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Consultants ignore risk of prosecution over new rules for working at height

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DESIGNERS AND engineers are risking prosecution over falls from height because they have failed to grasp changes to new health and safety regulations, leading access specialists warned this week.

The changes introduce specifi legal responsibility for minimising the safety risks of working at height right up to the level of clients and project anagers as well as designers and contractors.

Earlier regulations did make designers generally responsible for safety, but these are the first regulations to allocate specific responsibilities. These include making sure a structure can be constructed with minimal work at height.

'The penny hasn't dropped yet at many consultants, ' said Arup senior engineer and rope access team manager Simon Lawrence.

'They don't appreciate that under the new regulations they have a legal responsibility to take measures during design and planning to minimise the risks of working at height.

'These obligations are much more specifi c than under the old Construction (Design & Management) Regulations, which are currently under review because many experts believe they have failed to engage clients and designers' Other leading access specialists criticised the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for presenting the new regulations as 'business as usual' when the changes are more fundamental.

'This is largely true only if you are a responsible specialist access contractor who will already be doing what is now required, ' said temporary works specialist SGB Group health and safety advisor Neil Murray.

'But if you are a client, designer or planner you will have to have the appropriate competence to seriously consider design and construction options that minimise or eliminate working at height.' The key changes come in egulations 4 and 5 of the Working at Height Regulations 2005. Regulation 4 covers organisation and planning, and Regulation 5 competence.

The term 'contractor' used in previous regulations as been replaced by 'employer'.

Regulation 4 also requires anyone involved in any activity relating to work at height to be 'competent'.

Murray said these clauses, in conjunction with current responsibilities under the CDM Regulations, effectively extended responsibility for complying with the new regulations up the supply chain, right to client level.

There is also concern that some clients may overreact to their new responsibilities.

'Our fear is that when you aim these more generic, less explicit, regulations at clients who are already very health and safety aware they become very oncerned about even the slightest risk, ' said Engineering Construction Industry Association safety, health and environment manager Richard Ash.

'We've even had clients suggesting that every man who goes onto any scaffolding for any reason should be wearing a safety harness.' Dave Parker

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