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HSA campaign to target working at height safety

27 October 2021

THE HSA will begin a construction inspection campaign on 26 October focusing on safety when working at heights. The two week campaign will target both small and large construction sites nationwide.

16 people lost their lives in the construction sector in 2020 and six were specifically linked to working at height. In 2020, slipping or falling led to 1,898 work-related incidents. 21% of these were falls from height.

Throughout the campaign, inspectors from the HSA will be encouraging employers and self-employed in construction to ensure they complete risks assessments and have the right equipment, safety gear and knowledge to work at height safely.

To ensure a safe working environment employers and self-employed should:

  • carry out risk assessments for work at height activities and make sure all work is properly planned, organised and carried out by a competent person,
  • follow the general principles of prevention for managing risks from work at height taking steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks, and
  • chose the right work equipment and select collective measures to prevent falls (such as guard rails and working platforms) before other measures which may only reduce the distance and consequences of a fall (such as nets or airbags), or may only provide fall-arrest through personal protection equipment.

Mark Cullen, assistant chief executive with the HSA said, “Working at height has added risks and therefore the need for extra precaution and advance planning. We urge employers and the self-employed on construction sites to carry out a risk assessment which includes a careful examination of what harm could be caused from working at height with a view to taking the necessary steps to manage the risks. This may mean avoiding the activity altogether or, where this is not reasonably practicable, by carrying it out in a safe manner using the appropriate work equipment.”

During this campaign, HSA Inspectors will be providing information and making employers aware of resources available such as the free short on-line courses available on the HSA e-learning portal hsalearning.ie. Construction workers can also use the free resources on BeSMART.ie where the HSA’s free online safety management and risk assessment tool is available.

As this inspection campaign will coincide with Construction Safety Week starting 25 October, led by CIF, the HSA inspectors will be reminding employers and the self-employed on the risks of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and the importance of ensuring manual handling activities are in line with health and safety guidance.

The construction campaign also coincides with European Week for Safety and Health at Work which will see an emphasis on MSDs and ergonomics. Although MSDs are preventable, they remain the most common work-related health problem in Europe with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) reporting that 3 in every 5 workers in the EU report MSD complaints in the back, upper limbs and/or lower limbs.

Frank Power, Ergonomist and Inspector at the HSA said, “Manual handling of heavy loads in construction remains a concern in relation to musculoskeletal disorders. Carrying out risk assessments, problem solving through worker consultations and detailing the tangible benefits of reducing risk of musculoskeletal injury is an important part of facilitating ongoing improvements in the area of manual handling. I’d advise all employers and self-employed in the construction sector to utilise the free HSA resources available to them to make the improvements needed in their workplaces.” 

HSA resources for employers and self-employed in the construction sector include:

·        BeSMART.ie, the HSA’s free online safety management and risk assessment tool

·        Guidance on safe working at heights is available on the HSA website at https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Work_at_Height/

·        Free short on-line safety courses are also available on https://hsalearning.ie/