Posted on: 06/26/18

5 Things We’ve Noticed in Access and Rescue in 2016

5 Things We’ve Noticed in Access and Rescue in 2016

December 21, 2016

Andy Williams

The list below is observations we’ve made in the last year. They’re not all trends, though some certainly are. Some good, some not so much… Any themes, trends or constants which you’ve seen in access, rescue, work at height, confined space or similar? Working from the least significant to the most we’ve noticed that;

#5. Kit inspection

People seem to generally have become more aware of the need to inspect their equipment before use and the types of damage to be on the lookout for. Realistically harnesses, lanyards etc are a relatively new introduction in many workplaces (a few decades at most) so perhaps the message is finally getting through on the need for equipment to be in good condition and inspected appropriately? There’s always going to places out there where people are happy to hang on a shoe string that their mum washed in the dishwasher last week and which sometimes gets used as a tow rope, but generally the people we work with are recognising the importance of PPE inspection!

#4 Stickers on helmets

#4. Increasingly people are aware that putting stickers on helmets generally isn’t advised and is often against the manufacturers’ guidance. This links to #5 but it’s an interesting point which one of our instructors noted. Whether you are a believer or not in adhesives potentially damaging the plastic (stranger debates have been had..!) surely everyone must agree that stickers can potentially hide damage, potentially impairing an inspection.

#3. Using the right kit for the job, specifically…

#3. There is still little recognition of the difference between a retrievable inertia reel/ fall arrest block and a man riding winch. If you’re wondering what the difference is have a look here for more information, it’s really important! Basically though, this is leading to many people being lowered in to confined spaces on a single point of attachment or being backed up in fall arrest by a system that will not absorb the energy of a fall…

#2. Taking responsibility

#2. Large companies seem to slowly, generally, be taking more responsibility for the health and safety of their employees by drawing on the expertise of specialist companies like ourselves. We’ve probably all met the Health and Safety Manager or Advisor who thinks a 2 week course qualifies them as an expert in every single sector of work, but generally most are not like them, and instead are rightly looking for additional input to supplement their own knowledge. We’ve built excellent relationships with a wide range of large organisations from many industries and it’s been encouraging to see them take on board industry best practice and in some cases innovative approaches to ensure their staff are well cared for.

#1. There is very little respect for gravity!

People still seem to move towards danger, not away from it! In the case of fall hazards, this is really common still, and there seems to have been little change in people’s general attitude. A classic example is when a fellow instructor and I were passing by a work site where some employees we knew were working. All appropriate control measure were in place, and the employees wanted to show us the kind of environment they typically worked around. Safe due to thick steel grating that allowed a view into the space but prevented us falling in, we peered down though the gaps. Down about twenty feet to… well, the less said about the contents the better. It was a vertical drop. Someone asked about a component hanging down:

Employee: “I’ll open it up so you can have a look!”

Me: “No no, you don’t need to, we can see fine, and there’s just a big…”

Employee: “it’s ok, no bother” (as they swing back the steel grating, leaving a number of people standing next to a 20 foot exposed drop…. Just for the sake of clarity, this is not acceptable in the UK! Either way, gravity works wherever you are!)

As soon as we saw his hand go to lift the grating my colleague and I stepped back, increasing our distance from the fall hazard.

Everyone else stepped forward and leant over to get a better look!

Now, these were intelligent people doing this, standing next to a significant fall hazard. People whose work place probably has extensive risk assessments in place. Yet still they didn’t seem to realise the danger they were unnecessarily stepping towards. One slip or stumble, a moment of imbalance and they’d be falling, and no amount of hi-viz jackets, eye protection or health and safety mottos would protect them then. Barriers, harnesses, lanyards, a whole range of other control measure could have been put in place if they wanted to open the grating. Or they could have left it closed! Lots of room for improvement. It is quite concerning that for all the increased awareness of the importance of health and safety people still seem to be oblivious to the risk of falling. People still like to step towards danger!

What trends, constants or other interesting events have you observed in rope rescue and access in 2016? In the meantime, have a great Christmas and New year!