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Construction - Work at height

General

What do I need to do to comply with the Work at Height Regulations 2005?

The Regulations apply to all work at height where there is risk of a fall that is liable to cause personal injury. They place duties on employers, the self-employed and any person who controls the work of others (such as facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

Those with duties under the Regulations must ensure that:

  • all work at height is properly planned and organised
  • those involved in work at height are competent
  • the risks from work at height are assessed, and appropriate work equipment is selected and used
  • the risks of working on or near fragile surfaces are properly managed
  • the equipment used for work at height is properly inspected and maintained

For managing work at height and selecting the most appropriate equipment, dutyholders must:

  • avoid work at height where possible, for example doing the work from ground level using extending equipment
  • use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls, where work at height cannot be avoided, for example cherry pickers or scaffolding
  • use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of potential falls, where the risk cannot be eliminated, for example nets or bean bags

For more information, see: The Work at Height Regulations 2005 or A Brief Guide to the Work at Height Regulations.

What is short duration work?

Short duration work means tasks that are measured in minutes rather than hours eg replacing a few of broken tiles on a roof or adjusting a television aerial.

Do I need a rescue plan when working at height?

Yes.  The law requires that when you work at height, you also plan for emergencies and rescue.  These arrangements should not rely on the fire brigade as this may result in a delay which may be critical.  Rescue kits are available and suppliers can provide training in their use so that in house equipment and expertise can be provided.

Are workers allowed to use stilts when working at height, for example, when plastering or painting?

Yes, it is acceptable for workers to use stilts providing they are trained and competent to do so and that the surface they are walking on is not uneven or wet and there are no trailing cables or other tripping hazards

Ladders

Are ladders banned?

No, ladders are not banned. They can be used for low-risk, short duration work and where a risk assessment shows that other more suitable work equipment cannot be used due to the layout of the work area.

Schedule 6 of the Work at Height Regulations deals with the requirements for ladders.

For more information, see Safe use of ladders and stepladders or go to the Ladder Association website.

Do I have to tie my ladder?

Ladders have to be prevented from slipping during use. The options for securing a ladder are as follows:

  • tie the ladder to a suitable point making sure both stiles are tied
  • where this is not practicable, use a ladder stability device
  • if this is not possible then securely wedge the ladder eg against a wall
  • if none of the above are possible then foot the ladder - footing is the last resort and should be avoided where possible by the use of other methods

For more information on ladder safety see: Safe use of ladders and stepladders, or go to the Ladder Association website.

What is the maximum height a ladder can be used?

There is no maximum height for using a ladder.  However, where a ladder rises 9 metres or more above its base, landing areas or rest platforms should be provided at suitable intervals.

HSE's ladder guidance says I should maintain 3 points of contact when climbing a ladder and wherever possible at the work position. What are the 3 points of contact?

The 3 points of contact are a hand and two feet. However - other than for a brief period (for example, holding a nail while starting to knock it in, starting a screw etc) - where you cannot maintain a handhold when on a leaning ladder, you will need to take other measures to prevent a fall or reduce the consequences if one happened. Use of a fall prevention system can be considered but is outside the scope of the ladder guidance. If, when on a stepladder, two hands need to be free for a brief period of light work (eg to change a light bulb), keep 2 feet on the same step and the body supported by the stepladder to maintain 3 points of contact.

For more information on ladder safety see: Safe use of ladders and stepladders, or go to the Ladder Association website.

Scaffolding and tower scaffolds

How often should a scaffold be inspected?

A scaffold used for construction should be inspected before it is used for the first time and then every 7 days, until it is removed.  It should also be inspected each time it is exposed to conditions likely to cause deterioration eg following adverse weather conditions or following substantial alteration.

For more information see the Work at Height Regulations or go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website

Who is allowed to carry out a scaffold inspection?

All scaffolding inspection should be carried out by a competent person whose combination of knowledge, training and experience is appropriate for the type and complexity of the scaffold he is inspecting. Competence may have been assessed under The Construction Industry Scaffolders Registration Scheme (CISRS) or an individual may be suitably experienced in scaffolding work and have received additional training under a recognised manufacturer/supplier scheme for the specific configuration he is inspecting.

A non-scaffolder who has attended a suitable scaffold inspection course and has the necessary background experience would be considered competent to inspect a basic scaffold (ie a site manager).

For more information see the Scaffold Checklist or go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website.

Must I use scafftags?

No, it is not a legal requirement to use scafftags, but using a visible tag system to supplement inspection records is one way of recording that the scaffold has been checked before use.

How high should the guardrails on a scaffold be?

For construction work, the top guardrail should be a minimum of 950mm above the working platform and any gap between the top rail and the intermediate rail should not exceed 470mm.  The Regulations also require toe boards to be suitable and sufficient to prevent people or materials from falling.

