Working at height is sometimes unavoidable and having the right precautions in place can help you protect your workforce.
The Work at Height Regulations 2005 outline the responsibilities employers have towards their team. They state that all work undertaken at height should be properly planned and carried out by competent staff who are fully trained.
Let’s dive into what else employers need to do to keep their staff safe while they’re working at height.
- Working at height can pose a lot of danger for individuals. Falls from roofs, including through fragile roofs, is one of the most common causes of workplace death and serious injury, according to the HSE
- Any work that is carried out at height must be planned, supervised, and undertaken by competent people. You must carry out a risk assessment beforehand to identify all the dangers
- There’s a three-step process every employer can follow to prevent their team falling when they’re working at height: Avoid, prevent, minimise
What is considered “working at height”?
Anyone working at height will be working at a distance that could injure them if they were to fall.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) gives some examples of working at height, which include:
- Any work above ground level
- Falling from an edge, through an opening
- Falling from ground level into a hole in the ground
It doesn’t include any trip or fall on the same level or a fall on the stairs. If you’re injured while working at height, you’ll fall from one level to another.
Statistics from the HSE show that of all workplace injuries in 2021/2022, 8% were falls from a height.
What are the dangers of working at height?
Working at height can pose a lot of danger for individuals.
Falls from roofs, including through fragile roofs, is one of the most common causes of workplace death and serious injury, according to the HSE.
This not only happens in the construction industry, but also wherever people might be cleaning or repairing roofs. There is a significant risk from fragile constructions such as roof lights, corroded metal sheets, glass, and rotted chipboard.
When you’re planning any work at height, you should take into consideration the weather conditions, any chance of falling objects, and what the plan is in an emergency.
What injuries can occur?
Unfortunately, falling from a height can incur serious injuries if the right protections aren’t put in place.
Broken bones, brain damage, and internal organ damage can all occur if someone were to fall from a height. Because of the devastating damage a fall can cause, even from a height of six feet, you’ll need to make sure the proper security measures are in place for your employees.
What safety measures and regulations must employers enforce?
Any work that is carried out at height must be planned, supervised, and undertaken by competent people. You must carry out a risk assessment beforehand to identify all the dangers and minimise the risks to your workforce as much as possible.
- Think about factors like whether you can complete the work from the ground, what materials your team will be working with, and how long the project will take in total.
- You should always look to put measures in place that protect everyone (collective protection) before measures that protect only one person (individual protection).
- Collective measures could include the use of railings or scaffolds while harnesses could be used to maintain an individual’s safety.
- As an employer, you need to make sure all the equipment you’re using is in working order and is safe for your staff to use.
Anyone within your team who will be working at height should also have undergone the necessary training to be able to carry out the work effectively. Short-term jobs that last under 30 minutes and use ladders can be completed by people who have been given appropriate training such as how to tie the ladder so it’s stable to use.
More in-depth jobs will require professional qualifications to be taken with certified trainers to make sure your team is working in line with Work at Height Regulations 2005.
What responsibilities do employees have when working at height?
While employers have a responsibility to ensure their team are working in a secure environment with equipment that can protect them effectively, employees also have a duty to look after themselves and the people around them.
- Make sure their PPE is secured properly
- Use equipment in the correct way, without taking any risks
- Report any hazards to their employer, as soon as is practically possible
Employers should also keep their staff up to date with any risks that may arise from their work and highlight how they intend to manage these risks to keep their team safe.
How to prevent falls from heights
There’s a three-step process every employer can follow to prevent their team falling when they’re working at height:
Step 1: AVOID
Where possible, you should avoid working from height by working from the ground and using extendable tools. You should also see whether you can lower things like lighting masts to ground level, and work on them there.
If you can’t avoid the situation, and working from height needs to take place, you should move to step two.
Step 2: PREVENT
Think about how you can prevent a fall from happening. For instance, you could use an existing place of work that’s already safe with railings etc to prevent any falls. Or you could teach your team how to use equipment that can stop them falling from a height.
Scaffolds are also a good idea to collectively prevent falls.
If you can’t prevent falls, go to step three.
Step 3: MINIMISE
Where there is no clear way of preventing a fall, you should minimise the impact it could have on someone if they were to fall.
One way of doing that would be to install safety nets and soft-landing systems (or air bags) so that the impact of the fall is heavily reduced.
Prepare your team for working at height
Ideal for operatives, supervisors, and managers, our Working at Heights training course gives your team everything they need to stay safe while carrying out their jobs.
They’ll cover legal responsibilities, inspection requirements, safe working practices and more, with a training course tailored to suit your needs.
Chat to our friendly team about how we can work with you to train your staff effectively.