How to Minimise Working at Height Risk

29th October 2020
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120+ Years Experience Over 120 years' experience
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Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries in the UK, accounting for around a quarter of workplace deaths and thousands of the major injuries reported each year.

Work at height means work in any place where, if there were no precautions in place, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. Some workplaces are obvious, for example, if you are working on a roof or ladder; others may be less obvious, for example, entering areas below ground level.

Work at Height Regulations 2005

Working at Height regulations apply to all work at height where there is a risk of a fall liable to cause personal injury.

Essentially there is a hierarchy of control:

  1. You must do all that is reasonably practicable to avoid working at height
  2. Where work at height cannot be avoided, you must prevent falls by using either an existing place of work that is already safe or by using the right type of equipment and procedures, for example, handrails, barriers and fall restraint systems
  3. Where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, you must minimise the distance and consequences of a fall by using the right type of equipment and procedures, for example by using fall arrest systems

The regulations also require that:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organised (including suitable risk assessments)
  • All work at height takes account of weather conditions that could endanger health and safety
  • Those involved in work at height are trained and competent
  • The place where work at height is conducted is safe
  • Equipment for work at height is appropriately inspected
  • The risks from falling objects are properly controlled

Working at Height Activities

When working at height cannot be avoided, consideration should be given to what equipment is best to use. Always think about what the job includes, how long it will last and where it needs to be done.

Using Ladders Safely

A man holding a ladder and one climbing a ladder, on a Ladder Safety Training course

It is tempting to use a ladder as a quick and easy fix when faced with a job at height, but you should first consider if it is the most suitable solution. Jobs such as cleaning out guttering and painting should be carried out from a properly erected mobile scaffold tower or working platform. Ladders should only be used for light work of short duration and must be inspected prior to use.

If ladders are to be used, make sure:

  • The work only requires one hand to be used
  • The work can be reached without stretching
  • The ladder can be fixed to prevent slipping
  • A good handhold is available
  • You take account of site conditions – high wind, rain or ice
  • They are not used in a position where they can be struck or dislodged by passing pedestrians or vehicles
  • You choose the right ladder for the job
  • The ladder is in good condition and not damaged
  • You comply with the site local work instruction for the use of ladders.

Remember, this kind of work can still be dangerous, and many ladder accidents happen during work lasting less than 30 minutes.

Using Mobile Scaffold Towers Safely

A mobile tower scaffold provides a safer method of working at height than a ladder or stepladder as the working platform is less restrictive on movement and allows both hands to remain free for the work to be undertaken. However, many people have been killed or injured because of poor standards of erection and misuse of tower scaffolds.

People who erect, alter, dismantle or inspect any type of tower scaffold must be competent to do so or be supervised by a competent person. They must be trained on the specific tower scaffold being used.

Using Working at Height Equipment Safely

All working at height equipment, such as tripods, winches, descenders, fall arrest and fall restraint devices, safety harnesses, work positioning lanyards, wire and webbing slings, karabiners and rescue equipment must be fully serviced and maintained in accordance with statutory requirements (e.g. LOLER*).

*Note - Under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), equipment used for lifting people should have a thorough examination at intervals not exceeding 6 months carried out by a competent person.

Safety PPE equipment supplies hanging.

Examples of typical work at height and equipment and their uses are shown in the table below:




Work Restraint

Prevents the worker from reaching a point where a fall could occur (Restraint equipment cannot be used for fall arrest.

  • Anchor Devices
  • Work restraint belt or full body harness
  • Restraint lanyard/belt

Fall Arrest

Safely arrests any fall from height

  • Anchor devices
  • Full body harness
  • Connecting devices (e.g. energy absorbing lanyard

Work Positioning

Designed to hold and support a worker in place allowing a hands-free position

  • Anchor devices
  • Suspension harness
  • Full body harness with positioning belt
  • Work positioning lanyard

Employers’ Work at Height Responsibilities

The Regulations stipulate that employers must:

  • Ensure that any work at height activity is properly planned, supervised and carried out safely. This includes work carried out by employees or by any sub-contractors or self-employed persons working for the company.
  • Ensure that any working at height activities are carried out using the right type of equipment and procedures are in place to control working at height activities.
  • Ensure that any people engaged in the work are ‘competent’.

Employees working at height must:

  • Follow any training and instruction given
  • Familiarise themselves with all relevant information specific to the task and equipment being used
  • Use equipment supplied (including safety devices) properly
  • Report any safety hazard


Competence for Working at Height

Those working at height must have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to perform the task.

Working safely at height may not require the use of complex equipment and procedures as a suitable solution, so you should take a sensible approach when considering precautions for work at height. There may be some low-risk situations where common sense tells you no particular precautions are necessary, and the law recognises this.

Working at Height Training Courses

When a more technical level of competence is required, for example when working on towers, high platforms, roofs etc, then a more advanced appropriate level of training would be required and those performing the work should undertake a working at height course and be certified as competent to undertake this type of work.

MRS Training & Rescue is a leading provider of height safety, access and rescue training. We offer a range of courses and services for people working at height across many industries - including:

  • Wind Industry
  • ­Energy
  • ­Telecommunications
  • ­Oil & Gas
  • ­Construction
  • ­Utilities
  • ­Entertainments
  • ­Emergency Services

We can offer realistic, practical training in a safe environment, with specifically designed training facilities which provide delegates with the most realistic scenarios possible.

Working at height training courses available include:

We can also offer bespoke courses by working with our customers to enable their employees to work safely and in accordance with legislative requirements. Contact us to discuss how we can develop and deliver a course to meet your exact needs.

Equipment being worn and checked on a practical work at height training course.

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