Working at height

Managing work at height follows a hierarchy of controls – avoid, prevent, arrest – which begins with the question – can the work be done safely from the ground? Fall restraints and safety netting should only be considered as a last resort if other safety equipment cannot be used.

  • Assessing work at height - Assess the risks, take precautions, and issue clear method statements for everyone who will work at height.
  • Roof work - Plan safe access, and prevent falls from edges and openings.
  • Fragile surfaces - The hierarchy of controls for working on or near fragile surfaces is avoid, control, communicate, co-operate.
  • Ladders - When it's appropriate to use ladders – and the three key safety issues – position, condition and safe use.
  • Tower scaffolds - Select the right tower for the job; erect, use, move and dismantle the tower safely; ensure that it is stable; inspect it regularly; prevent falls.
  • Mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) - Care must be taken to select the most appropriate MEWP and ensure use of the machine is properly planned and managed. Operator instruction and training are important requirements.
  • Suspended access equipment - for difficult to reach areas at height, specialist access equipment may be necessary. Examples include rope access, travelling ladders and gantries on the premises exterior or suspended access equipment (SAE) such as cradles and Building Maintenance Units.
  • Safety harnesses - Personal fall-protection systems are placed at the lower end of the work at height hierarchy. The two most common types of personal fall-protection systems used in roof work are work restraint and fall arrest. Appendix 3 of Health and safety in roof work (HSG33) provides further guidance.
  • Scaffolds - Information about the use of general access scaffolds, when scaffold design is required and what level of training and competence those erecting, dismantling, altering, inspecting and supervising scaffolding operations are expected to have obtained.
  • Safety nets and soft landing systems – can be used as leading edge protection to mitigate the consequences and distance should a fall occur. These are a collective passive safety measure as they protect everyone working within their boundary.

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