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Safe system of work myths blown away

By Tom Worth – SMAS Worksafe Assessor

In 2017, the director of JKW Roofing, John Whitham, was blown off a roof. This resulted in significant injuries and fines were handed out to the sum of nearly £500,000 across the three companies involved in the work.

The HSE found the cause to be an improper assessment of high winds whilst working at height. With a correct risk assessment and safe system of work, the injuries to J. Whitham could easily have been avoided. HSE Inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said, “If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life-changing injuries sustained by Mr Whitham could have been prevented.”[1]

Under the Construction (Design and Management) 2015 Regulations and the Work at Height Regulations 2005, contractors have a duty to Plan and Manage their construction works to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health and safety. However, contractors across the United Kingdom are not confident in completing a Safe System of Work (SSOW). Breaking the SSOW into two key areas, Method Statement and Risk Assessments, will help you create a complete system that will keep your employees safe.

Method Statement

The Method Statement needs to identify a step by step guide as to how the task will be completed in a safe manner.

This should include a SSOW which describes the supervision, training, emergency procedures in place to ensure the task will be conducted in a safe and controlled way with qualified persons and adequate welfare facilities.

Risk Assessment

The Risk Assessment should identify all the hazards associated with carrying out the task and the control measures that will be used to reduce the likelihood of the hazard causing an injury.

Fall from Height due to High Winds

  • No work on the roof to be taken place if the wind is above 23mph
  • Fall protection will be in place such as; Scaffolding, harnesses clipped to fixed points and fall bags
  • Materials that could act as sails (such as insulation sheets, not to be used. To be replaced with smaller versions that will not catch the wind).
  • Only employees who are competent to do so, are to work at height.
  • Toolbox talks provided to employees before work begins to refresh them on the dangers of working at height.

The system then needs to be reviewed to ensure that the step by step guide and the risk assessment work together to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Being able to produce a SSOW is a key requirement in all procurement questionnaires such as an SSIP assessment. It is a big step towards getting your organisation compliant and accredited.

[1] K.Downey. (2019). Construction firms fined after director blown off roof during storm. Available: https://www.ioshmagazine.com/article/construction-firms-fined-after-director-blown-off-roof-during-storm. Last accessed 22/08/19.

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