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How Mechanical Aids Can Reduce the Risk of Working at Height | Penny Hydraulics

How Mechanical Aids Can Reduce the Risk of Working at Height | Penny Hydraulics

by Daniel Casey

Work at height is a necessary part of many construction, maintenance, and site management jobs, but it can be exceptionally hazardous work. Falls from a height are the cause of more fatal injuries than any other kind of workplace accident, accounting for 40 fatalities per year, on average ( HSE). But, ensuring your staff have the right equipment can make a real difference in terms of reducing the level of risk they encounter.

Here, we’ll talk you through the hazards, and explain how mechanical aids can not only reduce the risk of accident or injury, but also save you money in the long term. Read on to discover:

Why is working at height so high-risk?

Work at height is defined as any activity where, if precautions are not in place, there is a risk of falling from a distance that is high enough to cause injury. This may involve work above ground floor level, where edges or openings are exposed, or work using scaffolding and ladders.

Working at a height can create all sorts of health and safety hazards. Common risks include falls from ladders or other elevated surfaces or falling through a fragile surface to a lower level. Work at height can also present a risk to those at ground level, who may be injured by tools or debris falling from the upper levels.

As an employer or site manager, it’s your legal responsibility to do everything you can to protect your staff and reduce the risk of an accident or injury.

The Work at Height Regulations

The rules around how work at a height are set out in the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), a government act which dictates what employers need to do to keep their staff safe. Any employer who doesn’t fulfil their obligations as set out in the Regulations is considered to have broken the law, so it’s important to do everything you can to limit risk and protect your employees.

Essentially, WAHR state that employers must:

  • Avoid work at height, if it is at all reasonable to do so.
  • Do everything possible to prevent falls by ensuring that the working area is safe and well-secured.
  • Minimise the distances and consequences of a fall using equipment or other preventative measures.

While the Regulations do give some guidance, exactly what you need to do to fulfil these requirements is left up to your discretion, and you need to use your judgement when deciding which measures to put in place. That means considering whether there’s any equipment that will make work at height safer and easier, and ensuring that your staff are trained to use it properly. You can learn more about your legal duties in our guide to working at height regulations.

How mechanical aids can reduce the risk of working at height

While personal protective equipment — such as fall arrest harnesses — can help to limit the distance and severity of a fall, the most effective way to minimise risk is to avoid work at height altogether. One of the simplest ways to do this is to install mechanical aids to make it easier to access high-level equipment or areas.

These mechanical solutions allow you to carry out maintenance and cleaning at ground level, eliminating the need for work at height. Mechanical aids, like goods lifts and mezzanine floor lifts, can also make transporting and moving stock or equipment much faster and less labour-intensive, which can reduce and improve all-round efficiency.

Here, we’ll show you exactly how one of our lighting winch systems can reduce the risk of an accident or injury during the cleaning and maintenance of light fittings or other items hung from high ceilings.

How a lighting winch system can eliminate the need for work at height

If a lighting rig is fitted to the ceiling and cannot be lowered, workers have traditionally relied on scaffold towers or MEWPs to access them for maintenance and cleaning. This puts employees who use them at risk of a fall. But, with a lighting winch system, like our Remote Lighting Lift, the light fitting can be lowered to ground level quickly, safely, and easily, eliminating the need for scaffold towers or MEWPs.

A lighting winch system doesn’t just make maintenance and cleaning much safer: it’s more efficient, too. Workers using a scaffold tower or MEWP will need to re-position the equipment to access each light fitting, whereas the winch system allows them to lower every rig at the flick of a switch. This makes the process much faster — ideal in industries where a quick turnaround is needed to keep disruption to a minimum. We have four different styles to suit different weight limits and lowering distances, meaning there’s a Remote Lighting Lift to suit every kind of luminaire.

At Penny Hydraulics, we have a whole range of different lighting winch solutions to suit different styles of light fitting. If you need a specialised solution for large areas, our high bay lighting winches are ideal for warehouses, sports halls, airports, shopping centres, and any other space where access can be difficult. We also have outdoor solutions, including high mast lighting winches for use in car parks, sports arenas, and airfields.

Can mechanical aids and equipment save me money?

Installing mechanical aids doesn’t just help to reduce the risk of an accident. Specialist equipment which makes maintenance easier and cheaper to carry out can also save you a great deal of money in the long term.

Here, we’ve shared three reasons why installing our lifting systems could save you money, including a breakdown of the estimated savings.

It costs less than scaffolding over time

Over a ten-year period, it will cost a total of £11,690 to maintain a light fitting using a traditional scaffold tower, but just £6,870 with a lighting winch, saving you £4,828. So, while the initial cost of installing the mechanical aid will be more than erecting a scaffold tower, it will cost much less in the long run than hiring and erecting scaffolding every year. Let's look at a breakdown.

Hiring and erecting a 10.2-metre-high scaffold tower will cost around £883.80. You’ll also need to provide employees with PASMA training to ensure they know how to use it safely, at a cost of £150.00 for two workers. Of course, if you need higher scaffolding, or your lighting needs to be maintained more frequently than once a year, this figure could be far higher.

Installing the mechanical lighting winch will cost £3,500 initially, but after that, all you’ll need to pay is an annual service and inspection charge of £295. That means that you’ll start seeing savings on your investment in the fifth year, and the savings will only continue to grow as the years pass.

There’s less disruption to business

For hotels, museums, galleries, retail centres, and other sites where a constant flow of visitors or guests is part of daily business, maintaining and cleaning light fittings or chandeliers can be seriously disruptive. Scaffold towers and MEWPS can block off whole areas or even shut down the entire premises for a period of time, meaning you lose out on revenue. But, a mechanical system replaces the need for disruptive access systems or ladders, keeping public areas clear, and ensuring that lighting can be accessed quickly and safely.

How your premises look can have a big impact on business, especially in the hospitality industry. A winch is much more presentable than scaffolding, and so won’t have spoil the look of your venue; this makes them ideal for hotels, stately homes, galleries and other buildings where elegance is paramount. Our lighting winch systems can be installed in both new-build and existing buildings, or even discreetly hidden behind a false ceiling, for a seamless look. We’ve even supplied chandelier lifts to Buckingham Palace, allowing for easy maintenance while keeping the building presentable and safe for royal residents and visitors alike.

It reduces labour costs over time

Mechanical aids make cleaning and maintenance much faster and more efficient, meaning you save money on labour costs. It costs around £256.00 to employ two people to maintain a light fitting using a scaffold tower for four hours. With a winch system, lighting can be lowered at the touch of a button, meaning that maintenance can be carried out by a single worker in less time: typically around an hour, at a cost of just £32.

Installing a mechanical aid can drastically help to reduce the risks of working at height. As long as you follow the guidance set out in the LOLER and PUWER regulations, and ensure your staff know exactly how to operate the machinery safely, you should be able to minimise or even eradicate the risk of a fall. Remember, at Penny Hydraulics, we offer a familiarisation service for all of our products, so you can be sure your staff know exactly how to operate each piece of equipment.

Please bear in mind that the advice in this guide is not comprehensive, and you should always consult the Health and Safety Executive when planning height at work.

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