According to HSE statistics
, falls from height accounted for 8% of all workplace injuries and 26% of all fatal injuries in 2017/18. That year, there were 35 deaths as a result of falls from height.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR)
are set out to protect workers from death or injury, and the regulations mandate that both employers are partly responsible for protecting employees from falls from height.
At its core, the legislation around working at height dictates that a sensible, pragmatic approach should be taken when carrying out work off the ground. More specifically, it focuses on ensuring safety through risk assessment, planning, and supervision.
When you’re assessing the risks of working at height, you need to consider the duration and frequency of the work, the condition of the surface being worked on, and the size of the surface being worked on. What does common sense tell you about the safety requirements of the job, and what actions do you take to minimise risk?
Read on for our guide to understanding the working at height legislation, and how you can apply it to the workplace.
What does working at height mean?
Working at height is defined as any work where a person could fall a distance that could cause injury or fatality. Working on a ladder or roof, a fragile surface, or close to an opening in the ground are all classed as ‘working at height’.
Working at height is most common in construction and warehouse environments, so it’s these settings that need to take the greatest precautions to protect workers.
Working at height safety precautions
All members of staff who will work at height should receive working at height training. Staff should avoid working at height when they can, and only do it if it is extremely necessary. No member of staff should undertake working at height alone, where possible – it’s always better to have someone else supervising and assisting.
When working at height can’t be avoided, the risk of dangerous falls can often be prevented by using PPE like fall arrest equipment
– this will also help to minimise the distance and consequence of any falls that do still happen.
In advance of working from a height, as much work as possible should be done from the ground, with equipment safety checks taking place beforehand. Workers should be able to get safely to and from where they work at height, with equipment being maintained in a safe, stable and strong condition.
Precautions should be taken on fragile surfaces, and emergency rescue procedures should always be considered in advance. Often, a common sense approach is required to determine which precautions are necessary. For example, is a ladder the safest equipment to use
? Perhaps a cherry picker would be a better idea.
What PPE should be used?
PPE should always be in excellent condition and should be well looked after and stored properly to ensure it is still suitable for use. The following PPE is sometimes used by employees in roles where they work at heights.
Vital for protecting the head from impact: whether that’s from falling objects or low beams and ceilings.
Important to protect the body from falls by clipping onto a safe object or part of the building. They will either restrict your fall or stop you from falling completely.
Fantastic for providing easier grip when carrying heavy objects or when climbing scaffolding or ladders.
Help to provide easier grip onto surfaces and protect the feet when using mechanical equipment or carrying heavy objects.
Who is competent to work at height?
Anyone can work at height, but training is often required first. Any employees working from height should have plenty of experience in their role and should always be supervised by a colleague who has similar skills.
For shorter or lower risk tasks, training can take place on the job, it doesn’t need to happen in a formal setting. For more complex tasks, a plan should be drawn up that is easy to follow.