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Up to standard: mixing and matching mistakes

Mar 14, 2024

While many workers use towers regularly in order to carry out necessary tasks, it is not commonly known that mixing the components which make up access towers can result in a non-compliant, unsafe structure, even if the components are similar. Here, Dave Elson, UK Compliance Manager for WernerCo brands, including BoSS, the leading provider of access towers, explains the dangers of mixing and matching and how this can be avoided.

Last year came the news that fatalities caused by falling from height were up from 123 in 2022, to 135, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Unfortunately, falls from height also caused the greatest number of deaths among work-related fatalities during the same year.  

Therefore, it is vital, in order to drive down this number and ensure safety, that equipment being used to access jobs at height is used and assembled  correctly.

What the standards say

Although the European Product Standard for towers has been in place for years; coming into practice in 2004, the updated standard was released in November 2020. The EN1004-1:2020 details the safety requirements, materials, design loads and dimensions that mobile access towers should adhere to.

Prior to this update, tower builds under 2.5m were not included within the standard’s scope. However, since 2020, the standard has encompassed all towers with a maximum height at 8m externally and 12m internally.

Being mindful of careful construction

When constructing a tower that is deemed suitable for working at height, compliance to safety standards is a non-negotiable. All towers should be constructed according to the manufacturer’s manual and all components, to be deemed safe, should come from the same manufacturer.

This aligns with the EN1004-1:2020 which dictates that the original manufacturer components specified in the manual should be used. It is important to note here that in EN1004-1:2020, it is not the components that are approved but the overall tower structure, which is comprised of the components.

Professionals failing to assemble towers using the components supplied with the manufacturer’s manual should be aware that the tower’s certification will be invalid and therefore the tower may pose a significant risk to safety. This is because a new structure has been created, which has not been tested to the safety standard, regardless of whether the components used act the same.

As a result, not only does this pose a danger to those working on-site but it will also deem liability insurance against the products invalid.

Training for awareness

Acknowledging the HSE’s latest statistics, falls from height are a very real threat to the safety of construction workers. Therefore, all employees should understand the risks associated with constructing a non-compliant tower.

Noting this, employees should be signed up for mandatory training to make certain that the correct access equipment is being used at all times for safety, compliance to standards and insurance purposes.

These latest statistics are a stark reminder that more needs to be done to prevent accidents, fatal or otherwise, and support such as regular training can make significant headway in reducing them. Clear communication of standards is just one way to do this, as is regular updates on any changes to legislation. In conclusion, keeping an open dialogue is recommended across all teams working on-site to achieve maximum safety. 


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