Considering the risks associated with work at height and putting in place sensible and proportionate measures to manage them is an important part of working safely. Follow this simple step-by-step guide to help you control risks when working at height.
Can you avoid working at height in the first place? If no, go to prevent
Do as much work as possible from the ground. Some practical examples include:
- using extendable tools from ground level to remove the need to climb a ladder
- installing cables at ground level
- lowering a lighting mast to ground level
- ground level assembly of edge protection
Can you prevent a fall from occurring? If no, go to minimise
You can do this by:
- using an existing place of work that is already safe, eg a non-fragile roof with a permanent perimeter guardrail or, if not
- using work equipment to prevent people from falling
Some practical examples of collective protection when using an existing place of work:
- a concrete flat roof with existing edge protection, or guarded mezzanine floor, or plant or machinery with fixed guard rails around it
Some practical examples of collective protection using work equipment to prevent a fall:
- mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) such as scissor lifts
- tower scaffolds
An example of personal protection using work equipment to prevent a fall:
- using a work restraint (travel restriction) system that prevents a worker getting into a fall position
Can you minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall?
If the risk of a person falling remains, you must take sufficient measures to minimise the distance and/or consequences of a fall.
Practical examples of collective protection using work equipment to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall:
- safety nets and soft landing systems, eg air bags, installed close to the level of the work
An example of personal protection used to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall:
- industrial rope access, eg working on a building façade
- fall arrest system using a high anchor point
Using ladders and stepladders
For tasks of low risk and short duration, ladders and stepladders can be a sensible and practical option.
If your risk assessment determines it is correct to use a ladder, you should further minimise the risk by making sure workers:
- use the right type of ladder for the job
- are competent (you can provide adequate training and/or supervision to help)
- use the equipment provided safely and follow a safe system of work
- are fully aware of the risks and measures to help control them
Follow HSE guidance on safe use of ladders and stepladders.
For each step, consider what is reasonably practicable and use 'collective protection' before 'personal protection'