Eazi Sales & Services makes heights easier to live with
The nature of working at height makes it difficult to control danger. Scaffolding accidents, in particular, are a risk for those working in the construction industry.
On 19 October 2010, a 40-year-old man died in an industrial accident in Vanderbijlpark when he slipped and fell seven metres. The man was working on scaffolding at a construction site.
On 16 May 2010, another employee was working on a ship in Cape Town’s Table Bay Harbour – on top of three stacked containers totalling 9 m in height – when he slipped, fell and was found by ER24 paramedics lodged between a ledge and the side of a narrow walk-way. Luckily, he survived the incident, but not without injury and discomfort.
Most warehousing, maintenance and construction work takes place above ground level and workers can easily find themselves working at significant heights. Add the constantly changing landscape and new hazards that develop at a moment’s notice – many of which can result in serious or even fatal injury – and one begins to understand why falling from height is the leading safety concern within industry.
“Fatalities and many serious injuries have occurred when workers have fallen from pallets mounted on FLT forks, ladders, unsafe scaffolding or similar situations involving a lack of adequate equipment to gain access at height,” says Larry Smith, director at Eazi Sales & Service, which distributes JLG Aerial Work Platforms.
Figures from the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that during 2005/2006, 46 people died and 3 351 suffered serious personal injury. These scaffolding injuries are not exclusive to trips and falls, but also include head injuries from being struck by falling tools, and electrocution and burns due to proximity of the scaffold to overhead power lines. Scaffolding takes a lot of time to build and dismantle, increasing the cost of labour for the company that uses it.
Due to their instability and lack of proper support, ladders are not always the solution to a work-at-height problem, either. Research shows ladders should only be considered for light work of short duration – or where the use of other, usually more suitable, equipment is not appropriate.
Forklifts are seen as versatile site equipment and sometimes suitable for the task. However, it is not easy to lift people to certain required working levels. A forklift also needs more people per task and provides a very restricted work area.
According to certified studies done by reputable safety institutions, there is evidence that Mobile Elevated Working Platforms (MEWPs) are safer, more productive, cost effective, and avoid unnecessary strain and injury. Only one person is required to drive and operate the MEWP and little time is required for set-up. Other benefits include quicker access to the required working level, excellent stability and a larger working area for the employee.
“MEWPs also make it easier for site management to maintain the appropriate safety standards on-site. In addition, its built-in safety features reduce accidents caused by human error,” says Smith.
Apart from risking the lives of employees, inadequate safety equipment can also lead to a loss of income and other significant costs. Many companies are only just starting to understand the hidden costs associated with accidents, injuries and fatalities. While accidents can result in fines, legal costs and damages to equipment; the cost of downtime during investigations, reputational damage, site clean-up, loss of customers or contracts, and contract overrun expenses are often overlooked.
Customers who have chosen to adopt MEWPs, either through purchasing or renting, have reaped the rewards of a safer and more productive method of performing work at height.
“Despite good awareness about common hazards and risks, and the recent downward trend in fall-related accidents, statistics still prove that working at height remains a real threat. It is therefore critical for employers to safeguard their workers from this danger by taking all the necessary measures,” says Smith.