WHAT IS “WORKING AT HEIGHT”?

Working at height accidents are one of the biggest causes of workplace major injuries, which is why there are so many regulations around work at height practices.

DEFINITION OF WORKING AT HEIGHT

According to HSE, the Health and Safety Executive, working at height refers to work taking place anywhere that a person could fall a distance with the potential to cause personal injury, if no precautions were taken.

That includes:

  • working on a ladder
  • working on a roof
  • working on scaffolding or an access platform
  • working on top of a fragile surface that could break
  • working on a surface that has openings or holes that you could fall through

WHAT QUALIFIES AS “HEIGHT”?

There is no specific measurement that represents working at height, the consideration is around whether a fall from that distance could cause injury. As a general rule, if you were to fall from a height of over 2 metres, it is likely that you would sustain a serious injury.

Falls from lower heights can also cause injury, however, which is why there isn’t a specific height measurement to follow. Consideration should be given to a variety of things:

  • How high the work space is – is a fall from that height likely to cause serious injury?
  • If a person were to fall, what would they fall onto? Could this cause injury even if the fall isn’t from a great height?
  • If an object were to fall from that height, would it cause injury to a person below?

WORKING AT HEIGHT REGULATIONS

The Working at Height Regulations are designed to prevent death and injury from a fall from height, and apply to individuals, companies hiring individuals to work on their behalf – they’re relevant to employers and employees.

The regulations are extensive, but these sections are particularly important:

4 -(1) Every employer shall ensure that work at height is—

  • properly planned
  • appropriately supervised; and
  • carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe,
  • and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment in accordance with regulation 7.

and

5 -Every employer shall ensure that no person engages in any activity, including organisation, planning and supervision, in relation to work at height or work equipment for use in such work unless he is competent to do so or, if being trained, is being supervised by a competent person.

COMPLYING WITH WORKING AT HEIGHT REGULATIONS

Different jobs will require different approaches to complying with the regulations. If you’re working on a ladder (where it is appropriate to use a ladder for the task), you’ll need less involved precautions than you would on a roof or using an access platform. The HSE advises taking a sensible, pragmatic approach.

The aim of the regulations is not to be difficult or intrusive, it’s to ensure the safety of the person working at height, and everyone else in the surrounding area. One of the regulations is that you must ensure people are competent to work at height. The level of competence required again depends on the task – instruction on how to use a ladder safely is likely to be quick and simple. On the other hand, using scissor lifts or assembling access towers is more technical.

Ensuring and demonstrating competence is usually done through training – IPAF and PASMA, for example. Using the right equipment is vital, and training can help ensure you know how to use that equipment appropriately.