Do I have to use advanced guardrails when putting up a scaffold?

No, you don’t have to use an advanced guardrail but you do have to prevent a person falling from the scaffold while it is being erected, altered or dismantled.  The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) document SG4 gives details of the different methods that can be used to prevent falls when erecting, altering and dismantling scaffolding. 

For further information go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website.

How can I prevent falls while putting up scaffolding?

You can prevent falls during the erection of a scaffold in a number of different ways, including, the use of advanced guardrails, special tools and equipment or safe methods of work. The National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) document SG4 gives details of the different methods that can be used to prevent falls when erecting, altering and dismantling scaffolding. 

For further information go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website.

Do I need a design drawing for my scaffold?

A scaffold must either be erected to a recognised standard configuration, such as those in National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) document TG20 Volume 1 for tube and fitting scaffolds, or the manufacturers’ guidance for system scaffolds, or it must be designed by calculation to ensure it has adequate strength and stability.

For more information see the Scaffold Checklist or go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website.

What training is required to be a scaffolder?

All those erecting scaffolding should be competent (or in the case of trainees, supervised by a competent person) for the type of scaffolding work they are undertaking and should have received appropriate training relevant to the type and form of scaffolding they are working on.

As a minimum, every scaffold gang should contain a qualified scaffolder for the type and complexity of the scaffold to be erected.  This may be an individual who has received training under an industry recognised training scheme eg The Construction Industry Scaffolders Registration Scheme (CISRS) and has been awarded the Scaffolder card or someone who has received training under a recognised manufacturer or supplier scheme, to the limit of the configurations involved.

For more information see the Scaffold Checklist or go to the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation website.

How often should a harness be inspected?

Three levels of inspection are recommended:

Pre – use check – this is carried out by the user at the beginning of each shift to check there are no visible or surface defects.  Any defects should be brought to the attention of your employer.

Detailed inspection – a formally recorded inspection should be undertaken at least every 6 months.  However, for frequently used equipment it is suggested that this is increased to at least every three months, particularly when the equipment is used in arduous environments (eg demolition, steel erection, scaffolding, steel masts/towers with edges.

Interim inspection - These are also in-depth, recorded inspections and may be appropriate in addition to pre-use checks and detailed inspections. Interim inspections may be needed between detailed inspections because the employer’s risk assessment has identified a risk that could result in significant deterioration, affecting the safety of the lanyard before the next detailed inspection is due. The need for and frequency of interim inspections will depend on use. Examples of situations where they may be appropriate include risks from arduous working environments involving paints, chemicals or grit blasting operations or risks from acidic or alkaline environments if the type of fabric the lanyard is made from cannot be determined (some fabrics offer low resistance to acids or alkalis).

What training is required to put up a tower scaffold?

Anyone erecting a tower scaffold should be competent to do so and should have received training under an industry recognised training scheme  eg Prefabricated Access Suppliers’ and Manufacturers’ Association (PASMA) or under a recognised manufacturer or supplier scheme.

For more information, see the PASMA website.

What is the maximum height a tower scaffold can be erected to?

You must refer to the manufacturers’ instructions when erecting a tower scaffold.  This information will be stated there.

Roof work

Can I use a roof ladder for roof repair work?

Yes, providing more suitable equipment cannot be used because ladders are a last resort and should only be used for low risk, short duration work.  Where ladders are used, they need to be of an industrial grade, in good condition and secured to prevent movement.  The anchorage at the top of the roof ladder should be by some method which does not depend on the ridge capping, as this is liable to break away from the ridge.  The anchorage should bear on the opposite slope by a properly designed and manufactured ridge hook or be secured by other means.

For more information, see Health and Safety In Roof work or the National Federation of Roofing Contractors website or the Advisory Committee for Roof Safety.

Can I work on a fragile roof?

Where possible you should avoid working on a fragile roof by doing the following:

  • work from underneath the roof using a suitable work platform
  • where this is not possible, use a mobile elevating work platform that allows people to work from within the basket without having to stand on the roof.

If access onto the fragile roof cannot be avoided, perimeter edge protection should be installed and staging used to spread the load.  Unless all the work and access is on staging or platforms that are fitted with guardrails then safety nets should be installed underneath the roof or a harness system used.

Where harness are used, they need adequate anchorage points.  They also rely on discipline, training and supervision to make sure that they are used consistently and correctly.

For more information, see Health and Safety In Roof work or the National Federation of Roofing Contractors website or the Advisory Committee for Roof Safety.

Is there a wind speed above which roofing work should stop?

Do not consider going on any roof in poor weather conditions such as rain, ice, frost or strong winds (particularly gusting) or if slippery conditions exist on the roof.  Winds in excess of 23mph (Force 5) will affect a persons balance.

2014-09-29