In the UK last year, 46 people fell from scaffolding on a construction site . United Kingdom scaffolding erectors are at risk every time they go to work. Ensuring they are following national Health and Safety guidelines is vital. There is no doubt that construction, in all its forms, is a dangerous profession; but failure to follow Health and Safety guidelines is the main cause of on-site accidents.
Apart from the 46 deaths, a further 3,351 workers suffered serious personal injury during the year . Falling from a scaffold is the most obvious type of accident, but it is not the only one by any means. A great many injuries occur due to tool or other equipment falling from a scaffold and injuring anyone in its path.
In Hong Kong the danger from falling objects near scaffolding is slightly more pronounced. It is still common practice to use bamboo scaffolding and, while this is an effective and sure method, the practice itself would cause most British scaffolding workers to (at the very least) raise an eyebrow. In order to take down scaffolding, in particular if it surrounds an entire building, workers will ‘pass’ each bamboo stick to each other, by simply dropping it in their direction. This practice may be fun and interesting to watch (from a distance), but it raises the question of just how safety conscious the Hong Kong Labour Department is. In response to a recent spate of accidents among truss-out scaffolding workers, including at least 3 deaths, the Department has launched an extensive publicity campaign and has stepped up regular safety checks and enforcement.
So how much safer are their British counterparts? While they are not in the habit of, intentionally at least, dropping tubes to the ground; there is still a significant amount of risk on any building site. The construction industry accounts for a third of all work-place fatalities in the UK, making British construction workers 6 times more likely to be killed in an accident at work than any other type of employee³.
There are strict guidelines and safety regulations which construction workers must adhere to, issued and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive, but how closely are they being followed? Faulty equipment, damage or wear and tear of equipment, these are all things that can contribute to the dangers faced by UK construction workers on a daily basis. Employers have a duty to ensure that their workplaces are as safe as possible, and that their employees are following all laws and standards that relate to them; but a great deal of the responsibility lies with the individual workers. No matter how confident or secure you may feel on your scaffold, you must remember that working at a great height is a dangerous proposition.