One of the biggest causes for injuries in the workplace is when someone has been tasked with Working at Height. It is for this reason that there is so much legislation surrounding safety practices while working at a height.

What is meant by Working at Height?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that working at height is classified as any work which takes place where a person can fall a distance high enough to potential cause injury if no precautions were taken, this includes:

  • Working on a ladder
  • Working on a roof
  • Working on scaffolding or an access platform
  • Working on top of a fragile surface that could break
  • Working on a surface that has openings or holes that you could fall through
  • Embankments
  • Steps
  • Etc.

Who can Work at Height?

In order to be permitted to work at height you must be deemed ‘competent’. This means that you have sufficient knowledge, experience, and skill to perform the task correctly and safely. If you are being trained to work at height, such as an apprentice, you can be considered as competent if you are under the supervision of someone who would fit the description of competency completely.

The required level of knowledge to be able to work at height is dynamic and dependent on the task to be undertaken and the working at height equipment used. For example, when working on a ladder for short periods of time, you may only require instructions on how to pre-use inspect the ladder for damage, properly secure it and climb it safely while carrying tools. More complicated tasks such as constructing scaffolding, mobile scaffold towers etc will require more stringent evidence of the person’s competency; this maybe the completion of an appropriate course such as IPAF, PASMA, CISRS.

Working at Height regulations

The governing legislation for Working at Height is called the Work at Height Regulations 2005. These regulations define working at height as anyone who meets any of three conditions:

  • Working above ground/floor level.
  • Could fall from a ledge, through an opening, or fragile structure.
  • Could fall from ground level through a hole opened into the floor.

This with the Hierarchy of Prevention being the following, which should be considered when planning the works –

  1. Avoid working at height wherever possible.
  2. Prevention of falls
  3. Mitigate the consequences of falls.

In line with this, the regulations set 5 criteria that the person responsible for ensuring safety must ensure are met when someone is working at height. These criteria are:

  • The work is properly planned and organized.
  • Any equipment being used is inspected and maintained properly.
  • The people working at height are competently trained for those purposes.
  • The risks involving working at height have been properly assessed, and the appropriate work and safety equipment is used.
  • The risks of working near fragile surfaces are adequately assessed and managed.#

Advice for safely Working at Height

As Health and Safety Consultants, we believe that it is our duty to provide people with best advice possible on how to keep themselves and the people that they work with safe. With this in mind, here is our advice for working at height safely:

  • Avoid working at height wherever possible – can the task be modified?
  • Assess the risk by carrying out a specific Working at Height Risk Assessment and subsequently Plan the work.
  • Mitigate the consequences of working at height by ensure that the correct safety equipment is used – as a first option this should be Collective Protection Equipment, this is safety equipment that is designed in such a way that they do not require input from a worker in order to work correctly and protects more than one person, for example guard rails. A secondary option would be Personal Protection Equipment, which as the name states protects the individual i.e. safety harnesses and lanyards.
  • Ensure persons are suitably trained.
  • Ensure equipment is suitably maintained.
  • Consider arrangements for and train out a Working at Height Emergency Rescue Plan.

Watson & Watson Health and Safety Consultants are an IOSH Approved Training Provider and provide a wide range of training courses including comprehensive Working at Height training. If you wish to take part in one of our extensive training courses, call us on 01623 753 654 or contact us via the online form.

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