With the courts report earlier this year that the death of Ms Telfer, killed when window frames fell on her in 2012, was ‘avoidable’ (source) the issue of health and safety when working on windows has once again been thrown into the spotlight.
At The Sash Window Workshop we invest heavily in health and safety training for all our employees. This not only includes regular training for installers, but also our office staff, salesmen, workshop and management team.
We have a Health and Safety Committee who meet monthly to review the health and safety reports from across the business, allowing the company to take action where necessary.
In particular, our installers and workshop employees undergo regular health and safety training to minimise the risks associated with moving and working with heavy windows and doors, potentially dangerous machinery and glass.
To ensure the safety of everyone nearby, health and safety has to be considered from the moment the raw materials arrive at our workshops until the windows and doors are fully fitted in the customer’s property. If we are replacing the windows, we will often be taking old windows back to our workshops, meaning that issues relating to health and safety need to be considered until these are safely disposed of.
Our workshop employees are trained on the use of the equipment and on the risks associated with the area of the workshop they require access to when they are initially employed. They then receive regular health and safety refresher training and can request to refresh any other training they had. The machines are also inspected for any issues and maintained on a regular basis.
When loading the vans the installers are taught to pack the vans carefully and ensure that the weight is properly distributed. This reduces the likelihood of the windows and doors moving during transportation, reducing the risk of injuries when opening the van to unload. The vans are required to always have their doors properly shut while manoeuvring to stop any items falling out of the van and causing injury.
When working at a customer’s property our installers often have to carry heavy windows and doors, which often contain glass, from where our vans are parked to the location where the window or door is going to be installed. We therefore always try to reserve parking space as close to the property as possible, minimising the risks to the local community and passers-by.
Working at height can increase the risk to both our employees and those around them. Therefore, once the windows or doors have been moved to the location where they will be installed, our fitters are careful not to prop anything near the window space that could injure someone passing below. Similarly our installers are not allowed to carry out work on public pavements, unless we have retained a banksman to safeguard the public, due to the potential risk to passers-by.
We will always aim to install or repair windows from inside the property. If this is not possible, we will ask that you provide scaffolding. All scaffolding is required to have double guarded rails and toe boards to prevent our installers from falling. If scaffolding is required, we supply all our installers with a harness and lanyard which they can use to reduce the risk.
As our work often involves handling lead products, our installers’ lead levels are checked regularly to ensure that the level is not increasing. Installers are provided with all the necessary equipment and disposable clothing to protect themselves from the lead. If results from tests highlight an increase in lead levels, a meeting is held with their manager and a discussion is held regarding whether they need to revisit the relevant training. At The Sash Window Workshop, the lead levels our installers have to keep to within are lower than those stipulated by the Health and Safety Executive. If lead levels reach levels which we deem as unacceptable, disciplinary action is taken.
Our installation manager periodically travels to where we are carried out work to inspect the health and safety standards of the installation team, and records any actions taken to enforce health and safety standards. This is then reviewed, highlighting anyone who may require further training. Similar to the workshop employees, the installers are provided with thorough training when they initially join the company and can request further training in addition to the annual refresher training given to all employees.
The Sash Window Workshop is a member of the Safe Contractor scheme, allowing us to ensure that any contractors that we use abide to our strict standards.
While most of these rules are laid down in the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, it is important to ensure that the company you chose to work on your windows and doors complies with them to ensure the safety of your family and the local community.