Working at height

Falls from height are the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury within the workplace.

In 2013/2014

  • In 2013/14 falls from height were the most common cause of fatalities, accounting for over a third of fatal injuries to workers. (RIDDOR)
  • Slips and trips were the most common cause of major injuries to employees, with falls from height the next most common (RIDDOR*)
  • Around 1.3 million working days were lost due to slips, trips and falls (LFS**)

Injuries to employees and self-employed, 2013/14 (RIDDOR* all enforcing authorities)

Injury Falls from Height
Fatal 40
Major 3466
Over 3 Days 4454
Total 7960

Source:Health and Safety Statistics for 2011/12
*RIDDOR � Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995
** Labour Force Survey

Legislation UK - Work at Height Regulations 2005

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Useful Downloads

Working at Height Considerations

Step by step guide of the factors to consider before any work at height commences.

Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 2002

Information on the choice, maintenance and replacement of PPE.

Falls from height account for the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury within the workplace.

Employers and the self-employed are duty bound by the Work at Height Regulations 2005 to eliminate or reduce the risks when working at height.

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 have created the Hierarchy of Risk Management to provide guidance on managing and selecting the correct equipment when working at height:

It is the dutyholders responsibility to identify the work involved and plan the work to ensure the correct measures are in place. If the risk of a fall cannot be eliminated by collective protection measures, such as guard rails, scaffolding, cherry pickers or podium steps or by the use of a personal work restraing lanyard, then the distance and/or consequences of a fall should be mitigated by the use of nets or air bean bags etc. As a last resort, the correct PPE must be implemented.

Before any work at height commences, the following procedures need to be taken:

  • Identify all the work involved, ensuring the work is accurately planned, supervised and carried out in as safe a way as is reasonably practicable.
  • Assess all the risks and document the findings.
    The risk assessment should:
    1. Identify the hazards
    2. Decide who and how they may be harmed
    3. Evaluate the risks and decide on the precautions
    4. Review your findings and implement them
    5. Assess the assessment and update if necessary
  • Ensure those involved are trained and are competent, this includes the planning, supervision and the supply and maintenance of equipment.
  • Have procedures for the selection of correct equipment and ensure that the selected equipment is actually used.
  • On every occasion, inspection of the place of work and equipment is required.
  • It is a requirement that suitable and sufficient rescue arrangements are enforced before any work at height commences. This will include having sufficient equipment and personnel who are trained to carry out a rescue. The rescue plan must consider the foreseeable injuries and environment.

These regulations saw the removal of the 2m rule which no longer applies. If a person is deemed to be at risk of injury from a fall, whatever the height, adequate measures must be taken, even if this is less than 2m.

Source:HSE: The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (as amended) A brief Guide

HSE Refurbishment Campaign 2nd - 27th September 2013

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Every year the HSE run a refurbishment initiative which is an intensive inspection campaign which focuses on the smaller contractors carrying out mainly refurbishment, repair and maintenance work. It provides the HSE with a chance to engage with these firms to help them understand what they need to do so they can put in place the measures needed to keep people safe.

Typically, every year approximately half of the fatalities in construction occur in the refurbishment sector and the HSE have found that it's often the smaller companies working on refurbishment and repair work who are failing to protect their workers through a lack of awareness, lack of training and poor control of the risks. In many cases straightforward, practical precautions are not considered and that means workers are put at risk when simple changes to working practices could make all the difference.

During the HSE September 2013 campaign:

  • 2607 sites visited
  • At 644 of these sites Enforcement Notices were issued. In total, 953 Notices were issued of which 539 were Prohibition Notices.
  • 2607 sites were visited and at 1105 of those sites a material breach was identified which was serious enough for the inspector to put something in writing to the company and therefore fee for intervention applied at 42% of site visits. The HSE will make a charge if they find a breach of the Law and have to write to the duty holder as a consequence.

Source:Justine Lee, HM Inspector of Health and Safety, Construction Sector Safety Team.


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