Working at height is defined by HSE as any work in any place where, if precautions are not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury.
Due to the increasing height and number of tall buildings, it is becoming ever more relevant to understand the details of working at height.
Particular steps can be taken to make the activity safer, and indeed legislation that stipulates what must happen when organising work at height.
This article briefly outlines the details of the legislation involved, some basic principles to be considered when planning work at heights, and the appropriate details on who can work at height.
Why being aware of the Legislation and Safety tips are important
Falls from roofs and height, in general, are the most common cause of workplace death, according to the Health & Safety Executive.
The worrying aspect of this is that these deaths are primarily caused by a failure to assess or recognise fragile work surfaces properly.
Rotted chipboard, glass, roof lights, corroded metal sheets, and tiles are the most likely surfaces to be fragile and mandating that these surfaces are properly dealt with will help save lives.
These risks are present outside of the construction industry too, with accidents from height frequently occurring in farm buildings, warehouses, or factories when cleaning or repair work is being performed.
Even outside of work, understanding the proper safety procedures is important so that you minimise risks to yourself should you decide to do any work around the home yourself.
Working at Height Legislation
The legislation that governs working at height is known as the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It defines working at height as someone who fulfils any one or more of the three following conditions:
- You are working above ground/floor level
- You could fall from a ledge, through an opening, or a fragile structure
- You could fall from ground level through a hole opened into the floor
It also lays out five pieces of criteria that managers, supervisors, or anyone else who is in charge of organising work at height must ensure are met. The simple stipulations are as follows:
- The work is properly planned/organised
- Any equipment that is used is properly inspected and maintained
- The people working at height are competently trained for those purposes
- The risks involving working at the height have been properly assessed, and the appropriate work and safety equipment is selected and used
- If working near fragile surfaces, the risks thereof are properly assessed and managed
Basic Working at Height Safety Advice
In all honesty, the best way to avoid the risks of working at height is not to do work at height if you don’t have to.
When assessing the kind of work you are doing, see if there is any way it can be done without being at height; there is no sense in putting someone at risk if another way can be found to complete the task.
In these cases, assigning personal protection equipment will then deal with any risks of falling objects. Irrespective of height, safety helmets are to be worn.
If working at height isn’t something that can be avoided, then it is vital for you to use the right safety equipment (also legally required of you).
Doing the work from an area of the surface that has previously been declared safe is the ideal situation, but if not then the right type of equipment to minimise the length of and risks of a potential fall should be used.
This typically constitutes the use of Collective Protection Equipment. This means safety equipment that is designed not to require active input from workers for them to work at keeping people safe.
An example of this kind of equipment would be the simple guard rail, which stops you from falling off a ledge from a misstep.
At even greater heights, it is usually required for workers to be fitted with harnesses to prevent falls; this is also true of any heights that, because of various features like weaker floors, have been assessed as particularly at risk.
Who can Work at Height?
Only people who are deemed competent to work at height can do so.
For legislative purposes, these are those people who have sufficient knowledge, experience, and skills to perform the task that they are being sent up a height to do.
In addition to this, those persons (such as apprentices or new workers) who are being trained to work at height are considered competent if they are working under the supervision of someone who would fit the previous definition.
The level of knowledge is dynamic – meaning that it varies depending on a variety of factors including the risks, height, or duration of a task.
To work on a ladder for less than an hour, for example, would only require the worker to have been given appropriate instructions for their task. Their relevant training, in this case, would only constitute a demonstration of how to tie a ladder securely, and the proper way to climb it safely while carrying their tools up it.
More technically complicated tasks would include things such as setting up scaffolding. For things like this, the worker carrying out the job requires the proper kind of evidence of competency is required. i.e. Working at Height Awareness or Manual Handling of Inanimate Objects.
Working at Height Training schemes and accreditation for this kind of work can be found in various places, and serve as the primary method through which competency is demonstrated.
TutorCare offers a Working at Height Awareness course either on-site or at a number of national training centres. For those seeking dedicated support with less flexible time, we now offer an online version of the course – Working At Heights E-learning.
We also offer PASMA (Prefabricated Access Supplier and Manufacturers Association) courses including the PASMA Standard training course, PASMA Low-Level training (the safe moving, assembly and dismantling of low-level access units) and PASMA Management.
The Health and Safety Executive offers a guide providing concise information on working at height: https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg401.pdf
Gantry crane training (see Working at Height training) – Gain the skills and knowledge to become an overhead gantry crane operator.