We have grouped some of the most commonly asked questions about working at height together, as the answers apply to more than one question.
What are the risks of working at height? In 2018/19, 40 fatal injuries to workers were due to falls from a height accounting for 27% of all fatal worker injuries. This compares to 35 in 2017/18 and an annual average over the period 2014/15-2018/19 of 36.
Falls from height also accounted for 43,000 cases of self-reported non-fatal injuries. If someone is injured by falling from a height, on average they will be off work for 9.4 days. More statistics from the HSE on working at height
Work at height is defined as; work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Therefore there is no specific height or measurement that classifies as working at height.
Insurance companies usually cover work at 0-3 metres and some policies cover 3-5 metres but only bespoke policies cover higher ranges. This is probably where the misconception arises that only above 3 metres is considered working at height, or where the risk of falling is from above 3 metres.
Commodious working at height awareness course covers this in much more detail and leads to a RoSPA certificate that is very useful to demonstrate that the risks of working at height and working at height activities are fully understood.
The main legislation that applies to working at height are The Work at Height Regulations 2005 this applies to all operations carried out at height, regardless of:
The work equipment being used;
The duration of the work;
The height at which the work is performed.
At the centre of the regulations is regulation 6 which puts an expectation on an employer to apply a three-stage hierarchy to all work which is to be carried out at height.
AVOID Working at Height - Do as much work as possible from the ground level..
PREVENT a fall from occurring.
MINIMISE the distance and/or consequence of a fall.
The other more broad legislation that applies to all work activities not just work at height is the The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (also referred to as HSWA, the HSW Act, the 1974 Act or HASAWA). This act places a legal duty on employers and employees to comply with all of their health and safety duties and requirements, to take reasonable care of workers and others who may be affected by your actions. Unsafe actions when working at height often affect third parties such as dropping something that causes harm to someone below.
The HSW act and the The Work at Height Regulations 2005 place a legal responsibility on employers to carry out risk assessments on any work at height activity, where there is a risk of falling that may cause personal injury or harm to others. Also to ensure that suitable training is supplied to employees engaged in working at height activities and to ensure that risks are minimised such as when the risk of falling is increased by fragile surfaces.
Again the Commodious working at height awareness course covers these legal duties in much more detail and also leads to a RoSPA certificate that is very useful to demonstrate that the risks and legal aspects of working at height are fully understood. In particular the need to carry out a Risk Assessment, manage any risks identified and to plan the activity with safety in mind.
There is no legal or mandatory expiry date on training certificates, but some industry sectors, insurance companies and registration organisations such as CHAS, SafeContractor, SMAS and other members of the SSIP have their own recommended refresher training dates. All sectors and organisations insist upon safety awareness training before any work at height is carried out.
The HSE web site states that refresher training should be carried out whenever it is felt necessary (for example a change in working condition, the introduction of new equipment, staff or working practices or when it is felt necessary to undertake refresher training). Many registration bodies such as CHAS, SafeContractor, ConstructionLine and other members of the SSiP scheme all recommend that re-training is done every 3 years on all courses.
Commodious view is that every 3 years is good practice and definitely every 5.
Work at height applies to ALL trades and occupations, the definition of work at height activity is working in any place where there is a risk of falling a distance liable to cause personal injury. This applies inside buildings or even underground, for example a librarian is working at height when using a kick stool to collect books from a shelf. So, yes, sometimes electricians do work at height activities as do plumbers.
Not a question as such, but very relevant. The first thing to do is to consider The Work at Height Regulations 2005 especially regulation 6 and apply a three-stage hierarchy to all work which is to be carried out at height.
First try to AVOID Working at Height - Do as much work as possible from the ground level.
Then try to PREVENT a fall from occurring.
Lastly MINIMISE the distance and/or consequence of a fall.
If work at height cannot be avoided, then a risk assessment must be carried out, this is a legal duty. The risk assessment must take into account the following factors:
The nature and duration of the work;
The ability of the worker;
Influences such as the weather condition, or a fragile surface:
The required level of supervision;
Required personal protective equipment;
The presence of fall arrest systems, such as netting or soft landing systems;
The need for emergency and rescue procedures.
The ability of the worker would also include ensuring that all people involved in the task have undertaken safety awareness training for working at height as well as any other hazardous activities involved such as manual handling.
Do plan the activity and when planning and undertaking work at height you are required by law to:
Take account of weather conditions, or fragile surfaces that could compromise worker safety.
Check that the place where work at height is to be undertaken is safe every time before use.
Stop objects from falling or, if this is not reasonably practicable, take measures to prevent injury if an object does fall.
Store materials and objects safely so they will not cause injury if they are disturbed or collapse.
Plan for emergencies and rescue, for example, agree on a set procedure for evacuation.
Do consider collective protection measures that protect everyone who is at risk rather than personal protection measures that protect only the individual. Do consider collective fall arrest equipment, edge protection, individual fall arrest equipment and fall protection equipment.
Do consider the type of access equipment to be used such as whether high-risk equipment that includes ladders, stepladders, trestles and staging is to be used. Or can lower-risk equipment, such as prefabricated scaffolding, mobile elevated platforms and working platforms be used.
Don’t fail to do any of the do’s and don’t take unnecessary risks, a sensible, pragmatic approach should be taken when considering precautions. There will be certain low-risk situations where common sense tells you that no particular precautions are necessary.
This question, “is working at height mandatory?” probably refers to training and certificates.
The duties of employers regarding working at height and what do you need to complete before working at height are all covered in more detail in previous answers.
In brief an employer must consider The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 that both require that employees are suitably trained for the work they are tasked to carry out, and it is a legal duty to carry out a risk assessment before the task is carried out, if the company has more than 5 employees this risk assessment must be recorded and available for inspection.
What is the maximum wind speed for working at height? Short answer is, there isn’t one.
Wind speed is a factor in a risk assessment as higher wind speeds may make a task much higher risk. Working off a 6 meter ladder on a calm, well lit day is obviously less risk than a very windy, overcast wet day - your own judgement must prevail but weather conditions must be considered.
When is a working at height permit required? This depends on the site or contractor you are working for.
Permits to work are a “safe system of work” that some sites introduce to ensure that all hazardous work on site is controlled. Some sites may state a permit to work is required for cleaning the second floor windows, another site may decide it is not.