"Training required to become the crane operator for the Shard and the degree qualified winchman for an RAF helecopter rescue operation seem dispropotionate"
After all its only a winch isn’t it? How hard can it be?
Whereas the RAF and the Fire Service were very pleased to speak to me, industry was a lot less keen to speak about incidents at height. A well known base jumper promised to speak to me but then didn’t..why?
I went to find out!
Why the Pot calls the Kettle Black?
4 times the Shard security was breached by one man, amazingly he criticises his victim claiming he should not have been able to have achieved his goal, but really this is the best example ever of pots and black kettles, lets just look at the real risks here.
Secure the Jump zone landing area
Firstly, quite apart from this man’s amazing abilities, his piers have died on less risky pursuits than a jump from the Shard. (you should have seen the security and safety for Bear Grylls aerial runway off the Tyne Bridge) He has to make it 400m+ across a busy main line station and land on a small piece of land, less than 30m from the railway line boundary. He did this 3 out of 4 times, the other landing was a bus stop on a main road.
Fortunately no emergency service vehicles or motorcycles were travelling at speed on the same piece of road, they don’t normally expect air traffic to compromise their emergency response times and compound an already life threatening situation. Couldn’t he have at least told me he had that event covered.
Sending out the wrong message
There have been so many regulations trashed in this stunt it defies belief and one newspaper in particular allows the work to be idolised.
What message is this sending out to the readers on their 10 o clock tea break in our warehouses, which incidentally have one of the worst safety records for incidents in the work place for working at heights, seconded only by the
construction industry. But does training make such an attempt safe?
Putting jobs on the line
So here we have a group of consummate professionals, yes even our base jumper has balls of steel and is very well rehearsed in his work and has an obvious incredible skill set and must be safe in his discipline, but that is no excuse for placing others at risk in the blind pursuit of his own objectives.
I don’t suppose he cared that ‘the snoring guard’ may well have been in a lot of trouble because of him placing the guard’s career and family on the line to prove exactly what? It also has unbudgeted cost implications for the principal contractor too.
Why bother having rules if they don’t mean anything. Whole blocks in the city have been cleared for lesser pranks than this when they have gone wrong. The over stretched police have better things to do with their time and so far have not taken any action, but their patience is wearing thin and they keep detailed records. I wondered what they thought.
What is safe?
Is it any less of a risk if holding on to fork truck forks I am elevated a mere 4m into the air to inspect a pallet, what harm does it do?
Why can’t I use a potato box to inspect steel work and save spending £380 on a scissors lift hire or £575.00 on a fork truck cage? or pallet trucks as skate boards for fun, the list is harmlessly never ending and ridiculously trivial next to jumping off the Shard 4 times, who cares? Better still, the man who did it works at height for a living so it must be safe! (Just for the record. 60 kgs of rotating pallet truck revolving about the steering axle in clever warehouse stunts will sheer your Tibia, rupture your Dorsalis Pedis Artery and place you in serious trouble if it connects at low level with your shin or worse still someone else’s)
Licking the sharp edge of the razor blade
Do things go wrong for base jumpers? You bet they do and they have fractions of seconds to respond, they need every extra bit of glide they can get and their tracking skills both buy the precious seconds and positioning that are vital in the execution of their fearless stunts. Offset this with fire fighters and the RAF rescue crews who train right up to the edge so that when they have to walk the fine line they know the tolerance of their gear and human endeavour with a calm precision that is rarely equalled, not even by base jumpers yet these two groups of people who are so close together and spend their lives pushing the boundaries have much in common in that respect. So what is it that we admire in men and women like this?
People in these services see their skill sets as vital, their self esteem is matched by their confidence in what they do, they do it well because they want to be best at it and because their lives and the lives of others depend upon their skills and how practiced they are at what they do
Here are some basic ‘MUST’ rules for working at height:
1. Must be connected to a safe
location at all times
2. Must not leave the safety of
any plant hired for aerial tasks
3. Must ensure access
equipment is correctly
positioned and secured for
4. Must not move out of
quarantined work zone in or
with any plant without
supervision and permission
from senior site staff.
5. Must not move personnel
cages in elevated positions
6. Must not work in winds or
torm conditions especially
on sheeting work which
requires near flat calm
7. Must ensure all lifts are
secured and controlled with
ropes and appropriate lifting
8. Must not get under or in the
way of any lifting work
9. Must be seen at all times
10.Must not work alone
11. Must secure tools and
supporting materials used to
position or for access so they
cannot come loose and fall or
become trip hazards
12. Must not walk on any steel
authority, ropes and safety
equipment and the ability to
working at height to industry
13. Must use edge of floor
protection to close open
14. Must read and abide by the
manual and safety instructions
for plant hired for
working at height
15. Must be a licensed operator
of any plant provided or hired
for the work
16. Must wear and use safety
harnesses above 1.8m
17. Must zero any and all collision
18. Must only operate plant on
19. Must cordon off your work
20. Must wear your safety
21. Must never leave or arrive on
station without announcing it
to an agreed party.
22. Must not start work until you
are clear about other site
activities on the day and
assess any dangers that may
arise and coordinate them
23. Must provide a method
statement for working at
24. Must not leave vehicles,
equipment or tools on site,
unattended overnight without
express permission to do so.
25. Must secure all access
equipment and access points
as will render them unusable
or inaccessible when not in
use by you.
