Access Industry Forum Calls for Change Amidst Soaring Workplace Falls

The Access Industry Forum has called for clearer reporting to tackle workplace falls from height.

The Access Industry Forum has called for clearer reporting to tackle workplace falls from height.

The Access Industry Forum (AIF), representing the principal work at height trade associations and federations, has raised concerns over persistently high workplace falls from height statistics and called for urgent action to prevent accidents. 

In response to newly released statistics from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the AIF is urging the government and businesses to work together to spearhead change and save lives.

The latest HSE statistics, published last week, reveal that over 5,000 people in Great Britain were injured at work last year due to falls from height, and tragically, 40 people lost their lives as a result of these incidents. While these incidents are legally required to be reported by employers through RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations), there is substantial underreporting of non-fatal falls from height, particularly among self-employed workers, who reported only 12% of workplace incidents.

Furthermore, the HSE estimates that the scale of non-fatal workplace injuries related to falls from height, as reported through their preferred source, the self-reported Labour Force Survey (LFS), may be as high as 425,000 incidents over the last decade.

Aside from the human toll and the impact on families and businesses, these incidents also resulted in up to 992,000 working days lost in Great Britain last year alone. Moreover, the total cost of non-fatal falls in 2022/23 is estimated to be over £770 million, encompassing costs to employers, individuals, government tax losses, and benefit payments.

Unfortunately, these figures have remained consistent over recent years, indicating a lack of improvement in addressing workplace falls from height.

Research conducted by the AIF highlighted the challenges associated with limited data collection on the circumstances surrounding these accidents and a problematic reporting system. This situation makes it difficult to pinpoint the underlying causes of falls from height, whether they stem from faulty equipment, insufficient training, or negligence.

The AIF is renewing its call for a simplified and more informative system of reporting that can accurately reflect the root causes of workplace accidents. This approach would enable informed and preventative measures to be implemented, addressing the factors contributing to falls from height incidents.

Unlike many other workplace injuries, falls from height often result in life-changing consequences for those involved, with many unable to return to their previous occupations. This also has long-term effects on employers, colleagues, and families.

The AIF actively supports the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height, which is set to convene its next meeting in Westminster in December. This meeting will bring together MPs and stakeholders from various industries to discuss how the government and businesses can collaborate to ensure technological and regulatory progress is made, making the UK the safest country in the world for those working at height.

Peter Bennett OBE, AIF Chair, expressed his concern, “This year’s statistics show that there is much work still to be done to ensure those who have to work at height do so in as safe an environment as possible. Very little information is provided on the circumstances around non-fatal and fatal incidents, with current reporting focused on the type of incident rather than what caused it in the first place. This needs to change if we are to see a decrease in the number of people who tragically lose their lives while working at height and those who suffer the life-changing consequences of a fall from height.”

Bennett added, “We know that working at height can be dangerous, but we should be able to put appropriate and robust measures in place to make it safer. I look forward to attending the meeting of the APPG in December so we can demonstrate to lawmakers the need for a simplified reporting system and ensure all those working at height go home safely at the end of the day.”