Working at height

Falls from height are the most common cause of death from an accident at work.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH Regulations) governing work at height apply to work at height in any place where a person could be injured falling from it, even if it is at or below ground level.

Employers must ensure that:

• all work at height is properly planned and organised;
• the work is carried out safely; and
• employees undertaking the work are trained and competent.
Working at height is defined as any work carried out at any place where a person can fall and injure themselves, which can include:
• working above ground level using a platform or scaffold;
• working on a roof where there is risk of falling through a fragile surface;
• working at ground level where there is risk of falling in a hole on the ground;
• working on the back of a lorry unloading goods;
• climbing fixed structures; and„„
• using a ladder.

The hierarchy for managing and selecting equipment for work at height has to be followed systematically.
The first step must always be to try to avoid work at height where possible, for example by carrying out the job on the ground or using long handled tools.

The second is to take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person from falling. Choose the most suitable work equipment for the task, such as scaffolds, cherry pickers or scissor lifts. Ladders are at the bottom of the list.
If the risk of people or objects falling is not eliminated after step two then consider the provision of work equipment that will minimise the distance and the consequences of the fall. This can be achieved by using nets, airbags or fall-arrest systems.