Construction hats stacked up ready for working at height

Falls from scaffolding and roofs are not exactly commonplace but they have certainly not been eradicated, so why is that? We were recently asked if this could be due to pressure and time constraints – but our short answer was “generally no”. The long answer is slightly more complicated.

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So why are falls from height so difficult to fully prevent? We’ve summarised what we think is going on below.

  1. Distraction

This is a problem of two parts, and the first is plain and simple getting distracted. Chimney sweeps may be under more time constraints that are self-imposed, because they are paid per job, not by the hour. This could lead to cutting corners in a rush to fit more jobs into the day, which is understandable but warned against.

Construction workers, on the other hand, get paid by the hour, and yet they suffer accidents too. We think this is because people tend to get careless when they are able to slow down to a large extent. Workers who start daydreaming or playing on their phones during crucial moments may be at a higher risk of tripping over, slipping, losing their grip on guardrails, or failing to spot a colleague who is at risk of falling, for example.

  1. Underestimation

The second part of the problem is just underestimating how bad a fall might be, and so taking the risk. Many people can’t conceptualise what a fall from height would do their body – they might think ‘I’d be fine’ or ‘I’d only hurt my ankle’, and so on.

But the reality is that people frequently break their neck and back when falling from height, end up comatose, or lose their lives. There is a reason that new legislation surrounding workplace safety is often only introduced after the fact – no one thought it would be needed before then.


In summary, we believe the real issue surrounding accidents in construction and chimney work is simple failure to take the risk seriously. But the risk is very real, and the statistics bare that out. For 2023, one of the best things you can do to keep your team and yourself safe when carrying out construction or chimney work is investing in a workplace safety course from Ability International. Click here to browse what we can offer you.


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