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People don’t have wings yet – they fall from height even with harnesses

Publication date 8.11.2023 10.39
Press release

Professionals fall from their workstations at height every so often, which is a common cause for taking sick leave. Employees perched on rooftops without harnesses, causing alarm in passers-by, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to work with a risk of falling from height. Failure to provide fall protection is a very common cause for obligations imposed by occupational safety and health supervision to employers.

“The employer must select fall protection suitable for working at height, familiarise the employee with the safe use and maintenance of fall protection, and ensure that secure anchor points are available for harnesses,” says Inspector Emma Helenius from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland.

Inspector Emma Helenius gives a typical example of an occupational accident investigated by the occupational safety and health authority that led to a district court ruling: “An employee had detached the lifeline from their fall protection system when they were about to descend from the roof. After detaching the lifeline, the employee took a wrong step and fell 3–4 metres. According to prosecution, the employer had not defined the anchor points of harnesses in advance, and the employees had not received sufficient orientation with working safely at the site in question.”  

Inspector Helenius reminds that harnesses are not intended to be worn just for looks, like during occupational safety and health inspections, but to protect the employee’s life and health.  “The employer must monitor that harnesses are used. And that they are used correctly. The employer must also ensure that fall protection systems are inspected annually by a qualified and trained person.”

“You should keep in mind that employees must use the protective equipment provided by their employer. The employee does not make this decision,” states Inspector Emma Helenius.

People fall from other places besides buildings

Occupational accidents resulting from falls also occur outside construction. “For example, wholesale and retail sector and industrial work takes place on different work platforms, ladders and lifting platforms. Cleaning work is carried out at height when washing windows, for instance. In property maintenance, roofs are cleaned, and small repairs are carried out at height, to mention a few. For this reason, we have increased the monitoring of work with a risk of falling from height even outside the construction sector,” says Emma Helenius.

The occupational safety and health authorities ask property owners to ensure that they provide proper, adequate and appropriate anchor points for harnesses on their roofs well in advance. “Someone has to go to the roof at some point. If we work together, we can surely reduce the number of fall-from-height accidents,” Inspector Emma Helenius concludes.


Inspector Emma Helenius, tel. +358 295 018 640, [email protected]
Division of Occupational Safety and Health of the Regional State Administrative Agency for Western and Inland Finland

Occupational Safety and Health Safety and health in the workplace Working conditions