Safety issues - Working at height

Falls from height is a significant cause of injury within the plastics sector. Approximately 15% of all enforcement notices served by HSE in plastics companies between 1 April 2010 and 31 March 2011 were as a result of poor work at height management.

Work at height includes the risk of falls from low heights where a person could be injured, as well as the more obvious risk of falling from higher heights such as off scaffolding etc. Common areas of concern for work at height issues in plastic manufacturing companies include:

  • Mezzanine floors - Failing to provide handrails (top and mid rail) and toe board around mezzanine floors where people access or work. Similar issues are seen on storage areas above offices where employees need to go on for access.
  • Machine access - Where access is regularly required at height to access different parts of machinery, (eg machine hoppers and tool changing areas at the top of injection moulding machines) failing to assess the risks and provide properly constructed access platforms with handrails etc. or other controls to reduce the risks.
  • Cooling towers - Where access is required to the tops of cooling towers, failing to properly assess the risks and provide adequate control measures to stop a person falling, for example handrails and/or platforms. In addition safe access to get to height can be an issue.
  • Assessing the risks - Failing to identify, assess and properly control the risks of work at height in workplaces.

The Law

The Law requires employers to ensure:

  • 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 from fragile surfaces are properly controlled; and
  • equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

When carrying out assessments for managing and selecting equipment for work at height there is a simple hierarchy employers should use as follows:

  • where possible, avoid work at height;
  • where it is not possible to avoid work at height use work equipment or other measures to prevent falls. eg providing permanent or temporary access platforms; and
  • where they cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences, eg fall arrest/ restraint equipment etc

More information

More information on particular areas of managing the risks from work at height can be found as follows:

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Updated 2023-05-02