Date: 17th May 2018        Venue: The Netherwood Hotel, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6ET

Speaker: Ian Tongue, E, H and S Manager, BEP Project, Sellafield

Ian began his presentation with a summary relevant UK regulations and useful sources of guidance about managing work at height such as:

Ian then reminded members that the principles for managing work at height were the same as those for managing all workplace risks – there are five key steps:

  1. Plan the work.
  2. Avoid work at height where it is reasonably practicable to do so.
  3. Where work at height cannot be avoided, prevent falls using either an existing safe system of work or by ensuring that the appropriate equipment is available and developing a suitable safe system of work.
  4. Minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, by using the right type of equipment where the risk cannot be eliminated.
  5. Ensure that those undertaking the task are competent to do the job and have appropriate supervision if necessary.

Ian explained that although the main focus of his talk was the use of scaffolds it was important that managers faced with organising work at height should also consider other options such as the use of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms (MEWPs) that are more versatile and readily available than they were ten years ago.

Ian then led a discussion about the use and selection of appropriate scaffold systems for a particular job. He emphasised that once the site manager has decided to use a scaffold system for work at height it is their responsibility to ensure that the scaffolding contractor is given all relevant information about the site and the work that needs to be undertaken. The scaffolding contractor is then responsible for designing a suitable bespoke scaffold structure.
Information that the contractor needs include the following: site location, period of time that the scaffold is required to be in place, intended use, height and length and any critical dimensions which may affect the scaffold, number of boarded lifts, maximum working loads to be imposed, maximum number of people using the scaffold at any one time, type of access onto the scaffold (staircase, ladder bay, external ladders),whether there is a requirement for sheeting, netting or brickguards, any specific requirements or provisions (pedestrian walkway, restriction on tie locations, inclusion/provision for mechanical handling plant such as a hoist),nature of the ground conditions or supporting structure, information on the structure/building the scaffold will be erected against, any other relevant dimensions and drawings and any restrictions that may affect the erection, alteration or dismantling process.

Ian then reminded members that the appointed scaffold contractor had a similar responsibility to provide his client with relevant information about how the supplied scaffolding should be used and its inspection regime.
He said that there were occasions when a ladder was the most appropriate access method for work at height and summarised HSE’s guidance about how ladders can be used safely.

Ian’s presentation generated interesting discussions about the advantages of different types of scaffolding, assessing the competency of scaffolders, ensuring that those working at height are competent to do their work and when it is appropriate to use ladders.

Gary McAteer, thanked Ian for his helpful presentation and encouraged members to network with one another and our speaker after the formal part of the meeting.

Copies of the following documents can be found here:

An example scaffold request form: IT May 2018 Scaffold request form

NASC recommendations for the safe hand over of scaffold structures: SG 35 11 NASC Handover of scaffold structures

A copy of Ian’s presentation that was supplemented with other sources information and illustrations: IT May 2018 Working at height

Working at height: management of scaffolding, portable scaffold towers and ladders