In numerous industries and sectors, working at height is a common and essential aspect of many jobs, ranging from construction and maintenance to telecommunications and outdoor recreation. However, along with its undeniable significance, working at height presents inherent risks and challenges that demand careful attention, proper training, and adherence to safety regulations.

In fact, falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injury in the construction sector and adjoining industries. In 2022/23, HSE recorded 40 deaths as a result of working at height.

But how do you protect your workforce from fatality? Join HLS Training as we bust the myths associated with working with height.

What is ‘working at height’?

Working at height refers to any situation or location where a person could fall and become injured if proper precautions are not taken.

According to HSE, you are working from height if you:

  • Work above floor level/above ground
  • Could fall over an edge, through an opening or fragile surface
  • Could fall through an opening or hole in the ground

A fall from a height has to involve a fall to a lower level from the one on which you’re standing, and it does not involve the use of a permanent staircase.

What are the most common causes of accidents at height?

Accidents at height can occur on any surface if it is not stable, undergoing cleaning or the work is being carried out towards the edge of the surface.

The most common cause of accidents at height are:

  • Ladders: 515 injuries per year
  • Scaffold Towers: 150 injuries per year
  • Work Platforms: 128 injuries per year
  • Staircases: 53 injuries per year
  • Fragile roofs: 52 injuries per year

The most common injuries are caused by overreaching, overbalancing, misuse of equipment, unexpected movement and fragile surface collapse. All of which could be prevented/minimised with a thorough working from height risk assessment.

Work at Height Regulations 2005

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 are a set of legal requirements designed to prevent death and/or injury caused by a fall at work. If you are an employer or in charge of work from height then the regulations directly apply to you.

You must ensure:

  • All work at height is properly planned, organised and executed
  • Those involved in work at height are competent
  • The risks from work at height are assessed
  • Appropriate work equipment is selected and used on the job
  • The risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
  • The equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained

How to decide if someone is ‘competent’ to work at height’

Someone who is competent to work at height will have the specific skills, knowledge and experience required to complete the task. Or, if they are being trained, they are supervised by someone who meets the above criteria.

In the case of low risk tasks such as use of ladders, competence may be defined by having received simple instruction on that task, for example, how to position and tie a ladder properly etc.

Training can take place on the job in order to gain practice before the knowledge is practically applied.

However, with regards to more complex tasks, the competent person may require certain qualifications or accreditations.

Is PPE required for working at heights?

Is PPE required for working at heights?

Where necessary, it is vital that the correct equipment is supplied when working at height. The PPE required will depend on the task and its associated risks.

PPE for working at height includes:

  • Safety harnesses
  • Lanyards
  • Anchor points
  • Access equipment
  • Work restraint systems
  • Shock absorbing helmets
  • Footwear that provides support to the ankles

All equipment should be suitable for the activity and must be CE marked and conform to minimum European/British standards.

Working at height myths

  1. You need to be qualified before using a ladder at work: You don’t need to be qualified before using a ladder at work but you do need to be competent. This means you must have the skills, knowledge and experience to use a ladder in the situation required.
  2. Staircases count as working at height: Although commonly believed, walking up or down a permanent staircase is not working at height.
  3. You need to have two feet and one hand on a ladder at all times: It is not always possible to have at least one hand on a ladder whilst completing a job that requires both hands, however you should always have 3 points of contact. The third point of contact could be your elbow, your knees, or your chest. As long as three points on your body are supported by the ladder, then you can work with both hands.
  4. PPE isn’t needed for quick jobs: No matter how brief a job is, if you are working at height, you are still at risk of falling.
  5. My PPE was fine last time I used it, I don’t need to check it again: PPE should be checked before each use to ensure it is in optimum condition for the job you are about to perform.

Remember, whether you’re stepping onto a scaffold, climbing a ladder, or navigating elevated platforms, working at height demands vigilance, preparation, and a commitment to safeguarding yourself and those around you. So, let’s embark on this informative journey to explore the intricacies of working at height and empower ourselves with the knowledge needed to promote a safer and more secure environment for all.

At HLS Training, we take all areas of health and safety in the workplace seriously, and as accredited health and safety providers, are qualified to deliver comprehensive Working at Height training courses including:

Qualify your workforce by booking your course today.