buy it new from a reputable place ensuring you know what you need. Once you have it, you can record all of the information including date of first use and then you will know exactly what happens to it. If you are unsure exactly what you need, you need training and ask the instructor during the training, or ask me. I will be happy to help.