26. Must ensure powered plant is
charged up and safe to use,
leaving keys in secure agreed
places with authorised access
in case of emergency.
27. Must notify hire companies
when hire periods are
finished with any equipment
provided and leave it ready
and safe to collect in a secure
There will be others I am sure, each job has to be assessed individually and there are at least another 30 desirable skill sets, many of which are also deployable at height, especially related to power tools. So what is the difference between the rescue services and construction and warehouse workers when one has an exemplary record of working at height and the other does not…why?
"Awareness is king and if you think training is expensive wait until you try ignorance."
Getting things into perspetive
It is not just the 90/10 rule at play here. The services do spend hundreds of hours training all for small, but highly intense periods of work, yet I somehow doubt base jumpers put in quite the training effort into their daily lives as do the rescue services, but they are none the less highly skilled at what they do and per head of population their safety record overall is very high indeed, so its not just ‘work out’ training.
So perhaps our erstwhile 4 times Shard jumper is such a low controlled risk that it is not a risk at all, the conditions of his jump were noticeably calm, he was wearing some pretty impressive kit including a state of the art high performance ram air ‘chute which he clearly knew how to use and more importantly these guys think 18m targets are for pussy cats, such is their precision. I think they could be up there with the realms of the same frame of mind as the rescue services.
So what is the variance. Well I think that it boils down to this. The Shard jumps didn’t have to happen in 90 MPH winds, in fact my bet is no Base Jumper is suicidally stupid with their sport.
Would they put their lives at risk to save another? Absolutely. However the rescue service push the boundaries in a different way, they volunteer to put themselves in danger to save others and are fanatical in the pursuit of the excellence in perfecting the odds, whereas the sportsman works within safer limits but is still fanatical about the pursuit of a specific skill aspect which constantly challenges them in their spare time. One lives for it, the other lives it. Small difference, massive gap, that’s why one is a sport and the other is a way of life.
Working at height in warehouses what you need to know
The warehouse elite
Firstly if you are working in a warehouse you are not a large part of the world’s population. Under 200,000 people work in warehouses which is less than a percent of the UK’s workforce – that puts you in the same bracket (if you are a warehouse worker) as the top earners in our country in terms of scarcity and you almost certainly handle more money than they do. Your earnings are not as great, but the man who scrapes you off the side of a Welsh mountain on your day out doesn’t get paid at all!
Without warehouse workers our entire economy would cease to function in about 3 days starting with the NHS. You can improve on starting pay grades by adding machinery skills to your basic starting grade and get interested in the equipment you use and thereby lies the difference. The base jumpers and rescue heroes spend their entire lives reading, learning and practicing on their skills and equipment to be the best they can. Just because you are earning less than £7.00 an hour doesn’t mean you can be any less interested in warehousing skills including working at height. You don’t even have to be a health and safety officer.
Training, support and motivation
Of the half dozen or so ladder makers there are in the UK all of them will help you learn more about using equipment to better, safer and faster effect at height, they will run refresher courses for you too. This is true of harness makers, powered access equipment manufacturers and companies involved in mountain climbing equipment.
There is absolutely no excuse for accidents at the levels we endure in logistics and warehousing. If employers see these skills as super productive and reward them we can have our Olympic medallists in the most important places in the world, right where we need them in front line operations.
The base jumper didn’t talk to me because the gap between where he is and where warehousing is too big to bridge. The principal contractor from the Shard didn’t return my emails because my application just got lost as did the application to the Millennium eye designers. When you are a small part of the world it is easy to get lost and missed.
If we work on working at height in the same way as sports enthusiasts do and the rescue service do then incidents will drop. Awareness is king and if you think training is expensive wait until you try ignorance.
Perhaps our base jumping construction worker (and business owner) is drawing attention to a small but very important part of our lives and that is if we all pack as much energy and personal resources into our daily lives as he does, all out of his own hard won cash, then incidents in the work place will fall as safely as he did and hopefully will continue to do. Since we can’t stop him we may as well join his mind set!!
Bench marks as sobering food for thought (assuming a first time pass rate) Using access equipment proficiently including licences and training courses 150 hours plus basic industry training Crane operator – there are at least 20 qualifications in this subject some only take a day, some take over 40 hours of training then exhaustive safety courses industry specific. To get to black belt in this subject you need 5 years minimum, even if your dad owns the oil company! Maybe about 450 hours training and the same again on the job gaining experience plus safety course attendances
Time to become a fork truck driver 40 hours plus exams, a current UK road licence helps and should be added into the equation – you then need to attend industry specific safety training courses – all in all say about 850 hours
Training to jump solo 8 hours
Time in the air to basically qualify as a base jumper about 10 to 12 hours! Plus 30 hours of training and lots of money! 150 hours plus as much time as you can get reading up and learning the class room stuff backwards – say 400 hours in total ought to do it.
To become a rock climbing instructor and lead a party up an Alp you will need to set aside 6,000 hours, there are lots of job opportunities which place you favourably to achieve this but in round figures if you get there in under 10 years you are doing pretty well.
Time to be come a Winchman three and half years, preceded by 5 years flying and a university degree, around 13,500 hours of dedication.
Is warehousing and construction an exciting place to work?
Well I have been in it for 40 years now and I think it is. The more mountaineers, Base Jumpers, Standby rescue teams and first aiders we can encourage the better.
Low risk industries don’t have high incident rates. You don’t have to throw yourself off the Shard for an adrenaline buzz – just come and join us and work in a warehouse!!!