Introduction to working at height safely

Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. Common cases include falls from ladders and through fragile surfaces. '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 (for example a fall through a fragile roof).

Employers can take simple, practical measures to reduce the risk of any of their workers falling while working at height.

What you have to do

You must make sure work is properly planned, supervised and carried out by competent people with the skills, knowledge and experience to do the job. You must use the right type of equipment for working at height.

Take a sensible approach when considering precautions. Low-risk, relatively straightforward tasks will require less effort when it comes to planning and there may be some low-risk situations where common sense tells you no particular precautions are necessary.

Assessing and controlling the risks

First assess the risks, considering the:

Before working at height follow these simple steps:

For each step, consider measures that protect everyone at risk (collective protection) before measures that only protect the individual (personal protection).

Collective protection

Collective protection is equipment that does not require the person working at height to act for it to be effective. Examples are:

Personal protection

Personal protection is equipment that requires the individual to act for it to be effective. An example is putting on a safety harness correctly and connecting it, with an energy-absorbing lanyard, to a suitable anchor point.

What to do and not do when working at height

When working at height you should:

To prevent accidents and injuries do not:


Preventing falls from ladders

A large, independent installer of digital terrestrial and satellite equipment recognised it could be doing more to tackle falls, especially as engineers were installing aerials and dishes at a variety of heights from portable leaning ladders and roof ladders.

The solution

They took measures including making sure ladders were secured using an eyebolt and ratchet strap, and equipping appropriately trained workers with specialist kit, such as a flexible safety line that can be attached to the secured ladder.

Trained workers now wear a fall-arrest harness that can be attached to the line and the ladder. This means that the ladder cannot slip during use and, even if the engineer slips and falls from the ladder, the fall will be stopped.

The law

If you are an employer or you control work at height (for example if you are a contractor or a factory owner), The Work at Height Regulations 2005 apply to you.