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The merchant’s role in promoting user safety

May 22, 2019

As falls from height still remain the highest cause of workplace accidents, Jamie Brassington, Product Manager at WernerCo, explains the vital role that merchants can play in helping to reduce incidents through stocking the right products and educating people who work in the trade on the key considerations to make when purchasing.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 2017/18 report, falls from height still account for 35% of accidents at work, despite various guidance for professionals on the dangers that can occur when using a ladder. Working at height is unavoidable in many industries, so it’s important for tradesmen to be aware of safe practices when using access equipment. Merchants are in a prime position to promote this by stocking suitable products and by educating customers of the training options available.

Suitable products

As businesses could face hefty fines when failing to safeguard employees who are frequently working at heights, it is paramount that merchants stock products that are compliant with the relevant regulations in place.  Merchants are also the source that tradesmen will often turn to for trusted guidance, so employees must be able to recommend the most suitable solution for the job – and that means being clued up on the different products you stock.

When it comes to ladders, merchants should ensure that any products they stock are of a good quality and meet the relevant standards.

The most recent standard that was introduced to help increase safety when working at heights is EN131. The new measures, which came into place in January 2018, include a classification for professional and non-professional use, and these categories reflect the differences in the requirement for performance of the ladder.

Once a merchant has helped specify the right product required for the job and meets the correct classification, it is important to recommend products from a trusted ladder manufacturer rather than cheaper alternative, as they will be most likely to be compliant with regulations and ensure the safety of the end user.  Recently, a number of unsafe foreign imports not compliant with British and European standards entered the market. Having not been rigorously tested to ensure they are up to the job, this put tradesmen at serious risk.

Top up on training

When selling a product such as a ladder, merchants have the opportunity to inform customers of the dangers that come with working at height. This is also the perfect time to remind them about the importance of training and the options available – something that should be promoted by the sales team as well as through in-store advertisements.

In any workforce where staff are regularly using ladders, it is highly recommended that they undertake the Ladder Association’s accredited ladder training scheme. The course comprises both practical and theoretical assessments and covers all key bases, including how to correctly erect, use, handle and store ladders, as well as highlighting potential hazards. For those taking the site inspector course, delegates can learn how to assess and determine when it is appropriate to inspect a ladder, and how to recommend the correct action if faults are found.

Upon completing the course, delegates will be issued with a Ladder Association certificate, along with an accredited LadderCard. The card can then be used as proof of competency for five years. Certain manufacturers, including WernerCo, host the ladder training courses, which are available to any industry professional. WernerCo holds regular sessions at both its Burton upon Trent and Maldon facilities throughout the year.

Also available from WernerCo is the PASMA accredited Towers for Users Course, designed for those who are responsible for specifying, assembling, dismantling, using, altering, moving and inspecting access towers. Taking place over one day, the course provides both theoretical and practical training on tower legislation; PASMA codes of practice; hazards associated with using mobile access towers; and what should be avoided.

It is crucial that health and safety officials ensure that those working with towers receive their PASMA training. Completion of the course demonstrates capability, and nowadays a vast number of sites will require its workers to be PASMA accredited before carrying out any work. The course offered at WernerCo covers a comprehensive range of towers and isn’t specific to one manufacturer. However, it is essential when choosing a tower that it conforms to EN1004:2004 in order to meet minimum safety requirements.

PASMA also offers more advanced training for those working with specific tower builds where standard towers have been modified to meet more complex requirements. The course currently covers cantilevers, towers on stairs and end-linked towers. After the session, delegates are given the opportunity to remain in touch with the manufacturer of the tower for any further advice.

Consider the consequences

As tradesmen are now facing stricter enforcement if found to be working in an unsafe way, the responsibility for merchants to be aware of the products they stock and help to encourage users to undertake the necessary training is more important than ever.

If manufacturers can play their part, educating tradesmen and encouraging them to invest in training will go a long way in helping to improve the safety of those working at heights and minimising the number of accidents reported each year.