Are you working at height?

In the UK, falls from height cause approximately 50 deaths at work each year and a further 4000 injuries. Surely that’s enough information to encourage correct management of the risks from working from height!

What activities involve working at height?

Typical activities include steel erecting, scaffolding, brick laying, demolition and dismantling, roof work and painting or decorating. It’s often assumed that you have to be working over 2 meters to be classed as ‘working at height’, but this isn’t correct. Working at height could in fact be at any place where, if precautions aren’t taken, a person could fall a distance which could cause a personal injury. This could include working above ground level or working close to an edge or opening or fragile surface, including if you are working from ground level and there is a hole in the ground (e.g. a manhole). It doesn’t include slipping or tripping on a level surface.

What are the key pieces of legislation?

The main piece of legislation is The Work at Height Regulations 2005 which consolidated previous working at height regulations and implemented the European Council Directive 2001/45/EC. To support these regulations a British Standard was released in 2005, BS 8437:2005 Code of practice for selection, use and maintenance of personal fall protection systems and equipment for use in the workplace, which can assist in complying with the regulations.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are also key, as they require risk assessments to be completed.

What do I need to do?

Employers should identify all tasks that involve working at height and plan such work to ensure appropriate precautions are in place. As you would expect, a risk assessment should be completed and it should apply the Work at Height Regulations hierarchy. You should also ensure there are procedures in place for the selection of equipment and make sure that this equipment is actually used.

It’s also important to communicate the risk control measures you have put in place with your employees and make sure that anyone using equipment is competent to do so. Don’t forget to arrange for any equipment to be inspected and maintained too!

Do you think you have employees working from height? Make sure you have measures in place to stay legally compliant and to keep your employees safe when they’re at work!