03 Jul 2019
They may not realise it, but anyone who has ever climbed a ladder, ascended a mobile access tower or used any other type of equipment to work at height has good reason to thank Glaswegian Peter Bennett, 59.
On average, 36 people die every year following a fall from height at work according to figures released by the Health and Safety Executive today, and thousands more are injured. Peter has dedicated his career to minimising these numbers and on 2nd July, his contribution to height safety was recognised when he was invested with an OBE by HM the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.
It marks a major highlight of Peter’s lifelong career in the work at height sector. After studying at the University of Glasgow, he joined the Glasgow office of national scaffolding company Stephens & Carter in 1983 before moving to Turner Access. During this time, he was an active Council member and latterly Chair of PASMA (Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ & Manufacturers’ Association), and served as a Council member, Training Committee Chairman and President of IPAF, the International Powered Access Federation.
This was the start of Peter’s passion for improving safety for those who work at height – often without realising it – in many different sectors across the UK and internationally.
It set him off on the path to where he is today, leading three not-for-profit membership associations which all share a common purpose – making it safer for people to work at height. Safety standards, regulation and workplace culture have improved hugely over the years to protect workers and as a leading expert and champion for progress, Peter has consistently been at the forefront of change.
He is now Managing Director of PASMA, the only organisation in the world dedicated to advancing safety, standards and best practice in the mobile access tower industry. When Peter first took on the role in 2006, he ran the organisation from his garage at home with the help of his first employee, Karen O’Neill. Under his leadership, PASMA now has a presence in 11 countries worldwide, over 350 members and almost 75,000 people take its training courses on the safe use of towers every year. And Karen is now part of a 22-strong secretariat!
In 2007 Peter was appointed Executive Director of The Ladder Association, which was recently named Business of the Year 2019 by the Office for Product Safety and Standards following a successful campaign encouraging people to ‘get a grip’ on ladder safety.
He is also Chair of the Access Industry Forum (AIF), which brings together the principal trade associations involved in work at height to foster codes of good practice, equipment standards, training, education and knowledge.
Peter was instrumental in the creation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Work at Height in 2017, chaired by Alison Thewliss MP, which is pushing for improved regulation to prevent serious injuries and fatalities. He is also a founding trustee of the No Falls Foundation, the only charity dedicated to preventing falls from height and helping people affected by the consequences of a fall.
Peter also serves on several national and international standards-setting committees, sits on various advisory groups at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and contributes to the work of the Better Regulation Panel at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Peter said: “If you work at height, I want you to go home safely at the end of the day. From speaking to survivors of a fall from height, I know that the consequences are often life-changing and affect not just the victim but also their family, friends and colleagues. It’s so important that we continually strive to improve our understanding of why falls happen and strengthen the measures that keep people safe. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by knowledgeable, dedicated colleagues – both in my own organisations and in the wider work at height community – who share my passion. I want to use this occasion to raise awareness of the work that they do and to share one message: if you work at height, or are responsible for those who do, please, please take safety seriously.”