Working at Height- know the law when setting people to work at height

Working at Height is;

– Anything elevated from ground level, or

– Any work that could lead to a fall through a fragile structure/opening below foot

Remember the Principles of Prevention apply to all work (check out our Risk Assessment post for more details), including Work at Height;

Avoid working at height if possible (eliminate the risk).

If it cannot be avoided, use an existing structure/mechanism to carry out task.

Minimise the distance and consequence of a fall.

Employers and Employees

Employers in control of setting out work at height activities are responsible in making sure the work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people.

Employees have general legal duties to take reasonable care of themselves and others who may be affected by their actions, and to co-operate with their employer to enable their health and safety duties and requirements to be complied with.

Competency= training/qualifications/experience in that task. This can also come in the form of on the job instructions if the task is low risk & short duration.

Protecting People

Collective protection to the workforce should be considered before personal (individual) protection.

For example- a handrail around a roof structure is a more suitable collective protection method than individuals relying on harness, fall restraint lanyards, mansafe anchor point etc. (Obviously depending on workplace factors).

Common causes of accidents

Working on roofs poses the highest risk of injury. This is particularly apparent in maintenance/repair work to older buildings (such as farms or factories). It is essential, when carrying out these type of works to identify and block fragile roof areas such as skylights/glass/wet or rotten wood/old cladding (potentially asbestos= adding a further risk). HSE guidance on fragile roofs can be found at

Things to think about when planning work

– Working at height location safe

– Weather conditions

– Stop objects from falling (eg exclusion zones)

– Store materials safely (eg at ground if there is a large quantity)

– Always plan for emergencies and rescue situations. If something goes wrong- what do you do?!

Deciding on access equipment

This will all depend on how high the task is, where it is, what structure is it on, length of task, frequency of task, what is involved in carrying out the task.

From this you can then decide on the most suitable equipment for the task. Some options are found below;

– Fixed scaffold with edge protection

– Scaffold podium, built and dismantled by work force (PASMA trained)

– MEWP- cherry picker/scissor lift etc.

– Ladder/step ladder

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