Risk Assessment


Working at Height Risk Assessment

Falls from height are a major cause of fatalities and serious injuries in the UK, with falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces making up a significant number of these.

However, employers can often prevent falls from height by carrying out a full risk assessment and using appropriate control measures whenever a person is working at height.

In this article, we will look at what working at height is, the legislation surrounding it, and the working at height risk assessment process.

What is work at height?

A person is considered to be working at height if they are working in any place where, if precautions are not taken, they could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. For example, they may be:

  • Working above ground/floor level.
  • Working near the edge of an opening or fragile surface that they could fall through.
  • Working at ground level by an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground that they could fall into.

What is the main legislation that covers work at height?

The main health and safety legislation that covers work at height is the Work at Height Regulations 2005. They require employers to:

  • Properly plan and organise all work at height.
  • Ensure that those involved in work at height are competent.
  • Assess the risks from work at height.
  • Select and use appropriate work equipment for the task being carried out.
  • Properly manage the risks of working on or near fragile surfaces
  • Properly inspect and maintain the equipment used for work at height.

Completing a working at height risk assessment

A risk assessment for working at height uses the same stages as any other risk assessment, which are detailed below.

Stage 1 - Identify the hazards

The first thing to do is to identify any potential hazards that are present in the workplace, and who may be harmed by them. These will vary significantly between workplaces, but may include:

  • Presence of fragile surfaces and/or unprotected surface edges
  • Use of equipment such as tower scaffolding
  • Dangerous weather conditions
  • Use of ladders or stepladders, even if they are only used for a short duration
  • Poorly trained employees

Stage 2 - Estimate the risks

Every hazard that has been identified must then be assessed to determine how likely it is to happen, and the severity of the consequences if it does.

Stage 3 - Evaluate the risks

Once the likelihood and consequence has been determined for each hazard, the risk that it poses can be calculated and appropriate control measures to manage it can be identified. Some example controls include:

  • Checking if the person is competent to work at height
  • Using working platforms
  • Using a safety harness
  • Using personal protective equipment to minimise the distance over which a person can fall
  • Installing fall arrest equipment to catch someone that has fallen

A good method to use to determine appropriate control measures is the working at height hierarchy of control, which we have previously explored in this article.

Stage 4 - Record the findings

This is the stage at which all of the findings from the risk assessment are recorded. For a generic risk assessment template, click here to view our article on how to do a risk assessment.

Stage 5 - Review the controls

Once the risk assessment has been completed, it must be reviewed regularly.

The time between reviews should vary depending on the severity of the risks being controlled. For example, a risk assessment for working on the edge of a 15 storey building's roof should be reviewed more regularly than one for working off a 1m stepladder.

It should also be reviewed when certain 'trigger events' occur, such as:

  • A significant change to the process or workplace
  • An incident or accident taking place
  • A near-miss being reported

If you are looking to train yourself or your staff in how to safely work at height or complete a workplace risk assessment, consider taking one of our online training courses below: