Working at Height - The Basics

Working at Height - The Basics

Sometimes working at height is unavoidable, but with almost 6,000* annual workplace injuries and 3 out of ten fatalities resulting from falls from heights, it is essential that all employers understand their responsibilities.

What is Work at Height?

Work at height is the term used for any workplace activity where a person could fall from a distance high enough to cause serious injury. Although it’s an essential requirement in many jobs, there are a number of ways in which you can keep your employee safe, minimising the risks of serious injury and costly compensation claims. As part of the 2005 Work at Height Regulations (WAHR), all employers are required to ensure the following:

• Any work at height is planned, risk assessed and properly organised

• Anyone working at height has been considered competent and capable of doing so safely

• Appropriate equipment is used

• Equipment is regularly inspected and properly maintained

Preventing height associated injuries

Wherever possible, workers should undertake what work they can from the ground. Extendable tools are a big help when it comes to tasks like cleaning gutters and windows or painting ceilings, and it’s advisable to install cables at ground level and lower equipment like lightning masts to keep work on the ground. If working at a height is totally unavoidable a common sense approach is required. Never over-reach or overload, always use the right type of equipment and take precautions when working on or near fragile surfaces. Ensure employees can get safely to and from the site they will be working at and provide protection from falling objects.

The correct equipment plays an essential role in minimising the risk of height related injuries. Elevated work platforms like scissor lifts and tower scaffolds provide a stable and safe platform for working at height, but they must also be fitted with secure guard rails at all times. Although the law does not require workers on scissor lifts to wear harnesses, all relevant personnel should be thoroughly briefed before use and made aware of their own responsibilities.

Ladders at work

It’s a common misconception that HSE have banned ladders from building sites. This is not the case, and in many circumstances a ladder is still the most appropriate option. Ladders can be used for up to 30 minutes at a time where there is no need for other equipment like lifts or scaffolding. All ladders should be thoroughly checked before use to ensure they are safe and in good working order- check the rungs, stiles and feet for signs of damage, and if in doubt, don’t use them.

Further information

Keeping your employees safe at work can seem like a minefield, but Harrier UK are here to help. A practical, hands on consultancy focused on improving the health, safety and security of everyone from SMEs to larger organisations, we can provide you with all you need to know to help keep your workforce safe whilst working at height. For more information, contact us today at, call 01332 460703 or visit our website

*HSE.Gov 2014 **RIDDOR, 2014