One of my staff came and said, “Kitty, I want you to come and look at something”.
And so I did.
We went up to a plant room where there was a ladder that was used to access the roof area. His concern was that he was expected to wear a harness to climb the ladder. My concern was that sub-contractors accessing the roof area are also expected to wear our harnesses. This was obviously a concern because had harm been caused to the sub-contractor as a result of wearing our harness, then our company would legally have been at fault for supplying the harness in the first place.
I took one look at the harness and realised that the strop was actually longer than the height of the ladder. If the staff member had fallen off the ladder the harness would not have been effective and the consequences could have been very serious indeed. I took one look at the vertical track in which the harness was supposed to slot to travel and realised that in order for this to also be effective the individual would already have to be at some height for the harness to lock and break the fall.
I took a look at the ladder and it is well protected by a hoop as required. The ladder is inspected and maintained on a regular basis as required.
I took a look at the staff member and he was a very experienced and competent technician.
I took a look at the incident reporting system and no incidents or near-misses had been reported in relation to this ladder.
I asked where the risk assessment was to justify the use of this harness and he said there wasn’t one.
This is a prime example of bad health and safety advice and lack of risk assessment in the first instance.
The harness he was expected to wear actually increased the risk of incident rather than decreased it because it didn’t allow the wearer to use their common sense. Common sense and a risk assessment would have dictated that the staff member must be careful when using the ladder. Indeed the harness gave a false sense of security and was actually dangerous. The staff member also needed to be trained in the use of the harness, and regular inspection and maintenance of the harness would need to take place.
Instead of carrying out a risk assessment and listening to employees a blanket use of harnesses had been implemented at completely unnecessary expense and at increased risk to the user.