General Safe Working at Height

What is work at height?

Work at height means work in any place where, if precautions were not taken, a person could fall a distance liable to cause personal injury. You are working at height if you:

  • work above ground/floor level
  • could fall from an edge, through an opening or fragile surface or
  • could fall from ground level into an opening in a floor or a hole in the ground

Work at height does not include a slip or a trip on the level, as a fall from height has to involve a fall from one level to a lower level, nor does it include walking up and down a permanent staircase in a building.

What are ‘collective’ and ‘personal’ fall protection measures?

Collective protection utilises equipment that does not require the person working at height to act to be effective. Examples are permanent or temporary guardrails, scissor lifts and netting.

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

Competence and Training

How do you determine whether someone is ‘competent’ to work at height?

You must ensure that people with sufficient skills, knowledge and experience are employed to perform the task, or, if they are being trained, that they work under the supervision of somebody who is competent.

In the case of low-risk, short duration tasks involving ladders, competence requirements may be no more than making sure employees receive instruction on how to use the equipment safely (e.g. how to secure a ladder properly) and appropriate training. Training can take place on the job, it does not always need take place in a classroom.

When a more technical level of competence is required, for example using rope access techniques to clean a façade, existing training and certification schemes drawn up by trade associations and industry can help to demonstrate competence.

Statutory Inspections

How often should I inspect my fall protection equipment?

Personal fall protection equipment and anchor systems should be subject to a pre-use check, carried out by the user, before each occasion of use. The pre-use check is a visual and tactile check intended to ensure that the equipment is safe to use as the time of use.

Statutory, Thorough Examinations should be carried out at frequencies determined by a risk assessment that takes into consideration the type of equipment, its frequency of use and the environmental conditions is which it is used. The maximum frequency between Thorough Examinations, as defined in BS EN 365: 2004, is 12 months. The Thorough Examination must be undertaken by a Competent Person, and the results of the examination recorded. The Thorough Examination is a detailed examination intended to ensure that the equipment is safe for continued use.