Focus on: Working at height

Focus on: Working at heightWorking at Height Image

Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. In fact, statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that in 2015/16 144 workers were killed at work in Great Britain[1] and 26% of these fatalities were due to falls from height.  To help you protect your workers the team from HETAS Insurance have listed some key questions and answers about working from height.

Q Do the regulations apply to me?

A If you are an employer or you control work at height the regulations apply to you. You must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people. This includes using the right type of equipment for working at height.

Take a sensible, pragmatic approach when considering precautions for work at height. Factors to consider include the height of the task, the duration and frequency and the condition of the surface being worked on. See the risk assessment website for more advice by visiting:

Q How do I decide who should work at height?

 You should make sure that people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the task, or, if they are being trained or are not competent you should ask yourself “should I be doing this work, or a different member of my team?” A competent person is someone who has the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety. Guidance on appointing a competent person can be found at

When a more technical level of competence is required, for example, drawing up a plan for assembling a complex scaffold, existing training and certification schemes drawn up by trade associations and industries is one way to help demonstrate competence.

Q What steps do I need to take to help protect people?

A   Always consider measures that protect everyone who is at risk (collective protection) before measures that protect only the individual (personal protection).

Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act to be effective, for example a permanent or temporary guard rail.

Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it via an energy-absorbing lanyard to a suitable anchor point.

Remember you have a duty of care towards all individuals and so you should:

  • Take into account weather conditions that could compromise worker safety.
  • Check that the place where work at height is to be undertaken is safe. The place where people will work at height needs to be checked every time, before use.
  • Stop materials or objects from falling or, if it is not reasonably practicable to prevent objects from falling, take suitable and sufficient measures to make sure no one can be injured, like using exclusion zones to keep people away or using mesh on scaffolding to stop materials such as bricks from falling off.
  • Store materials and objects safely so they won’t cause injury if they are disturbed or collapse.
  • Plan for emergencies and rescue; for example, agree upon a set procedure for evacuation. Think about foreseeable situations and make sure employees know the emergency procedures. Don’t just rely entirely on emergency services for rescue in your plan.

Failure to consider precautions and to properly plan for working at height can lead to serious incidents. A Birmingham employer was ordered to undertake 120 hours unpaid community work and pay costs of £1152.24 following a fall that left his apprentice with life changing injuries[2].

Q How do I choose the right equipment to use?

A  When selecting equipment for work at height, you must:

  • Provide the most suitable equipment appropriate for the work;
  • Take account of factors such as:
    • The working conditions (such as weather);
    • The nature, frequency and duration of the work;  and
    • The risks to the safety of everyone where the work equipment will be used.

Where the safety of the work equipment depends on how it has been installed or assembled, you should ensure it is not used until it has been inspected in that position by a competent person.

Any equipment exposed to conditions that may cause it to deteriorate and result in a dangerous situation, should be inspected at suitable intervals appropriate to the environment and use. Do an inspection every time something happens that may affect the safety or stability of the equipment, such as adverse weather or accidental damage.

You are required to keep a record of any inspection for types of work equipment including:

  • guard rails,
  • toe boards,
  • barriers or similar collective means of protection;
  • working platforms (any platform used as a place of work or as a means of getting to and from work, like a gangway) that are fixed (such as a scaffold around a building) or mobile (eg a mobile elevated working platform (MEWP) or scaffold tower); or a ladder.
  • Any working at height platform used for construction work and from which a person could fall more than 2 metres must be inspected:
  • After assembly in any position;
  • After any event liable to have affected its stability; and
  • At intervals not exceeding seven days.

By taking appropriate action to assess the risks faced in your business and then implementing steps to reduce them, not only are you meeting your legal requirements you are also protecting your employees. Don’t forget if you are planning to work at height you will need to arrange appropriate insurance. Why not get in touch with your HETAS Insurance team on 08455 085 734 to see how they can help you.

HETAS Ltd is an introducer appointed representative of Jelf Insurance Brokers Limited. Hetas Insurance Services is a trading name of Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd (Reg No. 0837227), which is part of Jelf Group plc (Reg No. 2975376) and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  Registered address: Hillside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol BS37 6JX (Registered in England and Wales). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA. JIB157.06.17

Source Zywave




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