What are the working at height regulations?

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 were created by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and are designed to prevent death and injury caused by falls from height. The regulations are a legal framework designed to protect workers from serious physical injury and to give employers guidance on their legal duties in a working environment.

Who is responsible for ensuring compliance?

Employers have initial and overall responsibility to ensure that a working site is as safe as possible. They must ensure that any work at height is properly planned and supervised, and that the correct equipment and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is used correctly. Employers must carry out a risk assessment before any work begins and ensure that all workers undergo the necessary training to guarantee competence.

Employees also have legal responsibility when working at height. This is relevant to themselves, their employer, and other on-site workers. All employees must take reasonable care within the working area to ensure that their actions to not endanger themselves, other employers or any people present. They must undergo any health and safety training deemed necessary and cooperate with their employer with regards to on-site safety.

What is considered working at height?

Working at height is defined as ‘working in any environment where without precautionary measures in place, a fall from significant height could result in serious personal injury’. Examples of working at height include:

  • Working on a ladder
  • Working on a flat roof
  • Working on a raised platform
  • Working near an exposed opening in a floor or on the ground

Some environments which are commonly exposed to risk from working at height include:

  • Construction sites
  • Factories
  • Public sites (eg. Telecoms engineers, street lighting maintenance and installation, commercial painting)
  • Forestry areas

Although often overlooked, working from height includes any situation where a worker is required to use a raised platform or stepladder from where a fall could result in injury. This includes supermarket workers stacking shelves, warehouse operatives accessing goods and librarians sorting bookshelves.

What must you consider when planning work at height?

Image of a construction site, where an access tower or platform may be required for hire.

The HSE Working at Height Regulations exist for protection and to safeguard against accidents. As an employer, there are certain things that you must consider before undertaking any work from height. The law states that when planning and carrying out any work from height, you must consider the following factors.

  • Weather conditions which may compromise worker safety
  • Protection against falling objects or materials
  • Where necessary creating restricted access to people not directly involved in the project (eg. Cordons or exclusion zones to limit access to contractors or members of the public)
  • Ensuring all materials are safely stored
  • Thoroughly checking the working area for potential risks prior to work commencing
  • Planning for emergency situations in advance and ensuring all workers are conversant with emergency protocol

It is important to always view a working from height site in terms of minimizing risk. For example, only ever work from height where the elevation of workers is essential for the completion of the task.

Workplace assessment and using the right equipment for the job

As previously mentioned, all working at height situations must be carefully planned to minimize risk and optimise safety. Firstly, if it is possible to avoid working from height in the first place, you must consider using methods of working which are effective from ground level. This could include:

  • Using extendable tools
  • Installing low level alternative cables
  • Mechanically lowering electrical equipment for maintenance at ground level
  • Assembling products at ground level before installation

If working from height cannot be avoided, then you must plan to minimize risk to prevent a fall from occurring. Preventative measures include:

  • Using an existing ‘safe place’ to work from eg. A solid flat roof with existing perimeter wall
  • Installing guard rails where necessary
  • Using enclosed mobile lifting platforms
  • Installing tower scaffolds
  • Using worker restraints to prevent worker fall situations

In certain circumstances, it may be impossible to minimize the risk of a fall from height. If this is the case, then you must take appropriate action to limit the distance or consequence of a fall. These limitations may include:

  • Safety nets, air bags or other soft-landing systems installed close to the working at height level
  • Fall arrest systems with a high anchor point such as those used my mountaineers
  • Industrial rope access and restraints
  • PPE including helmets and other protective clothing

The use of ladders and scaffolding

An image of a ladder

There has often been confusion surrounding the use of ladders when working from height. Ladders are often considered dangerous with some people believing that their use has been banned. This is not true, however, and ladders are often the most suitable method of accessing raised areas depending on the site limitations.

In confined spaces for example, ladders or step ladders may be the safest option for gaining access to a raised area. When using ladders ensure that all workers are competent in their correct usage. If a scaffolding system is required, make sure that you work with a respected and professional company for your scaffolding supply.

At Access Towers, we supply fully regulated and rigorously tested scaffolding and access systems across Greater London and the South East of England. We can also provide our customers with on-site PASMA training to ensure that all employers and employees are conversant with the safe and proper usage of our access systems.

If you’re involved in a project involving working at height and you’d like to find out more about how Access Towers can help, get in touch today. For more information about any of our products or services call 0208 665 1181 today.

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