Working at height

What you need to know

Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the biggest causes of major injury. In tree work, falls from height are still common, and the result is often death or major injury.

Around 16% of all reported tree work accidents involve falling from height and about 6% are due to uncontrolled swings in the tree leading to impact with branches or the trunk.

These case studies show what happens when tree work operators working at height do not follow good practice guidance.

What you need to do

Working at height means any height from which people could fall and injure themselves. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 place a duty on employers and contractors to ensure that all work at height is:

  • Properly planned and organised - including planning for emergencies and rescue
  • Assessed for risks using a hierarchy of control measures
  • Appropriately supervised
  • Done in a way that is - as far as is reasonably practical - safe
  • Always done by competent people, including managers and supervisors, who are appropriately trained and supervised
  • Done using appropriate equipment that is regularly inspected and maintained.
  • Keeping up to date with HSE and industry guidance will help you meet your duties under the Work at Height Regulations.

Hierarchy of control measures

For every task that needs to be done at height you need to assess the risk and put appropriate control measures in place. There is a hierarchy of control measures that you need to follow. You only move up the hierarchy when you decide that the control is not practicable.

  • Avoid the need to work at height, for example by using extending equipment from the ground
  • Prevent falls using appropriate access equipment such as work platforms or rope access
  • Reduce the distance and consequences of a fall should one occur.

You should choose collective measures to prevent falls (such as mobile elevating work platforms - MEWPs) before other measures that may only mitigate the distance and consequences of a fall (such as fall protection systems) or which may only provide personal protection from a fall.

Access methods

Find out more

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