• Lee Calver
  • 4 February 2014

Working at height guidance updated by the HSE

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new guidance on what the law requires of both employers and employees when people are working at height.

The overhaul of guidance on working at height was launched on 28 January 2014 as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan to abolish or improve outdated, burdensome or over-complicated regulations, which the Government says waste businesses’ time and money.

It has been estimated that more than one million British businesses and ten million workers carry out jobs involving some form of work at height every year, with falls still known to be one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work.

The HSE states that it has now set out in clear, simple terms what to do and what not to do, whilst also ‘debunking’ common myths that can confuse and mislead employers.

Commenting, Health and Safety Minister, Mike Penning, said:

“As part of the Government’s long-term economic plan, it’s vital that businesses are not bogged down in complicated red tape and instead have useable advice about protecting their workers.

“As a former fireman, I know that the ten million people who are working at height in this country face risks in their job. But I’m also clear that managing these risks can be done sensibly, by giving simple and clear advice and tackling the myths that can confuse employers.”

Some of the key changes include:

  • Providing simple advice about do’s and don’ts when working at height to ensure people are clear on what the law requires.
  • Busting some of the persistent myths about health and safety law, such as the banning of ladders when they can still be used.
  • Offering targeted advice to helping businesses in different sectors manage serious risks sensibly and proportionately.
  • Helping workers to be clearer about their own responsibilities for working safely.

Also commenting following the announcement of the changes, Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said:

“It’s important to get working at height right. Falls remain one of the biggest causes of serious workplace injury – with more than 40 people killed and 4,000 suffering major injuries every year.

“We have a sensible set of regulations and have been working with business to improve our guidance – making it simpler and clearer and dispelling some of the persistent myths about what the law requires.”

She added:

“The result is advice that employers can count on to help them manage their businesses sensibly and proportionately.”

The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has responded to the news, with Research and Information Services Manager, Jane White, stating:

“Guidance for workers and their bosses needs to be simple, short and succinct. It has to make the biggest impact in the right way to ensure that working practices are safe.

“When looking at working from height there is a huge range and variety of tasks being carried out every day - from engineers scaling wind turbines to builders’ apprentices using ladders in domestic settings.”

White added:

“One of our key challenges is to engage with those who might not always hear our messages such as the young and those new to work. Health and safety is moving into a new era, we need to ensure that our information reaches those that need it, and that it is in the right format to be translated into knowledge and practice.”

The new guidance is being backed by business and was produced with the support of the British Retail Consortium, Small Business Trade Association Forum, Trade Unions and the Access Industry Forum.

Please note that the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR) set out the law as it applies in Great Britain and that the regulations have not changed.

The new guidance is available free online: