Dizzy Heights and Whiplash Hazards

Have you fallen from a height and suffered whiplash injuries? A neck injury from whiplash is a threat both on and off the roads.

Falls at work can lead to serious injury, and if you frequently work with mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs), you do have a higher risk of sustaining trauma, back injury, and painful neck injuries like whiplash.

Mobile elevated work platforms (MEWP) are used for temporary access to inaccessible areas across many different industries, from fire fighting and utilities to construction, maintenance and arboriculture. For example, you’ll often see a worker using a MEWP to maintain or inspect street lighting on the roads.

MEWPs have a lifting boom and a basket in which the worker stands to carry out maintenance, mounted on a road vehicle, which allows the elevated platform to be moved along the ground whilst extended.

Safety at heights

Keeping workers and contractors safe whilst working on a MEWP at height is vital. Essential safety procedures include wearing harnesses, training to use special equipment, and visual checks on the machinery before each use. In the UK, specific lifting operations and lifting equipment regulations apply to MEWPs, advising on suitable loading and positioning, supervision and organisation, and should be checked by employers. Health and safety inspectors are in charge of enforcing these laws, and conduct inspections on specific company equipment. Simple checks can have a significant effect on preventing serious accidents. (HSE, 2009)

Falling from a MEWP

Dangerous equipment or negligent management can lead to workers falling from the basket, or the lifting boom collapsing with the workers inside the basket. Falls, jolts to the head, blows and impact during the fall or when the individual hits the ground can all cause whiplash injuries, where severe neck and shoulder pain can sometimes last for months, placing an employee’s career and normal life in the balance.

Above all, reducing the risk of whiplash injury in the workplace comes down to the legal requirements which bind your employer. The Health and Safety Executive makes it clear: “section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act requires all employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees. Similarly, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations contain important duties which relate to the carrying out of a risk assessment to identify measures that you can take to eliminate, or reduce, the risks presented by the particular hazards in your workplace,” (HSE, 1998).

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