Opinion

Work at height: MPs’ chair Alison Thewliss on her inquiry’s aims

28 June 2018

Alison Thewliss is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Working at Height. She explains to CM how the group’s inquiry aims to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities which occur in the sector.

Alison Thewliss

In the past year alone, 25 families have been devastated by the loss of loved ones as a result of falls from height at work. Indeed, many more have had to deal with loved ones enduring either serious or life changing injuries. It is clear from this, and the stories that the APPG has heard, that injuries and fatalities from falls at height are still too prevalent.

Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work, however this very important issue does not receive the attention that it arguably should, particularly among policy-makers. As a result, when the Prefabricated Access Suppliers' & Manufacturers' Association (PASMA) approached me about establishing the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Working at Height, I knew that I should be involved.

Not just a construction issue

It is crucial that the work of the APPG is as comprehensive as possible, in order to provide solutions that work in all industries. Too often working at height is seen as a construction only issue. However, this is not the case and other industries are often harder to reach.

In December, the APPG launched an inquiry to investigate serious injury and fatalities while working at height. By undertaking the report, it has become clear that many in industry have already sought to take a lead on improving the conditions for those working at height.

Crucially, the APPG has also heard from victims of falls. Listening to, at times, harrowing stories and testimony is crucial to ensure that we never lose sight of the central issue – that there are still far too many people who die or suffer a serious fall at work. There is much work to be done on this matter, and we believe that the APPG can help to raise the profile of the issues and deliver real and meaningful change.

Technology can help with safety

The APPG welcomes the use of cutting-edge technology, and the willingness among many to share best practice, which bring improvements that make working at height safer. For example, we have seen and heard first-hand the innovative use of drones, virtual reality and videos to help reduce risk and inform those planning and undertaking this type of work.

The officers of the Group and I could not have anticipated the huge interest from such a diverse range of stakeholders. Indeed, prominent industry names, trade associations, SMEs and contractors have all shown a willingness to engage constructively and provide practical solutions to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries from falls while working at height.

We will continue to speak to stakeholders over the next few months, and also plan to publish a range of workable and achievable recommendations to regulators, and government, in the autumn.

We know that the work of the APPG is just the beginning and that there is a lot of ground to cover if real and lasting changing is to be achieved. With the support of industry, trade associations and regulators, we believe that this is possible.

Alison Thewliss is member of parliament for Glasgow Central and Chair of the APPG on Working at Height.

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