Falls from height remain the single biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of major injury. In 2005/06, falls from height accounted for 46 fatal accidents at work and around 3350 major injuries. The most common accidents result from falls from ladders, machinery and open edges and falls through roof lights and fragile roofs.
The Work at Height Access and Information Toolkit (WAIT) has been developed to help you select the most appropriate type of access equipment to use when working at height. The website outlines what you need to do when considering working at height and what the regulations say about it.
Any work at height should be properly planned, appropriately supervised and not carried out in dangerous weather conditions. If you’re going to work at height you should be competent enough to complete the task safely and use or erect/dismantle the selected access equipment.
Competency is a combination of the experience, knowledge and appropriate qualifications that enable a worker to identify both the risks arising from a situation and the measures needed to deal with them. Individuals working at height need to be trained in the selected system of work and any particular work equipment chosen.
The Work at Height Regulations aim to prevent deaths and injuries caused each year by falls at work. They apply to all work at height where it is likely someone will be injured if they fall. The regulations set out three simple rules for work at height:
- AVOID work at height if you can – If you don’t need to go up there, don’t!!
- If work at height cannot be avoided PREVENT falls by selecting and using the right access equipment
- MINIMISE the impact of any fall. Where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other means to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall, should one occur
If you decide to carry out work at height then you must manage the risks. When planning work at height you need to carry out a ‘risk assessment’. This should supplement your overall health and safety risk assessment. You don’t need to overcomplicate the process. The risks for working at height are usually well known and most necessary control measures are easy to apply.
The law does not expect you to eliminate all risk, but you are required to protect people by minimising risk as far as ‘reasonably practicable’. A risk assessment is simply a careful examination of the work at height task to identify hazards and a consideration of whether the hazards pose a risk that could cause harm to people.
The HSE’s key messages to duty holders are:
- Follow the risk assessments you have carried out for work at height activities and make sure all work at height is planned, organised and carried out by competent persons;
- Follow the hierarchy for managing risks from work at height – take steps to avoid, prevent or reduce risks; and
- Choose the right work equipment and select collective measures to prevent falls (such as guardrails and working platforms) before other measures which may only mitigate the distance and consequences of a fall (such as nets or airbags) or which may only provide personal protection from a fall.
For comprehensive guidance for working at height in GB, start here: Falls from height in the workplace
Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0